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How the humble bus could be our most valuable player in the long game against congestion and air pollution

Bus Shoot 055

In the search for ways to reduce congestion and tackle air pollution, it’s often the most high-tech or futuristic solutions that grab the headlines. It means everyday solutions that are with us right now can get overlooked. In this second in our series of blogs on Connecting Southampton, we move from bikes to buses. We explore how bus travel can play a key role in making our transport system sustainable for the future, and our plans to improve bus travel for the benefit of everyone.

Let’s start with some facts

Despite their extensive economic, societal and environmental benefits, buses can all too often be overlooked and undervalued. They are the most widely used form of public transport.

Our latest study from 2017 showed Southampton’s bus network carried 21.2m people, an increase of 11% since 2011. And you might be surprised to hear that a full 30% of Southampton households do not have access to a car and many rely on bus services to get around.

Buses are also amazing space savers. 1 full bus can take 75 cars off the road to ease congestion. With forecasted growth predicting there will be 275,000 trips across Southampton every morning by 2040 (a 10% increase over today) this is needed now more than ever.

Rapid Bus, Park & Ride, Cleaner Engines

Our joint bid with Hampshire County Council to the Department for Transport’s 'Transforming Cities' fund will enable us to continue to work in partnership with bus operators to make travelling by bus an easy, quick and more attractive option for all. Our Rapid Bus proposals include bus priority lanes, enhanced bus stops, developing a Park & Ride and new low-emission, modern buses. Together this will make bus journeys faster and more reliable so people can choose them to get to work or school.  

Better by bus

We’re also working hard alongside commercial operators to promote the benefits of bus travel. Taking the bus is such a great way to travel. The majority of buses in the city now provide a range of modern facilities to make travelling by bus a relaxing and stress-free experience. These include free onboard Wi-Fi, USB charging points, onboard next stop announcements and real-time next stop information at many bus stops. Most buses are now also fitted with the cleanest Euro 6 engines, so you can sit back and relax whilst knowing you’re also doing your bit for the environment.

Both City Red and Bluestar offer a £9 weekly ticket which provides unlimited travel in the Southampton area. You can purchase tickets from both operators online using the First Bus App (for City Red tickets) and the Clickit2ride app (for Bluestar). Both operators also provide contactless payment facilities on their buses.

Smart Signals

We’re investing in innovative solutions to help improve bus journey times. Smart signals work by responding intelligently to manage traffic flow in busy periods. Crucially for bus travel, they also communicate with approaching buses to allow extra green time, improving the average journey time of services. Many people also ask us why we have removed the bus laybys on this route. This step was important so that new, larger double-door buses are able to use bus stops on this route.

After reading this hopefully we’ve convinced you the big part the humble bus has to play in the future of transport and to think about swapping out a car journey for the bus.

This blog is part of our series covering big transport issues and explaining our plans for the future. If there is a transport and travel topic you would like us to cover next let us know by emailing communications@southampton.gov.uk or comment on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.