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Do full buses mean a service is successful?

At first glance, the answer to this question is yes. After all, so many bus services run empty sucking up subsidies, contributing to pollution and congestion, and, apparently, serving nobody.

But, success is in the eye of the beholder and, we’d argue, that if a bus service is regularly full and there is no room for more passengers, then there is room for improvement.

The morning buses that run up the Gloucester Road (A38) from central Bristol towards the North Fringe, which are regularly full. Actually, these services are so full, that if your stop is one of the latter stops, you may have to watch your bus sail past you because there is no more space. It is no fun to be left waiting at a bus stop because the service you want to use is full. It’s even less fun if it happens again with the next bus. You may now be late to work or your lecture. You may be cold and wet. You may curse.

If we define a bus service which is regularly full to capacity as ‘successful’ because it is ‘financially successful’, aren’t we’re making a mistake? If there is excess demand we need to find ways to meet it – ways that are sustainable, passenger focused, but still financially successful.

A Demand Responsive Transport system, like Buxi, running alongside existing high-demand bus services would offer extra, variable capacity that meets demand. Because demand is known it can be planned for, reducing financial risk and allowing the service to grow organically.

Full buses mean a service is almost successful: a truly successful service is nearly full, with room for more.

Is free parking at work a thing of the past?

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and it’s certainly true of parking. ‘Free Parking’ isn’t free. Somebody pays.

The little patch of tarmac so neatly outlined in white, costs between £400 and £1000 in running costs. The capital costs can be £2000. And the cost of the land is extra. That’s for each car parking space. It soon adds up.

And costs are set to become higher again. Later this month, Nottingham City Council begin charging the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL). In Nottingham, this will see an additional £253 p.a. added to the cost of providing car parking at work. Some employers may swallow the costs of the levy, others are expected to pass it on to their employees. Unsurprisingly, it’s being met with opposition.

Bristol City Council is also considering proposals to introduce the WPL.

The proceeds of WPLs have to used for investment in local transport. Effectively, they provide a stick to encourage drivers to seek alternative transport for their journey to work whilst generating the funds for those alternative transports.

And therein lies the rub. The truth is (outside of London) people remain stubbornly attached to their cars because public transport consistently fails to measure up in terms of cost and convenience.

Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) offers to address some of those shortcomings. Used alongside traditional buses and trams, the flexibility of DRT would be key to attracting users who are reluctant (or unable) to give up the freedom offered by personal transport. Whilst also tackling the congestion and pollution caused by single car occupancy.

And of course, fewer car journeys to work alleviates pressure on parking spaces and parking costs. Free parking at work may become a thing of the past but DRT would help to keep the costs in check.