Home Company Car Ridesharing An invasion of shuttle buses is pulling up, but are they classist?

An invasion of shuttle buses is pulling up, but are they classist?

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Convenience is good – when it’s good for everyone.

You’re a professional, you earn enough – if you could pay a little more each day to walk a shorter distance or avoid slow buses and cramped tubes, wouldn’t you?One company that plans to help is Ford, which just announced its new Chariot service. This uses its Transit minibuses to connect areas of London that don’t already have convenient transport routes

Passengers commuting on one of four newly TfL-approved routes in Battersea, Bexley, Greenwich and Wandsworth will pay a premium £2.40 rather than the normal bus fares of £1.50 for the pleasure.

You simply pre-book via the Ford Chariot app to be guaranteed a seat.

Other businesses developing private transport alternatives in the capital include Citymapper’s buses, which has also partnered with Gett to provide ‘taxi-buses’ which transport groups of individuals along set routes.

While ride-hailing apps like Uber and Hailo can be an ever more private and convenient way to get around – if you’re willing to pay extra.

“We’re happy to work with technology companies to harness innovation that could improve connectivity in London,” a TfL spokesperson told The Memo.

Citysmapper’s smart buses.

The positives

On the surface seeing innovative companies ‘plug the holes’ in the existing transport network seems like a positive move.

It’s true that areas like Battersea are without a tube station. Services like Chariot provide a transport option that didn’t exist before, giving those living in London’s swanky new riverside developments a easier way to get around.

If car-sharing service prevents individuals embarking on solo commutes in cars or cabs, that will also have a positive knock-on effect on the environment and congestion on our roads.

TfL even blocked one proposed route running from Fulham to Holland Park following comments from local residents that existing services were good enough already.

The negatives

What TfL described as “speculative” was the negative impact such services could have.

If a bus specifically serves commuters heading to the City, and costs more than public transport, it could easily end up falling into the trap of elitism that Silicon Valley’s private buses have – a symbol of social divide.

Worse still, if the balance tips, and professional commuters start to choose private alternatives over less convenient TfL commutes, that’s money – and funding – that will come out of TfL’s public network.

Gett taxis offer four ‘Gett Together’ routes in London.

That means a smaller pot to spend on the services used by all Londoners, including the less affluent.

Bus ridership in the capital is already falling due to congestion, and putting more wheels on the road may not help.

One route that had been proposed connected Peckham to Bermondsey, but was denied because a large part of the route was on a busy main road where stopping would be a safety issue.

And Brits who live near congested – and shuttle unsuitable – roads are more likely to be poorer, potentially skewing such projects in favour of the rich even more.

Testament of time

These are obviously big ‘ifs’ and TfL has been clear that all four routes will be operating on a trial basis (three will run for year-long pilots, one for 9 months).

“We will carefully monitor this trial… to ensure any new service complements existing services,” a spokesperson told us.

The implication of this is that if new services do end up taking people (and funds) out of the TfL network, or create unsavoury social feelings, routes can be undone.

The only thing we fear is if things do go south – the rich and powerful won’t be too happy to give up their private seats.

Shared shuttles have the potential to offer convenience, but rolling them out in a way that works well for everyone may not be a smooth ride.

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