London has a new endangered species. They're tall and red, with a grey stripe and a white underbelly. They tend to perch by the roadside or stand on street corners. They're almost always seen in pairs. They're request stops. And they've been earmarked for extinction.
Bus stops - both compulsory and request - have been used in London for about70 years, and there are now more than 18000 of them. At compulsory stops (red roundel on white) buses always stop, even if no passenger requests it. At request stops (white roundel on red), buses only stop if someone on the pavement gesticulates or if someone on board the bus dings the bell. That's what's supposed to happen anyway. But not for much longer.
TfL want to simplify the current system because it's a bit confusing for customers (especially tourists and those with an IQ below 70). Starting this autumn all London bus stops will be compulsory bus stops, with just one set of rules. Passengers won't have to think "Ooh, is the next stop a request stop? Do I need to ring the bell?" because there wont be any request stops any more. And because they will have to ring the bell.
Ringing the bell to get off the bus shouldn't be too much of a hardship because, according to a TfL survey, 80% of people do it already. And everybody does it on nightbuses. But passengers may take rather longer to get used to the new waiting arrangements. Look, here comes a bus. Dont worry, you don't have to wave at it, because it's going to stop anyway. It won't drive past, honest it won't. Because drivers are going to be following new instructions.
Yes, that's bound to work isn't it? Drivers will love stopping all the time, even when it's obvious that nobody wants to get on, just in case somebody does. And this change will mean that bus services in London can only get slower. Previously buses only wasted their time by pulling in at every compulsory stop. Now they're going to waste their time by pulling in at every stop. If ten different routes use one particular bus stop, all ten routes will have to stop even if a passenger is waiting for only one of them. If a couple of teenagers are having a chat on the pavement within a few feet of a bus stop, all the buses are going to have to stop. The drivers will flap their doors open, sit and wait for a few seconds while the kids ignore them, and then close the doors and wait to pull back out into the traffic again. Simpler rules to understand, yes. But faster bus services? Afraid not.
So, the days of the request stop appear to be numbered. If you have any thoughts on these proposals, TfL's Head of Stakeholder Engagement for Surface Transport would like to hear from you. There's a consultation period until 20th July, including a "response framework" questionnaire for interested parties to fill in. Unless responses are numerous and negative, expect all of London's red bus stops to turn white in the Autumn. And be prepared to spend even longer travelling on buses as drivers are forced to pull in to pick up people who didn't wave because they didn't want to get on board. Ding ding.