Friday, 13 January 2017

Hail the Beeston Bramcote Buggy Bus (mobility scooters too) – rethinking community transport

Click on map to enlarge.

'Community buses' are not a new idea. They have been around for ages, some succeeded, others failed, but, as far as I know, the idea has yet to be tried in Beeston and Bramcote.

A community bus should not be confused with local council subsidised routes like Nottingham City Council's L10 and L11 routes, which serve part of the area covered by the above map and the County Council's subsidised routes 510 and 536. Why? Because they serve fixed routes and have timetables. Community buses are hail and ride services, with the flexibility to be door-to-door.

If you question their feasibility, then also ask why Uber are investing in such networks? 

Here are a couple of links to press reports:

Uber launches… a very small bus (The Guardian).

Uberville… one small town at a time (The Verge).

From the latter report this wonderful illustration:

A Beeston Bramcote Buggy Bus would not be cheaper than existing bus routes, but it would be more flexible in terms of it goes and frequency. I see this as a daily 8am–10pm community bus, in time it could start earlier and finish later. It could pick up outside schools in the morning and then drop parents off mid-afternoon when schools close. It might have to serve schools on a rota system at first with a fixed pick up/drop off point in Beeston (the Interchange and Lace Street behind The Cricketers pub on Wollaton Road).

There would also be room for mobility scooters on these little buses. Living in Lenton I used the little L5 Nottingham City Council LocalLink service. A small, comfortable flat-floored bus a bit like Dr Who's Tardis. Very roomy on the inside. If you re-arranged the seats Underground train style and they were all fold-up you could probably get six buggies onto one of these little Optare Alero buses (they date from 2009, so there are more modern versions now).

Anyone who remembers what is what like to use a bus in Beeston twenty years ago will know that Trent-Barton buses used to run along Abbey Road and Central Avenue. It was only with the coming of the tram that Imperial Road lost its bus terminus bay, then there was the wonderfully numbered 2000 which served Beeston Marina, Wollaton Road before headin off to Stapleford and sandiacre. The 1997 County Council bus map below shows twenty-two bus routes serving Beeston! Now there are ten and with the Y36 being withdrawn of 12 February, there will be nine Bus routes plus the tram.

The world of local public transport is about to change beyond recognition and the people of Beeston can either let companies like Uber take over or they can make sure that they have a community bus network which keeps the money local.

Seems to me this is the way forward for community transport in towns like Beeston is to bring buses and taxis together to form a flexible, but no more expensive, network in which you pay a premium to have a taxis to yourself and pay less if you are willing to share.

The Knoxville, Texas, approach seems sensible. You cap journey charges in overlapping designated areas and as you move into another area or across it you pay a further, albeit lower, charge.

It doesn't have to be Uber calling the shots, but they will if bus operators and local communities and their councils don't start working together!

To understand the economics of all this, simply read the article in The Verge about what is happening in one small town in America. 

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