Saturday, 26 March 2011

Innovation in America (1)

There were certain points that really did impress me with American public transport. Firstly was the ticketing system. The driver deals with no cash himself, all buses are fitted with a type of self service machine. The downside to this is you have to know the fares! For someone who had never used one before, I had to ask the driver how much the day ticket was and show me what I was needing to do to get my ticket. You then place the coins and notes into the dispenser and press a button when you have the correct fare in the 'hopper'. A simple and effective system. I presume therefore they carry a flat fare for any single and return unless they operate a zonal system for each fare stage i.e. $1 per zone etc. The system sounds much simple than ours, but there is no information about fares whatsoever! $4.50 was all I paid for my 'Day Pass', which I thought was very good value, especially considering the distance you can travel with it. The drivers never check tickets themselves. Instead you swipe them through a reader whenever you enter a bus, and it checks the type of ticket and date etc using the magnetic strip reader. Again this saves boarding time, though unfortunately in most cases the drivers didn't wait for all the passengers to sit down before moving off which of course some do find challenging when trying to reach a seat. 

Another interesting point was that every single bus had a bike rack fitted to the front which folded down using controls in the cab. This was used several times with the passenger loading the bike themselves. Again this is another point where there is just so little interaction between driver and passenger giving a bit of an impersonal feel. The dash is high enough to make sure the bikes to not obstruct the view, but of course the driver has to take that bit more care when pulling up towards a car to that he doesn't squash the rack in the process! Of course we have seen the Devon Bike Bus Nationals as well as Darts carrying racks on the rear in years gone by, but the idea has never really caught on.

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