Test-run One – Bradley Stoke to Filton
After months theorising about passengers and designing a system that we hope they will like and want to use, finally putting buxis on the road for the first time was a major step. When you’re trying something new, you expect it to be a ‘learning process’ (read, you expect to make mistakes). This is a little summary of what we learnt – good and bad.
Firstly, it became apparent that the 1.8 miles from Airbus to Abbey Wood seems an awfully long way to passengers in bad and unpredictable traffic. For them, the time we spent travelling to Abbey Wood was wasted time and lessened the attractiveness of the service. When planning a regular service, this detour would reduce the number of shuttle runs we could do to our destination (Bradley Stoke). And, although in theory we could get more passengers on the vehicles, in practice the extra time the journey takes would deter passengers from Airbus getting on in the first place.
To entice people out of their cars, the level of convenience needs to be high and the journeys need to be an efficient use of the passengers’ time. Sitting in lines of traffic going in the wrong direction just ain’t efficient. So any services we run to Airbus and Abbey Wood have to be separate, not combined.
However, removing one leg of the journey enables us to do more shuttle runs, offering greater time choice to passengers and improving convenience. If this encourages more passengers then it reduces the cost per passenger. Which brings us on to price…
Price matters. Whilst we can argue that taking a buxi is a comparable to or even cheaper than driving, only 8% of our passengers said they would consider selling a car if a regular buxi service were available to them. This means that any fare they pay to use buxi is on top of car ownership, not instead of. This makes price critical.
And price-matching a day-rider bus fare isn’t cheap enough because, on the whole, these are already considered expensive. So, we’re looking at ways to get the price down to a level which is attractive and still provides an excellent level of service and convenience. It can be done but it needs bums on seats: passengers.
So what will encourage passengers to change their travel habits and choose buxi when the service starts? ‘Modal shift’, as it’s called in the transport industry, is notoriously difficult to bring about. However, car driving in the North Fringe of Bristol is reaching a critical point because there simply isn’t enough car parking.
Every employer we’ve spoken to has, or will soon have, significantly less car parking spaces than staff. Employers’ choices include charging for parking and/or issuing parking permits that is, refusing some staff the option of parking at work. But who and on what basis? It becomes very negative.
For the passengers who are already denied parking permission and who struggle to get to work using alternative transport, buxi would be (in their words) ‘a god send’.
People need viable alternatives to get them to work and we’re working with employers to meet that demand. Meeting passengers face-to-face turned out to be affirming, 96% of our survey respondents said they think buxi is a good idea. And whilst we’ve got to work on the convenience levels and price, we’re learning.