In March 1988, I wrote to Cardiff Bus suggesting a number of areas of improvement in a service that I then considered punctual, reliable, convenient and generally much improved.
I also called for the enforcement of the no-smoking policy, and for numbers to be displayed on the back of buses, so some things have improved!
I noted that ‘on a Sunday, many cross city buses terminate at the bus station and it is necessary to change buses there’. My point was that you could not then buy a cross-city ticket. Well, we now have the “day ticket”, so that problem was fixed. But we have almost no cross-city services, and a good number of our radial routes no longer go to the bus station.
My main suggestion was for a more flexible ticketing system to allow casual but regular users to travel as economically as season ticket holders, and to be able to buy tickets from machines or local shops to avoid the problems of the ‘no change’ policy.
Cardiff Bus replied that they intended to pursue options similar to my suggestions, including the extension of ‘electronic ticketing’.
22 years later, Cardiff Buses are slowly rolling out a ‘smart card scheme’. In time, it may even be usable on other Welsh transport (a suggestion I also made to the Welsh Assembly Government some years ago).
If they get it right, this will be a major step in the right direction. In London, people can charge their Oyster travel cards from their phone or a computer, at transport stations and many shops, then use it on any journey by public transport. It really is a smart card, ensuring a hefty discount over directly purchased fares, and capping your maximum spend each day. It copes with all the complexities of travel in London. Other major cities around the world have similar systems, so Cardiff are not being pioneers.
Will our card be as useful and convenient as this? Will we be able to use it whenever we want with no expiry, charge it with money in so many ways, and transfer between routes and modes of travel?
It seems not yet, anyway. The devil is in the detail with these schemes. Councillor Delme Bowen and Cardiff Bus have got the last few changes badly wrong. We must hope this one is better planned. Has there been any meaningful consultation with real bus users? I’m available if called upon!]
What do you think? Would you like to see smartcards on Cardiff buses? Let us know in the comments below.
This is a guest post from Paul Seligman, he is a resident of Fairwater.