THE 21 bus tours Stubbington and Hill Head around 8am and 8.30am every morning – virtually empty.
Meanwhile, in the streets around schools near its route, parents jockey for space to drop off their children, to the annoyance of residents who can’t get out of their own driveways.
Between 9am and 9.30am it is a similar story – near-empty bus, while the main car parks in Stubbington are already almost full.
Drivers circle the village looking for spaces as close as possible to the shops, consoling themselves with the thought that at least there’s no charge for parking in the village.
No such consolation in central Fareham.
As it arrives at Market Quay, the most conveniently located car parks are filling up and drivers are grumbling at what they see as the exorbitant cost of tickets.
But between 10am and 10.30am the 21a has an animated complement of passengers.
They join it at most of the Stubbington stops and by the time it reaches St Michael’s Grove it’s often standing room only.
Why? Because that’s the first bus on which pensioners in my ward can use the free passes so many depend on to get about.
Those without passes will tell you the buses are too expensive and inconvenient but are they really compared with the car park fees in Fareham and the fuel you burn waiting in queues?
Hampshire County Council is reviewing its subsidies to bus services and the 21/21a is only one example of underused routes that could be under threat – routes that are a lifeline for many who can no longer drive.
That could be you some day.
So think about doing your casual shopping by bus now and then.
Tot up the cost of maintaining a banger for your teenagers against giving them a few quid a week for bus fares.
Think about a rota for taking kids to school by bus instead of fuming at the congestion outside the school gates.
Some day the bus might be your last chance of independent living.
Use it or lose it.