French tram lessons. Bus use goes up too

France has been investing in new tram systems for some time now, and the statistics from there make dismal reading for tram opponents.

On public transport passenger numbers, they shoot up after trams come along. This is directly pertinent to Edinburgh as French trams are usually built on routes that are already extremely well used by buses, as is proposed here. Look at this table from a Faber Mansell report looking at French trams:

Public transport use (bus and tram) after introduction of new tramway

Nantes 1985 – 1986 +26.7%
Grenoble 1986 – 1988 +21.3%
Rouen 1993 – 1995 +27.7%
Montpellier 1999 – 2001 +36.3%
Orléans 2000 – 2001 +17.8%
Average +26.0%

These figures INCLUDE bus journeys. In other words, once trams come in, bus journeys go up as well. The report gives some key lessons from French trams:

Lessons Learned from Tramways in France

  • Implement in corridors with strong existing bus ridership. LIKE WHAT IS PLANNED IN EDINBURGH
  • Restructure buses to support, not compete with, tramways. LIKE WHAT IS PLANNED IN EDINBURGH
  • Construct in-street to regenerate streetscape, advertise tramway, and displace cars. LIKE WHAT IS PLANNED IN EDINBURGH

Update on bus service “cuts”

Thanks to a poster on the Scotsman website, I have a list of proposed changes to bus routes and times.

Here is the list of proposed changes:

Service 10 Currently Torphin-Newhaven Becomes Torphin-St Andrew Square
Service 12 Currently Gogarburn – The Jewel Becomes Gogarburn – St Andrew SquareSection between The Jewel and Foot of the Walk covered largely by Service 49 and section between King’s Road and Foot of Leith Walk replaced by new Service 40.
Service 16 Currently Colinton-Silverknowes Becomes Colinton-Silverknowes but diverted via Henderson St to replace service 22
Service 21 Currently Gyle – Duke Street Becomes Gyle – Restalrig
Service 22 Currently Gyle – Ocean TerminalBecomes Gyle-Leith Street at reduced frequencyReplaced between Ocean Terminal and Foot of Leith Walk by diversion of Services 16 and 35 via Commercial Street, Shore and Henderson Street
Service 25 Currently Riccarton – RestalrigBecomes Riccarton – Leith StreetSection between Restalrig and Foot of  Leith Walk replaced by Service 21, terminating at Restalrig
Service 32 Currently Clovenstone -RIE Becomes Clovenstone – Kings RoadReplaced between King’s Road and RIE by new service 40.
Service 35 Currently Sighthill-Ocean Terminal Becomes Sighthill -Ocean Terminal, but diverted via Henderson Street, Shore and Commercial Street to replace Service 22
Service 40 New service, Ocean Terminal – RIE, to replace Service 22 on Shore, service 12 via between (sic) Foot of Leith Walk and The Jewel and service 32 between Kings Road and RIE
Service 100 Currently Airport – WaverlyFrequency reduced to every 15 mins

A lot of these seem quite common sense, and will give more choice to many people. On the whole, it seems mostly route changes, and routes replacing others and new routes and services. The only one I don’t understand is the number 10.

Lothian Buses change routes and frequencies all the time. According to Lothian Buses, these are currently the proposed changes, but things may change and in any case it would be reviewed continually as soon as the trams come in and they can see what is what.

But this is hardly the wholesale slaughter of our buses! Quite the opposite – some people are getting buses where they had none before.


When the trams come, bus routes will be cut

This is in part true! And so what…?

In basic terms, on many routes (not all), there is no point running trams AND buses to the same frequencies as today.

For example, the number 22. Its route roughly mirrors that of tram line 1. Given that the vast majority of passenger journeys are within the city centre (for example Leith to Princes Street) what is the point of having number 22s every 2 minutes when most people will be catching the tram?

But there will still be number 22 buses, they will just be less often (let’s not forget there will be fewer tram stops than bus stops).

The same applies to many other buses as well.

The trams and the buses will be run by the same company. They will assess demand as and when the trams start running. Routes will be adjusted according to demand. This should cut congestion on streets like Princes Street and free up buses to run on other routes. There will be much more flexibility to re-route buses linking in to tram stops as people’s travel habits change.

At the moment, we have a very radial bus system with most routes going towards the city centre. Travel habits will change. People will begin catching a bus to the nearest tram stop and go into town that way. This will in many cases still end up being faster than making the same journey entirely by bus, even if on the map it looks more direct.

This is backed up by evidence of people’s travel habits in other cities with mass transit systems. Look at London and the Underground – people get on at their nearest Tube and change lines to carry on their journey. Nobody refuses to use the Tube because there is no line direct to where they want to go. Instead, all the lines are integrated and changing is easy. Trams and buses can integrate just as easily.

Bus and tram interchange – hop from one to the other.