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If We Don’t Need So Much London Transport Perhaps We Should Have Less London Transport?

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One of those nice little demonstrations of why politics and government are a bad way of dealing with reality.

London is facing fewer people travelling as a result of changes in work habits post-covid. This is not a result of the pandemic itself, it’s a result of the disclocation jarring us into a permanent change in working habits. We’ve found out that we can work from home so we are. That coordination problem thingie has happened that is, the lockdown led to us trying and finding we liked the new way. A bit, at least.

Cool:

Analysts have predicted that passenger numbers will permanently fall by a fifth as the pandemic changes travel habits forever and legions of commuters embrace home working.

Great, reality has changed. So, let’s change the transport system to accord with reality. Except, of course, that’s not how it works in politics:

A leading transport academic said that Mr Khan, who is mayor of London and TfL’s chairman, is most likely to impose new taxes to fill the hole.

Because of course adapting the transport system to how many people want to use it isn’t the right way to go about things. Instead, the hunt is on for the money to keep the system as it is and oversupply the transport that people aren’t going to use.

Which is why politics and government is a really shitty way to run things. It’s also a lovely example of why capitalism and markets work so well. Because the one saving grace of that slightly weird system is that it kills off things no longer desired.

We have that evidence here too. The pandemic induced shock has killed a certain portion of the retail trade. So, what’s happening there? People are thrashing around trying to shrink the retail estate to fit the desire for it. Great gaping chunks of formerly retail space are being converted to other uses. John Lewis is turning retail into office space for example – that might well not be a solution that works but they are at least trying.

The demand from politics is that all must stay the same even as all changes. Nothing so conservative as a socialist, eh?

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s an underestimate, because one thing they haven’t considered is the effect of less car journeys on rail. If you lose 20% of people travelling by car, roads get quieter, road journeys get faster. And many people will then switch to car. Probably not around Covent Garden, but Hammersmith? Maybe.

    There’s also going to be effects of companies leaving London. If you need people in every day, being near a train station with rapid transport is a huge benefit. People prioritise getting to work in a short time if it’s every day. If it’s once a fortnight, you really don’t care that much. I’ve had clients 3 hours away by train, because I saw them less than once a month. Visiting them meant going down the night before, and having a long day. And I would rather do that than 45 minutes every day on a commuter train.

  2. I used to travel from Central Scotland to a client in Preston. Initially I drove. I then worked out that cost of 1st class on Virgin, plus twice a taxi at the south end, was about the same as the mileage I was charging them and much less effort. And I could get work or even just reading done on the journey.

  3. I don’t think that travelling, pre-pandemic, on the tube during rush-hour could be described as demonstrating that supply was adequate! I also wonder if the reduction in supply would yield the cost savings one might expect. Marginal costs and all that. But we have already seen that Khan prefers to subsidise fares before investing in the system.

  4. No point in investing in guesses as to what it will be like afterwards. We can only wait for things to settle down then do whatever is right based on reality not predictions from people with an agenda. People might return to TfL. New people might try it The whole of the Great Wen might collapse into apocalypse. One can only hope.

  5. The Unions have already removed Uber from the transport equation. It is unlikely that they will allow any reduction of their members. The decline of London transport is going to be drawn out and bloody.

    Home working is less productive. When the labour market achieves equilibrium, home workers will earn less. So what, look at the savings. But employers like productivity. It gives them a competitive edge. The long run equilibrium will likely settle around the more ambitious choosing to commute.

  6. London is facing fewer people travelling as a result of changes in work habits post-covid.

    Post-COVID? The UK is still in lockdown. We are not post-anything. The evidence from other nations is that people will head back into the shops and offices once they are able to. Of course the British government seems determined that it will never be over and maybe the nation is riddled with enough misanthropes and bedwetters to make it so, but I doubt it.

    • MC,

      What evidence are you looking at?

      Tom Tom traffic data for Atlanta, Miami, New York. San Jose, Seattle and Austin on the Tom Tom city data and there’s two things. Firstly, traffic on weekends is up, big style, bigger than 2019. This appears to suggest places have opened up recently so everyone is probably going above average going out. But also, weekday is down on 2019. Rough estimates looking across a number of recent weeks of reduced congestion:-

      Atlanta: 30%
      Miami: 10%
      New York: 20%
      San Jose: 50%
      Seattle: 40%
      Austin 35%

      https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/

      I would probably bet on TfL’s traffic falling above 20% rather than below.

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