When it comes to buses, is the UK the epitomy of showing the world how NOT to do things?

radamfi

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We now have the technology to be able to change that and, for the most part, bus companies are doing so. Tap and go has been less quick to get going but companies are most certainly pushing m-tickets and that is to be welcomed.
But most British operators, with a few exceptions, have failed to provide alternatives to cash or contactless payment to the driver for "single" journeys.

(I put "single" in quotes because most bus operators only allow the first part of a multiple vehicle journey to be paid at the start)

Metrobus and B&H provide 60 minute m-tickets in some of their urban areas, which is welcome, but even they don't have anything for their short hop tickets or for single tickets outside the urban area.
 
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Old Yard Dog

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While I haven't been for many years, Italy has always struck me as the one of the most difficult countries for outsiders to use buses. Before you could even board a bus, you needed to buy a ticket from a newspaper kiosk or shop - if you could find one open. Then punch it onboard in a machine (by which time someone may have pinched your seat). I remember trying to catch a rural bus near one of the lakes on a Sunday when all of the shops were shut. So I couldn't. I also seem to remember cities where buses showed the route number but not where they were going to.

Is it still like that or have they modernized ticketing?
 

TheGrandWazoo

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While I haven't been for many years, Italy has always struck me as the one of the most difficult countries for outsiders to use buses. Before you could even board a bus, you needed to buy a ticket from a newspaper kiosk or shop - if you could find one open. Then punch it onboard in a machine (by which time someone may have pinched your seat). I remember trying to catch a rural bus near one of the lakes on a Sunday when all of the shops were shut. So I couldn't. I also seem to remember cities where buses showed the route number but not where they were going to.

Is it still like that or have they modernized ticketing?
No - still like that as I experienced when staying at Desenzano de Garda in 2016 on the main route to Verona though you can have a cash fare but it’s a palaver!!
 

johnnychips

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Yes - one of the most useful phrases I found in Italian was 'Can you buy bus tickets here?' as you desperately went from shop to bar to shop trying to get a ticket!
 

TRAX

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Is revenue protection the driver's responsibility in Paris? It isn't in many European countries (and Borismasters); PFs apply like on the trains.
Paris bus drivers aren’t there to enforce revenue protection, they can only encourage people to pay, and they usually never do so, for fear of being physically and verbally assaulted, which happens often.
 

sammyg901

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Milan has an app now that allows you to buy singles and day passes, definitely made the buses/trams more user friendly for us!
 

radamfi

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ps there has been comment made that UK bus managers are simply ignorant of other countries and this extends to road planners etc. The reality is (having known senior people) is that they most certainly look around the world but they are constrained by the environment in which they have to work.
If that was the case, then British bus companies would be using zonal fares and allow free interchange for singles within the chosen zones. This would mean it would be easy to buy singles off the bus, historically in shops, nowadays on the app or using smartcards. That's nothing to do with money, or lack of it. You just adapt the fare and zone structure to the commercial situation. Even if you use money as an excuse, there was certainly no excuse in PTE areas before 1986 where subsidies were high.

TfL, and LT (LRT, LTE etc.) before them, has never had a good excuse for not doing this. LT even invented a zonal fare system during the Fares Fair era but still didn't allow free interchange, or allow you to buy singles off the bus. It took until 2016 for them to implement the Hopper fare and they had the cheek to brand it as if it is something revolutionary! Even there, bus and tube fares are still not integrated.
 
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TheGrandWazoo

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If that was the case, then British bus companies would be using zonal fares and allow free interchange for singles within the chosen zones. This would mean it would be easy to buy singles off the bus, historically in shops, nowadays on the app or using smartcards. That's nothing to do with money, or lack of it. You just adapt the fare and zone structure to the commercial situation. Even if you use money as an excuse, there was certainly no excuse in PTE areas before 1986 where subsidies were high.

TfL, and LT (LRT, LTE etc.) before them, has never had a good excuse for charging for interchange. LT even invented a zonal fare system during the Fares Fair era but still didn't allow free interchange, or allow you to buy singles off the bus. It took until 2016 for them to implement the Hopper fare and they had the cheek to brand it as if it is something revolutionary! Even there, bus and tube fares are still not integrated.
Seeing as you don’t entertain the thoughts of bus company managers, whilst a number were fellow students back in the day, I can tell you that they aren’t as insular as you’d like to believe!
 

edwin_m

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The link below from a US perspective is tangentially relevant: https://www.citylab.com/transportat...d-transit-other-countries-embraced-it/572167/
A good feeder bus system can save huge capital costs, because it can bring people to the existing rail line, thus eliminating the need to bring a rail line through existing development to the riders.
...
[Toronto] subway stations in the suburbs don’t merely rely on walk-in traffic. Instead, the TTC uses frequent local buses to bring people to the subway, on which they can make longer-distance trips around the city. Nearly every Torontonian is within a 15-minute walk of a 24-hour bus route.
This cites various continental European cities as well as Toronto as examples of how transit can be made to work well even where urban densities and road networks are comparable to those in the States. The UK is somewhere in between. It gets one tangential mention in connection with Crossrail, but reading this I couldn't help thinking that we do most of the things it recommends in relation to rail (though not necessarily in all the places we could) but virtually none of them in relation to buses.
 

radamfi

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6Gman

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From my personal views, I wouldn't say the whole non-London buses system across the UK is showing the world how not to do it, just certain places such as my home town and certain other parts of Lincolnshire.
That's a remarkably precise definition! :s
 

radamfi

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So how do you do it? Flat fares? Prohibit cash payment?
Flat fares or zonal fares. So you can buy tickets for your chosen zones, using old technology, on paper in shops or from ticket machines, or using modern technology, on the app. Same as what most European cities have been using for decades. Or by using touch in touch out smartcards like the Netherlands or Denmark.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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Then justify the above.
Because they have a number of constraints that you’re not party to!!

Can point you to a number of bus company managers in major groups who are well versed in traveling across Europe, Asia and North America. They’re not ignorant nor stupid. They have transport degrees, MBAs and a raft of experience and they do visit and travel on buses globally.

They would point to varied historical or commercial reasons in many cases or constraints courtesy of local or central government. Take the hoary old chestnut of dual doors. They could easily go out and spec said vehicles but we have bus stop design that often precludes it. That doesn’t mean they’re idiots. You try to get bus stops redesigned or relocated in a major city.

Perhaps you need to talk to, or listen to, some of these guys to understand their background.
 

radamfi

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Because they have a number of constraints that you’re not party to!!

Can point you to a number of bus company managers in major groups who are well versed in traveling across Europe, Asia and North America. They’re not ignorant nor stupid. They have transport degrees, MBAs and a raft of experience and they do visit and travel on buses globally.

They would point to varied historical or commercial reasons in many cases or constraints courtesy of local or central government. Take the hoary old chestnut of dual doors. They could easily go out and spec said vehicles but we have bus stop design that often precludes it. That doesn’t mean they’re idiots. You try to get bus stops redesigned or relocated in a major city.

Perhaps you need to talk to, or listen to, some of these guys to understand their background.
What could possibly be the constraint preventing the sale of single fares off bus or through an app? Especially when we are not just talking about deregulated operations. LT didn't start offering the Saver ticket until the late 90s. Belfast still uses a stage based fare system.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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What could possibly be the constraint preventing the sale of single fares off bus or through an app? Especially when we are not just talking about deregulated operations. LT didn't start offering the Saver ticket until the late 90s. Belfast still uses a stage based fare system.
Granted, an app based system would work and indeed, First in West of England are doing that.

Off bus sales as per the continent, from a third party outlet, would incur a minimum charge from the retailer. They would demand a reasonable sum for the b*ggeration and that would wipe out any margin with a single fare.
 

radamfi

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Granted, an app based system would work and indeed, First in West of England are doing that.

Off bus sales as per the continent, from a third party outlet, would incur a minimum charge from the retailer. They would demand a reasonable sum for the b*ggeration and that would wipe out any margin with a single fare.
Are you going to be able to buy any single ticket currently available from the driver using the app?

British bus companies have long used third party outlets and still do today! Before Paypoint, people used to buy weekly or longer tickets from the post office. So if you could buy a weekly ticket from the post office, why not a book of 10 single fares?
 

edwin_m

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Because they have a number of constraints that you’re not party to!!

Can point you to a number of bus company managers in major groups who are well versed in traveling across Europe, Asia and North America. They’re not ignorant nor stupid. They have transport degrees, MBAs and a raft of experience and they do visit and travel on buses globally.

They would point to varied historical or commercial reasons in many cases or constraints courtesy of local or central government. Take the hoary old chestnut of dual doors. They could easily go out and spec said vehicles but we have bus stop design that often precludes it. That doesn’t mean they’re idiots. You try to get bus stops redesigned or relocated in a major city.

Perhaps you need to talk to, or listen to, some of these guys to understand their background.
Which suggests that if the government adopted the same attitude to buses as they do in most other advanced economies, our buses would be as good as theirs.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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Which suggests that if the government adopted the same attitude to buses as they do in most other advanced economies, our buses would be as good as theirs.
To a greater or lesser degree, yes, though even in advanced countries, there is variation (eg comparing Germany vs Italy).

However, will our government do that with the attendant increases in public spending that it requires? They don’t want to fund what we have now!!
 

mmh

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TfL, and LT (LRT, LTE etc.) before them, has never had a good excuse for not doing this. LT even invented a zonal fare system during the Fares Fair era but still didn't allow free interchange, or allow you to buy singles off the bus. It took until 2016 for them to implement the Hopper fare and they had the cheek to brand it as if it is something revolutionary! Even there, bus and tube fares are still not integrated.
That's not accurate. Bus fares were still based on a fare stage basis until the early 2000s. They became flat fare under Livingstone's first term, with a big advertising campaign showing London as a fried egg. The yolk was a pound, the white was 70p.

A year or two later it became a pound everywhere.
 

Deerfold

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Are you going to be able to buy any single ticket currently available from the driver using the app?

British bus companies have long used third party outlets and still do today! Before Paypoint, people used to buy weekly or longer tickets from the post office. So if you could buy a weekly ticket from the post office, why not a book of 10 single fares?
It's a good plan.

However some of the shops are not great. Before i could buy MCard passes using my phone I could buy them at Payzones. However, I've not managed to find a single shop with the correct opening times on their website. My local shop managed to refuse to sell me a ticket 8 times over the course of a year (with no successes, but a variety of excuses). After much complaining the shop was taken off the list which appeared when searching for MCard retailers, not told to buck up.

My local bus company did sell 10-trip tickets which were punched and now sells them on its app (in 2 different flavours, but with a big enough discount they're worth buying for most fares (and if making a short trip with a connection they're still valid - though not clear they're supposed to be).
 

Deerfold

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That's not accurate. Bus fares were still based on a fare stage basis until the early 2000s. They became flat fare under Livingstone's first term, with a big advertising campaign showing London as a fried egg. The yolk was a pound, the white was 70p.

A year or two later it became a pound everywhere.
Or 70p everywhere with a Saver. Which you bought off the bus from 2001.
 
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Cesarcollie

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If that was the case, then British bus companies would be using zonal fares and allow free interchange for singles within the chosen zones. This would mean it would be easy to buy singles off the bus, historically in shops, nowadays on the app or using smartcards. That's nothing to do with money, or lack of it. You just adapt the fare and zone structure to the commercial situation. Even if you use money as an excuse, there was certainly no excuse in PTE areas before 1986 where subsidies were high.

TfL, and LT (LRT, LTE etc.) before them, has never had a good excuse for not doing this. LT even invented a zonal fare system during the Fares Fair era but still didn't allow free interchange, or allow you to buy singles off the bus. It took until 2016 for them to implement the Hopper fare and they had the cheek to brand it as if it is something revolutionary! Even there, bus and tube fares are still not integrated.
The dilemma with zonal fares, other than in a heavily subsidised environment like London or much of mainland Europe, where they can be reduced to the lowest level, is that they are by definition coarse. So short journeys become expensive and ( potentially) longer journeys cheap. That causes the loss of short distance riders, and (potentially) attracts the longest distance passengers at rates that aren’t economic. Thus it’s not an optimal commercial model. Of course, all fare structures are a degree of compromise, even with conventional fare stages, as you are grouping together a number of stops. Any fare system is effectively a compromise, with conventional fare stages ( or even a fare for every stop) at one extreme, and a flat fare at the other. Zonal fares are between the two, but the simpler the zonal structure, the greater the sub-optimisation (if that’s a word!) of patronage and revenue. In a heavily subsidised model that doesn’t matter. In the commercial model it does.
 

radamfi

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That's not accurate. Bus fares were still based on a fare stage basis until the early 2000s. They became flat fare under Livingstone's first term, with a big advertising campaign showing London as a fried egg. The yolk was a pound, the white was 70p.
I meant they created a zone system in the early 80s with a simple fare structure of 10p, 20p, 30p or 40p. This ended after Fares Fair although even in the mid 90s fare leaflets still showed fares presented by numbers of zones crossed and whether you entered Zone 1 or not.
 

mmh

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Or 70p everywhere with a Saver.
Indeed. No expiry date either, even the NB4Ls (Boris Bus) have signs saying you need to go to the driver if you have one.

That's made me wonder if new buses still get those signs, surely not. I'll check tomorrow on the 312 (an electric bus!)
 

radamfi

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The dilemma with zonal fares, other than in a heavily subsidised environment like London or much of mainland Europe, where they can be reduced to the lowest level, is that they are by definition coarse. So short journeys become expensive and ( potentially) longer journeys cheap. That causes the loss of short distance riders, and (potentially) attracts the longest distance passengers at rates that aren’t economic. Thus it’s not an optimal commercial model. Of course, all fare structures are a degree of compromise, even with conventional fare stages, as you are grouping together a number of stops. Any fare system is effectively a compromise, with conventional fare stages ( or even a fare for every stop) at one extreme, and a flat fare at the other. Zonal fares are between the two, but the simpler the zonal structure, the greater the sub-optimisation (if that’s a word!) of patronage and revenue. In a heavily subsidised model that doesn’t matter. In the commercial model it does.
It is better to have an expensive zonal fare system than a stage based system where no one knows what the fare is, and which is impossible to sell tickets for except from the driver. If you go onto a website of a typical British bus company, unless they have a simple or flat fare structure, the lowest fare they present is usually the day ticket, generally in the region of £4-£5 for the smallest area. Fares are heavily subsidised in much of Europe, but not so much in Germany. For example, whilst Dusseldorf is noted for having good transport, the single fare is a pretty expensive 2.90, although there is a cheaper "Kurzstrecke" for very short journeys. Longer trips where you require Preisstufe B are 6.00 single.
 

Cesarcollie

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It is better to have an expensive zonal fare system than a stage based system where no one knows what the fare is, and which is impossible to sell tickets for except from the driver. If you go onto a website of a typical British bus company, unless they have a simple or flat fare structure, the lowest fare they present is usually the day ticket, generally in the region of £4-£5 for the smallest area. Fares are heavily subsidised in much of Europe, but not so much in Germany. For example, whilst Dusseldorf is noted for having good transport, the single fare is a pretty expensive 2.90, although there is a cheaper "Kurzstrecke" for very short journeys. Longer trips where you require Preisstufe B are 6.00 single.
Better from who’s perspective? Presumably not those customers paying higher fares, and presumably not the operator ( or tendering authority if they take the revenue risk) if a goodly proportion of those customers decide to walk/bike/Uber/share a taxi/take the car/decide not to travel?
 

radamfi

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Better from who’s perspective? Presumably not those customers paying higher fares, and presumably not the operator ( or tendering authority if they take the revenue risk) if a goodly proportion of those customers decide to walk/bike/Uber/share a taxi/take the car/decide not to travel?
Some fares would be even higher under a stage based system, with the added problem of slow journey times thanks to the inability to buy singles off bus. The question is, would VRR (the transport association covering Dusseldorf) be better off abandoning their rather high priced integrated zonal system and replacing it with a British-style stage based system so that some short distance fares would be lower?
 

TheGrandWazoo

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The dilemma with zonal fares, other than in a heavily subsidised environment like London or much of mainland Europe, where they can be reduced to the lowest level, is that they are by definition coarse. So short journeys become expensive and ( potentially) longer journeys cheap. That causes the loss of short distance riders, and (potentially) attracts the longest distance passengers at rates that aren’t economic. Thus it’s not an optimal commercial model. Of course, all fare structures are a degree of compromise, even with conventional fare stages, as you are grouping together a number of stops. Any fare system is effectively a compromise, with conventional fare stages ( or even a fare for every stop) at one extreme, and a flat fare at the other. Zonal fares are between the two, but the simpler the zonal structure, the greater the sub-optimisation (if that’s a word!) of patronage and revenue. In a heavily subsidised model that doesn’t matter. In the commercial model it does.
Great summary of the dilemma.

There is no ideal solution and any fare system has elements of compromise. As the commercial backdrop is different in the UK compared to elsewhere, it explains why things are as they are.
 

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