This past week, mayor Boris Johnson launched the Year of the Bus in London.
Often the overlooked piece of the transport puzzle (no Skycycle or Crossrail project here), London’s buses account for around 50% of all public trips taken in the capital- around 2.3 billion journeys each year. The bus network accounts for 6.5 million journeys made every day- more than double the number of tube journeys taken. One of the largest bus networks in the world, London’s 8,600 buses operate across 700 routes, serving 19,000 bus stops. The average Londoner is never more than 400 meters from a bus stop.
2014 marks the 60th anniversary of London’s iconic Routemaster bus design, 75 years since the launch of the RT-Type bus, and 100 years since fleets of London buses were sent to the Western Front to aid the First World War effort. A year-long programme of events is planned- from a major exhibition at London’s Transport Museum, to a historic cavalcade on London’s road, to the restoration of a B-Type Bus (the world’s first mass produced motor bus).
London buses are the pulsing red arteries of the capital, 24-hours a day, 364 days of the year and they play an undeniably important role in the city’s economy- Boris Johnson
While a silver bus and anniversary events aim to celebrate London bus network, questions of under-investment and capacity limitations have too be raised to attention. London’s transit network is facing an additional 70,000 to 80,000 passengers each year, while facing cuts to Transport for London’s budget (largely the source of London’s bus network subsidies). Some are hoping that the Year of the Bus will draw attention to rising demand and overcrowding issues.
Both local and vital, London’s buses deserves celebration- providing millions of Londoners with affordable mobility- but celebration without support is tokenistic. Buses, plodding and plain as they may be, perform a vital service in so many of our cities around the world– a true transit network for the masses. As the great modern champion of the bus, Bogota’s former mayor Enrique Peñalosa reminds us, the bus is democracy in action.