Mayoral Election Issues: Public Transport

Taxi Bus Tube-2-1London has 19,000 bus stops, 270 Underground stations, 83 Overground stations and 45 DLR stations.  So you’d think that public transport would be pretty convenient for people right across the city. Well, not necessarily.

For inner city dwellers public transport is the obvious way to get around.  The best access to public transport, measured by Transport for London[1], is for the residents of the City of London.  But all the outer London boroughs score below average.

Urbs has mapped the TfL index which measures access to public transport across the city to show the borough variations.  Predictably, those in central London have the easiest access.  The average score on the index for the whole of London is 3.8. In the City of London it is 7.9 and in Westminster 6.5.  The poorest scores are on the eastern and western edges of the capital, in Havering and Hillingdon.

Public Transport Map 1-2

The index measures the number, reliability, waiting times and walking distances for public transport in a neighbourhood.  It does not take account of the speed, ease of connections or number of people using a service.  The index uses 9 level of public transport access.  All the residents of the City of London are in the top 2 levels. More than half the residents of Hillingdon are in the bottom 3.  The worst place in Hillingdon for public transport access is Harefield ward, home to the eponymous hospital.  All 7,399 residents of the ward fall into the bottom 3 levels for public transport access.

The outer areas of London that have low scores for public transport access have the highest level of car ownership. There are 2.71 million cars and light goods vehicles in London[2].  Ownership is low in inner London areas and highest in Havering and Hillingdon with 49 cars per 100 people.

Public Transport Map 2-2

Car ownership has gone up a little in the past 12 months but the trend over the past 5 years has been down.  Over the same period there has been a big jump in the use of public transport, growing at twice the rate of population growth[3].  In the past 5 years the number of journeys taken on the Transport for London system of Tube, train, tram and bus has gone up by 14% while the population has risen by half that rate.

The number of people in inner London, who may be more reliant on public transport, has grown slightly faster than the rate for the capital as a whole, but the data underlines that the greater use of the transport network is linked not just to population but to economic factors.

The greatest growth in passenger numbers is on the Tube with a 24% increase in journeys between the financial year 2010/11 and the most recent 12 months. Bus journeys rose by 3% over the same period. But the bus is still the most popular form of transport. Latest data from TfL shows that in the last 12 months buses carried 2.4 billion people while 1.4 billion Tube journeys were recorded.

Public transport chart 3-2

So are the growing number of passengers taking growing numbers of journeys getting good value?  On price alone, the answer seems to be no.

The financial services firm UBS conducts an annual survey of prices and earnings across cities around the globe[4]. In its most recent survey it judged London to be the third most expensive for public transport out of 71 cities. Only Copenhagen and Stockholm were more expensive.

UBS focused on single ticket prices on a bus, tram or underground system travelling 10 stops or 10 kilometres for its comparison.

We have made a more like-for-like analysis looking at pricing on the underground systems in London, New York and Paris using multi-journey tickets that locals would use.

A journey on the Tube in zones 1-3 costs £2.80 on an Oyster/contactless fare. A subway journey in New York using its Metrocard costs $2.75 (£1.94) and a single journey on the Paris Metro costs €1.44 (£1.15) using a Carnet.

Zac Goldsmith has promised to increase the network capacity and deliver the Night Tube plan. Sadiq Khan has promised to freeze fares for four years.  Neither candidate is likely to argue that it is a simple either/or between better or cheaper, but the messages they have sent so far certainly sets up an interesting question about what really concerns Londoners most about their public transport system.

[1] http://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/public-transport-accessibility-levels

[2] http://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/licensed-vehicles-type-0

[3] http://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/public-transport-journeys-type-transport/resource/a7a69c22-150c-49f3-a1fd-90d4c24d98d4

[4] https://www.ubs.com/microsites/prices-earnings/open-data.html

This report was produced in association with London Live’s election special programme London Votes.