More and more Bristolians are using bus services every day. According to this year’s Annual Bus Statistics Report from the Department for Transport, the average number of bus journeys per head reached its peak in 2014, at almost 74 bus trips per person per year. Latest figures from Bristol City Council also reveal that the city is seeing an increase in the number of citizens using the bus to go to work, rising from 10% in 2005 to 13% in 2013.
However, despite more people jumping on the bus, data suggests that Bristolians are far from satisfied with the quality of the city’s bus services. Indeed, in 2013 just 52% of Bristol’s citizens were pleased with the service provided, a significantly lower proportion if compared to the almost 60% who were satisfied the preceding year and the 58% of satisfied customers in 2011.
Further still, this level of satisfaction fluctuates not only yearly, but by ward, which suggests people are having very different experiences depending on their location. For example, residents in Avonmouth and Frome Vale are the most satisfied with almost 66% agreeing that the bus service is good, while in Ashley and Cabot just over a third (37%) of habitants are happy with the bus service. This could have something to do with the fact that the latest data from Bristol City Council shows that on a normal work day the average bus delays on selected routes add up to almost three minutes. Routes 48 and Route 52 are, respectively, the most and least punctual bus services in the city.
When it comes to bus facilities, however, bus users are slightly less critical of the city’s services. According to Bristol City Council’s Quality of Life Survey, almost seven in ten Bristolians (65%) think that the condition of bus stops and bus shelters are generally good, however these feelings of satisfaction fall to just over half (52%) of participants when asked for their opinion on the information available about local bus services. Although we’ve seen that delays to people’s bus journeys are a source of dissatisfaction, it’s important to point out that delays vary from the day to day and from time to time. While many bus drivers start off their day perfectly on time at 7am, delays start mounting during the morning rush-hour and the knock-on effect of these early hold-ups continues throughout the day to reach a peak at 6pm.
If you’re needing to use bus services on a Monday, you’re likely to find that services are the most punctual on this day of the week. However, come Friday, bus users should be wary to leave themselves plenty of time for delays, as data suggests the end of the working week produces more late buses than any other period.
From this, we can see that there is still a long way to go to improving the city’s bus services and, likewise, boosting customer satisfaction. Although there has been an increase in bus usage over the last few years, Bristol lags far behind comparable cities such as London, Nottingham, Brighton, Reading and others across the country. As the city looks at ways in which public bus services could be improved in the midst of struggles with congestion and air pollution, it may be worth Bristol looking to these cities for some inspiration in the months and years to come.
Simone Grassi, Bristol Is Open