Transport for London have announced that next year they will shut down the ticket offices at Tube stations. However while its partly a cost saving measure – as staffing costs are one of the most expensive parts of running a PT system – it also creates opportunities to raise revenue from the freed up space and TfL are already considering how they may do that. The leading thought appears to be that the space will be use them for shopping spaces. That in itself isn’t particularly revolutionary or newsworthy as many places overseas combine retail with the PT systems but the part that is interesting is that it may not be a physical shop but an outlet for a virtual one. This from The Atlantic Cities.
Both Amazon and food and clothing chain Marks and Spencer’s have been exploring using them as pick-up points for online shopping. And supermarket chain Asda has already announced a pilot for something similar: a plan to use a handful of suburban station car parks in North London as rendezvous points for “click-and-collect” deliveries. Users would make their purchases online then pick them up at their convenience, either from staff at a window, or from electronic lockers for which they have been sent a code via email. It’s easy to see the attraction of this model for retailers, who will get highly visible shop windows for online businesses and simultaneously reduce their delivery costs.
There are logistical hurdles to overcome – no one wants already congested rush hour stations clogged further by lines of people waiting to pick up their pre-bagged dinner. Still, the revenue benefits for TFL are obvious. Currently, the network makes £25 million annually from renting out shop spaces. Many stations have small kiosks, while central stations have other small outlets (such as key cutters and heel bars) and a few stations even open directly into shopping malls. Renting out old ticket offices in prime sites could double this amount, helping TFL towards its goal of being financially self-sustaining by the end of the decade.
We don’t have a heap of space tied up in ticket offices and are actually putting some in at major interchanges (like soon at Panmure and in the future at Otahuhu and Manukau) but this doesn’t mean that there’s no space at all stations. In particular stations with extensive Park n rides are potentially a huge opportunity to add different forms of retailing to the mix. All of this is no real substitute for developing proper walkable neighbourhoods but some suburbs could take decades to fix while this potentially provides a shorter term solution.
The thing that interests me about this idea of a shopping pick-up point – at least from a local context – is what it might do to make public transport a more attractive option for people by removing one more barrier to using PT. It could help boost patronage and provide additional income both of which are very positive things when there is so much focus on reducing subsidies.
Now I realise that many people already shop online for all sorts of things but that Amazon are exploring it as an option is surely an indication they see this as a potentially useful service. I’m guessing this could perhaps sit somewhere in between a traditional store and home deliveries. For example instead of having to have couriers run around each suburb making a heap of individual deliveries they could do just one and serve multiple customers at the same time. That might allow for more frequent delivery times or cheaper delivery options so for example you could order something online at midday and pick it up from your local station on your way home from work.
Of course it would be nice just to have some retail of any form at stations. Why is it AT haven’t put out or level allowed I’ve heard that private companies want to do it). Longer term, stations with extensive park n rides are prime candidates for some more permanent retail developments – not that this is a justification for building more park n rides.
So what do you think, is it an idea you think could be worthwhile? Do you think AT should be doing more to provide a form of retail service to customers which could also raise additional revenue to help pay for the system?