[drop_cap]F[/drop_cap]or those who keep an eye on my Twitter feed, you’ll know I’m a fan of Oxford Bus Company’s new Pick Me Up service. In fact, I wrote about it here when it launched.
Exactly two months on from my first ride, it’s still enjoyable as ever. A few things have changed since day one, but that’s to be expected and I would still highly recommend the service to anyone in Oxford.
Since the launch, the option of pre-booking journeys has been removed. People were considering this to take priority over on the spot bookings, which isn’t the case at all. In fact, I only ever used the pre-booking system once. The concept of block booking for commuters is great, but I’d say 90% of the time, you’ll get a Pick Me Up swiftly once booking on the spot anyway.
The time it takes to pick you up has changed as the service has got busier. That’s not a bad thing, it means the service is proving popular and will most likely stay around for a while longer. I have had a few difficulties in booking the Pick Me Up, but this is primarily during the rush hour, where I get the dreaded “Our seats are filled, try again in a few minutes!” message. Admittedly, I have given up sometimes and got the usual bus and seen a Pick Me Up drive elsewhere with a few people on board, but they’re most likely not going in my direction – if I were to join them, I’d probably be in for a longer journey than I’d like.
However, during off-peak hours, I’ve often booked, and a vehicle arrived within 10 minutes. Other times and when I’ve managed to grab one during peak hours, it’s taken around 25-22 minutes. I don’t mind the wait, I anticipate the time I’d like to leave my destination, or if I’ve been to a meeting, hang around a bit in a nearby café or sit in the reception area until my vehicle is due.
The app keeps you fully informed about the ETA, you receive a text message if it’s going to be early and a text when it’s two minutes away. You’re kept fully informed about any delays to the service, or if they’re running early, meaning you can continue doing what you’re doing, until almost last minute. (Just remember how far it’ll take you to walk to the virtual bus stop, otherwise you’ll get a £1.50 cancellation fee like I did once, when I realised I couldn’t make it in time, whoops!).
The social element of this ride-sharing scheme has increased as it’s popularity has increased. I’ve often told first timers about my experiences whilst on the bus and they seem to enjoy their first ride too. There have been times where I’ve boarded, not knowing anyone and leaving having had fun, thought provoking and meaningful conversations with strangers. This is the bit that makes it worthwhile, you wouldn’t get that on an ordinary bus, not in Oxford anyway (from experience!)
The pick-up and drop off points have also improved, and most drivers use their own imitative when you reach your drop off point. Quite apparent at the Churchill Hospital when I’m heading to the Radio Cherwell studios, where the virtual bus stop is just a four-minute walk away from the studios themselves, and the John Radcliffe Hospital, where you can be picked up or dropped off at the West Wing or Main Entrance on Level 2 – handy for patients, staff, visitors, and handy for me with Radio Cherwell work when visiting our office on the site.
A driver informed me the company have ordered more minibuses to cope with the increased demand and the zone in which the service operates is due for expansion, which can only be favoured by passengers. Hopefully the pricing model and structure will remain competitive to the city’s taxi service too, £2.50 at the moment is a bargain, any increase in price will need to be reasonable, which I’m sure it will be. It appears, on face value at least, this is a service that’s going from strength to strength.
If you’re in Oxford and haven’t used it yet, give it a whirl here.