With more and more people returning to some semblance of normality, more people are returning to public transport, so it seemed a perfect time to relaunch and revitalise my West Midlands Bus Users (WMBU) website.
Rather than just be a typical ‘blog’ site, for some time I have wanted to expand the scope of this site, and try to build a ‘community’ of bus users, and provide a platform or ‘hub’, a place where bus users can come together and discuss any issues and concerns with each other, in a publicly accessible forum.
For several years now, I myself have been concerned that a lot of decisions regarding bus services have been made with little input from those who actually use or rely on these services. The travelling public are often “thrown the bone” of a public ‘consultation’ to participate in, but even so it would appear that these consultations are merely ‘window dressing’ and in many cases the outcome is already pre-determined.
Also, barring your own responses and opinions expressed while taking part in these surveys, very often you have no idea how other passengers like yourself are responding, or what suggestions they are proposing.
The other concern as always is that these public consultations are often not very well publicised, and I lose count of the number of times where service reviews have taken place, and people complain about the changes after they happen, with the most common complaint being they ‘didn’t know about any consultation’.
For the last few years, I have always tried to share details of these reviews and consultations on this website – which also posts automatically to our WMBU Facebook page – and I sincerely thank everyone who follows through and takes part, as well as sharing with others.
What I’ve always envisaged though, is having a place where bus users can come and discuss these service change proposals in one place, and share ideas and suggestions with other bus users.
TfWM (Transport for West Midlands) seem to operate a very ‘closed-shop’ when it comes to consulting with its passengers. I previously wrote to them to see if they had any interest in supporting or promoting my new venture, but was given a quite dismissive reply, namely that they already had their own ‘mechanisms’ in place for seeking passenger opinions.
I don’t suppose anyone here is aware of TfWM ‘Bus Champions’ or how one gets in contact with them to raise concerns or issues? Or how to get involved with their ‘passenger panels’? Nope, me neither!
So that incentivised me to just press ahead with this project, and here we are. The current WMBU website has been given a facelift, with much new functionality added, and is now a community focused platform, ready for bus users to get involved and start discussions on issues that matter to them.
There’ll still be the usual opinion pieces from myself, as well as news articles on service changes and the like. And guest contributions will still be welcome, if anyone feels like writing up a good long-form article, please get in touch!
But from the start, the main home page of this site is now a ‘social media style’ News Feed, where updates will be posted, and users can also post and share useful links and information.
We now have Groups, I have created some basic ‘top-level’ groups, for the various parts of the West Midlands region, which members are welcome to join, and take part in discussions relating to those particular areas of interest. ‘Sub-groups’ can be created within these groups, and this may be of interest to local campaigners focusing on particular areas of interest within those parts of the West Midlands.
And there are Discussion Forums, where users can start topics of discussion, for other members to join in and contribute to.
So you can see that the WMBU website has been focused into a more community-driven site, rather than one person posting articles in their spare time.
The long-term ambition? While for now I’m afraid its pretty much us bus users chatting amongst ourselves, the ultimate aim is to build this platform up and get as many ‘ordinary’ people involved and put it in a position where bus operators and transport authorities will have no choice but to sit up and take notice of us!
(Kind of like a ‘Mumsnet’ for bus passengers if you like!)
The functionality is ready and waiting for ‘official’ representatives from those companies and organisations to participate here in some kind of official capacity.
Failing that, by having such discussions and conversations in an open ‘public space’, there is at least the possibility of forwarding links to such discssions to people like local councillors or MPs.
I have deliberately chosen to keep this website viewable to all for this very purpose, though people will need to register an account here in order to participate.
Another ambition I have is that the format of this website could be used as a ‘model’ to set up similar such sites for other areas of the country, if such a site does not exist already.
So here we are, the start of a new era, please do get involved where you can, and please tell everyone you know about this website whom you feel might find it of interest, the more people who become active and get involved, the better it will become!
This is YOUR website now, lets make this vision a reality!
Welcome to the West Midlands Bus Users Community!