Investigating Bus Stops that Way Madness Lies

A simple bus stop?Like the proverbial bus, this post is late. It was due on April 23rd, allegedly the date of Shakespeare’s birth and death. Which is why we borrowed his Lear quote which continues “with let me shun that; no more of that”. This aptly sums up Rural Techs discoveries about the humble bus stop and its suitability for the modern world.

All we wanted to do was to answer 3 simple questions.

Who can legally use a bus stop?

A bus can is the simplest answer. Bus stops were created so they could safely stop in marked areas. Where the road is busy this can be a layby to assist traffic flow or it can simply be a yellow box outlined on the road.

Until 1988, with the break-up of the National Bus Company, that made sense. Since then, there has been a decline in services, particularly in rural areas. Community transport services quite often deliver the now non-commercial bus routes. When running those services, they may stop in bus stops. But if the same vehicle is running a dialaride service, it can’t stop in that exact same spot.

Similarly hackney carriages may, if not on a red route, use an empty stop to drop off passengers. If the same taxi is a registered private hire vehicle and is carrying passengers on that charging basis, it can’t.

So, the same vehicle carrying passengers is both legally allowed and not allowed to use a bus stop. How do you sensibly police that?

What is a bus stop?

In our mind’s eye, a bus stop is clearly shown with sign and shelter. Every stop is supposed to have a sign or flag. If there is no sign, there is no requirement for the bus to stop.

Now consider that if someone is picked up from a stop; it is likely they would wish to be dropped off back in the same area on their return. Roughly there should be stops either side of the road so you can choose which way to go. But in practice there aren’t. There is a road with 3 stops in a ½ mile where all are marked on the way towards Gloucester; but none heading the other way into the Forest.

We all know where our local stops are, don’t we? Well no. The experience within the team and borne out by our surveys is that most know where the closest one is, approximately, to their home. But other stops simply disappear into the roadscape, because we have no use for them or they are not regularly used to draw attention to their location.

If you don’t believe this, go for a safe walk along the road and discover the hidden stops near you. A warning though not all stops are clearly marked. It may require local knowledge that it’s ‘the gate by the tree’. This is where the old stop was, when there was a National Bus Company. That map is the basis for those shown on Google.

Who Owns a Bus Stop?

If they’re not all marked who should rectify this?

This is perhaps best explained by the fact that the county council, who are typically responsible for roads, may be responsible for demarcating the lines on the road and perhaps the signs, but the shelter may belong to the Parish Council and the bit in between by the District Council. Or it could all be owned by one council!

The Tragedy of Bus Stops

The tragedy of bus stops like King Lear, is there’s no simple answer. A complex system has evolved which is no longer fit for purpose. When car ownership was low, moving people in shared transport in a timely manner led to optimised restrictions on use. Now when many rural bus stops are used less than once an hour; this is utterly mad.

To combat climate change and create effective networks, transport systems will increasingly need to be integrated. That means:

  • sharing interchanges and hubs, and
  • clearly identifying those spaces so local and tourist know where they need to be to access transport.

Bus stops would easily fill that role; if the current complexity can be unravelled through collaboration not competition, motivated by the desire to do something.