Buses vs. cabs on Oxford Street

london_cabs_and_buses

Sadiq Khan promised during his campaign to pedestrianize Oxford Street. That would mean no buses or taxis (black cabs, which is to say traditional London taxis, not mini-cabs or Uber), which are the vehicles allowed there now.

I’ve been ambivalent about this plan because there are a lot of buses on Oxford Street and it’s not clear how they could be re-routed, yet a pedestrianized Oxford Street would be a terrific improvement for central London.

In November, the first installment of the plan was unveiled in a Transport for London (TFL) consultation. TFL proposed changes to 17 of the bus routes that now use Oxford Street, perhaps this year. They calculate that these changes will require, every weekday, 17,200 riders who now ride through would need to change buses – that is if, with that added inconvenience and delay, those people keep riding buses at all. That represents a serious deterioration in bus service, but it’s not close to taking all the vehicles off Oxford Street, and actual pedestrianization remains a few years off.

One might say, well, baby steps. Yes, you’ve got to start somewhere, but why here? The fact is that a large share of the motor vehicles on Oxford Street are black cabs. Many of these taxis are dead-heading, no passenger, to the City or a train station. As buses thin out on Oxford Street, they are simply replaced by taxis – the road becomes a magnet for ever more taxis, a grand rat run through the West End. And the November consultation is all about reducing the number of buses, saying nothing about taxis. Continue reading

San Francisco escaping zero (hours)

Two weeks advance notice, or you get paid more.

Image from silentsketcher.deviantart.com, via Fast Food News.


San Francisco is the latest American jurisdiction to find an answer to what are called, here in Britain, “zero hours contracts”. As reported by Claire Zillman in Fortune:

[San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which is also the city council of that city+county] voted unanimously on Tuesday [25 November] afternoon in favor of measures aimed at giving retail staffers more predictable schedules and access to extra hours. The ordinances will require businesses to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks in advance. Workers will receive compensation for last-minute schedule changes, “on-call” hours, and instances in which they’re sent home before completing their assigned shifts.

Continue reading

Sisyphus aims to tax parking, any day now

This is a pity: a very modest proposed tax on parking lots in Massachusetts disappears from the governor’s budget. A similar thing happened in the early days of Britain’s present coalition government: a few Tories like Phillip Blond recognized that the failure to tax parking represents a big subsidy to big supermarkets; they were quickly smacked down. The same thing happened in the early days of New Labour: John Prescott and Gordon Brown wanted such a tax, but Blair vetoed it – Greg Palast puts it down to political skulduggery, which is to say business as usual.

In many places, while supermarkets are free to fill the streets with cars and cover the ground with asphalt, the customers of small shops pay high prices for on-street parking: in England this is about the only discretionary revenue source for local governments, with predictable results – in my neighborhood, Harringay, in London, a non-resident on-street space is priced at £3 (about $4.80) per hour, 9.5 hours per day, 6 days per week. Allowing for holidays, and assuming full occupancy but ignoring additional charges (fines) for over-staying, this works out to £8,607 ($13,771) per year.
Continue reading