Off the buses: Reversing the decline in UK bus useThe Trapeze Team | January 26, 2016
How can we increase bus patronage? With a recent BBC article reporting that bus use is falling across two thirds of English councils, this is a critical question for public stakeholders across the country. Fortunately, there are some positive answers here – and steps we can take to redress this worrying trend.
The first step is to look at how new technology can attract new passengers onto our buses. As we point out in this guide, effective passenger information – including push and text technologies, as well as tools such as journey planners and apps that provide passengers with updates, notifications and information about disruptions and delays – can significantly increase bus usage.
But of course, increasing passenger ridership is two-fold: it’s not only about attracting new passengers onto our buses, but making sure they stay on board, reusing the bus again and again.
This means creating a truly satisfying passenger experience – and again, technology is a powerful tool here.
Indeed, we know that by embracing the power of modern technologies such as Wi-Fi, it is possible to provide passengers with something they both want and expect – and which makes their journeys more comfortable, and more productive and engaging.
Improving passenger experience is critical in order to both entice new users to ride the bus, and then retain that increased ridership. As we discuss in this article, combining passenger information technology with passenger experience technology, while also looking at establishing an integrated transport network, are key steps toward creating the kind of bus service and public transport network that attracts new passengers and keeps them coming back for more.
It’s important to stress here that these ideas aren’t just conjecture: there are plenty of examples in the UK of these types of approaches having a real positive impact for Local Authorities and bus operators alike, with increased ridership and high-quality bus services.
Think of Poole and Bournemouth – a Trapeze customer – which the BBC identifies as one of the few success stories, having recorded a 39% increase in bus use while other councils were reporting depressing declines.
Or else think of Gloucestershire County Council, where innovative strategies and investment in real-time passenger information (RTPI) have created a high-quality service to Gloucestershire residents that provides mutual benefits to passengers, local businesses, bus operators and the Local Authority itself.
These studies, strategies and real-world examples prove that it is still possible to build bus services that increase in ridership. Indeed, as this detailed report notes “we can afford a world-class bus system, if we are bold enough to change from our present approach”.
The examples of innovative approaches taken by Poole and Gloucestershire prove the point.
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