Transport for London
Customer Services 4th Floor
14 Pier Walk
London SE10 0ES
24 Febrary, 2016
I would like to lodge a complaint about your service. Particularly my own “home” bus route, the 3**.
It is true that, as a whole, in the aregate, the Transport for London transportation network is pretty freakin’ amazing. With one card (cleaverly called an “Oyster” card, presumably because the world is your…) I can ride any subway – which people do really call the tube – any bus, any Overground commuter train (within the greater London area), PLUS any bike in the Santander bike-for-hire bike scheme, AND any boat on the Thames River in the greater London area. I will stipulate that thats pretty awesome!
Furthermore, I will stipulate that, by and large, the TFL staff are friendly and even sometimes helpful. Out at my end of the tube system, the staff clearly feel there are not enough staff around (there is no longer a ticket window at either of the two stations I frequent the most). But the staff who are there are willing to stand at the ticket machine and figure out the cryptic information with would-be riders to help them along their way. AND they mostly let it go when you screw up. Like the time my family and I rode the overground too far and were supposed to have bought a paper ticket but didn’t, and the train employee just let us go and told us to “call the TFL and tell them what you’ve done,” and then opened the gate and sent us on our way.
Additionally, the tube stations are usually relatively clean and tidy. It is true that the walking tunnels between some of the stations in the center of the city often smell of urine, but with the amount of beer drinking that seems to go on in this city its a wonder we’re all not drowining in it. There are even somtimes trash receptacles on some of the platforms. Although WHY there are trash receptacles on the INbound side of my home station, but none on the OUTbound side, I am unclear, and slightly miffed.
I also must commend the people of London, at least on one respect: they are extrememly orderly when using the bus. As a complete rule they board the bus in the front and disembark in the back; they are conscientious – even militant – about getting up for, or reserving the special access seats for the elderly or disabled; they NEVER stand when they are on the upper deck of the bus; and they are often quick to offer a seat to someone they think is more deserving.
Furthermore, the electronic information system on the busses, when its working properly, is immesurably helpful. It announces the up coming stop – both audibly and visually – in a pleasant voice, with enough time to push the “stop” button, gather your things and make your way towards the door. And the prerecorded announcements are usually polite and informative. My favorite is “please move down inside the bus,” which is played when a bunch of lunk-heads have stopped right in the middle of the bus by the door and the rest of us can’t get on. My second favorite is “the wheel chair area is now required” so that we can all calmly move out of the way and not embarrass ourselves by blocking up that space when someone in a wheelchair genuinely needs it.
However, by far the most hated recording in my family is the “the destination of this bus has changed” recording. What it means, as we have learned in the past year and a half, is that the bus schedule has gotten so screwed up, or the driver has to pee so badly, that we all have to get off the bus at some god forsaken stretch of road with no proper bus shelter, and no electronic information board – usually in the rain – and hope and pray another bus will come along soon, preferably within the 8 to 12 minute time range as indicated on the posted schedule. Although its seems just as likely that a bus won’t come in that time frame as it will.
I would also like to commend the installation of the arrivals boards at the major bus stops and on most of the tube platforms as an exceedingly good idea. But here the crux of my complaint: its the follow-through with these information boards that needs work. For example, why, when it says my bus should arrive in 5 minutes, WHY does it actually often take 7 or even 10 minutes? Wait, don’t answer that, I understand why. What I don’t understand is how the information boards are so utterly wrong so much of the time. And why, if my bus is supposed to run every 8 to 12 minutes, why, why, why do I VERY OFTEN see a notice board that says another one is not arriving for more than 15 minutes?
But wait, there’s more. WHY does it SO OFTEN happen to me that my bus is too full to pick me up? Its always in the morning, and it happens at least once a week, sometimes more often. I would think that you, with your smart, realtime tracking technoloy that you advertise is used to track submarines on the bottom of the ocean, would use it to PUT MORE BUSES INTO CIRCULATION IN THE MORNING!!!!!
And if I’m questioning best practices here, I am wondering if it is acually part of the driver training for the drivers to wait on the curb while a person runs 300 meters at top speed (with two children) and then close the doors and pull away just as that person (and their children) arrive at the bus stop? Or do the drivers just pick up that skill naturally? I know how funny I must look sprinting down the sidewalk in my ankle boots, with my full backpack flopping on my back dodging pedestrians, strollers and small dogs. And I can only imagine how funny it must be to pull away and blow a cloud of exhaust into my huffing, puffing, red face. But, as it happens with alarming regularity, I really have to protest that its ruining my health; my calm, even temprament; and my faith in the humanity of TFL bus drivers.
And I have a question: while I think that it is really thoughful of your designers to put in a little area where you can place your bags so you don’t have to carry them to your seat and manage them there, I am wondering if you really, truly think they are the best possible use of the available space? I mean, I certainly never use that area for my bags, even though I carry groceries for my family of 5 on the bus several times each week. The bag area is near to the front door, as I have noted earlier, the drivers often use the “Please move down inside the bus” announcement, so I can’t stay near to my bags. Nor can I easily place them and retrieve them before I get off because I have to exit at the rear door, and as I’ve said the bag area is near to the front door. I have seen some buses where this space has been used to put in one more pair of seats, or even left open so that more people can cram into it on a rainy morning when they are in danger of having the bus next bus not stop for them at all. I’m just saying perhaps you might reconsider the use of this space in a bus where space is at such a premium.
All that being said, I would like to commend you on a generally well designed, well run, comprehensive public transport system (although I would like to point out that I have mentioned nothing about prices, mostly because I don’t have a car and therefore I have no choice), but I beg of you: Please put more buses on my route in the morning, becuase I can guarantee you, when its raining – and its raining more of the time – there will be a lot of people who want to get on the bus. And its incredibly dishartening to watch your bus sail past you in the rain and then have to trudge a mile to the tube station.