On February 1, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced that his city will enact the unlimited one hour hopper fare, allowing passengers to make as many changes as they like on the bus, Tube, or tram for free within 60 minutes for just £1.50 ($2.13). More than 140 million journeys have been made on it since the standard hopper fare was first introduced by the mayor in September 2016. The fare allowed passengers to make one change within an hour of starting their journey.
According to a City Hall blog, the upgraded hopper fare will allow passengers to change between the Tube (what Londoners call their underground metro) to rail to bus on the same fare. It goes on to note that, according to estimates by Transport for London (TfL), around 13,000 additional passengers will benefit from the hopper fare daily. The hopper fare is expected to cost TfL £35 million ($49.8 million) annually.
TfL released a short animation video illustrating how the upgraded hopper fare works and Mayor Sadiq Khan has even put out a video of himself using the hopper fare to travel on the bus and tube.
While this may sound like good news for a city that shuttles up to five million passengers daily just on its underground, others note that the move will in fact strain TfL’s budget and may potentially affect the quality of public transport in the city. When first launched, the hopper fare intended to get more Londoners to ride the city’s buses. London’s buses lost 32 million passengers – almost three percent – between 2016 and 2017 alone, although the causes are not clear.
Some of the measures that the City is taking to increase bus ridership include greening the fleet by introducing electric-diesel hybrid buses, reallocating services to underserved areas, improving bus speeds, making 95 percent of bus stops accessible to passengers, training bus staff, and updating bus signage.
The majority of London’s bus riders come from low-income houses and are likely to be the primary beneficiaries of the hopper fare. Last year, George Walker, a researcher at the London-based Information Lab, used data gathered from London’s buses to visualize social inequality in the neighborhoods that they bus network travels through daily.