In my last blog, I laid out a conversation about our motivations for and some difficulties we come up against taking a bus instead of driving a car. In this post, I will discuss how to think about some things we discussed and ideas that could bring change.
How could the system change to help us take the bus more? How do we trigger these changes? Is it our responsibility to speak up? If so HOW do we speak up?
The first thing I want to start with and believe is important before we dive into critic is the POSITIVE!
**Tromsø bus transport is pretty awesome!**
-There are busses most places (I think!?)
-You don’t have to walk very far to find a bus stop
-Buses depart on average every 10-20 minutes throughout the day
-There is only a dead spot between 03:00-06:00 (ish) when busses do not run
The bus transport in Tromsø is a SYSTEM. It’s a bus system! The reason it’s useful to think of it in this way is that it makes it easier to break it down and map it’s different parts. This is needed to try and spot what parts of the system we can change and what parts will be affected by the changes.
The whole = travelling by bus in Tromsø
The parts = the roads the busses drive on, the bus drivers’ time and salary, the bus drivers skills to drive, the physical bus, the timetable the buses run, the chosen route of the buses, the price of the ticket, the method of ticket payment, the location and number of the bus stops, the bus stop physical structure (e.g. shelter? a sign?), the weather, the administrative staff running the buses, the cleaner that cleans the bus, the mechanics who look after the buses, the kommune who subsidise the ticket prices, the passengers, and most likely more…
The system = the relationship between all of the components laid out above (and probably many more that I’m not aware of!).
What I’ve released is that the individual parts are not isolated; they are all interrelated! A change in one part, will affect other parts.
E.g. if the ticket price is altered. This will affect the funding for the buses, i.e. the wage of those involved running the service, and others that fund the service (the kommune). I’ve realised this is important when I lay forward the discussion around the barriers and solutions we discussed.
Barrier 1: The main (and cheapest) payment for the bus ticket is with an app on your smart phone.
What parts of the system does this affect? It primarily affects the passenger. If the passenger does not have a smart phone they must pay with cash and the price is 1.5x more expensive. This leads me to the question WHY is it more expensive? Is this FAIR?
I don’t know yet why this is the case, but I do not believe this to be fair. Of course, I am open that my opinion may change once I know why, but I don’t find this likely. One should not be penalised for not having the most modern technology. You should be free to choose if you wish to have a smart phone and also if you are able to have one. By having a cheaper ticket for smart phones, it forces us to have one and sends the message that you are in the wrong/disadvantaged if you do no own one.
Possible solution: Make the bus ticket the same price on the app and paying in person.
The parts of the system this would affect would be the passengers (fair treatment), the administration (determining ticket price) and the investment/contribution of subsidies from the kommune.
Effect: No discrimination between those who own a smartphone and those that do not. As a result, the overall income may decrease from passengers buying tickets, but the universally agreed price should account for this. The administration can alter the price to insure the income from passengers is sustained and fair from each individual passenger. This solution seems quite straight forward to me and when looking at the parts of the system that this would affect; can this one be that difficult to change?
Barrier 2: Whether you have the exact change (you cannot pay by card)
This again primarily affects the passenger. We also question here WHY we cannot pay by card and WHY are bus drivers not given enough change? Is it FAIR and our responsibility to insure we have the correct change?
Again, I’m not aware of why we cannot pay by card given that paying by card is so proliferated in Norwegian society. I also do not know the difficulties surrounding ensuring that bus drivers are given enough change to give back to customers. Personally, I do not think we should have the responsibility to have the correct change for our tickets. If you are paying for things in a shop or elsewhere and there is not the correct change, the cashier normally can go to a COOP or another sources to obtain change. This is how the payment system throughout Norway normally works! Why then is this not applied to busses?
Possible solution: Ensure the bus driver is given enough change to give back to customers.
The parts of the system this would affect would be the passengers (fair treatment), and the administration (providing the means to give the bus driver change). This may also affect the bus driver as he may personally have to physically go and pick up change at the start of their shift.
Effect: No discrimination between if you have the correct change or not. As a result, you are fairly allowing all people to purchase a ticket. The administration would have to add one more addition to their administration process, and the bus driver may have to add one more responsibility/task to their job. Once again, I do not see this one as a large barrier, especially since it will not alter the economic system considerably.
Barrier 3: The price is relatively high versus the price for petrol if you drive collectively.
We found this barrier a little more complicated. Truthfully, I do not know how the economic system of bus system functions, I can only speculate! At current, the price of a bus ticket is determined by zones. If you travel within zone 1 you pay 33NOK, if you then travel further, you have to pay more. We discussed that it becomes quite expensive if you buy a return ticket (66NOK). If one drove their own car with other people, the cost would be quite a lot cheaper. This lead to the question should it be cheaper to take the bus than drive?
Possible solutions: (A) Lower the price of an individual ticket in each zone. (B) Travel exactly how far you go and make this cheaper; i.e. the price would be much cheaper if you travelled 1 stop versus 50 stops. (C) Make the bus entirely free.
The parts of the system this would affect would be the passenger (economic incentive), the administrative system (changing the prices), the kommune (whether they have the extra funds to support this). If the kommune did not make up the difference of the costs the salary of those working in the bus transport system would be affected; the money has to come from somewhere for the service!
Effect: With a lower bus ticket price comes greater motivation to take the bus. People are motivated by their finances; if it is cheaper to drive, most people will drive! For many, the environmental benefits of taking the bus is not enough alone to benefit people.
The question of which solution is possible is down to the finances the kommune can afford to support a cheaper bus system. It may also affect the salary of those working for the bus system. If the kommune does not have the spare funds to allocate, where would the money come from? Can we implement a kommune tax for busses? Should everyone pay this tax?
These solutions I discuss above are just our ideas. They may not be the best or most plausible, but I like that we begin to TALK about and begin to notice these things. For many, it may seem that ‘Oh this is just how it is’, or perhaps many don’t see some problems within our everyday systems. Once we begin to TALK about things and break them down a little, we may see where changes can be made.
BUT a question I wish to finish on is How can we influence this system?
The solutions are still incomplete. We have come up with some ideas for solutions to the challenges we’ve come across, but what do we do about it? What next? Is there a space to share our ideas? Who do we speak to to bring forward our concerns and ideas?? What are the barriers for stopping us doing something about it? Is it our responsibility to try and change the system? If so, is our own motivation strong enough to make the effort to share our ideas? Do we have enough confidence in ourselves to speak up??
I don’t have the answer to these questions yet. I have the motivation for change and the confidence to allow me to speak up about it. But I’m not sure where to go next!
One example we talked about was if the bus driver does not have the right change, should we insist that the bus driver lets us on anyway? If we pay by cash, should we insist on paying what we know is the cheaper price with the smart phone? If we did this, what would happen? Are we at risk of being fined or breaking the law?? Where can we go/what can we do to begin to speak up???