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2009-02-20 - 13:05:00 - by AlisonW - Topic: Transport: Bus |

I want to write about something that affects most of us at one time or another, especially those of us who live in towns and cities where the use of public transport is effectively mandated by the costs of parking or congestion zone charges. Queueing for buses.

It all seems so simple; walk to your nearest omnibus halt, wait for transport to arrive, depart for your destination in relative comfort with someone else to worry about traffic and no need to drive around in circles looking for a vacant non-resident's parking bay. Yet instead we regularly have the issue of 'time investment' in waiting for the bus that seems to never arrive.

I had such an experience this morning. Just as I reached the far end of my road and was about to go through the gate onto the main road where the local bus stop is a few yards away, a 214 bus pulled away into the light traffic (thank goodness for half-term when the roads are - comparatively - empty.

For some reason, I looked at the timetable affixed to the bus stop to confirm what I already know, which is that at that time of a weekday there is due to be a service along every six to ten minutes. Now were I to walk to the next stop I would have the additional choice of a C2 bus, however the time it would take me to walk down the hill to that next stop would also be around six to ten minutes. So there is the question. Does one expend the energy to walk to the next stop – and risk that a bus on my chosen route might arrive before I arrive at the next stop, in which case I would miss it – or wait for the estimated same period of time where I am. Further, of course, even if I was to walk on to the start of the C2 route there is no guarantee that there would be a bus on that route leaving before the 214 I actually want anyway.

So I wait.

Ten minutes pass, and another would-be passenger arrives. She asks me have I been waiting long and I tell her I watched the previous service leave at 9:20am. Another person arrives a few minutes later, then another and another and eventually there are eight of us standing around looking slightly lost. We note one bus climb the hill on the other side and a momentary hope that means one might be on the way down, but hopes are dashed as one fails to appear.

At twenty-eight minutes after my arrival a single-deck red blob appears in the distance and is quickly recognised as a 214 bus and - thankfully - it doesn't have a 'Not in Service' sign displayed. We all heave a sigh of relief and climb aboard once it reaches the stop. One woman asks why the long delay but I just take a seat, knowing it is rarely the fault of the driver personally.

Arriving in Camden to change to the 88 I again wait for quite a while. By one hour after I arrived at the initial bus stop I am still standing at the stop. Now another four 214s pass me, starting some four minutes after I arrived there! Then the Countdown display shows an 88 is due in ten minutes. Hooray! We watch the countdown 10-9-8-8-8-6-4-2-Due! but no bus comes and the service 'disappears' from the display. Plenty of services on other routes, but no 88. The, without warning, an 88 is shown as the next service to arrive and, then, finally, eventually, it appears.

This sort of event always begs the question though; to wait or to walk? If I'd started walking when I watched the first bus pull away would I have arrived at my destination an hour earlier than I eventually did? Or would sod's law have meant that I would have seen further buses pass me while I attempted to arrive at the next stop? At what point does the time 'invested' in waiting become worthless?

Should I get a bicycle?

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