Buses are slowing down, and not just in central London

busesTwo of London’s slowest bus routes are not through the city centre but 17 miles to the east, in Hornchurch in the borough of Havering.

Central London congestion is blamed for the slow down in buses, now running at an average speed or 9.3 mph.  But the 650 and 656 buses, both leaving from Emerson Park School are running at just 6 miles per hour and are among the 10 slowest routes run by Transport for London in the last financial year.

656 bus route

656 bus route: Google maps via TfL

650 bus route

650 bus route: Google maps via TfL

Data from TfL for average bus speeds for April 2015 to March 2016 shows that the slowest route is the 15H from Charing Cross to the Tower of London. But the H in the title gives a clue as to why.  This is a heritage route with original Routemaster buses running along part of the course of the proper 15, along The Strand, Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill and on to the Tower.  The tourists on board may appreciate its slow pace as they edge past St Paul’s.

TfL runs 675 routes and tracks the speed of buses each way along them, plus night buses.   Of the 1762 bus routes speeds recorded for the last financial year, 563 were below the 9.3 mph average.  Most of the slowest journeys cross central London.

London’s 10 slowest buses
Number Route Speed (mph)
15H Charing Cross to Tower 4.9
15H Tower to Charing Cross 5.1
14 Putney Heath to Warren St Station 5.6
11 Liverpool St Station to Fulham Broadway 5.6
650 Emerson Park School to Cedar Hill, Hornchurch 5.9
11 Fulham Broadway to Liverpool St Station 5.9
26 St Mary of Eton, Hackney to Waterloo Station 6.0
69A Canning Town to Walthamstow Bus Station 6.0
38 Clapton Pond to Victoria Bus Station 6.1
656 Emerson Park School to Gallows Corner, Hornchurch 6.1

Speeds are calculated across the full range of the route and many buses will have a much more varied pace as they cross parts of the city.  Looking at speeds across the boroughs shows that the centre is uniformly slow but things get better the further out you get.

Havering is one of the few areas where average speeds get above 12 mph despite having 2 of the slowest buses.

Average bus speeds

In a recent report the former chairman of the government’s panel on integrated transport, Professor David Begg, said that bus speeds are declining faster in London than any other urban area in the country. He says that the decision by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, to reduce road capacity by 25% with the introduction of cycle superhighways without any measures to curtail traffic is partly to blame.

The new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made buses a priority in his first weeks in office.  As he mentioned throughout his campaign, his father used to drive the 44.  His first act as mayor was to introduce the Hopper fare and he has announced a general freeze in prices. Londoners welcome cheaper travel. Making it faster may be a much bigger challenge.

Source data

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How London compares for the cost of public transport

Taxi Bus Tube-2-1London is the third most expensive for public transport out of 71 cities globally, according to a survey by the financial services company UBS.

As part of its annual prices and earnings survey UBS looked at the cost of getting around a city. In order to get a like-for-like comparison the company took the cost of a single ticket on an underground system, bus or tram for a journey of 10 kilometres or 10 stops.

Urbs Media looked at the data paying particular attention to 20 cities with strong connections to London or those in countries that had significant migrant populations living and working in the UK.  (See the table below).

Copenhagen is the most expensive for public transport, followed by its Swedish neighbour, Stockholm, and then London.  New York and Paris are both cheaper, but people who have moved to the capital from Warsaw, Bucharest, or New Delhi will notice a big price difference.  Kiev has the cheapest public transport of any city surveyed.

The results do not take account of the lower prices for season tickets, which would reduce the cost in London and in other cities too.  Nor does it factor in the quality or reliability of the service.

City Public Transport ($US) Taxi fare ($US)
Berlin 2.89 14.78
Bucharest 0.46 3.31
Copenhagen 4.63 15.43
Dublin 3.31 11.35
Geneva 3.12 20.58
Hong Kong 1.28 3.65
Johannesburg 0.79 6.34
Kiev 0.16 1.59
London 4.04 10.09
Madrid 1.98 11.35
New Delhi 0.37 1.54
New York 2.75 11.67
Oslo 3.80 32.10
Paris 1.95 12.43
Rome 1.62 14.24
Stockholm 4.17 18.56
Sydney 2.58 11.52
Toronto 2.43 15.88
Vilnius 0.90 4.52
Warsaw 0.91 5.64

London comes out a little better for the cost of taking a taxi. Looking at the price of a 5 kilometre cab ride within the city, New Delhi offers the cheapest option. London is more expensive than Hong Kong, Bucharest and Warsaw, but cheaper than Sydney, New York, Paris, Rome, Madrid or Berlin.  But none compare to the astronomical cost of a cab ride in Oslo – three times the price of London.

UBS conducted the survey in March and April 2015.  It has carried out the price and earning survey annually since 1971.

Source data

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Londoners like Uber but think black cabs will stay if payment made easier

Black cabsThe drawing of battle lines between traditional taxi services like London’s black cabs and app-based services such as Uber is a current trend in most big cities.

It is perhaps an even more vexed issue in a place like London where the cab fleet is part of the cityscape and despite their grumbles Londoners tend to value the safe and knowledgeable service they offer. But like most big urban populations, Londoners also like Uber. According to the company the usage rate in London is multiplying by 5 or 6 times a year.

For many of the 22,000 licensed cab drivers this is seen as a battle to save their livelihood. But a survey by the polling organisation You Gov of attitudes to the traditional and the new in London’s car hire trade suggests that there may be room and appetite for both.

A sample of 1,000 Londoners was asked if services like Uber were good for them. 55% agreed and just 16% disagreed. Approval was much higher in those under the age of 40, and even in the over 60s more agreed than disagreed, though the margin was close.

Uber Survey Good

Men were keener on Uber than women, but more than half the women asked agreed that such services were good for Londoners.

But it’s not all bad news for the traditional service. Asked it they thought that black cabs would no longer be around in 20 years time 30 % agreed but 42% disagreed. So more people still want to see black cabs on the city’s streets, but would they continue to use them?

Uber survey black cabs

A clue to that is in the survey’s the third question. People were asked if paying for cabs should be made easier with contactless payments. A resounding 75% said yes and only 5% disagreed.

Uber survey payment

TfL has just completed a public consultation on whether accepting card payment and contactless should be made compulsory for black cabs. Currently about half of them take card payment. The results of the consultation are yet to be published.

The message from the survey, which was commissioned by PR company PLMR, appears to be that Londoners are prepared to use all types of cab hires, but above all they want them to be easy to use.

The lessons for London from other cities in the US where the Uber economy is much more progressed are not clearcut.  A study earlier this year that looked at small business expense accounts showed a steep rise in Uber use in place of traditional taxis by business travellers.

Uber’s own stats for San Francisco show that it may be disruptive not just for the cab trade but change the face of urban transport. In its most mature market it is more than three times bigger than the previous taxi market in terms of revenues. In other words, it has found a new market, most likley people who would otherwise have driven themselves.

The long-term trend in car ownership in London is down, particularly in inner boroughs, where car density is half that of outer areas, as reported by Urbs.  So Uber’s growth may be not just an issue for cab drivers in future but also for car sales people in the capital.

Source data

See also

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