Thursday, 27 March 2008

Bus stopping

Sometimes it takes just one person to stop a bus. One person!

It would be nice if you could set up a system whereby the passengers on the bus could offer the person at the stop a small amount of cash not to catch the bus but to wait for the next one. If the person accepted the offer, the bus moves on and everyone is happy.

So for example, 50 people on the one bus could individually decide to offer an average of 50c each for the person to waive their right to wave the bus down. The person at the bus stop would thus receive $25 if they accepted the offer. If there’s more than say three people waiting, then the bus stops for them and there’s no deal. If one person wants to catch the bus and the other two don’t, then the bus stops and there’s no deal. But if all three want to share the spoils of the bus that passes them by, then the bus moves on, the passengers are sped happily on their way and those waiting are rewarded for their patience.

You’d have to work out a way to administer the system without too much fuss. I reckon you could just about do this now using existing technology. Mobile phones and Paypal could make it work, with a dedicated website for bidding on buses on your route, or accepting the offer that the potentially passing bus was making. You would have no trouble at all finding advertisers to pay set-up costs for such a system—a captive audience, glued to their mobile phones waiting to see if their bid was effective.

The bus itself would have to be enabled for wireless internet so that the people staffing the website could communicate quickly with the driver. But we already have security cameras on buses recording our every move and sending it back to base; how much harder would it be to get the internet thing happening? Wireless internet on public transport is long overdue anyway. It would add another layer of effectiveness to peoples' laptop-assisted morning commute. It would actually make commuting attractive for any desk-worker who needed an internet connection, because your work day would start (as mine does) the moment you set foot on the bus and open up your laptop, and would count towards your hours.

Homeless people might take advantage of this bidding system by forming consortiums to put single individuals at rarely frequented bus-stops, like the one two stops up from our house. But that’s OK isn’t it? Much less threatening than being approached by beggars in the street, and it helps the poor.

Remember when it all happens… you heard it here first!


Sophie said...

Heh. Go and plug it on Freakonomics!

Anonymous said...

The way your brain works is rather frightening, to be honest, Mr Cheng.

Gordon Cheng said...

I'm a bit frightened by it myself, Ian. Sometimes I imagine my brain as a thing in a box on the table next to me, glaring at me with hostile little lights flashing and sparking.

I've always assumed that everybody felt like this until I started getting comments like yours. ;-)

peter kirsop said...

We already have a similiar system, its called express buses. No need for the price system.

Your suggestion is frightening, perhaps youd like a similiar system in church (people can vote off a doctrine?)

Gordon Cheng said...

Mr Kirsop, my system is voluntary, fun and profitable.

Express buses engender frustration without reward in the many sad and stranded passengers.

My system takes care of people like that as well, potentially.

I will say that there are a few people I'd like to see voted off the Anglican bus, but thankfully for all Anglicanism lacks any system for the removal of anyone. You can get on that bus but you can never leave.

cafedave said...

could it work in reverse? say you're running late for a bus.. could you (ahem) bribe the other passengers to wait for you?

I would have to point out, though, that it might adversely impact the cost of fares... there would be some kind of tipping point where it would be possible to use the bus as if it were a taxi, and just pay the other people to wait for another bus...

Jason Porter said...

Cabin pressure?

No, Gordon has daughters. That'd do it.

Michael K said...

A productivity commission report some 15 or so years ago into the Canberra bus system once found it would be cheaper to shut down the entire system and pay anyone who had used a bus $25,000 a year as compensation. I'd love to know the figures for buses and trains in Sydney