Can York bus services cope post lockdown?

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.

Larger bus shelters may be needed!

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.

Bus screens now need free space indicators

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.

Weeds overgrowing a bus shelter in Foxwood Lane

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.

Issues reported in west York today

Hedges need cutting back during winter
More potholes
Snickets need sweeping
Verges need tidying up and damaged equipment replaced.
Fly tipping needs removing
Another one for the new graffiti removal team
Acomb Moor damaged stile still not repaired. We understand that local Councillors are dealing
Council bus shelters are filthy

Bus shelter clean up welcomed

We reported last week that several of the Council owned bus shelters in west York were looking shabby. Some were overgrown with weeds and undergrowth.

We are pleased to report that, following our highlighting the issue to the York Council , some of the shelters have been tidied up. Undergrowth has been cut back from the shelters making them much more user friendly.

However the work undertaken has also served to emphasise how much these shelters need a coat of paint and other refurbishment.

Many are now rusting quite badly.

Foxwood Lane shelter. No longer an Arboretum
Shelter near Otterwood Lane as tidied up
Askham Lane bus shelter, although very rusty, is now free of undergrowth

We were also pleased to see for the first time for some time today that the Cornlands Park was largely free of litter.

There seems to be a slow improvement in some public service standards in the City following a disappointing summer.

Cornlands park

Do bus passengers get a fair deal in York?

After several stable years, we have seen some criticism recently of some bus services in the City. Changes to the number 12 service were poorly publicised following a late decision by the York Council to step in and save part of the service

Passengers in west York have criticised for a long time the lack of “real time” bus arrival information screens in the area.

Bus reliability stats, provided by tracking technology, are not shared with passengers, although a “one off” sample survey – due to be conducted in a few days time – does produce a snap shot of reliability.

One area that the York Council can help passengers with is the “bus stop experience”.

Unfortunately bus shelters, provided by the Council around 10 years ago, are now looking distinctly shabby.

The Foxwood Lane bus shelter has been re-purposed as an Arboretum. Weeds dangle from the gutters, and strangle the interior. The shelter is never cleaned, the perspex is opaque and the paint continues to peal.
The nearby shelter on Askham Lane is no better. At least the sight lines from the shelter are better this year as the Council actually cut part of the adjacent hedge in the spring. You can just about still see if a bus is on its way. Unfortunately they didn’t trim the hedge at the back of the shelter making cleaning and routine maintenance impossible. It is now very scruffy.
At least the weeds are held at bay on this Windsor Garth shelter. But it is rusting badly and also sports opaque windows.

Abandoned bus shelters – future uncertain

The future of the bus shelters on Tudor Road, which have not had a service for over 2 years, remains uncertain.

Not surprisingly the shelters are in good condition.

There is a site, at the Gale Lane end, which could accommodate a shelter, and which does lie on the now clockwise route taken by the number 4 service.

There are no notices in the shelters (or on the bus stop signs) indicating that the bus service only serves the opposite side of the road.

Even then the alternative bus stops are a testing sprint away.

Anyone texting the bus stop identification code to the information service gets a text back saying that no service is expected within the next 4 hours.

4 years more likely.

If you text for information it will cost you 12p

The stop reference (e.g.  32900872) produces no useful information when keyed into the “Bus York” mobile phone app. See  https://www.itravelyork.info/journey-planning/free-bus-apps/

Many people living in the Tudor Road area would prefer to see a 2-way service reintroduced.

If such a change is not imminent, the Council and bus service providers need to initiate a review of the quality of bus stop information, and shelter arrangements, that they provide in the area.

Abandoned bus shelters can be a magnet for anti-social behaviour, so some prompt action is required.

Sort out sub urban bus shelters plea

Bus passengers in York are calling on the Council to review its bus shelter policies for suburban areas.

A lot of money has been spent on the bus stops on the York City centre in recent years. Hundreds of thousands more will be spent as the area outside the station is remodelled.

but there has been little progress made in providing “next bus due” real time information on most of the network. Even busy routes with inter -urban services like Tadcaster Road lack passenger information (and shelter)

Mobile device systems have been developed but they are not user friendly and often revert to providing just when the timetabled service should arrive.

In Leeds, bus arrival time signs are integrated into shelters.

Some bus shelters are redundant following changes to bus routes which took place several years ago. The shelter below on Tudor Road is an example. The local number 4 service only serves the opposite side of the road on its clockwise route round Acomb. Now all the shelter does is attract anti social behaviour

As a consequence there is a large amount of litter on the near by verge while ponding on the adjacent footpath has never been properly addressed.

Litter next to Tudor Road bus shelter

It is an issue that the various public transport pressure groups in the City have failed to get to grips with.