What Do You See When You Look at a Bus?

Bus and the open road to climate changeBuses are often invisible. They’re never to be seen when you’re waiting at a stop. Yet at the same time you feel highly visible waiting there, as it will be just the time that your neighbour passes by.

If you’re in the countryside there is a good chance they may even stop and offer you a lift or query whether your car is ok. Or they can simply go home and announce “you’ll never guess who I saw standing at the bus stop!”

Yet other times, buses are highly visible and a complete nuisance when you get caught behind one in your car and are unable to overtake. Then they become your excuse for lateness.

Current Image Problem of Buses

Margaret Thatcher is supposed to have said that "If a man finds himself a passenger on a bus having attained the age of 26, he can count himself a failure in life”. Pretty damning if it were true, but it does reflect the upwardly mobile 80’s onwards, where image has become everything.

It is a view that now seems to be shared by many, who simply will not travel by bus. But oddly it does not apply to other forms of shared public transport. Commuting by train is seen as a necessary evil and leisure travel as normal or a special trip. Travel by car however short and in some cases ridiculous the journey, is unquestioned. Taxi use is merely a question of affordability.

Buses, a Climate Solution

Rural public transport has been in a downward death spiral for the last 30 years. In part because of its image problem and partly from service cuts reinforcing that problem. That image needs to change as buses are an essential part of the climate solution.

The amount of CO2 produced by transport has not changed since 1990 according to official figures to 2019. In part this reflects the greater numbers and usage of cars. To reverse this, we need to make more use of shared transport for people on the same journey. Fewer vehicles means lower emissions. Filling buses to capacity now has an immediate beneficial effect, because they aren’t additional journeys for the bus. And with fewer competing cars, congestion decreases so buses and you are more likely to arrive on time.

So next time you see a bus be thankful, one is available on that route. And question whether actually being on it is a positive sign of those fighting the climate emergency practically today; and should really you join them?