How reliable, affordable or accessible are the bus services where you live?, asks Councillor Julie Howell, Peterborough Green Party co-ordinator
Are they sufficiently reliable so that you can count on an hourly service to get you to work or a critical appointment on time? Are they punctual often enough that you can safely catch the service that arrives at your destination five minutes before you’re due to be there? Or in reality, do you catch an earlier service because the buses on your local route only arrive on schedule some of the time?
How many GP appointments are missed due to late-running buses? How many job interviews are candidates late for because the buses didn’t run to time? If you cannot rely on your bus service to run according to its published schedule can you really call it a ‘service’ at all?
Can you afford to take the bus? A Stagecoach Dayrider ticket in Peterborough will let you ride all over the city for £4.50. What if you only want to travel each way for three minutes (1.3miles), as I did recently? This journey will also cost you £4.50 for a Dayrider ticket. Is this affordable? Is it reasonable? Is it a fair fare?
And how accessible is your local service? How far do you have to walk to get to your nearest bus stop? Many people who use the bus do so because it provides rapid transit around Peterborough when walking independently has become difficult.
It’s really important that routes take in communities and that bus stops are situated with physical accessibility by passengers in mind.
There has been much innovation to make fleets of buses easier to use if you have an age-related or other disability, for example, with efforts to provide level access from pavement to bus where possible.
But if the walk to the bus stop is long or difficult then the bus becomes a less desirable option.
Bus users always worry about losing their local service. In Orton Waterville village, concerns grew as rumours spread that alterations to services might mean buses would no longer pass through the village. Stagecoach has confirmed the X4 will continue to serve the village which comes as a huge relief to villagers.
However, the same bus no longer takes in a stretch of Oundle Road near Botolph Green, leaving some residents far worse off.
The closure of Queensgate Travelchoice Kiosk means many people now struggle to access information about local bus routes.
Just as it is vital to provide accessible bus stops and accessible buses, information about services must also be accessible to everyone.
Not everyone who uses the bus can walk half a mile to Bridge Street for timetable information.
Not everyone who relies on a bus can use an app on a mobile phone.
The decision to move this vital service out of reach of people who would otherwise use the bus services independently is a personal tragedy for many older and disabled people.
Technology can be a great enabler. It can also leave people behind.