What are the ‘easy wins’ for improving bus transport in and around Cambridge?


Because bringing in bus franchising or going full #CommissarPuffles and nationalising the buses is not something that is going to happen overnight.

This follows on from my previous post about being dependent on public transport. By ‘Easy win’ I don’t mean that the implementation itself is necessarily easy in the current context, but that the difference the passengers will notice could be significant when considered in proportion to the amount of additional money thrown at the problem.

Separate entrances and exits on new buses like London has

I cannot understand why Cambridge buses don’t have separate entrances and exits to buses like they do in London. The additional seconds in delays caused by waiting for everyone to get off one by one adds up to delays in bus journeys, putting the timing of the bus journeys out of sync. Given that buses are replaced in the course of business, is this something the county mayor James Palmer could request, if not require for new buses?

Buses that auto-switch-off while stationary. 

Because Cambridge has air quality issues and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tweeted to local bus companies to tell their drivers to stop spewing out diesel fumes unnecessarily. (Future electric buses will hopefully get rid of this).

Improving ‘real time’ information – and being clear on their apps when they are showing real time vs a paper timetable in electronic form

The basic principle here is managing expectations. What I’ve noticed at my local bus stop where I catch buses to the station and into town is that far fewer people are seen waiting around for ages for a bus when the realtime bus timetable is working. A few minutes before a bus arrives and people will show up.

Improved bus shelters – including ones with important and/or community information

The more busier bus stops could easily be adopted by local community groups to maintain notice boards. The problem with current designs of toughened glass stops is that bar the two large advertising boards on one side, there’s nowhere for bus timetables to be posted. Furthermore, ones stuck up on nearby lamp posts are in such a small font that those who have sight problems may not be able to read them. Important for those communities where people may not be smartphone natives too.

The principle of such community notice boards is to put such things up where people are waiting for something. Health centres are another. Interestingly, the director of Stagecoach bus services in Cambridge, Andy Campbell, has said he’d welcome the formation of a bus users campaign group (now formed with the Cambridge Area Bus Users Group) has nowhere to put posters up where their most interested potential members are guaranteed to be: at bus stops.

Asking the bus drivers where the problem points are, how to improve routes and where road surfaces need repairing

I’m not aware that there is systematic communication between the bus drivers and the county council on identifying where repairs need to be made, even though tools such as https://www.fixmystreet.com/ exist.

Asking on an annual basis where service demand exceeds supply in areas of high bus demand.

The first speaker, Lizzie Ford, is now at university, but a couple of years ago she was at college in my neighbourhood. This is her experience of buses from rural areas into Cambridge, and how it impacts her.

Stagecoach and the county council should be interviewing school children that use buses, and in particular, further education students dependent on increasingly infrequent buses from their towns and villages.

The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough should set up a bus users’ forum

Even one for young people who are disproportionately more likely to be users and affected by issues with buses. If the Mayor agrees in principle to set up such a forum where colleges themselves elect student representatives, the Mayor should agree to convene that forum once a year – early on in the academic year, to meet everyone from across the county. Further gatherings should be hosted by the transport lead on the combined authority and relevant councillors and officials from Cambridgeshire County Council until the county has sorted out a better structure of local government. County councillors should also be put on notice that they will be expected to support young people and bus users in resolving issues raised by the forum.

Smart ticketing that works across different providers, and for multiple journeys.

They seem to have it in London and other parts of the country, why not Cambridgeshire?

Co-ordinating bus services with other transport services (eg trains) and  organisers/providers of major events – such as football matches. And having additional empty buses ready to join services when delays are easily predictable.

It almost goes without saying for example when there is an expectation that there will be service delays. The Citi3 always gets delayed when there is a home game for Cambridge United. Yet the overall service level need not be too disrupted if a couple of empty buses were waiting along Newmarket Road in one of the many car parks there to step in as the crowds gather.

Furthermore, there has to be a better way of publicising and integrating one-off bus services for day-long events at places such as Wimpole Hall Farm or Milton Country Park so that fewer people need to drive to such places, as well as opening them up to those of us that don’t or cannot afford to run a car.





One thought on “What are the ‘easy wins’ for improving bus transport in and around Cambridge?

  1. I don’t agree with some of what Puffles says:
    1) I’m not sure that double entrance buses help as there are just a few stops within Cambridge where there a significant nos of people BOTH board and alight. It is fare collection/ticketing systems that takes the time, especially on out of town services, which can spend five minutes+ collecting fares (even just out of town).
    A flat fare no change system, that allows interchange within a given time works well in many cities.
    2) Within Europe… most buses are single deck and that speeds up entries and exits and a 12m single decker does not carry many fewer than a typical double decker (with standees)
    3) I’m told that in the 60’s ‘country’ services had few stops within the city. If a bus from say, Sawston, Histon, or Fulbourn, had say only two stops within the City before Drummer St, it could save five minutes+ in the peak.
    So:Split buses into ‘Citi+P&R’ & ‘Countri’ buses. Different flat for both but with Countri allowing interchange with Citi. Out of peak (say before 07:00 or after 19:00) run service ‘as one’ with the lower flat far to encourage off peak travel.
    If you could speed up buses from Necklace Villages by 10 mins in the peak perhaps more would leave their car at home?
    Inbound flow control could knock another five mins off buses from villages. see:
    & finally I’d have a bit of ‘outbound flow control’, such that evening private car peak outflow from say, Science Park or CBC, does not ‘in effect’ shut off the outbound flows on Milton Rd and Hills Rd.

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