Every seven days, in the spirit of freedom of information, TfL releases information about ridership on the cable car. How many passenger journeys were there during the previous week (starting Sunday, ending Saturday), that's the question. There's a nice little table building up. And a nice little table can become a nice little graph. Like so.
Take away the coloured bars and I think the pattern is obvious. It's down.
In the week immediately after the Games finished there were 49402 journeys on the cablecar. That number's been falling gradually ever since, and last week there were only 15996.
The downward trend is consistent with a decline in the weather - as temperatures fall and daylight hours decrease, there's less incentive to ride. But the downward trend is also consistent with novelty value - one ride may be fun, but there's no real reason to return.
Normally you'd expect the number of passengers using a new transport link to increase. People discover that the route exists and learn to use it as part of their regular journey options. That's what's happened with the Overground's southern extension, for example. But with the cable car the opposite is happening. People know it exists, and many have turned up for a ride, but they've only been once.
As tourist levels drop, because it's winter, cablecar ridership is drawing closer to the underlying number of regular users. But there aren't many regular users, because (as we've previously discussed) the cablecar's existence enhances very few commutes. With weekly numbers now down to 16000 a week, the number of regular daily users can't be any more than 3000.
But usage on the cablecar isn't spread evenly. Data reveals that approximately 60% of all cablecar visitors ride at weekends, and only 40% on weekdays. In a week with 16000 passengers you'd therefore expect about 1280 passengers each weekday, which equates to 100 passengers an hour. The cablecar's massive and expensive infrastructure is carrying the equivalent of one passenger a minute in each direction. TfL could run an hourly bus service and carry the same number of people... except it would sink, obviously.
Would ridership numbers increase if the cablecar was properly integrated with the Oyster card system? Undoubtedly, but again far more at weekends than during the week. Nobody needs to ride this way across the Thames, not unless all other options are temporarily suspended. The cablecar has proven to be, as we all suspected, a tourist attraction of only limited genuine use.
It's hard to say whether this week's figures mark the low point in the cablecar's annual cycle. As spring arrives ridership numbers will undoubtedly increase, as the curious return to glide high across the Thames and stare down onto Silvertown's industrial foreshore. But I doubt there'll be quite so many curious riders in 2013 as in 2012, even discounting last summer's Olympic effect, not unless something radical happens to the Dangleway's fare structure.
In the meantime I look forward to checking TfL's data page each week to see if the cablecar's finally taken off yet.