No, I’d never heard of it either, and I actually live in Sheffield. But I noticed a pale sign on the bus that read
We’re improving Sheffield’s bus services.
Tell us what you think about our proposed new network in our public consultation from
6 July to
31 July 2015
Now, let’s take a moment to spot the weasels in that notice. First of all, it was a pale blue notice with no graphics of any kind on it; nothing designed to catch the eye. The text was white on blue, but the dates of the consultation were black and I had to look twice to see them. The whole thing might as well have said “nothing interesting to look at here: move along please”
And we’re “improving” Sheffield’s bus services: so no need to worry your pretty little heads about it?
Tell us what you think about a “proposed new network”: sounds like something boring and bureaucratic that doesn’t have anything to do with you, probably.
Travelsouthyorkshire.com/sbp – not even a “for more details go to…”, just the web address. Which, I might point out, is hardly helpful to people without net access. Who tend to be older, poorer, less well educated than the average of the population. (And, if we are to believe the ageist and classist quote, might align with the bus user demographic, if it’s really true that “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure” attributed to Thatcher Speaking as a regular bus user myself, I don’t think so…) But my point is that the consultation itself is unlikely to reach the very people on whom it might have an impact.
Note also that the consultation is open for less than a month, and that Sheffield University’s 2014-15 session ended on 13th June – so all the students, another big bus user demographic, had already gone home.
Right then: let’s have a look at the actual consultation.
First thing to notice? Well, there are face to face drop in sessions – definitely following best practice there – but how is anyone supposed to know about them?
Secondly… well, where IS the consultation? There isn’t a consultation document that I can find – nothing with a summary explaining what the rationale for change is, what changes are being proposed and what will be the likely impact. Instead there are two leaflets; one for the north of the city and one for the south – what if your bus journey crosses this imaginary boundary?
Let’s have a look at the north first.
Your views are important and will be used to help us make sure the network offers the best travel options for the people in the city before it is introduced at the end of October 2015
OK, what’s wrong with that sentence? If our views are important, why are they being sought only to confirm the changes before they are introduced? Isn’t best practice in consultation to consult only on things which you have the capacity to change? If everyone emails in today saying these plans are awful, is there the capacity to pause the implementation date and re-think the plans?
Then there’s a map. I can’t read it online (it’s either too small to pick out any of the detail, or else too detailed to pick out the overall picture.)
Then there is a table of individual route numbers and a brief note about the changes made to each.
The document for the south is identical: same rubric, different map, different table; full of helpful details like
20 Hemsworth – Norton Lees – Heeley – Lowfields – Sheffield – Burngreave – Northern General – Southey Green – Parson Cross – Ecclesfield: Revised route replacing 97/98 between City centre and Ecclesfield
20A 9A,18,20 See route details for 9A, 18, 20 — — — Service replaced by 9A/18/20
There is no overall document, no explanation of the rationale for the changes and their impacts.
How do you respond to the consultation? The ONLY method offered is to complete a form, either online or on paper. I had a look at the form. Here it is. Go on, have a look. Now, I’m a better regulation specialist, and in my professional opinion that is NOT a consultation response document: it’s a consumer survey.
3.4 How much would you be willing to pay for a multi-operator ticket allowing you to use all buses?
(Yes, London friends, I know you manage to have an Oyster Card system you can use on buses and local trains and trams, and there are a billion journeys. We in the sticks have two rival bus and tram companies who can’t manage to share ticketing revenue from, er, quite a lot less)
On a purely selfish basis I won’t be responding, as the only bus which I regularly use is “service unchanged”, and I don’t respond to marketing surveys.
But as an example of How Not To Do A Consultation? I think I’ll be referring back to this quite a lot.