Ticket to Ride

 Swapping the car for the bus

Swapping the car for the bus

Ticket to Ride

I was asked recently to think about how more people can be encouraged to travel by bus in Cardiff. So with my thinking cap on, firstly I thought about how I’ve used different forms of transport during my life, and it looks like this:
As a child, lots of bus use. My mother hated driving and so we’d take the bus on a regular basis for trips to the town and city centre.
As a student, on a daily basis into Sheffield city centre.
Starting work, I switched to the train. This made sense as there were fewer stops from my hometown into the city centre. 
Living in London, I took the bus all the time especially in the week as it was a more comfortable commute compared to the overcrowded tube. On weekends as I’d travel further around the city the tube came in handy. This ability to switch and blend my choice of transport was convenient to the point I didn’t even own a car in London. This also meant I could take cabs as needed as I was saving money by not having to run a car.
Living in a village I became more car dependent.
Working in business park environments, again I became more car dependant.
Currently, running my own businesses I have more choice. When time and my schedule allows I can and do use a combination of: walking, driving, train and bus. I sold my bike a couple of years ago - maybe time for a new one.

I’d not used the bus in Cardiff for a number of years, until last month when I needed to attend a meeting on a side of the city I’m not that familiar with, and being told I could park in the supermarket opposite didn’t sit well with me, so I decided I’d take the bus instead.
It did take me about half an hour online to workout where I needed to get on the bus and where I needed to get off. Ideally this should a quick and simple, apps like Citymapper would offer an effective solution for improving transport information in Cardiff. 

However, once using the service I gained twenty minutes of productive time as the bus took me from the city centre to my meeting. This was a chance to action emails via my smartphone. I arrived in good time for my meeting, had no parking stress and my return trip was equally efficient, especially thanks to the bus lanes.

As I was travelling off peak, I really should have walked the one minute from my house to the bus stop and bought an all day ticket. This would have been both time and cost effective. Instead, I was totally inefficient and drove to the city centre paid lots to park the car for the day and then used the bus. However, as a way of re-introducing myself to the bus service this didn’t matter, and as I enjoyed using the bus, the service was good and I gained 40 minutes of productivity I know I will make more use of the bus in the future.  

So that’s a brief overview of my use of public transport, and from this I can see that at different points in my life I have switched my choice of transport depending on circumstances. 

When it comes to finding ways to encourage more people to use the bus, my initial thinking has led me to the following considerations:

“People” is too general. Identifying potential bus users by their activity and/or transport requirements will help to target services and promotional messages.
Public transport in major cities is used by a broad spectrum of the community. Everyone needs to get somewhere and public transport is an effective way to achieve this.
In smaller, cities I can’t help but get the impression that car owners still believe it preferable to use their car and that the bus isn’t for them for a myriad of reasons.
Having one ticket / app that allows you to seamlessly switch between bus and train is practical and user friendly. 
Capacity and routes. I live in a town just outside Cardiff, weekday mornings the rush hour is a slow crawl of cars queuing to get out of the town into the city. I won’t car commute between 7.45am and 8.45am and the same would apply to bus use. You just sit in traffic and waste time. If this is consistent with other suburbs, there may be real value in promoting off “peak” travel and different ways bus travel can make your day more efficient.
First time users will need to know, where to get on, where to get off, when the service runs and how much it costs. Making this quick and simple is essential.
Finding ways to blend, bus, train and even pick-up cycle services together will help offer travellers the opportunity to build their own transport system that best serves their needs.
From my experience I can see real potential to encourage businesspeople to make increased use of bus travel to get to and from meetings in and around the city. Importantly, identifying different reasons for travel would help to target potential users with the benefits of taking the bus in a way that would resonate with them.
There are numerous benefits to bus travel, including saving time, being productive, saving money and being kind to the environment. 
Research to identify potential “groups” of new users could help to structure targeted campaigns to increase use of the services.
There is potential to set-up a pilot to get encourage Cardiff businesspeople onto the bus. This represents a behaviour shift and so being imaginative, attention grabbing and social media friendly would be essential. 

The centre of Cardiff has a traditional road network that would prove exceptionally complex and prohibitively expensive to upgrade to accommodate more traffic, and this wouldn’t offer a desirable, appropriate or long term solution to support the effective movement of people around the city. And with the City becoming increasingly popular with both visitors and employers, more people will need to get to more places, so this does present a golden opportunity to encourage the increased use of buses in Cardiff as part of a fluid and integrated transport network.