Charlotte Perkins: Living Life on the Bus

Biogas bus at Nottingham Station

As someone who has not yet learned how to drive, out of choice and due to the costs of learning to drive and running a car, I live my life almost entirely reliant on buses.

I’m happy to use the bus as my main mode of transport, and as a member of the Public Transport team believe that using the network helps me to gain a better understanding of how the public would view it, but my family are yet to be convinced. I continually face pressures from them to learn how to drive. Every time I see them, I can guarantee that I will have to answer questions like “When are you going to learn how to drive?” But I can hardly blame them. They all live in suburban or rural locations and cannot fathom reliable bus services.

My first experience with Nottingham’s bus network was in September 2015, when I moved here for university. I was sceptical about buses to begin with, as my only experiences were in a suburban area of Bristol, where reliable buses were few and far between. Growing up, buses were my only way to meet up with friends and go shopping (especially when my parents weren’t around to offer a taxi service), but catching the bus into the city was difficult. I had to walk 15 minutes to a bus stop and then the journey was over 45 minutes long. The services were confusing, and destinations were not always clear. I still find bus services in my hometown untrustworthy, and when I visit family, I have instead opted to travel into the city on the train as the station is closer and the service is more reliable.

During my first year of university, I lived in Southwell and used the Pathfinder 100. It wasn’t until my second year, when I moved into the city centre, that I took full advantage of the bus services that Nottingham has to offer. I purchased an annual Nottingham City Transport (NCT) bus pass, which my university offered at half price. Having a bus pass which covered NCT’s entire bus network gave me a sense of freedom that I had never quite felt before. The bus network was so easy to wrap my head around with colour-coded routes and real time signs at most stops. As well as using my bus pass, I also purchased tickets for other services ran by other operators. In doing so, I was able to go to the airport, visit my grandparents, and collect data for my dissertation. After the success of purchasing a bus pass in my second year of university, I did the same in my final year.

NCT 43 bus outside Victoria Centre

After graduating and deciding to stay in Nottingham, I did some research to try and find the best value bus pass for me and decided to spend a little bit more and buy a Robin Hood Season pass. This gave me even more access to the bus network, as well as the tram and the train for the odd occasion when I choose to use these services. I mainly use my Robin Hood card to get to work during the week, which involves catching the Red 43 into the city. The Robin Hood app on my phone makes catching the bus even easier, as the real time information means I never have to leave my house unless the bus is almost at the stop. This is particularly valuable when it is cold or raining. The second part of my journey to work involves changing to one of the buses on the Green line (usually the 6, 8, 10 or 11). The timetables pair up nicely, making for a smooth transition from one service to another, and I don’t usually find myself waiting for more than 5 minutes for the next bus.

Robin Hood season card being scanned on board a bus

Nottingham’s bus network is valuable to many, including myself, and despite the lack of confidence from the people around me, I intend to continue to utilise it into the future.

I believe using the bus can offer a variety of benefits. The network provides a sociable transport option, where you can talk to friends whilst you travel to your destination, or get to know people in your community. The Pathfinder 100 was a great way to get to know people at my university and on my course, and since the journey was quite long, it offered plenty of time to chat and catch up. The bus is also a very environmentally friendly option, and through using the bus I am able to contribute to improving air quality in the city. If I was to learn how to drive, that would mean one extra car on the road that wasn’t necessary. It would mean that I contributed to congestion in the city centre, and would increase the size of my carbon footprint. Travelling by bus is a very affordable option to me, especially as a young person. The bus network in Nottingham was a lifesaver as a student, and continues to be in my young adult life. Choosing to travel by bus saves me potentially £100’s a month and I only need to pay for my bus pass rather than paying for driving lessons, a car, and then car insurance, road tax, and fuel.

I would therefore encourage everyone else to choose to catch the bus as often as possible.