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Bristol’s Public Transport Troubles

Bristol's Public Troubles MAIN

For many, buses are a life-line in city life, their main method of transport so it’s important that they’re running properly. 

It was a Tuesday, and I had just finished work, it was chucking it down so I decided to get the bus back to Southville rather than walk. Storm Doris was hitting us with the best she could offer, notably knocking lumps of concrete off buildings on to unsuspecting pedestrians, which caused a massive gridlock in the town centre. So after sitting on the bus for 35 minutes and moving an impressive total of 25 feet, I got off without getting my money back and braved the 30-minute windy walk back home.

On the journey home I started thinking about how bad the public transport is in Bristol, and this is coming from a country boy who wouldn’t dream of ever getting the bus back in Dursley, where I grew up. The bus back there arrives approximately every other year.  And that’s a generous estimate. I have developed what I like to call country legs, the three-mile walk to the train station is a minor to me so I’m used to walking long distances.

‘82% of Bristolians would rather walk to work than get public transport’

According to ESP Group’s easy travel index, Bristol is the worst city for travelling via public transport. Residents of Bristol scored the city 5.31 out of 10 when it comes to ease of travel within the city, compared to the other 25 cities on the list and we’re right at the bottom, and experts say that 82% of Bristolians would rather walk to work than get public transport. For one of the affluent cities in the UK, this doesn’t lie well with residents and with one out of four buses running late, you can understand why.

Other methods of transport seem a lot more popular in Bristol. Bicycles are favoured by young and old as they zoom around the many bike lanes connecting the city. Although it is the most efficient way of patrolling Bristol, bike riders aren’t loved by everyone and are often the subject of abuse from car and bus users, as this video from 2012 shows.

Another popular method of transport in Bristol is skateboarding, which is mainly used by young men. Although they have no legally allocated places on either road, cycle path or pavement, they are frequently zipping around the city utilising various natural ramps and bumps to smoothly transition between the three. Bristol has a big skateboarding culture (future article?) so it’s not uncommon to see youth’s mongo pushing their way through the city centre in their rolled up Dickies and low Vans.

Bristol has been in the process of building a new bus lane/bus dock in the city centre for the past 3 years. It is eventually meant to ease flow in that area but so far has only caused chaos and confusion amongst drivers. Work is expected to finish around the middle of 2017 but I’m not holding my breath, the amount I’ve heard that it’ll be finished ‘in the next few months’ is getting ridiculous.

‘Work is expected to finish around the middle of 2017 but I’m not holding my breath’

A potential problem solver for the amount of traffic in the city would be to introduce a tram system, similar to the ones you can find in Amsterdam. Plans were drafted in 2001 for a ‘supertram’ that would link Bristol and South Gloucestershire, it had one line and 16 stations stretching from Aztec West to Union Street and plans were in the making to extend it after to completion to South Bristol and Yate. Other plans were made to have the line terminate at Cribs Causeway, however South Gloucestershire Council pulled out of the project after learning that this extension would increase the project’s total cost by £100 million and two extra years.  With South Glos pulling out of the project, Bristol Council had no choice but to abandoned the supertram plans.

In total, spending on plans for the tram came to £1.5 million.

After speaking to friends about what changes they would like to see in our buses, many on the outskirts of Bristol would like to see more routes that reach their area. For example, there is only one bus that connects my area, Southville, to the city centre and it’s the number 24. This service runs every 20 minutes but is late every time, why this is I am unaware but it would be great to see another route that runs through their or more number 24’s. Another problem with having only one bus that runs through my area is that it is usually very busy. This would be fine if it didn’t mean being told to wait for the next bus as the one currently packed is passed its person/weight limit. Due to the unpredictability of the buses arrival, I now walk to and from work, a nice gentle stroll that saves me the £1.70 it would normally cost to travel the five stops into the centre.

Another important point I haven’t yet mentioned is that for many people, buses are their only method of transport to get around the city. A lot of people with mobility difficulties and those who cannot afford a bike/skateboard rely on buses for their day-to-day essentials such as going to work or doing their shopping. When you’re young, it isn’t always easy to get around, you’re not old enough to drive and you don’t feel confident cycling on the road so for the majority of young people, the bus is the only option. For some, being able to connect with friends and spend time socially in Bristol is completely reliant on the buses and that they show up on time

All in all, the transport in Bristol is pretty bad, changes can and should be made to the buses and roads. Constant road works slow down the flow of traffic causing angry drivers which lead to rash decisions and more general frustration in the city. With bus prices on the rise and the city becoming more congested, I can see more people ditching public transport for bicycles, which would lead to a safer, greener, less jam-packed city. Something we can all agree would be a step in the right direction for Bristol.

What’s your view on Bristol’s public transport? Could it be improved? Let us know @rifemag