Travelling by bus may not be top of the agenda when it comes to planning for a smart future, but to overlook its potential is short-sighted, says Darren Shirley.
The UK’s most-used form of public transport is beset with problems.
We’ve heard for the past decade how reductions in central and local government funding for buses have led to a degradation in service or the curtailment or withdrawal of routes altogether.
The effects of such cuts include disconnected communities, social exclusion and loneliness, as well as increased car traffic on our roads.
Buses are sometimes neglected in discussions on smart transport in favour of newer modes and all the options of micro-mobility, new technology and lift sharing.
This is short-sighted; not only are buses crucial to cleaning up the dirty air in cities and achieving net zero carbon emissions, but they are also central to solving transport problems for many communities and, therefore, an opportunity for the smart transport sector.
Smart transport can improve bus services for communities across the country via four main strands:
- Information to encourage choice
- Smart ticketing to ease use
- New forms of delivery to improve provision
- Transition to zero emission vehicles to reduce impact on communities and the environment
Better quality information would allow people to plan their journeys more effectively and remove a barrier to the use of bus services.
Better journey planning and data availability is the responsibility of the industry, with the Bus Services Act 2017 requiring operators to publish data on services and fares digitally, but it should also be a requirement of local authorities to ensure that adequate information is provided in their areas on the buses serving communities, including the integration with other modes of transport so connections are clear.
Public provision of local bus information varies considerably across the country, and where online journey planning works well it is transforming how people’s transport choices are made.
But, taking that a step further, there needs to be integrated journey planning available across the country, so people can choose how to travel in the way that suits their needs and use different modes.
The smart transport sector could make progress on this by working with the major cities and towns in improving the availability of journey-planning tools and information in their areas, and starting to more widely utilise recent innovations such as voice technology, integrated mobile ticketing and real-time passenger information.
Read Darren Shirley's full article on Smarter buses from the Smart Transport Journal