As an adjunct to Of Microsoft & Minibuses, let us remember what it was like to travel on Generation 1 minibuses. By Gen 1, we mean Sherpa and Ford Transit conversions, usually with 16 passenger seats, AKA "bread vans".
With every passenger climbing aboard, the whole vehicle would rock. This resulted from a high centre of gravity, given the need to provide adequate headroom.
The passenger seat width was hardly over generous. It went beyond the minimum 800mm, but not by a lot. You wouldn’t wish to travel more than 30 minutes in one and certainly not next to a passenger loaded with bags.
In fact, with a narrow gangway and often no luggage pen, there was nowhere meaningful to place luggage. There was sometimes an awkward and sunken pen forward of the entrance, requiring much passenger lifting.
The ride on the vehicle wasn’t too good, either. Some were wallowy, others harsh.
Transits especially seemed to by very noisy when changing from low to higher gears. The ratios never seemed quite right. There was no escaping that front engine! The results were high or over revving and, no matter how good the driver, the passengers always "felt" the gear change. Since many were used in urban settings, this meant much gear work, much engine noise, much clutch damage and quite a tiring time for drivers.
And what of the new bread of drivers hired to run these minibuses? They were sat low in the cab and dominated by boarding passengers. Many drivers were customer-focused women, who were new to the bus industry.
One company issued uniform skirts that in normal situations rested fashionably at the knee. Sit down behind the wheel, though, and the skirt would uncontrollably ride up. Because the driving position was so low, male passengers looking down to pay their fare would be greeted by a pair of betighted female knees!
Was this a crude attempt to lure male passengers back to public transport? Wasn’t the promise of frequencies as high as every few minutes enough? We were saved by operators adopting the now universal and modest practice of allowing its female employees to wear trousers.
Tuesday, 15 November 2005
Posted Tuesday, November 15, 2005