Sir Ken Robinson:
The problem is that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age.
It was conceived in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment, and in the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. Before the middle of the 19th Century, there were no systems of public education.
But public education, paid for from taxation, compulsory to everybody, and free at the point of delivery – that was a revolutionary idea. And many people objected to it. They said it’s not possible for many street kids, working class children to benefit from public education.
Free public transport, paid for by taxation, available to everyone and free at the point of delivery. That’s a revolutionary idea. And many people are objecting to it. They say that the system will be abused by “those people” without directly pointing the finger at low income individuals and families – those who the system will benefit the most.
How long can Northern Ireland tolerate a public transportation system that is simply unfit for purpose? Where rush hour buses are 2/3 empty? Where the expense of using it is grudgingly similar to a car for a single person but absolutely intolerable for a family journey? Where the process of getting a bus hasn’t changed in over 30 years? Where the caretaker company has deliberately obstructed attempts to use technology to improve public transport uptake? Where they have repeatedly made dubious investments in technology which were more concerned with correct billing of customers rather than making it easier and more convenient for customers.
The benefits to economic and social mobility, the improvements in quality of life and the benefits to environment, community are all easily extrapolated from other regions who have decided to serve their citizens better. And the reduction in traffic on the roads would be of immense benefit to those people who, for their own reasons, have to drive.
I measure transportation on three axes. Reliability, Flexibility and Cost. Buses will never be as flexible as owning your own car. Therefore you have to make the system 100% reliable or do something with the cost.
The reliability of the bus system is affected by traffic, primarily, so to increase reliability, you have to decrease the number of cars on the roads. So you have to look at costs.
To get people out of their cars, to increase the reliability of the system, you have to make it that the individual would be crazy to use a car (or would have it mandated by their employer).
The only leverage you have is cost. Make it so cheap that only special cases would choose to use private transport. And at some point, the machinery, the collection and the transport and security over collecting the money becomes uneconomical in itself. The process of collecting the money becomes the barrier to collecting the money. So you make it free.
You guarantee the right of mobility to citizens and tourists alike. You energise the individual and the family to travel the length and breadth of Northern Ireland cost-free. To spend their hard-earned cash in other areas.
You enable the individual to choose to work in the next town, commuting every morning without having to consider the percentage that commute will take out of his or her minimum wage job. You empower people to take advantage of employment.
You encourage travel across the province for tourism, helping to resolve an issue that the vast majority of visitors to Northern Ireland do not leave the cities.
Even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool petrol head, a decrease of traffic should interest you. A reduction in the wear and tear on the roads should interest you. Even if you never use a bus, you could start to think of those for whom public transport is the only opportunity to move beyond their immediate community and the positive effects that could have on our society.