#DontMissTheBus | Alternative Solutions?

With my co-councillor Heather Morris, I have been working on a proactive campaign to preserve evening and Sunday services on the P route for the past 11 weeks – speaking to residents on the doorstep, and on buses; engaging people via Social Media (twitter, Facebook, street life, etc); delivering over 1000 leaflets highlighting the consultation period and threats to the service with the aim of encouraging them to take part and respond to the review process.

We’ve done our best to reach as many of Cowick’s residents as possible.

But we’ve not been able to stretch our limited resources to mount a similar campaign to the other end of route of the P bus. I’ve recently replied to a resident from here, who contacted me via e-mail with a series of thought and alternative solutions.

Here are my thoughts

1) Reducing the frequency of popular buses 
Reducing the frequency of popular buses such as the A, F1, F2 and E from every 10 minutes to every 15 minutes in off-peak times (from 9.30am – 3pm). Many buses in Exeter run every 10 minutes and by reducing this to every 15 minutes could distribute this cut fairly rather than cutting services such as the evening P bus which leaves passengers with no other means of transport home. If this was done county-wide, imagine the possible savings.

Whilst this might seem attractive, bus drivers are are on shift pattern. A large number are needed for the morning  and early-evening rush-hour peaks, and that’s why some of the services retain the frequency during off-peak times

There is also the problem of mixing commercial and subsidised services.

A commercial bus operator such as Stagecoach SW. runs bus routes for profit, which is passed I to shareholders – the daytime P service is one such commercial route

However, the P service is not profitable during the evening and on Sundays, so without the approx £25k from DCC, Stagecoach would not run the service.

As it stands, there is no requirement for Stagecoach to use any of the profits it makes during the daytime to subsidise the loss-making evening/Sunday service.

That’s ludicrous I know, but that is the downside of privatising the buses.

2) Run a least 2 late buses
At the very least having two late buses (11pm and midnight) to allow people to return from work/socialising in the evening. Stopping the service completely at 9pm doesn’t make sense when many places are open till midnight.

I’ve  already had that thought!  A similar argument about shift patterns for drivers stands – it would be too expensive for drivers to just come on for 2 hours or so.

3) Fare Increases
A small fare increase county-wide

It might work for the evening services, but there is a strong possibility that it might put off even more passengers

I’ve already heard from passengers that on many routes the fares are too expensive.

And putting up fare during the daytime just means more profit for Stagecoach

4) Reducing the number of double decker buses that run in off-peak times
Reducing the number of double decker buses that run in off-peak times, such as the ones to Crediton, Tiverton and Broadclyst. Many of these buses are not running anywhere near capacity.

Not really viable. Stagecoach and other bus operators already have these vehicle and any spares are used to cover maintenance and repairs. And also, like drivers when would you do the swap?

5) National Bus Pass scheem
Having a means tested free bus pass for passengers over 60. This seems mean, but with retirement age only ever increasing and many of wealthiest in the country being over 50, why does everyone over 60 get such a pass?

This is really outside of DCC’s control – any major changes would need to go through Parliament.

What DCC are consulting on are variations to statutory start and end times – figures given as part of the consultation suggest that the cost for the am variation is £5k. I’m assuming a similar figure for the pm variation.

I’m in favour of a universal system for National Bus Pass – any form of means testing costs money to rub the administration, but. I would not be averse to a small nominal charge for the  NBP a- say £5 or £10.

And a case could be made for a small charge of say £1 for any journey outside the County?

But I have to reiterate this would involve changing legislation.

6)  Why a new bus station in Exeter
Finally, need I mention that the £70 million development plan including a new bus station in Exeter is somewhat ludicrous if bus services are going to be cut? I am sure that every bus user in Exeter would far rather have buses than a new bus station, and I’d like to think you’d share this view.

The proposed cuts are to subsidised services and do not affect most for Exeter and the wider county.

Indeed, most. Uses serving the city use the High Street, and the Bus Station services county and national services.

There will still be a need for a bus station, and one much improved for the current facility will only enhance the travelling experience

Many people, myself included, use these bus services as an integral part of our week to enable us to work, socialise, and spend money in the local economy. My particular route is the P service, and from my discussions with fellow passengers, many people are concerned about the impacts of the cuts, particularly on their commute to evening employment in the centre.

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