The revisions to Exeter’s city bus services this month may be more significant than they first appear.
Few people will have noticed the changes to Exeter’s Stagecoach bus timetables introduced from 15 June. That few will be the much-depleted number who now use the buses and geeks like me. Stagecoach consulted on the changes several months ago, and one of their commonest justifications for the new timetables was to “improve reliability”. Amen to that.
Some of the changes go beyond amending frequencies and alter the routes themselves. Traditionally almost all of Exeter’s city services go from one end of the city to another and thus pass through the High Street. Particularly since the redevelopment of the bus station displaced some country services to terminating on Sidwell Street, which in turn led to city bus driver handovers taking place on the High Street, the bus congestion in the city’s principal shopping street has at times been wicked. One way of relieving this congestion and so improve the urban space is to take buses out of the High Street altogether, as I advocated in a post over two years ago.
This month’s service changes don’t go as far as that, but they make a start. Routes E, F1, F2 and K now turn round before they enter the High Street and head back whence they came. That’s around 20 daytime bus movements an hour removed from the High Street. Not only should that help service reliability by avoiding buses being caught up in congestion, but it begins to make our High Street a place for people and businesses rather than diesel vehicles.
It will be interesting to see whether there is any significant push-back from passengers to the changes. Because my guess is that Stagecoach are testing the water on eliminating direct bus access to the High Street before deciding whether it can be rolled out to other routes. Through services could then be replaced with a shuttle running the length of the High Street for those who need or want it.
That really would be a major step forward in reimagining the city’s centre.