As you would expect in a land of crystals, generic healing and wooden mushrooms, Totnes’ very own Bob the Bus is considerably more than two yellow mini buses chuntering around town.
Totnes Pulse decided to find out more and during October, we will be highlighting this truly innovative service. We sought out the coordinator, Lyn Price and the chairman, Simon Harrington to tell us more…
Simon Harrington explains the philosophy behind the registered charity. “The service started out as a simple process of transporting people from A to B but we’re much more than that. We are looking at the whole picture around transport in general for example, car ownership, congestion and air quality.” Totnes has the worst record of pollution in the South Hams and Simon believes Bob The Bus must be part of the solution. “If we can put a service together that enables people to leave their car behind with confidence, we reduce congestion, pollution and free up car parking spaces.” He’s under no illusions that this requires work, but Bob the Bus has a few ideas in the works that may help bring this prospect further.
The aim of the organisation is not about profit, it’s about accessibility of transport
Lyn Price is the heroic co-ordinator and has been part of the charity since 2011 and manages timetables, organises drivers, works with Simon on excursions, drives the bus and even cleans them on her own drive at the weekends. In other words Lyn IS Bob the Bus! “I love what it is, I love what it stands for, it’s my passion”. Bob has more than 50 volunteer drivers who take on varying levels of commitment to working on the buses.
“The special thing for me about the service is the social aspect. People can get out of their homes and get to the shops but also helps them engage with the community as a whole. For some people, Bob the bus is absolutely essential.”
Lyn is very keen to make it clear that the service is not just for the elderly and disabled but a community resource for everyone to use. Due to the financial constraints of running the buses, the tiny charge of the 50p/70p it costs for a ticket, benefits the charity a good deal. She also wants to make it clear that you don’t need to be at a ‘stop’. Anyone can wave down the bus on a ‘hail and ride’ basis. The same applies for getting off. So if you see Bob down at the 7 Stars, and want to go to the narrows for example – wave the bus down and climb aboard!
“I love what it is, I love what it stands for, it’s my passion”
I also spoke with John a driver who has worked on the bus for 17 years! Originally he joined after moving here and not initially finding a job. He explains in his strong Yorkshire accent; “I felt a bit useless sitting around the house so joining Bob gave me a purpose at the time. Now I’m retired, half a day doing this is quite rewarding. You feel like your contributing something.”
Socially, the charity organises a ‘Travel Club’ and for a small joining fee of just £5.00 per year, you can pay to join organised excursions. Recent trips have included RHS Rosemoor in North Devon, The Eden Project, Riverford Field Kitchen (including lunch) and Padstowe. The next trips are The Goosey Fair in Tavistock (10th October £12.00) and Otter Nurserys in Ottery St Mary (November 23rd £18.00)
Fundraising has, and will always be, an issue for the service so events are held, donation boxes are carried on board for taking home, passenger often very generously overpay the fare and there now a local lottery with payouts of up to £25,000. The SeaMoor Lottery fund donate half the value of Bob The Bus sales direct to the charity. There is also a fundraising page on thier own website.
Over October the Pulse will re-visit Bob to look at the issues they face, have a chat wih some passengers and look at the future for Bob!