FixMyTransport volunteers: Peter

Broken Bus Stop by Lee J HaywoodIf you’ve posted a particularly sticky problem on FixMyTransport, you have probably received a comment from one of our friendly volunteers. Like faithful butlers, they can also be summoned at the touch of a button – in this case, our ‘ask for further advice’ button, which you can see on any campaign page that you have created.

We’ve just published a page on the main mySociety website (mySociety being the organisation that created and maintains FixMyTransport) explaining a bit more about becoming a volunteer – and we’ve included short profiles of some of the team.

Our volunteers have plenty more to say than we can fit onto that page, though, so we thought we’d introduce them more fully here on the FixMyTransport blog, starting with Peter.

Like many volunteers across all mySociety’s sites, Peter has followed his interests to shape his own role. Here’s how he talks about his experience as a FixMyTransport ‘anorak’.

“As a volunteer, I keep an eye on the most recently updated issues. I try to think about these issues from the operator’s perspective and ask users to clarify anything that needs it. A great benefit of social media is that, when appropriate, comments from users can be referred to operators instantaneously.

“On an ad hoc basis, I am currently reviewing our bus stop issues and encouraging users to come back to us with an update. They are a really quick win with most of them concerning repairs (broken glass or bus stop flags) or the quality of timetable information. These are really cheap and easy to sort out compared to the provision of new buses or additional train carriages.

“The responsibility for bus stops and shelters is so varied, and I am currently emailing councils to find out who is the best contact for these types of issue. Some areas are really simple with just one email address covering a whole county, whilst others are frustratingly difficult. I would encourage all of those involved with this valuable asset to keep things simple to minimise the amount of contact.”

How much time does Peter spend on his FixMyTransport volunteer work? “My partner would argue that it is too much time (“too true!”), but I think it would be fair to say that I spend around five hours per week on the website at least. A lot of it depends on what is going on. If there is nothing going on and the emails are quiet, I will not be on the site for long. If there is plenty to do, I am happy to chip in. It expands to fill any time you have available to it but it doesn’t take over if there are other things going on.

“I think my favourite aspect of the work is showing a FixMyTransport user the opportunities available to take their issue to other authorities. It is amazing how many people are frustrated by their local bus operator or a bus stop that is damaged but they do not know who to turn to. Thanks to the experience we have, we can show them the opportunities available and make it easier. It is great to support users and show them that they are not alone with the problems that bug them.

“At university I undertook a dissertation that demonstrated to me that passengers really want some friendly support when they are using public transport, particularly when they encounter issues with it. I stumbled across FixMyTransport while finding news stories for a website I was working on, and found it a great opportunity to use my experience to help users get more information. The set up has been fantastic and we have helped users understand some of the developments occurring on their local services. We are helping to turn passengers into informed customers. Whilst informed customers are harder to satisfy, they are great ambassadors for operators when they are kept informed – and they provide a good opportunity for operators to get views from people who use their services.”

Like all the FixMyTransport team, Peter is a frequent user of public transport. “My favourite route is one that gets me to my destination in comfort and on time! But a specific one should be the Settle and Carlisle line which has done amazingly. It is hard to believe that just 25 years ago, the line was under threat of closure.”

Read more about volunteering for FixMyTransport, or for other mySociety sites.

Or find out some low-effort ways to help us with our work!


Image credit: Broken Bus Stop by Lee J Haywood