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.