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5 ways bus companies can incentivise travel

The profusion of private vehicles add to the city’s air pollution and carbon footprint. It is time for the public to take mass transport – but how can buses be made more attractive for everyday use?

Is there a reason why US Government spends a lot of money on public transport every year, but most people don’t want to use it?

The reasons are manifold, but the problems lie primarily in the realm of bus transport. Town planners opine that most American roadways are planned for private car transportation, leaving little room for mass rapid bus transit. But that is not to say that bus travel can never be improved or incentivised.

Consider 5 ways in which the public may be enticed to take the bus for daily travel:

#1 Web-enabled information on bus timings and routes.

The use of Internet technologies to disseminate information to potential passengers is a major takeaway for bus companies. Commercial bus companies can consider developing smartphone apps that offer real time schedules, journey routes and stops, important public services on the route, multi-language interface, and easy payment options for pre-booked seating. The flexibility that such a smartphone app would offer can help integrate bus travel into busy work lives, with passengers knowing exactly how long the journey would take and when the next bus would arrive for their route.

#2 Inclusivity in design.

Most commercial buses and passenger buses previously lost out on an important demographic of the population – the visually and physically challenged. Most buses were designed for use by the physically able, with hardly any inclusivity in design to account for wheelchair ramps, automated stairways for the blind, etc. However, this changed when the DoT issued regulations that mandated every public transit transport to be ADA-equipped with features to allow people with disabilities to use fixed-route transport.[1] The aspect of inclusivity also takes into account the need for passenger safety on the bus, apart from integration with prominent shopping centres, schools, recreation areas, major residential hubs, other transport hubs like railways and cycle stands, etc.

#3 Timely arrival and departure.

Most buses use the same road networks that cars and other private vehicles in the US do. In the absence of a dedicated lane or road for buses alone, the presence of both private and public transport on the same roads leads to high congestion and pollution. Passengers are also not impressed by buses arriving later than their designated times, or private buses taking a circuitous route without prior intimation. These problems can be solved by buses taking the routes of least traffic at certain times, and the driver responding to queries about exact location and arrival timings.

#4 Efficiency across various touch points.

Another issue plaguing the bus system in the US is the lack of efficiency across various parameters, from passenger information to the use of fuel. Bus companies can try a variety of bus models on the same route, ranging from small to large passenger buses based on observed peak times and high density traffic routes. Bus companies can also save money by switching to biofuel or gasoline, or adopting electric buses on their fleet. Even adopting simple measures like using all doors for boarding and de-boarding to save time, adding more seating, using a ‘touch and go’ ticketing system to direct debit from the passengers’ card instead of them paying in cash, can help make bus travel faster and more attractive for passengers.

#5 Safe and clearly visible buses.

Successive buses may take a long time to arrive at the bus stop, which forces commuters to wait at under blazing sunlight, heavy rain, biting cold or pitch darkness. This last factor of low visibility from a distance is a deterrent to most people who need to take the bus after dark. While bus companies may not be able to influence the appearance of bus stops per se, they can nevertheless use flashing lights to indicate their arrival even from afar, so that passengers can see them arriving.