Two issues deter passengers from using buses more than anything else.
One is the "if I'm going to get caught in traffic, I might as well endure the delay sitting in my car" syndrome which is looked at on the 'Side-Step Congestion' / bus priority & Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) solutions page.
Included in the topics explored on this page is the other major issue, which is "I'm at the bus stop, now exactly how long before the bus gets here too? (the need for real-time information at every bus stop).
Direct links to other Buses pages...
|A Personal Opinion|
Perhaps the most significant deterrent to enticing more people to use buses is the often interminable wait for one to turn up. OK, so buses get stuck in traffic, the 'pay on entry' system often causes extended delays to the journey or our fellow passengers leave a little to be desired (as once suggested by Steven Norris - former Government Transport Minister); however NOTHING bar NOTHING is worse than the period of time spent between one's arrival at the bus stop and the arrival of the transport.
Anybody who actually uses buses will know this from personal experience.
Railways often equip their station platforms with electronic displays detailing the destination and anticipated minutes before the next trains (usually at least 3) are due to arrive; it is about time this feature became standard at bus stops too. Experience has shown that most people see paper timetables as nothing more than wishful thinking, whereas where electronic real time displays have been installed not only do passengers have confidence that a bus will be coming (even if there is going to be a 15 minute wait, at least there is confidence that it will eventually arrive) but that as a result patronage on the routes served has increased.
|'Real-time' information is nowadays a standard feature for many railway systems. The lower line (with the green coloured writing) is often used to provide scrolling messages with other useful information.||The importance of making a similar investment for buses is such that it should become a legal requirement, which - if necessary - is funded out of our nations' windfall oil revenues.|
In some areas telephone information services and / or internet pages also provide passenger information, this may be fine for people setting off from home but how many people want to keep phoning information lines or internet service providers just to go out? Its far easier to take the car! Plus, apart from North America local calls are chargeable!
Sometimes badly parked vehicles cause delays!!
It is very easy to criticise transport operators and vehicle drivers for their services not keeping to the timetable - but all too often it is not their fault, ie: the criticism is mis-placed. In addition to the all-to-common delays caused by traffic (mis)management schemes (eg: reduced speed limits, road narrowings & installation of too many traffic signals) other causes of delays can include road works, road traffic accidents, the police closing roads (etc.,) and of course parked vehicles obstructing traffic flow. The example seen here comes from Rome, Italy, however similar occasionally happens here in Britain too - even with non articulated buses.
|This articulated battery / trolleybus was unable to turn left because a car was parked on the corner. In the end it took a group of men to physically "bump" the offending vehicle partially on to
the footpath so that the bus could continue on its journey. In the distance 1001 vehicle horns (hooters) could be heard energetically strutting their stuff!!!
Whether the road was subject to any parking restrictions (thereby making the car illegally parked) is unknown - and irrelevant.
Sometimes even locations which are legal are not wise.
This incident cost a delay in excess of 10 minutes.
|Electronic on-train information systems are fairly common on many (newer or refurbished) trains. This variant shows a scrolling message informing passengers of the places served by the train and the name of the next station.||On-bus passenger information display.
See text below for further information.
The image above right demonstrates an on-bus passenger information display system as seen on a bus in Stuttgart, Germany. The top line advises passengers of the ultimate destination of the bus. The next line details the next bus stop (in this situation "Schlossplatz") and the wider area on the right is for three rows of arrows which illuminate as required and point to (not-illuminated) symbols giving extra information as appropriate. On this bus they are the "S" symbol for "S-Bahn", the "U" symbol for "U-Bahn", plus the word "BUS", these being to advise passengers when the next bus stop is an interchange point with the local suburban or underground railway systems (or, if both arrows illuminate, then both rail systems) and / or other local bus routes. The smaller text on the lowest line details the names of several bus stops after the next bus stop.
Travelling by bus with bicycles.
Cyclists often complain that they would like to be able to take their bicycles with them when they travel by bus so that having arrived at the nearest bus stop to their destination they can complete their journey on two wheels.
As many of the issues related to carrying bicycles on public transport are common to all the transport modes this topic is more fully covered on a small popup page which can be reached by clicking here.
Whilst passengers who are also cyclists are often allowed to carry (large) bicycles on trains, and sometimes on trams too, with buses it is more usual (if at all) to carry them on a special rack fitted to the front (or back) of the vehicle.
British safety officials are reputed to be less than enthusiastic about permitting similar here, citing safety risks and the possibility of pedestrians becoming spiked by the bikes and / or bike rack.
The situation is different with small fold-a-way bicycles as usually these can be carried inside the bus as hand luggage.
Image & license: Wikipedia encyclopædia.CC BY-SA 2.0
Image: Buchanan-Hermit / Wikipedia encyclopædia. For license see webpage.
Cycling is feted as being an environmentally friendly, non-polluting way to travel;
the equally beneficial electric trolleybus seen above - left with a bicycle rack on its front operates in Seattle, WA, USA.
The bus above - right is in Midway City, CA, USA.
Coach And Bus, What Is The Difference?
There is much confusion between the words Coach and Bus (which is short for Omnibus), and as a result these terms are frequently used as if they are more or less interchangeable.
Indeed, to many passengers the only difference is that the word Coach sounds more luxurious, if only because it usually refers to vehicles which make longer distance journeys and therefore often feature more comfortable seating and a smarter interior ambiance compared to buses which tend to be used for shorter local (usually urban) journeys.
However, in Britain there is a clear legal distinction between these terms in that a PCV (Passenger Carriage Vehicle) with a gross weight of more than 7.5 tonnes, at least 16 seats and capable of speeds in excess of 60mph is technically a Coach, whilst if the vehicles' maximum speed is less than 60mph then it is a Bus.
It does not matter if the vehicle is single or double-deck, what type of seats it has, or what it looks like, the dividing line between the two terms rests solely on the vehicle's ultimate top speed.
A bus parking area where buses wait at the end of a
journey and before the next journey. Note the signs
saying that this is for *local* buses only - and not coaches. These are more easily seen in the clickable larger image.
Having sorted out the difference in terminology there are several very important differences regarding the operation of these types of vehicles. Coaches need seat belts and tachographs, which are devices for monitoring how long the driver has been driving, how many rest periods (s)he has taken, for how long (time duration) etc. This is because unlike private cars, where there are no restrictions, the drivers of passenger service vehicles are *very* heavily regulated in the number of hours they may drive in a day, week and fortnight and the length & frequency of their breaks and rest periods.
Buses do not need seatbelts, but must carry tachographs unless they are operating journeys of less than 50km (30 miles) 'as the crow flies' which (under EU rules) are either 'regular' or 'special regular'. This would include ordinary timetabled local bus services such as we see on a daily basis in our towns and cities, plus other timetabled workings such as (the all too frequent) rail replacement services. For all these journeys the requirement is that instead of using a tachograph the bus driver must carry an extract of the timetable which is being worked to (yes, buses really do use timetables). Also included within the driver's permitted driving hours is the time taken on empty journeys ie: when travelling between the garage and the bus routes' starting / finishing point - this applies irrespective of whether the bus is carrying fare paying passengers at the time.
So, as with coaches, tachographs must be used if a bus is being used for excursions, tours and private hire - irrespective of whether the passengers being carried are paying a fare, on a works outing, or indeed, close relatives, such as the driver's parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles etc. Even if a bus normally is just used on local urban journeys but is making a special seaside excursion on a summer Sunday afternoon it will still require a tachograph. Again, with these non-timetabled journeys the time spent on garage journeys must be included in the driver's permitted driving hours. Incidentally, when planning excursion journey times it is also worth noting that on Sunday afternoons congestion on our motorway network and major roads leading into our big cities often rivals (or even exceeds) the weekday rush hours and this can seriously extend journey times. (At least some of the extra traffic will be because the railways only offer a third class low speed service on Sundays, so many would-be passengers drive instead).
There was a time when the above rules did not apply - they came to us as one of the, er, um 'benefits' of EU membership.
One result of these regulations is that timetabled 'local' travel bus services which exceed approx 30 miles (50km) in length have had to switch to operating in two (or more) sections, under different route numbers and with passengers alighting and paying a fresh fare for the next section of the journey. This passenger-unfriendly requirement mainly affects longer rural routes which link many smaller communities with larger towns and - from the passengers' point of view - is not only stupid but actually makes bus travel less attractive and hence, could be another reason for going by car - - don't you just love those unelected, unaccountable over-paid bureaucrats who make regulations without due regard for the practicalities of their implementation...
As with all other road users motor coach companies only pay a nominal rate towards the upkeep of the roads, so they can usually charge fares which are exceptionally cost competitive compared with the railways. However, because they use the public roads their journeys can sometimes be slower, especially when compared to the fastest railway routes and at times of traffic congestion.
In addition to scheduled services coaches are also renown for the ability to provide special services, such as seaside excursions, works outings, school trips, etc etc., visiting even the most remote locations - as long as they can be reached using public highways. This is a niche market for which they are eminently suited - and, by en large they have to themselves.
|The long distance motor coach industry is a very competitive industry with many independent companies offering services ranging from single routes - to a route network that is virtually nationwide.||Longer distance coaches often also call at selected (outer) suburban bus stops, bringing the transport closer to the passengers' true points of origin / destination. For example, this express service linking the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.|
Bus Deregulation Creates Confusion Which Deters
In Britain just about anyone can provide a public bus service - all they need to do is buy an often pre-used bus, decide upon a route & timetable and register the services with a local traffic commissioner
- who will want to be satisfied that the bus operator is financially sound, will maintain the vehicles to the appropriate safety standards, is capable of operating the published timetable etc.|
At no time does a potential bus operator need to pay any regard to any other bus services which might also be operating along the routes it wishes to serve.
Indeed, this means that buses can - and often do - compete against each other for passengers. For many towns and cities on-street "bus wars" became commonplace as vehicles jostle for position and race to be the first to the bus stop - and pocket the fares. After all, it's a dog-eat-dog world, and just as people have a choice from which supermarkets they can buy their food so people should be able to also choose which bus company transports them. (quote / unquote: official government reasoning behind bus deregulation - see below).
As with the supermarkets most of the bus companies are reputable entities which value their patron's custom and try to give a good service. Nevertheless at times there has been some very shoddy behaviour - especially by bigger companies with deeper pockets - for instance by offering free transport until the incumbent local government company went into receivership. Some very canny bus companies also became very wealthy by buying incumbent bus operators at a knock-down price and then selling the land used by the bus stations; often the value of that land was far greater than the rest of the bus company's assets combined! This was seen to be "good business" even though the subsequent closure of the bus stations - for redevelopment - meant that passengers were then forced to use inconvenient street-based bus stops which offered inadequate facilities (minimal weather protection / shelter, public toilets, etc...)
The stated aims of the national government which introduced this system of deregulated "hands off" bus operations was that it wanted to see bus patronage increase and to control costs by preventing unfettered subsidies. It believed in the free market and hoped that bus companies would become like supermarkets and provide a choice of "high quality luxury" as well "cheap'n'cheerful" services. They cited as an example a situation whereby every year the municipal bus companies would tell their local governments' finance ministers the size of the revenue shortfall - and automatically expect the pre-signed "blank cheque" to cover that amount as if by "divine right". So whilst it was true that some aspects of the bus industry may have been in need of reform the national government seemed to forget that buses were already competing against both the railways and private motoring - and many years (plus a change of government) later these other transports are still favoured by people who, had there been a real (and not a cynical "typical politicians") desire to improve bus transports could have been attracted to using the buses.
|The government believed that increasing competitiveness was the only way to increase bus patronage, and to increase competitiveness used its position to force the breakup of existing
bus companies which it deemed to be "too big" - even in cities such as Manchester where cut-throat on-street competition between some 70-odd bus companies already existed. The government also wanted to create a
situation where the privatised companies would bear the brunt of paying for the necessary investments (to attract increased bus patronage) via funds raised from the stock market, commercial banks, etc
Since then "market forces" has seen the formation of three large groups which can - and it is alleged sometimes do - abuse their size within their own spheres of operations.
In theory all bus operations should now be commercial, ie: pay their way through farebox revenues, however local governments are allowed to "buy-in" services which they feel to be socially needed but the commercial companies are not providing. This costs extra money (ie: is an added burden on local council tax payers) when previously profits from the more profitable bus services would help cross-subsidies the socially necessary services. Nowadays those profits go towards stock market shareholder dividends.
These comments do not apply to London, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
In London bus operations were split into a multitude of smaller local business units (cost centres) and then privatised (with some management figures becoming very wealthy in the process) but after much public protest full deregulation was delayed and then cancelled. Instead the bus companies must now compete for the exclusive franchise to operate pre-set routes as defined by a Londonwide transport planning authority. (Transport for London). Whilst this system may also have some flaws (especially over allegations that the centralised transport planners hold in contempt the views of suburban Londoners regarding some aspects of local bus operations) it has not resulted in the very significant decline in bus patronage such as occurred elsewhere in Britain.
A typical scene in deregulated Britain. The bus stop flag lists a multiplicity of operators - which charge different fare scales - and (often) do not accept a common "pay-once-ride-at-will" local travel ticket.
At this bus stop confusion is deepened even further because bus route No.12 is duplicated between two of the operators - except that despite having the same number the two services follow different routes / serve different destinations.
It is well known that when taken out of their daily routine people will do things they might not normally do. A good example of this is the popularity of specialist buses aimed at tourist-orientated sightseeing services. Especially popular are open-top variants - that is, when the weather permits!!
Open top buses come in several variants - both single and double deck - as well as fully open, half open, and even with folding roofs which can be closed when it rains. These latter options make them more suitable for year round use when the weather may not be clement enough to travel in the open air.
The use of buses for tourist-orientated use is more fully looked at on a dedicated page which looks at various transports which are used for leisure, and not just as a means of getting from a to b. Leisure.htm#Bus.
Some of the weird and the wonderful aspects of bus transport.------------------------------- ------------------------------- ------------------------------- -------------------------------
It was only a paint job - but it would bring a smile to the face of those who saw it!Seen laying over at the Vevey Funicular terminus on the Vevey - Montreux trolleybus line in Switzerland. In the background one of the red funicular trains can be seen arriving at its lower terminus.
In the days of the steam train most large engine sheds would have a turntable as this would be the most space effective way to turn the locomotives so that they faced 'forwards' when pulling a train.
Less well known however is that some trolleybus systems also use turntables - albeit only at locations where there is insufficient space for any other form of turnaround facilities.
Many trams (and trains) are 'double-ended' which means that they can be driven from either end. At the terminus all the driver has to do is walk to what had been the back and start driving again.
As a contrast rubber-tyred road vehicles will need to physically turn around to change directions - however although rare reversible buses are not unknown.
Perhaps the one location where people are most likely to encounter reversible rubber-tyred road vehicles are at airports, where they (usually) operate 'airside' carrying passengers between the terminal buildings and the aircraft on the apron. Even then only some airports use them.
As with the bus seen above-left these buses operate on the airport apron as alternatives to direct walkways between the aircraft and the terminal buildings. Where they differ however is that rather than require the passengers to negotiate a flight of steps between the aircraft door and the airport apron the whole bus' body raises up to aircraft level.
The three airport apron buses seen here and above were specially designed for airport use, and although they are buses they are styled very differently compared to regular urban transport buses. As a contrast some British airports use regular urban buses on airport apron services (albeit sometimes bendi-buses with passenger doors on both sides of the vehicle) and some examples which have been personally experienced are so unpleasant (loud throbbing engine - even when idling, very strong smell of fumes, hideous interior decor, etc) that it is not at all surprising that so many British people detest travelling by motorbus.
These buses link airport car parks with the terminals. Where they differ from regular urban buses is that some of the seats have been replaced with luggage racks.
As with leisure-themed (tourist) and other airport buses these buses are often used by people who in their normal daily lives do not use buses; so the entire bus industry benefits when airport car park buses are able to act as good ambassadors for attracting passengers to bus transport - rather than fuel just about every imaginable negative stereotype.
All over advertising buses are otherwise ordinary buses which have been painted in a special livery, usually to promote something - such as a commercial product or for a specific event.
Just two examples are shown here - of course the possible source material for these images could be said to be "virtually inexhaustible"
Dual-mode vehicles which can travel on the public highway as buses and on a railway as a rail-bus are not new, but the concept has always been relatively rare. These images show several different low-capacity railbuses which in the mid-2000's Japanese Railways (Hokkaido) was evaluating for use on its quieter routes. The reason for doing this was to try and find a a cheaper way to operate the third of its' rail network which carries less than 500 passengers a day.
The vehicles feature four highway wheels for roads and four steel wheels plus two rubber tyres for tracks. Switching between rail and highway modes takes about 15 seconds.
Dual mode vehicles which follow a similar concept are well known on the railways, being used for maintenance and other duties. One of the significant advantages is the ability to travel to isolated rural lines in road mode and then switch to rail mode as required.
In this way the vehicles do not need to be occupy valuable track space (possibly delaying normal service trains), nor will they need to be able to interact with complex signalling systems etc; which frequently require trains of a minimum length that is longer than the solo works vehicle; invariably once at the work site the line will be under engineering possession (ie: closed to normal services) so the signalling system will not be being used.
When roadspace is at a premium so it can make sense to optimise the available space by using buses with an extra floor to carry an additional 50 or so passengers. But why only add one extra floor?
The principle constraints against triple deck buses are that they would be too tall to pass below most streetscape structures (bridges, street lights, etc.,) and that they would be very 'top heavy', making them unstable in strong winds and when turning corners - with the possible result being that they fall over.
One of the Harry Potter films (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) include some sequences which feature an old London bus that had been converted from double to triple deck! Inside the upper decks are galleried and there are several large crystal chandeliers hanging from the roof whilst the lowest deck is kitted out with beds instead of seats. Operating at night rescuing Knights in distress this purple liveried bus was rather aptly known as the 'Knight Bus'.
In fact several such buses were created, plus a third double deck bus was covered in vinyl graphics to give the appearance of having three floors.
The front destination blind displays Knight Bus whilst on the side / above the doorway it shows All destinations - except underwater.To avoid breach of copyright pictures of these buses are not shown here, but more information (including a picture) may be found by following this link to an external website which will open in a new window:- http://www.killermovies.com/h/harrypotter3/articles/2772.html
Real night buses do exist!
These images show a bus trailer which had been designed for passengers to use as a mobile hotel.
Known as a 'Rotel' eight of these specialist bus trailers were built in the late 1960 in the then Czechoslovakia.
The Rotels featured 30 beds divided into single (6x) and double cabins (12x), two dressing rooms (men's and ladies) and two bathrooms. The extended section featured toilets which were accessed via separate doors.
Each of the beds had its own lighting, ventilation, hangers, bottle and glass holders. As with ordinary (domestic) trailer caravans it was forbidden to be in the Rotel whilst it was in motion.
These images were sourced from the free online "Wikipedia" encyclopædia - this link (which opens in a new window) leads to a generic page showing these and more images of the night bus trailer.
Making a complete contrast to the triple deck bus seen above is the 1½ deck bus.
The idea of a bus having only half a deck might seem somewhat bizarre, but such vehicles really did exist - in both motorbus and trolleybus form.
The example seen here was built in 1956 and now lives at The Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft - http://www.sandtoft.org.uk/ (Link opens in a new window.) It originates from the German city of Aachen.
Clicking any of the 1½ deck bus images will lead to a dedicated page showing more (and larger) images in a popup window; alternatively clicking here will open the page in a new full-size window.
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