Change (Not) Given

By Rob Last edited 162 months ago
Change (Not) Given

Ever stood in a queue for a tube ticket and wondered why the person in front of you was taking so damn long?

Of course, we at Londonist never get angry or impatient, and we certainly never have thoughts like:


"Oh my God, are you some kind of imbecile? Just put your money in and get your ticket. It's not bloody brain surgery."

And we certainly wouldn't entertain notions such as:

"If you don't sort your act out soon, I swear I'm going to take that money out of your hand and put it in the machine for you."

But we do realise that these impure thoughts may enter some people's minds. Which is why we feel it's our duty to point out that it's not really their fault. It's actually (along with almost everything else) London Underground's fault.

Accordign to Jay Walder, Transport For London's managing director for finance and planning, the company's price arrangements are the planet's most difficult to interpret.

Jay has conceded that the fare system "looks messy from the point of view of the users and it is difficult to see an overall strategy behind it," (well, duh) and has promised to "try to simplify it" in the future.

And if you think that sounds like a bit of a wishy-washy commitment, wait until you hear Jay's answer to the problem of Oyster cards "ripping off" commuters: "Mr Johnson said that 'capping' should be introduced so that Oyster card holders receive the same benefits as commuters who buy travelcards for multiple journeys. Although Mr Walder was unable to commit to a specific date he promised capping would be introduced in 2005."

Last Updated 22 November 2004


I imagine the use of zones complicates the menus necessary. But you're not alone in mechanical difficulties: here in NYC, the machines for MetroCards will only allow you to use a specific credit card for two transactions, and menus don't allow you to buy more than one card in a transaction... The upshot is that those families who are trying to buy a family's worth of day passes have their credit card refused on the third person, with no message saying why. Confusion abounds...

Martyn Comley

I swear the Milan transport authority's ticketing system and (lack of) information relating to it beats London hands down. Outside of the central zone the suburban areas are broken down into zones and half zones and tickets are colour-coded accordingly. They are different colours for travel from outside-in and different again if you travel outside-in but wish to use the metro on your journey. I think. Then there's the quite baffling business of purchasing a ticket in the city on a sunday if you're nowhere near a metro station. Added to that, tickets are sold at newstands but, if you're travelling from the centre outwards, you can't buy your ticket for all the way. At the station on the border of the zones you have to get off the train and buy the ticket for the rest of the trip. Am I boring you? Sorry. Just don't get me started on the inflexibilty of the storm trooper-esque ticket control mobs. And the ungrateful tourists I regularly bail out when faced with one of the storm troopers in question.... hey, but the food's great.


OK, well, I can't comment on Milan...and I don't have much to say about NYC except I have never managed to get off at the correct stop on my first try.

However, compared with our 1 price for any ride here in Chicago, I found London's pricing scheme to be quite complicated. I politely grilled people before I went to the station itself to see how much it would cost, and they seemed to continue to recommend some package to me that would be more expensive than what I would need. When I tried to clarify this with the guy at the ticket-counter, he was quite nasty, and all the Londoners behind me were quite impatient. Add to this the befuddlement that you need to scan your ticket when LEAVING the tube, and you have one slow-moving, annoying American tourist. Sorry Londoners...