Transportation for London revealed discussions about phasing out cash payments on the London bus transport system earlier this year. But before TfL makes its final decision, it is commencing a public consultation that invites customers to submit their thoughts about the London buses going cash-free.
TfL is proposing that cash payments be removed on all bus services in London by 2014. This is due to the drop in cash fares since the introduction of the Oyster card. At present, only 1 percent of fares are paid in cash, which is 20 percent less than a decade ago. The TfL insists that eliminating cash fares will lead to a cheaper and faster experience for both customers and the bus services.
But if going cashless is the obvious solution, then why is the organization consulting the public?
The Oyster card was introduced back in 2003 and contactless cards were introduced to the London bus system just last year (at the end of 2012.) Since the new payment systems were installed, more Londoners are putting aside their change to swipe their cards instead.
Only about 1 percent of tickets are paid in cash, which is why the TfL reports sustaining a cash system is too costly. The TfL reported that it could potentially save 24 million pounds per year by 2020 if cash was omitted, which would provide increased funding for other future projects and benefits.
The organization indicates that if cash is dropped, customers could benefit from cheaper fares, faster lines and fewer delays caused by people finding exact change to pay for their ride. Bus riders could save up to 1 pound per trip if they switched over to the Oyster card or contactless payment cards (CPC) for purchase.
The proposal does have a few wrinkles that need ironing out. Currently, some passengers swipe their card only to be greeted with an alarming beep and red light and are forced to pay in cash because of insufficient credit. If cash were no longer an accepted payment, what would passengers with zero credit do when they've already boarded the bus?
Research indicates that most passengers who use cash are typically between 16 and 34 years of age. Eighty percent of all passengers using cash only doing so because they have insufficient funds on their Oyster card (TfL suggests that using a contactless payment card would be a convenient option when this happens).
TfL is working on different solutions, and recently suggested implementing a feature that would allow customers with no credit to make one bus journey to help them get home or to the nearest station for an Oyster top-up. The ride would set their balance into the negative, but this would be alleviated once the customer added credit upon their next visit.
Leon Daniels, Managing Director for TfL Surface Transport, said, “The proposals we are consulting on reflect the changing way that our customers pay for their journeys, with the vast majority now benefiting from the best possible fares and the convenience that Oyster and contactless payment cards deliver.
The public has until the 11th of October to submit their feedback through completing an online questionnaire. After this closing date, the fate of cash fares will be up to the TfL.
To read the full press release from TfL click here.