Buses are Always a Footnote

Coastliner Bus at Malton

In a footnote to Boris Johnson’s reconfirmation of the troubled HS2 railway megaproject, the Department for Transport announced additional funding for buses. £5 billion (less £350 millionor maybe a billion … for cycling) over 5 years, spread across “every region outside London”. Presumably within England, since local transport policy is devolved elsewhere, although in a nebulous style typical of the Prime Minister, the language is of “country” – however one chooses to see it.

Needless to say this “new vision for local transport” is extremely light on detail, as yet devoid of strategy, and still pending the appropriate Comprehensive Spending Review. We’d all be well advised to get it in writing first.

One billion pounds per year is not entirely insignificant – almost 50p per bus passenger journey (in England outside London) or just over £1 per bus vehicle mile operated. Potentially enough to buy aspirations for “higher frequency services” or “more affordable, simpler fares” on urban networks. But nowhere near enough to deliver “turn up and go” frequencies in small town, periurban or rural areas, where patronage and consequent farebox revenue would tend to be minimal. A but that will be the bane of this politically, since much of the electoral constituency of Johnson’s government is small town, periurban or rural, precisely the places where public transport does not deliver as much “bang for the buck”. Continue reading “Buses are Always a Footnote”

What is Connectivity?

South Shields

This essay expounds the policy concept of transport connectivity in Britain from two diverging epistemological perspectives – nation and location. The text characterises the difficulty of managing the midst, before applying the implications to Mobility as a Service. Continue reading “What is Connectivity?”

On the Wings of Hope

AVE at Sants Station

This essay ponders the interplay of risk, debt and optimism, with specific reference to the expansion of Spain’s high speed railway network. It summarises the renaissance of AVE expansion, reconciling different approaches to risk in the construction of transport infrastructure. The interaction of external finance within the Spanish societal structure is hypothesised as reliance on external debt with no internal counter-balances – a virtual economy characterised as Gross Domestic Optimism. The postscript asks what it means to invest in state, with reference to two evolving models – people and perception. Continue reading “On the Wings of Hope”

Interurban Buses in Public Competition

Exprés.cat

This essay explores the workings of the art of public competition, in search of the reasons for its conflict with liberalisation. It details the interurban bus “market” serving Barcelona’s hinterland, with reference to passenger usage, historical policy, administrative structure, and comparative costs. Analysis suggests a dualistic form of counter-balancing competition on key routes, regulated by the need to maintain equality between operators – albeit an equality bounded by the operators’ focus, which often masks an inequitable distribution of public funding within public transport overall. A pattern conflated by the tendency to emphasise only short run operating costs, and sometimes rely, almost blindly, on higher tiers of the state for fixed assets. Continue reading “Interurban Buses in Public Competition”

Why Barcelona has no Uber

Mobile World Taxi

Barcelona is one of the few major European cities where Uber, the mobile phone application-based ride sharing and taxi service, does not operate. Of comparably populous cities only Hamburg is currently Uber-less. Doubly confusing as Barcelona prides itself as host of the world’s largest gathering of the mobile technology industry, the World Mobile Congress. An irony not lost on visiting journalists as they queued at the airport for insufficient taxis. Continue reading “Why Barcelona has no Uber”

Paying for Better

It would be simplistic to attribute the Scottish Enlightenment to the Act of Union. It is not uncommon in history for people under the stress of intense change to stabilise themselves in thought of a socio-economic nature. What’s remarkable is the enduring application of that thought. One might consider that Scotland was the first place where what would become the Anglo-American tradition was tested, but it would be more accurate to say the likes of Hume and Smith were instrumental in the formation of the Anglo-American tradition as we now know it.

It is most revealing to characterise the Scottish Enlightenment as practical Calvinism. Calvin took a relatively spiritual position, abandoning the majority of sacraments and denying Papal hierarchy, yet simultaneously provided the rigorous structure and organisation required to maintain a coherent human collective. The result was to move Platonic dualism from the sphere of religion to what we now call politics, to such effect that much the same doctrine fostered both the socialism of central Europe and the individualism of North America. Calvin’s lingering cultural dominance in modern Scotland goes some way to explain why Socialist Nationalism isn’t regarded as an inherent contradiction in the country. Continue reading “Paying for Better”

The Agony of Loose Change

Keep your coins, I want change

Part way through Midnight Mass a gentleman appeared with a plate onto which he expected money to be placed. Yet I had none. Not a penny. This was no mere faux pas. The reaction from the woman beside me was complete abhorrence. Charity, it seems, is nothing to the absence of charity. She could not know the nature of the contradiction. For had I taken money my only intention could have been to enter (there being no charge to merely walk the streets), which I had no intention of doing, and thus I took none, and thus freely entered. But such reasoning is as superficial as her Puritan reaction. Continue reading “The Agony of Loose Change”