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11 Feb 13

Plus or Minus

Chris Farmer

Why do the buses threaten us?

I noticed recently that Belgrade’s fleet of city buses – whose variety extends from 1970s Dilapidation to 2012 Sleek – carry not-so-subtle threats to people who would wish to get on. When they are not carrying advertisements or announcements of what the people of Japan have dumped on us, they are painted with stern warnings.

Constant Controls, they say.

Another sign, spotted inside a few of Belgrade’s buses, says that if we do not swipe our cards, that the bus line will be ELIMINATED!

I take this to mean that, rather than offering us a service which contains an inherent Plus (as in BusPlus, to be very specific), they are already in the mood for a fight. The buses, with their warnings of inspections and controls, are telling us in effect – “If you get on this bus, we will ALWAYS challenge your right to be here!”

Perhaps we need this. Perhaps we, the residents of Belgrade, are inherently evil and spend all our days and nights trying to figure out new ways to screw the public transport system… Never mind the fact that BusPlus provides us with a lot of minuses – no transfers on the same ticket, unclear routes, lack of maps, odd frequency, controllers travelling in viscous packs.

Admittedly, most of these minuses are applicable under the heading of Public Transport and are true in any city anywhere in the world. But here in the White City our buses proclaim that they have a Plus. I have been a bus-rider now for several weeks and I still have not found the plusses.

Like most services here, they are offered on the premise that we consumers are lucky to get them. We should count ourselves lucky that a shopkeeper will condescend to sell us something we want. We should be happy to pay inconsistently high prices for it. And if we complain, we can be absolutely sure that no one cares.

The “plus” in BusPlus, then, is the existence of buses. We have buses AND they work (more or less). Can you imagine having a BusPlus card and no buses to ride? Of course not, and we should thank GSP for this.

Riding the bus is never something I do for fun. Riding a bus that clearly hates me and suspects me of being an evil-doer does NOT increase my delight. Here’s a crazy idea: What if BusPlus invested a little less in threats and a little more in telling us the Good Things? Instead of letting us bemoan the lack of signage and maps, they could tell us each new place a map was posted.

Or, maybe, they would first need to create a few Plusses for the Buses.

Christen Bradley Farmer is founder and president of MACH IV Consulting. Farmer also regularly shares his observations on life in Serbia in Politika, LivingIn Belgrade.com, and in his B92.net VIP blog.

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