How do we realise attractive buses?

Yesterday I visited the Future Bus workshop organised by the Technology Strategy Board at the Transport Knowledge Network in the UK. The meeting was hosted by Ian Downie (Volvo Bus) at our UK office in Warwick close to Birmingham.
UK is a market where the bus operation is de-regulated, i.e. there are no monopolies and it is free for any operator to open a bus service on any rout. The open competition is aiming at maximising the offers and putting the traveller in focus. Still there are many challenges for the operators that struggle to make buses attractive in particular for car users.
One of the questions we got was: “How would the ideal bus travel be for you?”. Never mind the technologies and all the practical details just imagine the ideal travel experience. My group (6-7 persons in each group and six groups) came up with 42 attributes of an enjoyable bus ride, such as: silent, comfortable, quite, private zone, short travel time, ability to work, door-to-door, real time travel information, availability to internet, easy to bring prams on board, indoor waiting at the bus stop etc.
High on the wish list was a time-table rout planning information, common for all operators, easy to use, “mother in law” safe as one participant expressed it.
What about making a global mobile phone app for all person transports?
Another high priority item was a universal ticket system. There seems to be invisible hurdles that I don’t understand. The taxis introduced a global payment many year ago, credit cards. And, when you park your car you can often pay with the mobile phone, now a days. I can respect that drivers can not deal with cash but why is it so hard to introduce electronic payments in public transports. And, where it is introduced, why are there so often price penalties for electronic payments?
The expectations and challenges are very inspiring to deal with in particular in an open market as in the UK. But, infra structure investments and priorities sets the framework for all transports. We know, from good examples such as Curitiba and more recently Bogota and Mexico City, that when the bus traffic is prioritised it does make a big difference. Separate lanes, high quality roads and modern inviting bus stops needs to be provided by society.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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