Could Touch-Out on TfL Buses be Practical?

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DynamicSpirit

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Pondering this idea... At present TfL London buses charge a flat fare of £1.50 - and I wouldn't be surprised if that goes up next year given TfL's financial difficulties. £1.50 isn't unreasonable if you're going a fair distance - in fact is arguably too cheap for many longer journeys that you could make, but looks ridiculously expensive and must be a huge disincentive to using the bus if you only want to go a mile or so, and I can't help thinking it would be fairer and potentially do more to get people out of cars if you could go back to having a fare that depended on how far you are going.

Obviously you can only have a variable fare if the system knows where you got on and off - which implies you'd need to have Oyster readers by the exits of buses as well as the entrances, with people expected to touch out as they leave the bus (presumably, on pain of the system assuming they've travelled right up to the end of the route if they don't). The system would also have to be programmed to know where the bus is when you touch in/out.

What do people think? Would the idea be practical in principle, or are there massive technological difficulties I haven't thought of? Having people touch out would obviously make exiting the bus very slightly slower, but I wouldn't have thought the difference would be that significant, other than at stops where you have a large number of people getting off and relatively few boarding, which isn't that high a proportion of stops - and you could potentially minimise this impact by providing Oyster readers at selected bus stops where large numbers of people alight, allowing people at those stops to touch out after leaving the bus. You could also avoid touch-outs for people alighting at stations and planning to continue their journey by train by having the system assume a touch-out from the bus if it detects a touch-in at the station. Plus if lower fares for journeys up to 1-2 miles meant fewer cars on the road, that would speed up the buses anyway.
 
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Steddenm

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Brighton & Hove Buses as well as Dublin Bus have a touch-in-touch-out arrangement for contactless cards/The Key and Leap respectively.

It works, so don't know why TfL don't try it on their services.
 

berneyarms

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Brighton & Hove Buses as well as Dublin Bus have a touch-in-touch-out arrangement for contactless cards/The Key and Leap respectively.

It works, so don't know why TfL don't try it on their services.
LEAP is NOT touch out on Dublin Bus.
 

station_road

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It is easily possible technically and already done by some companies in the UK (add TrentBarton to the one mentioned earlier) and in other countries (Sydney, Singapore). There is an increased risk of fare evasion on multi door buses as people touch out well before they get off.

London bus fares are really not that expensive in UK terms though - many bus companies have a minimum fare well above £1.50 even for one stop.
 
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johncrossley

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Pondering this idea... At present TfL London buses charge a flat fare of £1.50 - and I wouldn't be surprised if that goes up next year given TfL's financial difficulties.

To be pedantic this has just gone up to £1.55. Obviously still cheap compared to outside London but when connections to the Tube are added then it is very expensive compared to comparable world cities.
 

zero

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and I can't help thinking it would be fairer and potentially do more to get people out of cars if you could go back to having a fare that depended on how far you are going.

Plus if lower fares for journeys up to 1-2 miles meant fewer cars on the road, that would speed up the buses anyway.

I can't conceive of a situation where I would choose to drive because I think £1.55 is too expensive for a short journey. I would usually walk instead.

Of the times when I have chosen to drive for a short journey in the past, it was because a 10 minute drive beats walking 10 minutes, waiting 10 minutes, paying £1.50, waiting another 10 minutes and then still having to walk 10 minutes to the destination. At least the second bus is free. (If parking is difficult at the destination then it's a different story.)

I would not oppose a short hop fare like in Germany, but this would probably decrease TfL revenues. Conversely if longer journeys were increased in price, that would be an incentive to drive.
 

Robertj21a

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To be pedantic this has just gone up to £1.55. Obviously still cheap compared to outside London but when connections to the Tube are added then it is very expensive compared to comparable world cities.
£1.55 is ridiculously cheap when compared to most areas of the UK outside London. Even for a short hop it's cheap, let alone that you can travel for ages on the one fare.
 

johncrossley

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£1.55 is ridiculously cheap when compared to most areas of the UK outside London. Even for a short hop it's cheap, let alone that you can travel for ages on the one fare.

London should really be compared to other big cities. With all due respect, no city in Britain comes close to London's size and importance. Yes you can potentially connect onto other buses for free, which is much better than it used to be, and it particularly useful in outer London where there is little or no rail alternative, but for long trips in inner/central London the bus on its own takes too long so realistically most people will change onto the tube/train.
 

telstarbox

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I think it would create more problems than it would solve. If you increase the fare some people will transfer to trains and you lose ridership. In the outer suburbs it would make car travel more attractive.
 

JonathanH

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If you increase the fare some people will transfer to trains and you lose ridership. In the outer suburbs it would make car travel more attractive.
Not if you increase the train fares as well and make motoring more expensive.

Admittedly, it would need to be organised so that the highest fare is charged unless you touch out sooner and the touch out pad would need to be observed so that people couldn't touch their card on it mid-journey to get a cheaper fare. It does seem a bit complicated.

That said, bus fares in London could easily be increased to a flat charge of £2 or £2.50 for general adult fares, maybe even more, with perhaps some sort of discount for appropriate groups, and underground fares rising similarly. The fares would still be cheaper than in many other parts of the country.
 

telstarbox

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Ok so two adults making a leisure journey from Lewisham to Croydon. The 75 bus is the only direct public transport and is fairly slow. This represents the sort of distance where the OP might want to go above the flat fare.

Currently the bus costs £6.20 (2 adults paying 2x singles each).

Driving might cost £5 to park and another £2 in petrol, it's also faster. I know there are other fixed costs but the marginal costs aren't huge for existing car owners.

Or on a nice day cycling takes the same time as the bus and is effectively free.

So you don't have to raise the bus fare by much before it becomes an unattractive option and you lose the business altogether.
 

johncrossley

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I think it would create more problems than it would solve. If you increase the fare some people will transfer to trains and you lose ridership. In the outer suburbs it would make car travel more attractive.

Why is losing passengers to trains a problem? It is one public transport network. I wouldn't mind a change to touch out if there is a fully integrated fare system between all modes in London. Changing between bus and tube costs too much at the moment.
 

telstarbox

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It isn't a problem in itself although it would make some existing routes unviable which would be detrimental to their users elsewhere on the route. Arguably this already happens where buses connect to rail, but in outer London there often isn't a rail alternative and buses are competing with the car. I agree about the transfer penalty.
 

DynamicSpirit

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£1.55 is ridiculously cheap when compared to most areas of the UK outside London. Even for a short hop it's cheap, let alone that you can travel for ages on the one fare.

I don't think how cheap is it compared to other cities is the question we should be asking. The appropriate question is, are the fares set at the right level to give a suitable balance between giving enough farebox income vs. getting enough people to choose to use the buses. My view would be that, because of the flat fare system, fares for short journeys are too high.
 

Ianno87

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Not if you increase the train fares as well and make motoring more expensive.

Admittedly, it would need to be organised so that the highest fare is charged unless you touch out sooner and the touch out pad would need to be observed so that people couldn't touch their card on it mid-journey to get a cheaper fare. It does seem a bit complicated.

That said, bus fares in London could easily be increased to a flat charge of £2 or £2.50 for general adult fares, maybe even more, with perhaps some sort of discount for appropriate groups, and underground fares rising similarly. The fares would still be cheaper than in many other parts of the country.

Or increase the single fare, but keep the weekly cap the same
 

Mikey C

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On a semi-serious note I'd charge more for short hop journeys to discourage lazy ba**ards from taking the bus a couple of stops instead of walking :D My contribution to getting Londoners fitter!

Buses in London are really cheap. no way would people shift to driving if they went up to £2 or even £2.50. But it would directly hit some of the poorest people in London

In terms of touching out, that would slow things down badly, as people would only be able to touch out near the end of their journey. Maybe in the future public transport will use the same technology Amazon use in their checkout free shops, where the shop can detect what you've bought automatically. Thus the train or bus would detect when and where you get on and off automatically, and deduct the payment without you having to do anything.
 

DynamicSpirit

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Ok so two adults making a leisure journey from Lewisham to Croydon. The 75 bus is the only direct public transport and is fairly slow. This represents the sort of distance where the OP might want to go above the flat fare.

Currently the bus costs £6.20 (2 adults paying 2x singles each).

Driving might cost £5 to park and another £2 in petrol, it's also faster. I know there are other fixed costs but the marginal costs aren't huge for existing car owners.

Or on a nice day cycling takes the same time as the bus and is effectively free.

So you don't have to raise the bus fare by much before it becomes an unattractive option and you lose the business altogether.

I agree that for that example of Lewisham to Croydon, the fares for a group of people are already unattractive compared to driving. But realistically, how many people are going to be getting a bus that far anyway? If I wanted to make that journey, I'd probably make my way (by train/walk from New Cross or bus) to New Cross Gate and get a pretty fast train from there). Because buses are so slow, I would say they are most useful for journeys of up to 3-4 miles - so short journeys is where if you could make the bus more price-competitive, you'd make the biggest difference in getting people to use them. Beyond 3-4 miles in most of London, the time penalty alone is going to cause most people to either take the train or drive, no matter what the fares are.
 

Robertj21a

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I don't think how cheap is it compared to other cities is the question we should be asking. The appropriate question is, are the fares set at the right level to give a suitable balance between giving enough farebox income vs. getting enough people to choose to use the buses. My view would be that, because of the flat fare system, fares for short journeys are too high.
No way can £1.55 be viewed as expensive, whatever your criteria. The elderly, disabled and children won't be paying anything anyway. If it's only a short hop it must be better for most people to walk it.
 

py_megapixel

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On a semi-serious note I'd charge more for short hop journeys to discourage lazy ba**ards from taking the bus a couple of stops instead of walking :D My contribution to getting Londoners fitter!
Honestly, assuming people with significant mobility difficulties could be given a discount or some kind of free travel pass (which, now I think about it, they presumably already are?), that sounds like a reasonable idea to me
 

Ianno87

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On a semi-serious note I'd charge more for short hop journeys to discourage lazy ba**ards from taking the bus a couple of stops instead of walking :D My contribution to getting Londoners fitter!

Buses in London are really cheap. no way would people shift to driving if they went up to £2 or even £2.50. But it would directly hit some of the poorest people in London

In terms of touching out, that would slow things down badly, as people would only be able to touch out near the end of their journey. Maybe in the future public transport will use the same technology Amazon use in their checkout free shops, where the shop can detect what you've bought automatically. Thus the train or bus would detect when and where you get on and off automatically, and deduct the payment without you having to do anything.

I think it's in Hong Kong that buses are touch-in only with Octopus, but the fare depends on how much further the bus has to go on its journey, regardless of how far you actually travel.

So discourages people only going a short distance taking space off those travelling further.
 

johncrossley

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Paris is known for having fairly cheap transport and the Paris carnet costs 16.90 EUR for 10 tickets. One of these tickets is valid for either a bus or metro journey. 1.69 EUR is not very different to the London single bus fare but it is substantially cheaper than London tube fares. Paris is unusual for not allowing free transfer between bus and metro but even 3.38 EUR for a combined bus/metro journey is substantially cheaper than the equivalent in London.

So I think there is much more need to worry about the expensive tube and even more expensive combined bus/tube fares than the £1.55 single bus fare.
 

mattdickinson

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Touch in and out is already offered in Greater London on Carousel Buses, using separate readers, although it's easier to police as they only run single door buses.
 

johncrossley

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In terms of touching out, that would slow things down badly, as people would only be able to touch out near the end of their journey.

But this system is used in the Netherlands and Denmark. London uses two door buses so when people board at the same time as alighting it shouldn't make much difference.
 

DynamicSpirit

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So I think there is much more need to worry about the expensive tube and even more expensive combined bus/tube fares than the £1.55 single bus fare.

I agree with you that the high fares for combined bus/rail journeys is a huge problem that needs fixing. However I see some overlap here: In order to have Oyster recognise combined bus/railjourneys so it can charge a reasonable single fare for them, you need it to have some awareness of where you get on/off the bus - so it can verify your bus journey does actually start/end at the same place your rail journey ends/starts. That means you've already gone some way to implementing what's required for distance-related bus fares!
 

johncrossley

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I agree with you that the high fares for combined bus/rail journeys is a huge problem that needs fixing. However I see some overlap here: In order to have Oyster recognise combined bus/railjourneys so it can charge a reasonable single fare for them, you need it to have some awareness of where you get on/off the bus - so it can verify your bus journey does actually start/end at the same place your rail journey ends/starts. That means you've already gone some way to implementing what's required for distance-related bus fares!

Look what they do in the Netherlands and Denmark. In the Netherlands they measure the distance travelled exactly and in Denmark they work out which zones you boarded and alighted on each vehicle.
 

Bletchleyite

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I think it would create more problems than it would solve. If you increase the fare some people will transfer to trains and you lose ridership.

And why is that a bad thing? Buses exist in an integrated transport system to fill in gaps in rail, not to duplicate it.

I agree with you that the high fares for combined bus/rail journeys is a huge problem that needs fixing. However I see some overlap here: In order to have Oyster recognise combined bus/railjourneys so it can charge a reasonable single fare for them, you need it to have some awareness of where you get on/off the bus - so it can verify your bus journey does actually start/end at the same place your rail journey ends/starts. That means you've already gone some way to implementing what's required for distance-related bus fares!

Probably as easy just to say that if you touch in on the train within an hour of touching in on the bus then it is likely a through journey.
 

station_road

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Honestly, assuming people with significant mobility difficulties could be given a discount or some kind of free travel pass (which, now I think about it, they presumably already are?), that sounds like a reasonable idea to me
Do you really think that everyone who might struggle to regularly walk a mile or two (the distances being talked about earlier as "short hops") is entitled to a free pass or discount?

There will be lots of people who might permanently or temporarily struggle to do, plus parents with pushchairs, someone with a heavy bag or shopping, etc
 
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