Trams are experiencing a renaissance in many cities. Nevertheless, buses are still the number one means of public transport. Antonio García Pastor works as Director of Operations at one of the largest public transport operators in Spain, Avanza Group ADO. He is also Chair of the UITP Bus Committee and believes that buses play an important role.
At the UITP, you are President of the Bus Committee. What role do buses play in public transport?
Antonio García Pastor: Especially in Southern Europe, trams have disappeared from cities step by step in the last 50 to 60 years. They have made space for motorized individual transport. That’s too bad because trams are generally very attractive to their users. Some cities are trying to restore their tram networks or develop new ones. That’s good, for you should not underestimate the extent to which a tram can help a city burnish its image. It’s more difficult to “transport” this positive image for buses. Nevertheless, buses play a critical role in public transport. On the one hand, in many ways they are more cost-effective than trams. On the other hand, buses offer incredible flexibility with regard to where and when they can go: A bus doesn’t require rails. It can be used everywhere in road traffic. And as the operator, I can adjust the quantity, frequency, and schedules very easily. But it’s important to emphasize that trams and buses are not enemies: They must complement one another in order to achieve sustainability goals and persuade people to leave their cars at home.
How can buses improve their image?
Antonio García Pastor: Among other things, trams are attractive because they are very spacious. The space on buses, by contrast, is more limited. That can’t be easily changed. What you can change are the conditions under which buses are on the road: You need to create a bus-friendly infrastructure and implement appropriate prioritization measures so that buses will reach their destinations on time. Users must see that the buses travel at a good speed from one stop to the next. They must see that buses, in contrast to other road users, do not have to wait at traffic lights and that everything flows smoothly.
In addition to traffic flows, are there other ways to make buses more attractive?
Antonio García Pastor: Buses have come a long way in recent years. For example, “kneeling” buses make getting on and off easier by lowering the part of the bus where passengers board. Buses could also radically improve their image by going electric, for this makes buses more environmentally friendly. And buses profit from technological developments such as apps. They tell passengers when the next bus will arrive. This real-time data makes them easier to use, and therefore makes the bus system more attractive.