If you register your Oyster card online, you can get Transport for London to send you a summary of your recent journey history, as either a PDF or a CSV file. I ignored it for years after I moved here because I couldn’t work out the use but decided in 2014 to keep a record of my own travel. I had nothing in particular in mind at the time, but I thought: “CSV! I can crunch the numbers at some point!”
Well, I’ve now amassed two years of travel logs. As I’ve just had to move from Woolwich it’s an appropriate time to look back, particularly as I now live just a short cycle from work and so won’t take the train. (In fact, I haven’t taken the train in over three weeks, which is why everything below stops in mid-August.)
I’ve spent £1,487.85 on Oyster fares in the two years since September 6 2014. The plot below shows what that looks like week by week.
The two horizontal bars at £10 and £15 are what I would spend a week on commuting with and without a railcard discount. You can see that the average roughly clings to that at periods.
The choice of a six-week moving average is arbitrary but does make a few things clearer: higher spending in late 2014 on non-work journeys (long trips that crossed fare zone 1), applying the railcard discount in spring 2015, losing that discount at the start of 2016, and a decline this summer as I cycled more.
(Cycling the 8-ish miles from Woolwich to work, near the Olympic Park, was sort of fun but slower than taking the train. Having to cross the river was a bit of a pain — particularly if the lifts weren’t working in the Woolwich foot tunnel, though they’re much more reliable now. And the A117/Albert Road–Woolwich Manor Road is hostile, uncomfortable and packed with HGVs if not hugely busy. Which is why I took the train for the most part. If you do cycle from Woolwich to parts north, I recommend cutting down Cyprus Place–Strait Road–Stansfeld Road from the Gallions Roundabout to reach CS3 and the Bow–Beckton Greenway.)
But really my commuting costs were so low (zone 4 to 3, off-peak) that an extra return journey into central London could cause a spike. I have a £20 automatic top-up set up for when the card’s balance dips below a certain threshold and that kicked in 73 times over the period, so about once every 10 days.
One thing that surprised me was the split between rail and bus. Even over such an extended period, I only made 21 bus journeys. In fact, over half of those journeys (12) were made between midnight and 4am — saved by the night bus after the trains stop running. (I’ve yet to get the Night Tube, but I now live near a Central Line station so it’s unlikely many more bus journeys are in my future.)
In contrast I made 918 journeys by rail, spending a total of 472 hours and 1 minute in the network (time between ticket barriers). My average journey time was between 26 and 31 minutes (depending how you count it). Here’s how the journey times break down (excluding one 104-minute outlier):
That big spike is my usual commute (more on which later). The one missing journey, a 104-minute trip from Boston Manor after a nice long walk along sections six and seven of the Capital Ring with my mum & stepdad, is a real outlier. It’s nearly half an hour longer than the second longest, largely because we were coming back during rush hour so a long District Line ride before changing for the DLR at West Ham seemed preferable to trying to change twice at stations more central and busier.
The next longest was a 77-minute journey from Woolwich Arsenal to Farringdon in May 2015, though I can’t work out why it took so long. (There was a power failure on the Jubilee Line that day, but later on.) The next one (70 minutes) is the outgoing counterpart to the Boston Manor trip — but to Wimbledon Park along a quicker route. A couple of similar ones, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The short journeys are almost all London Overground journeys from Hackney Wick, the nearest station to work, to Hackney Central, where there are pubs. (These journeys may continue!) Two of the 10 shortest journeys are from Stratford to Hackney Wick, which is pointless — just walk through the Olympic Park.
Overall, that histogram is dominated by the half-hour length of my former commute. You can see this also in the times the journeys started:
There’s a quite clear morning and evening peak: setting out between 10am and noon, returning from 7pm. The height of the 11am bar shows how bad my timekeeping is in the morning (my ostensible start time is 11.30am). But no real surprises here.
And the commute takes the first three slots in my 10 most common journeys (in either direction between two stations):
Trailing behind on 28 is between Woolwich and North Greenwich — for the Dome, largely to go to the cinema there. St Pancras is the mainline rail station for trains to Leicester, so no surprise that Kings Cross comes in next. Then Oxford Circus for the West End Blood Donor Centre (open all day, nearly every day, with brilliant staff). And Waterloo and Westminster were easy ways to get into central London, changing at Canning Town for the Jubilee Line.
But what really is strange is just how few times — over two years — I made these journeys. I remember being asked a couple of years after I moved to London about, y’know, “seeing the sights” and all that, and one person was taken aback a while ago when I said I didn’t really know my way around central London, but I’ve spent most of my time since 2010 in east London. That’s where I live and where my job is.
But still, to put a number on it, it’s quite stark (if not hugely surprising) how dominated my travel on public transport is by work.
Or was, at any rate. As I mentioned above, I’ve since moved from Woolwich after five and a half good years to a place that’s much closer to work. That makes it dead easy to cycle — about 15 minutes each way including mucking about with locks — or walk. In fact, were I to get the Tube from my nearest station to Stratford it would take me longer: five minutes walking to the station, not quite five minutes on the train, 15 minutes walking from Stratford to work. So I’ve cycled every day and intend to keep doing so. (And I get to go through the Olympic Park, which is lovely.)
Lastly, as I couldn’t work out how to weave this in, is some trivia about the stations I used. In total over the past two years, I’ve used 86 stations. But there are 21 stations I only entered but didn’t exit, and 16 stations I exited but didn’t enter:
|Entered only||Exited only|
|Baker Street||Abbey Road (not that Abbey Road)|
|Boston Manor||Bond Street|
|Camden Town||Bromley by Bow|
|Cutty Sark||Camden Road|
|Dalston Junction||Covent Garden|
|Essex Road||Embankment Pier|
|Kilburn||Kentish Town West|
|North Greenwich Pier||St Paul’s|
|Stratford High Street||Wimbledon Park|