diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 11, 2019

What's the quickest way of getting from Bow to Stratford by public transport? Specifically from Bus Stop M at Bow Church to the front of Stratford station. Sorry, this is a question of little interest to the vast majority of you.

It ought to be the bus, given that the two locations are linked by a main road served by several bus routes, and Stratford station is only four stops away. But how fast is it?

I tried taking the bus.

Wait at bus stop5 mins
Journey on bus7 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL13 mins

The wait's not normally that long - that's a bad wait. But the journey's not usually that quick - that's a quick run. Traffic was flowing freely, and we got lucky with the traffic lights, sailing through most of them on green.

So I thought I'd better try the bus again.

Wait at bus stop0 mins
Journey on bus11 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL12 mins

This time a number 25 bus turned up almost immediately. But this time the traffic lights were against us, halting the bus at the Bow Roundabout, Warton Road, the top of the Broadway and the entrance to the bus station. This time the bus ride took four minutes longer, but the wait was shorter so the overall time was quicker.

With variables at play, what we need here are some averages.

On average 19 buses an hour run from Bow Church to Stratford station. That's about one every three minutes, or an average wait of 1½ minutes.

My fast bus took 7 minutes and my slow bus took 11. One was about as good as it gets, and the other about as bad as it gets, so let's average things out at 9 minutes. In heavier traffic the journey'd take longer because the bus wouldn't get through the lights first time, but let's assume the traffic's good.

Wait at bus stop1½ mins
Journey on bus9 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL11½ mins

Buses used to be more frequent between Bow and Stratford, and there weren't quite so many traffic lights, so this isn't as fast as it might once have been. But let's go with 11-12 minutes as the expected total journey time by bus, with a best case scenario of (0+7+1=) 8 and a worst case scenario of (5+11+1=) 17. In bad traffic that last number could easily be 20 or more.

Or I could make the journey by DLR. The train only takes four minutes from Bow Church, but it takes four minutes to walk from Bus Stop M to the DLR station and the average gap between trains is a little longer. Which gives us this.

Walk to DLR4 mins
Wait for DLR2½ mins
Journey on DLR4 mins
Exit from station2 mins
TOTAL12½ mins

On average the DLR takes a little longer than taking the bus, about 12-13 minutes. But the DLR is reliable in a way that the bus journey isn't because the next train can't be more than five minutes away and the ride will definitely take four minutes. A journey by DLR should always take between 10 and 15 minutes no matter how bad the traffic on the roads might be.

Or I could walk to Stratford. When I did it took me 21 minutes to walk just over a mile. Let's compare and contrast.

Bow Church - Stratford
Waiting0-5 mins0-5 mins0 mins
Riding7-11 mins4 mins0 mins
Walking1 min6 mins21 mins
TOTAL8-17 mins10-15 mins21 mins
Average11½ mins12½ mins21 mins

The bus might be fastest, but could also be slow, indeed it might be only a few minutes quicker than walking. And that's in good traffic. The DLR isn't fastest but is very reliable. A few years ago I'd always have caught the bus. These days if I need to be in Stratford at a set time I take the DLR.

And what about journeys in the opposite direction? What's the quickest way from Bow to Aldgate? Specifically from Bus Stop J at Bow Church to the front of Aldgate East station.

I tried bussing, tubing and walking. I tried each method once. The total journey length is about 2½ miles.

Bow Church - Aldgate East
Waiting2 mins2 mins0 mins
Riding28 mins7 mins0 mins
Walking0 mins8 mins45 mins
TOTAL30 mins17 mins45 mins

Taking the 25 bus was agonisingly slow, even though the traffic was good. At the second stop we had to wait for the drivers to change over. Both drivers drove slower than bus drivers normally drive, I'd say no faster than 10mph the whole way. I counted 21 sets of traffic lights between Bow and Aldgate, 13 of which were on red. People who ride buses because they're cheap aren't going anywhere fast.

The tube was much faster, only seven minutes from Bow Road to Aldgate East. But walking to the station took another seven minutes, waiting for a train took two and getting out at the other end added one more. Total, just 17 minutes. Walking obviously took the longest, but was only quarter of an hour slower than taking the bus.

I also checked out how long these journeys might take to cycle. Bow to Stratford is 6 minutes, apparently, while Bow to Aldgate East is 16. I can't confirm these times, but this would make cycling the fastest way to get to Stratford. The tube still wins to Aldgate East, once you add in a bit of time for locking up your bike, but these are none too shabby times.

And I mention all of this because, although I've been living here for almost 20 years, I've never actually got the stopwatch out to confirm precisely how long familiar journeys take. It's quite illuminating, and I now feel better able to make travel choices. Perhaps you could try the same for journeys you think you know well.

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