There are four main reasons for reforming a bus system.
- City leaders decide that fundamental change is needed because the bus service is unsatisfactory.
- Political decisions are made at a state or national level to introduce reform.
- Reform is introduced in a city because the country is party to international agreements that require bus services to be provided in a different format.
- Receiving international loans, domestic grants or domestic funding is dependent on accepting reforms.
Key reform objectives
In all the above cases the objectives of reform are usually spelled out only in the broadest terms with perhaps just two or three key objectives being clearly specified. In recent years the key objectives in most cities have been:
- Introducing competition for the right to supply bus services.
- Creating a level playing field for this competition.
- Clearly separating the operating function from the regulatory function.
While these key objectives give a clear direction for reform, they leave considerable flexibility when it comes to bus system details. There are a wide range of operating structures to choose from.
Defining reform objectives
It’s the responsibility of city public transport professionals to create a structure that meets the specific needs and objectives of the city while at the same time incorporating the reform objectives. The first step in this process, after assessing the current situation, is to define the city’s public transport objectives.
Whether the need to reform is driven by internal political agendas or by external influences, the objectives may be grouped as:
In many cases not all of the desired objectives will be achievable. Often some objectives will be incompatible with others or will be mutually exclusive.
For example, the objective of reducing subsidies may be incompatible with the objective of keeping fares low. In fact, the types of fares charged and the average fare paid per passenger are fundamental considerations under any system reform. (Learn more about fares.)
It will be necessary to prioritize your objectives. Prioritizing objectives is very useful in helping to determine the most appropriate bus system structure for your city. The interactive tool can help you prioritize your objectives.