TfL oversees the bike-sharing program for in and around central London – Barclays Cycle Hire. The program launched in 2010. With a debit or credit card you can go to the nearest docking station and use a touch screen to “hire a cycle.” The cycle hire program is meant for short trips, so all trips under 30 minutes are free of ride charges.
More than 23 million cycle hires have been made and the program was expanded into East London in early 2012. Hendy said the mayor “is extremely keen on it” and has called for a western expansion of the program.
He said, “The only difficulty we’ve got with it is it’s actually quite costly.” He added, “And running it at the prices we charge doesn’t cover its cost so there is a subsidy to it and there’s also a capital cost to extending it.”
Barclays Cycle Superhighways are cycle routes running from outer London into central London. Four have been launched and there are an additional eight to be open by 2015.
The Superhighways were built to improve cycling conditions, to make it safer, faster and to provide more direct journeys into the city. Since 2000, TfL has increased the number of cyclists on London’s major roads by 150 percent. As part of the mayor’s cycle revolution, they are looking to increase cycling in London by 400 percent by 2025.
The Oyster card is TfL’s prepayment smart card with an embedded contactless RFID chip. The card launched in 2003 and more than 8 million cards are used regularly, paying for more than 80 percent of journeys. The cards can be registered to provide balance protection. There are various payment options, including season tickets, weekly or monthly passes, and for the pay-as-you-go option, the system works out the cheapest fare for the journey within a fifth of a second.
Contactless payment cards can be used on buses instead of the Oyster card and they are looking to roll that out on to trains in 2014. “Our belief is the Oyster card will largely disappear in the next four years,” Hendy said about the change, “and will be replaced by Oyster accounts on people’s contactless bank cards.”
Hendy said they get very little cash – about 1 percent pay cash on the bus now. So much so that they intend to remove cash handling completely from their buses next year. “We’re trying not to handle cash,” Hendy stated. “Handling cash is very expensive.”
People worry about fare evasion, but he said that hasn’t been the experience. “Our experience is that the fare evasion rates are quite low provided that you have gated stations, which most of the metro systems in the world have.”
Fare recovery makes up for between 40 and 50 percent of TfL’s funding.
Congestion charging went into effect in 2004. The 10 pound daily charge for driving a vehicle within the congestion charging zone 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding public and bank holidays. Payment of the daily charge permits driving into and out of the zone, re-entering as often as one wishes.
There aren’t barriers or tollbooths, people pay to register their vehicle registration number on a database and cameras read the license plate as one enters or leaves and checks it against the database of those who have paid or those that are exempt. The fee is payable in advance or before Midnight on the day of travel. People can also opt for an auto payment.
Residents living within or near the zone may be eligible for a 90 percent discount, as day-to-day travel would be affected. Overall the program has been a success, Hendy said.
“The truth is that would’ve never been introduced except that London’s businesses in central London were very much in favor of it in order to reduce congestion. Which is what it has done.
“We have reduced the number of cars in central London and we’ve also got a steady income stream.”
When asked about business impact, Hendy said, “Retail sales in central London have gone steadily up.” He added, “What it has done is when business needs to go around, it can get around with less congestion.”
In London, Hendy said they have a lot of experience arguing about funding for public transport because of the UK’s political system. “We’ve never had a long-term funding settlement for longer than five years ever. And we’ve only had those in recent years.” He stressed, “So we’ve got a lot of experience in advocacy.