Before you Londoners get over-excited, I’m talking about buses in the lovely and leafy Canadian city of Victoria in British Columbia.
(But I do know that bus services in London’s Victoria, like those in the rest of the city, have improved greatly “since I were a lad”. For that, I believe Ken Livingstone can take much of the credit, whether you like his politics or not)
Canadian buses rule OK
Anyway, a week ago I took a bus in Victoria (BC), while on holiday there, and was pleasantly surprised on two fronts.
Low cost and free transfers
Firstly, the low cost. My ticket for a 15-minute city journey cost CAD 1.60; the sterling equivalent is about £1.10 by my reckoning. A ticket for a similar journey where I live in the UK would cost £1.90; that’s 72% higher!
Secondly; that ticket was transferable. If I’d needed to connect with another bus (sadly, I didn’t) my ticket could be used as a free transfer, within about 45 minutes.
“Request a stop” service
That’s not all! There’s a bonus that I might find valuable if I were a woman, or were even more decrepit than I am. On my ticket were the following words: “Request a stop: If you feel that your personal safety is at risk, ask your transit operator to stop between regular stops. This service is available after 7 pm.”
I know that the “request a stop” service also applies at night-time in Toronto, right on the other side of Canada. I also know that the “transferable ticket” facility applies in that city too, where for one journey you can change as often as you need between bus, streetcar (= tram) and Metro, all on one (very inexpensive) ticket.
Transferable tickets: worldwide phenomenon except in UK?
I was in Rome last October and I noticed tickets were transferable (including trams and buses) too. That probably applies in scores of cities worldwide. But in my city, and in general throughout the UK, you have to buy a new ticket every time you change from one bus to another.
Brunel’s lead not followed
150 years ago, Brunel developed the idea of integrated transport on the grand scale, building a hotel at Paddington, the Great Western Railway and the SS Great Britain ocean liner. But we seem to have mislaid the idea in the UK, even at the most basic level; for example in Bristol, the railway station (designed by Brunel – how ironic is that?) is over a mile from the bus station. Maybe in these tough times we can’t afford significant investments in integrated transport infrastructure; but the “transferable ticket” idea could be a useful baby-step along the way.
Come on, Britain! Are we serious about getting people out of their cars? I know that, as Ricky Gervaise famously said: “we ran the world before America did” … but couldn’t we sometimes learn from what other countries do?
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
If you plan a journey to British Columbia and would like to find out more about their public transport services, go to www.bctransit.com