You now need to have a pre-paid ticket, an Oyster card, or a contactless bank payment card.
Other bus companies are heading the same way. You can download “m-tickets” onto your phone, and soon you will download railway tickets, too.
Why are the transport companies doing this?
There’s only ever one reason transport companies make changes. Money.
That’s not what they advertise, however. They extol the new system’s ease, its flexibility, its convenience, all for you, the paying passenger.
Not having to produce, print and distribute several million of the traditional paper-based tickets saves money, certainly. Not having tickets has probably saved a forest or two, as well. And not having to stand behind 37 people counting out pennies for a ticket certainly saves time. (At least these days. Once, the ticket conductor would come to you, as you sat comfortably, and print you out a personal ticket from a specialised machine.)
Most efficiency drives in the UK involve tears, panic, and the opposite of efficiency as the system kicks in. Yet the demise of the bus ticket has largely been welcomed. Yes, it’s green, saves on litter, and saves the company money (I didn’t notice the bus fares come down, though) so is generally considered A Good Thing.
And indeed it is all good news if you have a smart phone, an internet connection, and a certain amount of tech-savviness.
But consider what we have lost.
Some privacy. Every time you click in and out with your little card, someone, somewhere, knows exactly where you are and where you are going. In an era when even the Food Standards Agency can legitimately, without warning, and without your knowledge, access your web browsing history, who is looking at your comings and goings across the transport databases?
Some laissez faire. It’s now your responsibility, if your ticket is on your phone, to keep your phone charged to show that ticket to the driver, otherwise you will have to pay again. (And few buses have charging points.)
Some human contact. Where once you might have exchanged a smile and a few pleasantries about the weather as you paid for your ticket, now you interact with a machine, just as you do in the supermarkets and the banks.
Humans are expensive, after all. And, in the end, expendable.