what's the single most important thing that will encourage people to use the bus?

Our office has healthy debates on a daily basis concerning the selling of bus travel - some subject matters have split opinions, whereas others have some thinking in unison.

Heated discussions have been had on how effective route branding is, how important pricing is, the part a livery plays in enticing people on public transport & the nature of the bus as a true retail product, to name a select few. Valid points are raised but it's rare we have a unanimous opinion we can all agree on.

Yet congestion, or to be more accurate the need to sort it to make public transport more attractive, brings everyone together like a Gareth Malone inspired harmony.

Only last week, James Freeman, managing director of First West of England, wrote an open letter to the people of Bristol expressing his frustration at the poor performance of the metrobus services (run by his company) in the city. Peak hour journeys that should have taken 35 minutes were arriving a whole hour later than expected. You can read it here.

A project that cost the taxpayer £230m, plus another £10m on new buses, was limping around the city due to an age-old problem - congestion. A state of the art bus is about as much use as a diesel chugging 4x4 if it's stuck on the same road.

And during the time congestion is public transport enemy number 1, every potential benefit of bus travel has a counter-argument from those who might consider using it. 'It's great value...' the bus company says, 'So what, I'm late for work again' the customer says. 'It's electric and great for the environment...' the bus company says, 'So what, I'm late for work again' the customer says.

The bus company doesn't build the roads, nor does it decide where the bus lanes go. Yet the same bus company gets the blame when their product doesn't deliver on its core promise of punctuality and reliability - through absolutely no fault of their own.

So for once, the studio is in total agreement - sorting congestion is the number item on the 'things that will help public transport' shopping list.

We're also in agreement that achieving it isn't exactly easy...

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