Pensioners free travel arrangements under review?
Sections of the media are reporting that buses will not stop to pick up passengers if drivers have a “full” load.
Post COVID, and to retain social distancing, that could be as few as 25 people on a double decker bus.
At peak time such services might previously have carried as many as 100 people.
Bus capacity will be reduced by 75% according to First York. Passengers will be counted at they get on and off services with effect from Monday.
With more workers, and some schools, set to add pressure to the transport system in June, clearly some measures need to be taken to ensure that priority is given to those making essential journeys.
One suggestion is that free – or discounted – travel should be restricted to off peak times (10:00am – 3:00pm and after 7:00pm in the evening). This could affect pensioners, children and those using the YoZone card.
Some officials believe that this would ease capacity issues on public transport particularly if employers and schools stagger arrival/closing times and that as many people as possible continue to “work from home”.
There has also been a suggestion that a new Priority weekly ticket could limit travel to two hour specified slots during the day (morning and evening) to give workers a better chance of finding space on a particular service.
Despite the protests of some ultra pro cycling groups, that the 15,000 or so per day displaced bus passengers should take to their bikes, the reality is that even doubling the numbers cycling to work would scarcely dent the demand pattern for bus services.
A clear plan to avoid the congestion that increased car use would bring to the City is needed and it is needed now. Whatever the solution, bus companies and the council need to get a process in place quickly if chaos is to be avoided.
Meanwhile it has emerged that the Council failed to spend its bus stop improvement budget last year. Despite pleas for “next bus” screens to be installed at busy stops in Acomb, Foxwood and elsewhere, no progress was made.
The budget was underspent by around £45,000.
The screens, and mobile travel apps, need now to be upgraded to show whether spare seats are available on individual services (as already happens with some rail services).
Real time information systems have a vital role to play in avoiding large queues at bus stops at least while social distancing rules are in place.
Many bus shelters are in poor condition. Some need repainting. Others need panels replacing. Some are regularly overgrown with vegetation. One on Foxwood Lane famously sports a crown of weeds every summer.
Now, ironically, there is a suggestion that “green roofs” should be installed on some shelters to aid biodiversity. (NB. The shelters that are regularly overgrown are located next to the countryside so make little contribution to bee welfare).
These are issues that require prompt attention and a proper dialogue with local residents.