I had a little giggle at this pic – 3 local Councillors on what looks like a murky day in the depths of Bearwood, near Birmingham. Two of them look like they’re grimacing – as Councillors tend to do, when it comes to anything bus-related.
Actually, it’s one of those schemes that people look at, scoff maybe, or moan about there being “better things to spend council tax money on”. But if we want to get more people onto buses, it’s EXACTLY the sort of thing we should be doing.
Now, we have National Express West Midlands spending shedloads on new buses with all-singing, all-dancing WiFi and comfy seats, and that’s important. But what about where you wait for your bus? Too often, it’s not great. You might even groan like Councillor Worrall is doing.
Bearwood bus station was, up until fairly recently, such a place. It has a car park in the middle of it, and I well recall during my days at Bus Users UK a number of years ago asking Sandwell Council to either clean up or pull down the outrageous toilets there. If ever there was a brick version of Armageddon, this was it. There was also the dodgiest-of-dodgy subways, which you had to use to reach the other side of the Hagley Road to catch west-bound bus services – so you had a wonderful choice: risk running the gauntlet across 4 lanes of traffic,which was akin to death-by-wacky-races, or take something like a 1-in-2 chance of being mugged in the subterranean World below ground.
Well, the subway has gone, filled in and replaced by surface-level crossing, the City-bound bus lane has been extended to the laybys adjacent to the bus station, allowing buses free-run in, rather than having to pull into the 2 traffic lanes, only to enter the layby again (and of course white van man was never known to give way to a bus – no Sir – he’d rather die a gruesome death by grizzly bear than suffer the indignity of letting a 126 out). And now the toilet has gone too.
In it’s place, not a lot. A new automatic pay-as-you-go loo, and a general “spruce up” of the immediate area. But the difference, whilst not what you might call “breathtaking”, now enters the category of “quite pleasant”. And it all adds up. Where 2 years ago, you ran the gauntlet of the subway, daren’t go in the loo, stood in less-than-salubrious surroundings to get on a bus that was, at best, average, now you can cross the road with confidence, await your bus in decent environs and then get on a swanky new bus to whisk you into Birmingham City Centre.
These things are fairly obvious, if you want to get folk out of cars onto public transport. It’s the jigsaw. There are some more pieces to fit yet, such as more car restrictions, more bus priority, etc but it’s when you start doing the supposedly “little” things like this, it starts to add up. From little acorns, etc….Well done Sandwell Councillors and Transport for West Midlands!
Just one thing for the eagle-eyed amongst you – the display behind the grimacing Councillors shows “X10 Tansey Green” – that isn’t what the X10 will show on it’s destination screen (“Pensnett”, since you ask) – another part of the little jigsaw pieces: co-ordination between what the bus shows and what the timetable and displays shows is so important!