NEED !BUS STATIONS
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Asks Ashley F. Taylor
Who Surveys the ,Difficulties Caused by Kerbside Terminals and Discusses the Financial Responsibility for the Provision of Station Buildings RECENT investigations into the matter have convinced me that bus stations for all towns of any size must come. Traffic is becoming thicker. Before long, authority in some form will be compelled to take decisive action, for the use of the highway for bus terminals has practically nothing to commend it.
Most of us can remember rushhour journeys along the main streets of provincial towns, with our progress impeded every few yards by passenger vehicles pulling away from their stands into the traffic stream. We are not likely to forget, either, those thoroughfares made into bottlenecks by the waiting buses.
A check that I have just completed in busy areas of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands shows conclusively how inconvenient the street terminal practice must be to other road users, to say nothing of the dangers that are so frequently present. Even examining the question selfishly, it is clear that bus operators themselves are not the least sufferers from the congestion.
History Ignored It seems that those responsible for road transport have not taken the lesson that they might have done from railway history, for, quite pardonably, the early railwaymen did not foresee the extent to which travel was to increase and so at first provided but little accommodation for their waiting passengers. Incidentally, it may be recalled that the London and Birmingham Railway gave itself something like a hearty pat on the back when it first provided a certain interchange point with a brick building specially to shelter "the lower orders."
During my trips to various parts of the country I have taken the opportunity of consulting representatives of local authorities and of publicseryice-vehicle operators regarding their views on the situation.
First, it is obvious that nobody has prefabricated bus stations in stock for us to buy off the shelf and drop down at some convenient place. At the moment there are more pressing demands on the building industry, so the new terminal will not be making its appearance to-day or tomorrow . . . but to-day is the day for making the plans and securing an option on the site.
The aspect that exercises most minds is the question of who is to pay, and in many circles it is assumed that a town terminus must inevitably be a 100 per cent, charge against road-transport revenues. There are, however, other solutions, but before examining them it may be as well if we quickly take stock of the situation as it stands at present.
Not enough towns have bus stations, and in practically every instance where they do have them, too narrow a view has been taken of their functions and possibilities..
In one place I visited there were five adjoining shops that bore notices to the effect that `-` bus passengers cannot be permitted to obstruct the doorway," a silent but eloquent commentary on a state of affairs already made obvious by the scrum that was in continuous session on the narrow footpaths. Frankly, the streets in most of our towns were not meant to carry this static load; they usually are no more than adequate to cope with passing traffic.
Site Problems The average town is not so fortunate in its open spaces as, shall we say, Stockport, which has in Mersey Square a large central space uncrossed by traffic, but adjacent to the main traffic routes, as well as close to shops, restaurants and amusements. In some places the more obvious difficulties of town terminals have been diminished by making services run across town, instead of operating from city to suburb, but this, to be efficient, is an arrangement requiring constant careful supervision, otherwise undue waiting time is spent at some central point and much of the good undone.
Many people contend that even outside the big Cities it is idle to expect the municipal services to be concentrated on a central station. Nevertheless, I observed that in Walsall (with a population of over 100,000), practically all the corporation services, as well as the company buses proceeding outside the town, are worked from a simple but effective type of station, which was erected in the town centre after the liquidation of an old school and other property.
In one place that boasts of a fairsized long-distance coach station, I was halted with a few minutes to spare between that point and the railway terminus, a typically bleak product of the Victorian era. After hesitating for a second or two, I made for the railway establishment, for the simple reason that it offered me food of a sort, a telephone callbox and a bookstall, none of which is apparently thought necessary even for the coach passenger who. is embarking on a 200-mile journey, but all of which would, I imagine, prove profitable.
Fallacious Enterprise One otherwise progressive corporation, responsible for a population of 20,000 and administering an area well served by buses to all the more populous places in the neighbourhood, had managed to remove these vehicles from its narrow streets by transferring them to an ash-surfaced fair ground. This was not a very enterprising expedient, as on the occasion when the town is most congested, the fair owners re-assert their ancient rights and buses once again clutter up the highways.
There are many more examples that could be quoted, but now let us examine the various possibilities that lie before whoever is willing to accept responsibility for the travelling public.
Even in the smaller boroughs there is going to be considerable rebuilding of streets, together with demolition of superannuated property. In the circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that no drastic increase in expenditure would be caused by the provision of some central space where passengers could wait for, and board and alight from, vehicles without discomfort, and without inconvenience to the rest of the town's traffic. Incorporated with some plan for a central square:with or without gardens, such a space should add greatly to a town's attractiveness.
An example on a grand scale is provided by Manchester, where the