What would you do for 10p?
Probably not a whole lot if you’re like a very tired friend of ours on Saturday night. The lure of saving a couple of shillings failed to persuade her to stay for another drink: ‘Wait a half hour and the bus fare cut kicks in. You’ll even save 20p on your two buses back to Ealing.’ Predictably she chose bed over beer.
Buses are now 90p instead of a £1 if you have an Oyster Card, which is nice but not exactly thrilling. If you take an average of two bus rides a day, the Ken’s cut will save you six quid a month. Not bad — and certainly better than paying six quid a month — but the list of things you’d do to earn that amount is probably very short and very trivial.
Compare the fare cut with another policy that kicks in Monday — a 17p increase in the minimum wage. Put one way, the very lowest paid Londoners will better the benefit of the bus fare cut by working for about 35 minutes.
So if lowering fares doesn’t matter, and will reduce revenue coming into the public transport system, and there are costs associated with adjusting Oyster readers and so on, why bother?
The upcoming mayoral election may have something to do with it. But if you find that explanation a bit too cynical, the fact is, many economic policy decisions are symbolic. Our modern economy relies on confidence to function (just look at Northern Rock). And confidence often requires active maintenance. For 10p, Ken and Transport for London are trying to send us a massive signal: buses are in rude health. Now if only the same could be said for Metronet.
Image from adambowie's Flickr photostream.