First’s decision to increase fares for buses across the city of York earlier this month received little press or public attention. It was an inevitable and unspectacular reaction to an inflation like any other.
However, for those unlucky souls who have to endure the expense and unreliability of the cumbersome purple monstrosities that represent the bus company’s inane view of the future (or ‘ftr’, if you’re twelve), it was a kick in the teeth from an organisation that has failed to keep its promises.
Buses constantly arrive late, the mobile bus information system is vastly under-used and often wrong, and the malfunctioning ticket machines have been replaced by moody and impolite conductors, who take a huff at the idea of having to give change.
But enough of the truth; here is the economics: the introduction of the Ftr was an ambitious and expensive project for the bus company and the council. From the alteration of York’s twisty streets to the actual purchase of the fleet. And with the ticket machines replaced by revenue protection agents, the company has twice the original wage bill.
What is more, First has a near-monopoly of bus services in York. So as long as similar numbers of people continue to use their buses, First will have no incentive to change their greedy, profit-seeking ways. This is why last week’s boycott organised on Facebook – though not a bad idea in theory – was too limited in scope and duration to have any impact.
Last Friday’s meeting between First and YUSU was a step in the right direction. It alerted the bus company to the concerns of so many of its most lucrative customers. But it would be naive to expect any knee-jerk response.
In the meantime, it is important to point out the alternatives. To get from uni to town, try the Veolia 28 that circles campus. Or there’s the 746 East Yorkshire service, every 90 minutes from the library stop.
If you’re in a group, a taxi ride can be a snip, or if you have the time, and it’s not pouring down with rain, you can always walk, or cycle along the city’s many bike-friendly routes.
And if you’re unlucky enough to live in Acomb and need to use the bus to get to campus every day try the student term card. Just four return journeys per week later, you will have got your money’s worth, even at last year’s prices.
The fact is, First will not change their monopolistic ways because of a short-term boycott. Only a sustained, systematic refusal by Ftr’s most lucrative customers to use the below-par service will make them take any notice, by hitting them where it hurts the most – their ‘pkts’.