July 21, 2004

Broken machines, broken systems

Jackie D | Buses and Jitneys

Hey, Michael Jennings - you're not the only one who has had trouble with the London Transport bus ticket machines lately.

Monday night, after attending this irritating little event, Samizdata's Perry de Havilland and I tried to buy bus tickets from a machine in Victoria Street. The machine took the first pound coin, which Perry was able to prise out after a few minutes, so we were not going to risk sticking another pound coin in it. When we boarded the bus, the driver was annoyed at us for not having tickets, even though it was not our fault. He mumbled something about getting tickets, handed us a slip of paper and motioned for us to sit down.

At the next stop, the driver started shouting at us to get out. Huh? Oh, get out and buy tickets from the machine at this stop, while he stops the bus's journey and waits. Except, he told us, that machine by the bus stop doesn't work either - we had to walk up the pavement to find another machine. While he and all the other passengers waited, the bus idling at the bus stop.

If I am out and about in Greater London and Central London, I am usually making enough journeys between several places to justify the cost of a Travelcard. So I had not encountered this whole "You can't buy tickets on the bus" system until Monday night. All I can say is, beyond lame. Or as Michael concluded in his post:

[O]nly a monopoly (and probably a public sector monopoly) would think to attempt to change the behaviour of its customers by providing them with worse service.
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Comments

After Michael's story, I was starting to suspect nefarious purposes. After Jackie's story, I'm more sure that this really sounds like a stealth fare increase. You're MEANT to pay multiple pounds per fare. That way they don't have to go through the public embarassment of a public fare increase. They just disable some of the machines, and unsuspecting people will lose enough money to effectively raise the rates. If they keep 'repairing' some machines, they'll keep anyone from getting wise to the scheme, plus they won't have anyone saying 'oh, that machine doesn't work, I'll go to the one I know does work.'

I know we shouldn't jump to conspiracy theories, but can you really put it past them?

Posted by Highway on July 22, 2004

And it happened to us again today, outside the Japan Centre in Piccadilly. Ridiculous.

Posted by Jackie D on July 22, 2004

What I find extraordinary about this is that I haven't heard a peep about it in the press. Is this our first scoop? Is Transport Blog turning into a news agency?

Posted by Patrick Crozier on July 25, 2004

No, that's just how nefarious this stealth fare increase is! People are used to crummy machines that don't work. So there isn't anything particularly unusual about them having their money taken by the non-working machines. It's only when you get more people who are interested in the workings of systems like this who share their stories that one person will tell it, and the others will say 'oh yeah, that happened to me, too!' Otherwise, people just think it's a crummy machine, run by the government, no less, so how can you expect all of them to work? I tell you, it's a BRILLIANT scheme! :D

Posted by Highway on July 26, 2004

as a holder of a zone 3 annual travelcard i cannot comprehend buying a single bus ticket.

but, my only experience of these fiendish machines is when my sister-in-law is down from glasgow. the last two times she's been here she's come across non functioning machines.

if i were a less than daily bus/tube user i think i'd invest in a top-up-able oyster card.

is the reason that the machines don't work because ken's bus policy is so successful that there's more people using buses and the ticket machines get full of pound coins?

Posted by pete on July 27, 2004

Why disable perfectly good ticketing systems inside brand spanking new buses? I don't buy the line that it's too difficult for drivers to sell tickets on bendy buses - especially when this applies to all buses, bendy or not.

I'm going to keep researching this, and will lose money all along the way, no doubt.

Posted by Jackie D on July 27, 2004

Paying when you get on the bus is not the answer - it's the reason one-man buses have clogged up our roads for years. A bendy bus takes up twice as much road space as a double-decker so would double the congestion caused.

However, I agree the machines are useless - the only time I tried to use one (on Oxford St) it gave me a ticket alright but it was totally illegible. Fortunately it was in the good old days of the Routemaster and the conductor accepted it without demur.

Could someone enlighten me on what an Oyster card is & how it works?

In the meantime, I find the safest bet as an occasional bus user is to buy a One-Day Bus Pass (currently £2.50) IF I can find a newsagent which sells them.

Maybe one day we'll be able to pay for bus rides by mobile, as we do with the Congestion Charge?

Posted by JanW on August 5, 2004

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