I like public transport. I like buses. I like trains.
If we had a tram, no doubt I’d like that too.
I’m on board with the idea that we need to cut our carbon emissions (factories? Planes? Come on now), stop wasting resources, even cutting down on what we spend on fuel. I like the idea that people who cannot or won’t drive, for whatever reason, can still get just about anywhere in Fife with only minimal walking.
So you can believe me when I say this is in no way an attack on our public transport system (though I believe it could be much better), even though it may seem that way in the coming paragraphs.
But it does have a massive flaw.
You already know that traveling anywhere takes a certain amount of time, and that usually its longer by bus (due to the bus going different, sometimes winding routes and having to stop at these ‘bus stop’ things). What may take 25 minutes by car, takes about 40-45 minutes by bus. That’s not a big deal I hear you cry!
Actually, it’s worse than that.
Arriving at the bus stop
Buses never run exactly when you need them too, unless you live in a larger city. This means that you’re often in the position of having to wait. If a bus leaves at 10:05am for example, it could arrive at 10am, or it could arrive 10:15am. Just in case it gets there early, you need to be at the bus stop early.
Say the earliest it will ever arrive is 10 minutes before schedule. That means you have to be at the bus stop, bright and ready, 15 minutes before its due. Have change? If not, leave earlier and stop by the bank. Then a shop to get coins.
Lets be conservative and say you leave home half an hour before the bus is due. So far, our time tally is 1 hour 10 mins compared to 25 mins by car.
At the other end
How often can you get off a bus directly outside the place you’re traveling to?
Not very. Say you wind up close, that’s another 5-10 minute walk from the destination bus stop to your work (for example). You have to be at work by a certain time, this would take you past it.
Uh oh. Better get an earlier bus.
Say you do, and the earlier one gets you physically into your work 20 minutes early (after your 5-10 min walk) – that’s not so bad provided you can start work immediately. Can you?
Lets assume you can for ease and that at the other end of your journey it only takes you 15 minutes to get in and settled. For fairness, lets add 5-10 minutes to the ‘by car’ method for finding a parking space. That brings us to 1 hour 25 mins by bus vs 35 mins by car.
At the end of the day
By car, you can jump in and get going. Even allowing for traffic you can be at your door about 40 minutes after leaving the office.
By bus, you need to wait on the next scheduled departure, after walking to the bus stop. For this example we’re leaving work at 5pm, the next bus is at 5:23pm (which isn’t awful as far as these things go) and it takes you 10 minutes to get to the bus stop. Provided you’re not delayed heading out the door you get to the bus stop 10 minutes early. And wait.
It takes 60 minutes to get home once on the bus (rush hour), and a further 10 to get to your front door.
Total Travel Time
Car = 1 hour 15 mins
Bus = 2 hours 45 mins.
What does that cost you?
At minimum wage for someone over the age of 21 in the UK (£6.08 per hour) that’s £7.60 by car. Plus petrol etc (for ease, lets say £5). Total for one day is £12.60.
That same journey by bus is £16.72 in time alone, plus the ticket which is £7.50 for a dayrider (cheaper than most return tickets). Total for one day of travel is £24.22.
Assume both people in our example got paid for 7.5 hours on this day earning £45.60 before tax. Wouldn’t you much rather just drive and use that extra hour and a half on something more worthwhile?