You might not realise this, but where Transport for London has plans for how to deal with growth in passenger numbers on the Underground and rail networks, there isn't a similar plan for buses. In other words, TfL hasn't earmarked (or doesn't have) any money to expand the network. The subsidy amount will remain the same to 2014-15, as will the number of kilometres London's buses travel.
Yet TfL also predicts passenger numbers will increase 1% a year to 2021-22, a number which, as a new report from the London Assembly points out, contrasts with the actual growth of about 4% a year between 2000-01 and 2011-12. Earlier this year the Assembly put out a call asking for Londoners' experiences of buses, particularly interested in overcrowding, as TfL doesn't routinely measure how busy buses get. Over 1,000 people responded and their contributions form part of this report. Clearly, this is a self-selecting sample, but 73% reported their usual bus as being busy or overcrowded, with 61% saying it had got busier over the previous year. The report also cites that most frustrating of phenomena: watching a bus packed to the rafters sail by.
So what's to be done? TfL has suggested it will shuffle buses around during off-peak from quieter routes to busier ones, or switch from single deckers to double deckers. The Assembly wants to see more concrete planning and has asked for a long-term strategy to be published by March 2014.
The report also calls for TfL to measure crowding on buses in a similar way to the annual rail measurement, to see how many 'passengers in excess of capacity' are being carried. The Assembly acknowledges that the sheer size of the bus network makes such an undertaking more difficult, but doesn't think that's enough of an excuse.
Interesting facts from the report:
- in 2012-13, the most used bus routes were (in order) the 25, 18, 29, 149, 38, 207, 5, 73, 86 and 243
- the 25 alone carries 64,000 people per day, which is apparently the equivalent of the entire population of Bognor Regis
- the most crowded buses cited in the survey were the 185, 208, 96, 38, 176, 172, 484, 336, 162 and 358
- each weekday, 7,500 buses carry more than 6m passengers
- there are twice as many trips made by bus as by tube.
Photo by D1v1d from the Londonist Flickr pool