Some thoughts on public transport

I am working in London for the next few days and staying with a friend in Stoke Newington – part of the London Borough of Hackney, I believe the only London Borough without a tube station within its boundaries. So I have been travelling on the 73, one of Ken’s controversial “Bendy Buses“.

I’m a convert to the joys of the Transport for London [TfL] Oystercard system. At its heart is the Oystercard, a ‘smartcard‘ which can be used on the Tube, trams, buses, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services in London.on and makes buying and using tickets easier. Its main advantage over a paper ticket is that Oyster single fares are generally cheaper. In addition, daily price capping automatically calculates the cheapest fare for the journeys I make in a single day.

So I never need to think about if a day ticket would be cheaper than the sum total of the all the single journeys I may make during that day. And as it is pre-paid, I never have to join the queues for tickets at Paddington.

The cost of the 40min bus journey with an Oystercard is 90p (compared with a single paper fare of £2).

Would or could a system like this operate on the buses in Exeter? I would love to see a time when the cost of parking a car for 2 hours in Exeter is more expensive than a return bus fare.

TfL Bendy Bus

And now onto the Bendy Bus.

In theory they should be a great idea.They can carry more passengers than the late-lamented Routemaster – but that capacity is generated by wide aisle and plenty of standing room (nobody gives this as a complaint on the Tube!). Another plus is they have good accessibility for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

Automated announcements let you know where you are – great for the first time user like me. I knew I had to get off at Stoke Newington High Street – quite a few stops from Newington Green, so that was great reassurance.

All 3 doors are both for entrance and exit, so getting on and off they is easier and quicker; thus they are stationery at stops for a shorter time; this should help avoid traffic jams. However, they become the cause of traffic jams – they are so long they often block yellow box junctions as their exit is never clear enough for them.

The downside is that many people use them for FREE travel. Passengers using the rear 2 doors should be in possession of a ticket from a ticket machine at the bus stop, a pre-paid carnet of tickets or the touch-in Oystercard. Payment is only possible at the front door. I see many passenger get on the bus without using the Oystercard. Are they all using paper tickets? Despite automated announcements, I have yet to see any ticket inspectors on any of these buses. Lots of lost revenue? [UPDATE: when the Bendy Bus was withdrawn from the 73 route in 2011, TfL estimated that when every bendy bus route  was converted fare evasion will be cut by around £7.4m a year.]

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