It's been just over four weeks since Transport for London stopped taking cash payments on buses. We've had our own issues with the new system (one Londonist staffer's Oyster card failed when she tried to tap in; luckily one other person — out of seven of us — had a contactless card and could pay. And the presence of an information officer at a bus stop didn't stop two tourists trying to board a number 11 without Oyster cards on Monday lunchtime) but that's not enough. So we asked you on Facebook. A social media voxpop, if you will.
Of the 50+ comments, there's a fairly even split between people who love it for speeding up journey times and can't see the problem when Oyster and contactless are available, and others concerned about tourists and irregular bus users, as well as those who've had negative experiences.
A lot of you are doing what we had to: paying for friends and even strangers with your contactless cards, and getting cash in return. (By the way, the contactless fare is £1.45, so if someone tries to give you £2.40 — the old cash fare — do put them right. Or accept a 95p tip, it's your call.) Others have experienced some of the drawbacks of contactless for tourists: you can't pay for a family with one card (of course, you also can't with Oyster) and cards issued overseas can attract hefty transaction charges.
It's not just tourists being caught out. Several comments mention people ending up having to walk or not being allowed onto the bus despite TfL's assurances that nobody vulnerable would be left behind, though some also report drivers letting them on for free. This comment from Claire Deacon not only made us laugh, it seems to sum up the discussion:
Noticing lots of confusion for occasional users; they seem not to be aware until they questioningly proffer a handful of coins only for the driver to look at them as if they'd asked to take a shit in his hat.
Some of you also made suggestions that could help improve the situation, if TfL is listening:
- More information, particularly for tourists.
- Provide more places to top up Oyster cards, particularly late at night. Ticket machines at stops?
- Better driver training.
Another way to pay was unveiled on Monday. If you have an Android phone on EE you can use Cash on Tap to pay for buses. Once it's set up, just hold your phone to the reader. It all works like contactless which means you'll be billed the next day and, like contactless, you now get daily and weekly Monday-Sunday capping on buses. And when contactless is rolled out to all users for the tube, DLR and Overground you'll also be able to use your phone.