Find out about plans, resources and gaps
Depending on your capacity, look into the following:
- check the Local Transport Plan for your and neighbouring areas for bus policies and also funding proposals for better bus services and bus priority
- see if local authorities have any other plans to change bus services or bus priority, for example pressures on budgets may mean there may be changes to subsidy or merging operations for school and social services buses
- find out if local public transport operators have plans to change their services
- find out if there are any spare minibuses in local community organisations
Needs may change in future, such as where existing bus services are changed there are changes to places people want to travel to, for example where health services are moved, or where there are new housing developments. In terms of identifying current needs you could:
- use local knowledge to find out where people feel bus services should be improved
- look at a bus map to identify areas of demand that are poorly served by buses and this is easier if bus routes are shown on OpenStreetMap in your area - see the mapping section for more
- carry out surveys to assess transport needs - see the finding information section
Develop realistic options
On all but the main routes, buses will need some form of subsidy to operate. If you don’t come up with a long-term business plan, the funding may run out just as people start getting used to using the service. The finding funding section sets out more details of potential sources.
Proposals that are good for the bottom line are more likely to succeed, for example:
- spend to save - such as investing in more fuel efficient modern buses or promotion
- better use of existing resources - minibus brokerage schemes, such as sharing the use of school or community group minibuses when they would otherwise be standing unused and not even paying their depreciation costs
- generate new custom - changing a route at the weekends so it serves a visitor attraction and secures a contribution for operating costs from the attraction
Influencing major bus services can take time and you may need to pave the way by securing changes to local transport plans or setting up partnerships - special types of bus partnership are set out in the previous range of options section.
You can, however, move quicker with small scale public transport schemes and by feeding passengers into services and increasing the overall coverage of public transport, these can improve the case for bigger changes. Normally bus operators need a Public Service Vehicle operator’s licence but there are other options:
- ‘section 19 permit’ - allows a not for profit operator to offer services to members of an organisation or defined community, such as a specific geographical area so long as there are no other similar public transport services
- ‘section 22 permit’ - allows a not for profit operator to operate local bus services in their community
- taxibus services - allows taxis and licensed private hire operators to operate what are effectively bus services.
The legislation is quite complex but was simplified in 2008, which has led to an increase in the use of these options.
Community Transport Association - registration is required to download guidance but there is no cost
Community Transport Self-Help Toolkit - Hampshire County Council
Enterprising approaches to rural community transport - Plunkett Foundation
Section 19 & 22 permits for passenger transport - Vehicle & Operator Services Agency