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25th May 1962, Page 46
25th May 1962
Page 46
Page 47
Page 46, 25th May 1962 — WHAT DOES TH ASSENGER WANT?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

By A. A. TOWNSIN, A.M.I.Mech.E.

THE public's viewpoint on buses can be divided into two parts. The first might be called external, in other words that of the casual onlooker. The second is that of the actual passenger.

Although the onlooker's impression of a bus has no immediate effect on the operator it is much more important than is often realized. It is probably true that the average member of the public seldom deliberately looks at buses unless he is wondering whether to board one, but he can hardly help being aware of them to some degree. Quite apart from the effect on the general scene, in which they are inevitably prominent, the vehicles act as selfadvertisements. Like many other advertisements, the effect is probably barely a conscious one on the typical bystander, but attractive, smartly maintained vehicles help to ensure that the " image " of the operator is a favourable one.

Appearance is very much a matter of personal opinion, but one has the impression that many of the buses one sees on the roads today "just growed," like Topsy. The writer considers that, with a few praiseworthy exceptions, the appearance ot British buses has been through a bad spell during the past few years. The key to successful styling would seem to be care in setting out the main proportions and in the tidiness and consistent treatment of details.

. A bus is, by virtue of the need for maximum passenger space within limited external dimensions, almost inevitably close to being a rectangular box. It is, however, a moving object and, so far as is possible, its appearance should reflect this fact. Although the actual dimensions may be fixed, much -can, for example, be done to minimize top-heavy appearance, particularly on a double-decker.

It may not be possible to depart greatly from the rectangular outline, but mild curvature, particularly at the front and rear, is virtually essential in giving an appearance appropriate to present-day taste. Glass-fibre mouldings provide an inexpensive means of meeting this requirement. Self-conscious gimmicks such as tail-fins would be out of place on a bus, but appearance deserves more attention than it often gets nowadays. Fortunately, there are signs of a growing awareness of its importance.

Colour schemes form another aspect of the same subject. Two apparently conflicting trends are evident at present. One is the practical need to simplify painting to reduce costs, which has led some operators to adopt completely unrelieved single colours for their vehicles. On the other hand, quite a number of operators are finding that brighter liveries, which give the impression of being more elaborate, are producing favourable reaction from the public.

c16 This is an age of colour, as may be seen by looking any car park. The flat-sided bus does not lend itself single colours very happily. The more enterprisi concerns have shown that simple and attractive two-cobo schemes can be economically produced by mode methods provided that finicky, repeated changes of cola over the vehicle's surface are avoided. It is rather intere ing to find that our forefathers' sensible use of a " strore colour for the lower panelling and cream or white I much of the upperworks of the Edwardian double-de tramcar, so as to reduce its apparent height, is finding echo today. Bolton, Nottingham and Sunderland among the municipalities who have recently adopted t] practice; quite a number of others have never abandoned


Another aspect of the external impression a bus mal on the public is the noise it creates. Not infrequently t gives a misleading idea of the internal noise level, eitl favourably or otherwise. None the less, both the volu and, perhaps even more important, the nature of the sou form part of the general image of the vehicle. A rou sounding engine or a harsh exhaust note may, peril subconsciously, discourage the potential passenger fr using the bus for the type of "social" journeys which among the operator's only sources of traffic in the off-p4 periods, When the passenger travels on the bus the first thing be noticed is the ease or otherwise of boarding and acc to the interior. This is of particular importance to elderly, the infirm and the very young, three groups passengers who cannot easily use other means of transp It is also important from the point of view of speed loading and unloading, and hence has a considera bearing on journey times in congested areas. Over be distances these factors become progressively less imporl from this point of view, although awkward steps narrow•doorways are never desirable.

An important factor is the relationship of entrance wk to passenger capacity. Although any increase of entra width will usually facilitate movement of passengers, ti is a profound difference in the value of an entrance v enough to allow two passengers to pass through simultaneously and one not quite wide enough for I This is particularly so on double-deckers, on which i important that streams of passengers to or from the decks should be able to move independently will impinging on each other. The writer is sceptical of the value of separate entrances d exits on routes where buses tend to load over the first rt of each journey and unload on the remainder. The • nt entrance giving access to all seats via a comparatively rrow centre gangway seems likely to give very slow ding and unloading on single-deckers seating 50 or more ;sengers, however, and an extra doorway May prove uable in some circumstances.

iaving boarded the bus, the passenger next looks for seat. The advent of the 36-ft.-long single-decker has ived thoughts on the desirability of buses with high 'portions of standing passengers. The suggestion that passenger would rather stand in a bus than in a queue heard once again. This is probably generally true for a-t journeys, taken as a bald statement of fact, but this .arely the alternative actually offered.

fhe highest capacity so far proposed for a 36-ft.-long gle-decker to operate in Britain is 33 seated and 40 iding passengers, a total of 73. All of these could be ted on a 30-ft.-long double-decker, whilst all but three our could be accommodated on many modern 27-ft.-long ible-deckers of the traditional forward-engined layout if : standing passengers are allowed. On a bus-for-bus is, there is thus no appreciable increase of passengerrying capacity, even if comparatively short doublekers are replaced by long single-deckers.

ertainly, standing in a bus is something very few people ild do voluntarily, even for short distances, if seats ld be made available. A road vehicle, even with the st modern suspension and careful driving, is much more redictable in its movements than a train. The average senger would always prefer a seat and is not likely to dissuaded from this view unless some sizeable economic ng can be offered.


he design of seats in current buses varies considerably atality. The very soft, semi-reclining, high-backed seat 'appropriate to stage-carriage work because of difficulty :ntering and, more especially, leaving it, caused by the rhanging portion of the seat in front. On the other d, there is no justification for the bolt-upright attitude osed on passengers by many bus seats, whilst comely inadequate support is often given to the small of back. A very common fault is insufficient resilience in backrest.

mong the few seats to be free from any of these faults tat used by London Transport, who have set a praise worthy standard for seating over the past quarter-century. Tubular framework without exposed screws gives a neat appearance and double top rails form convenient grab handles, as well as reducing wear and tear of the backrest upholstery caused by constant handling by passengers in the gangway.

The general subject of interior finishes that are attractive and will stand up to normal wear and abuse from vandals deserves more attention than it sometimes gets. Painted finish of side lining panels is often rapidly worn away by passengers' sleeve buttons and soon looks extremely shabby.

Leathercloth or plastics finishes are more durable and give a slight, but useful, sound-deadening effect.

Noise and vibration are among the most important aspects of the impression made by a bus on its passengers. Remarkably little progress has been made in this respect over the past 30 years. In 1932 the majority of doubledeckers had six-cylinder petrol engines which offered a standard of smoothness well above that of the average contemporary, small family car. One manufacturer still offered a sleeve-valve engine virtually identical with that used in their limousines, whilst the two most popular models had engines of not dissimilar character to those used in the most luxurious cars of their time. A well-tuned enginecould, when idling, be virtually inaudible to the passenger.

Nowadays, even the smallest cars offer a more refined ride than most buses, the noise and vibration of the diesel engine being barely counterbalanced by developments in engine mountings and sound insulation. One has the impression that much serious work on the last-mentioned means of reducing noise could yet be done in the p.s.v. industry.

Another aspect of the same subject is performance. Whilst the power/weight ratio of the average small car has almost doubled in the past 30 years, that of the bus is often no more than marginally higher. The passenger used to a private car finds the hill-climbing performance of many buses irritatingly sluggish and, because the engine is having to work hard, noisy.

Many buses are still being built with suspension which would have seemed quite orthodox-30 years ago. This is perhaps more excusable than it seems, since the benefits of adopting systems successfully employed on private cars have sometimes proved slight. None the less some improvement in ride, particularly with light loads, often seems desirable. The passenger will be more interested in results rather than the means by which they are achieved, however, and this appears to be a subject on which preconceived ideas are liable to lead to disappointing results.

Detail features of buses often suggest that no one in authority from the manufacturers or operators ever rides on them in service. The handrail directly in one's line of vision or the windowsill moulding that digs into one's arm can irritate to a degree out of all proportion to their apparent importance.

As with more important faults, much can be achieved to make the bus more attractive to the passenger by painstaking design which, quite often, need not make it any more expensive,


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