Using The Bus ;What Young People Think

For the second time in a week I am indeed indebted to the excelllent crew at Transport Focus (See what I did there using the word “crew’ as I am down with the kids, quite clearly), who hosted an excellent, innovative, and inter-active survey results and discussion with interested stake holders at the Studio a rather swanky venue nestling in the heart of Birmingham.

Yet again an excellent bedrock of solid surveys coupled with focus groups with young people around the UK, brought together some excellent conclusions, observations and suggestions about what todays youth and young people really feel about using bus services in todays modern world. The group gathered were a good mix in all fairness, with a good smattering of high profile operators, Local Authority officers, and a few expert witnesses and consultants.

Thr excellent Linda McCordle from Transport Focus opened the bating and gave a whistle stop tour of the key headlines. There then followed 5 swift bite sized chunk examples of good practise young persons bus initiatives from across the UK. I liked the format, kind of speed dating with 3 minutes to get the initiative across. We then got split into teams to evaluate each of the selected examples and then report back to the group.

In fairness a good way to stimulate ideas and debate, it also stimulated healthy dialogue amongst those assembled, encouraging networking which I found really useful. The next challenge was to work independently and answer a total of 11 different carefully selected questions that emerged from the survey results. To help our thinking processes we were given a young person’s identity, I was an unemployed 19 year old who had suffered an accident and needed to have regular hospital visits. Quite useful for a 58 year and three quarter year old chap like me to try and think young. Funny thinking back to when I was a teenager, especially as the venue was directly opposite the The Windsor, the very same pub that I used to enjoy my under age drinking exploits in before popping of to watch punk bands like the The Clash, Straglers, Damned etc. And of course to get there and home I used to catch the bus

The final exercise of the day was to get split into random groups of three people and then evaluate the forest of post it notes, that had been responses to the 11 previously asked questions. The plan was to cluster the responses into groups, such as IT, Operations, Commercial, etc, and then report the results back to the collective group. Again another great exercise where the creativity and experience of those assembled was put to good use. The next steps are for the team at Transport Focus to coordinate all conclusions and suggestions and share it with the world. Frankly, a good and positive process that should be acted upon by operators and all involved with promoting the bus to young people, like my good self ( A 19 year old unemployed who had suffered an accident).

At one point I did consider if I should revert back to my old acting persona and adopt the character of my new found teenage self. Kevin and Perry came to mind from the Harry Enfield show of the noughties, where utterly unreasonable tantrums and shouting of “ Its not fair’ at ones parents was de rigour. However, on the basis that I would like to be asked back for future events, I decided to keep my head down and my gob shut. All in all, another excellent event, and just in case you were wondering here are the headlines of the survey that really highlight the key differences that young people have compared to other passengers and are as follows.

1 They do not feel that services are designed with them in mind, or that enough is being done to encourage them and make them feel valued ( Probably true overall, but there are now more initiatives than ever before to cater for them, which is good)

2. Not knowing how the system works or what to do is a barrier and a source of anxiety about ‘getting it right (agree completely and not unique to young people, although the teenage angst makes the fear factor higher).

3 Improving the journey experience is important, young people notice poor quality provision (again fair and valid, they are not stupid and much more environmentally aware than ever before, so pollution, dirty buses mater to them)

4 There is a need to design systems better, learning from other industries in the way that they appeal to young people( I could not agree more, just look at the gaming industry, social media, and dare I say it Netflix)

5 Fares for young people are confusing and inconsistent ( again true, as they are for most passengers except those with concessions)

So, like my old school reports never actually said, an excellent peice of work, very well done ten out of ten Transport Focus.

Written by Austin Birks

March 8, 2019

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