3. Questionnaire Survey
3.1 10 Question on Oxford Street – The Survey
In order to gain an overview on the pubic opinion a small questionnaire survey was undertaken. 90 questionnaires (Appendix B.1) were distributed, of which 60 were returned. The majority of the people asked were students from the MSc Course in Transport and Beit Hall of Residence. Therefore the sample cannot expected to be representative. The survey has more the character of a pilot survey, prior to a big questionnaire survey to be carried out on Oxford Street itself. Nevertheless there are some interesting conclusion that can be drawn from the results (Appendix B.2).
The questionnaire itself is divided into three parts. The first part gives information about the sample - gender, age and work status, in the second part the people were asked to evaluate the current situation on Oxford Street and the third part investigated people’s opinion about the proposed scheme of pedestrianisation and Light Rail on Oxford Street. Finally respondents had the chance to give their own comments about the project.
3.2 The Sample (General Questions)
As already mentioned the survey uses not a representative sample. The vast majority of respondents are students between 20 and 30 years. 78 percent are of an age between 20 and 30 years and 92 percent are students (charts 1, 3). The gender distribution is not equal either (chart 2) – 33 percent female versus 67 percent male – but this represents the situation at Imperial College.
Of course, students are one important part of the population but they are not a majority. The remainder of the population is not represented in this survey, and it is likely that there may be some differences in evaluation. It can be expected that other age groups have a different modal split (e.g. more taxi, less walking) and that they evaluate intrusion in a different way. Thus the sample structure should be borne in mind when analysing the results of this survey.
3.3 The present Situation on Oxford Street
The first question in this section "How often do you go to Oxford Street?" by different modes is a bit of a problem because it mixes the questions about the frequency and the mode. In an extended survey it should be split into two questions, namely "How often do you go to Oxford Street?" and "What is the main/secondary mode you use when going to Oxford Street?". The selection of modes was restricted to the main access modes ‘tube’, ‘bus’ and ‘taxi’. This is right somehow, but there are people who walk or cycle to Oxford Street as can be seen from the comments in number 10 (see section 3.5). It is assumed that almost nobody uses the mode car because of its inconvenience in the centre of London. In a new survey the modes ‘cycling’ and ‘walking’ should be included as well as a category ‘others’.
There are 63 percent going to Oxford Street few times a month by tube and 40 percent by bus (chart 4). None of the respondents ever goes by taxi. Therefore tube and bus are the main access modes. Whereas almost all people, that ever go to Oxford Street, use the tube from time to time (88 percent go by tube), 37 percent never use the bus. The fact that nobody goes by taxi must be seen in the light of the sample structure. Students are not going to Oxford Street by taxi, but it can be observed that there are a lot of taxis in Oxford Street taking passengers loaded with shopping. A secondary conclusion is that the majority of the sample interviewed about Oxford Street knows the situation well enough to make judgements about it.
People where asked to value the intrusion from the impacts of motorised traffic on Oxford Street, namely pollution, noise and visual intrusion, on a scale from 1 (not intrusive) to 5 (very intrusive). There is a large mixture of answer combinations but the majority rates intrusion from pollution at 5 (38 percent), from noise at 4 (38 percent) and visual intrusion at 3 (33 percent) (chart 5).
A combination of the results for 4 and 5 gives 63 percent for pollution, 61 percent for noise and 45 percent for visual intrusion. So the majority regards pollution and noise on Oxford Street as an intrusion, whereas visual intrusion is seen more indifferent (rated at 3). The percentage of respondents evaluating all kinds of intrusion as not intrusive (1) is rather small – 3 percent for pollution, 5 percent for noise and 10 percent for visual intrusion. This result shows the necessity for environmental improvements on Oxford Street.
The answer to the question "Do you think that Oxford Street is overcrowded sometimes during shopping hours?" was very clear. 87 percent agree absolutely with this statement (chart 6). This shows that one has to rethink the allocation of road space on Oxford Street in order to increase the attractiveness for shopping. Not only are people annoyed by noise and pollution but they are also forced by motorised traffic to squeeze on narrow pavements.
3.4 Evaluation of the proposed scheme
The third section of the questionnaire gave a small description of the proposed scheme for Oxford Street. That is pedestrianisation between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road (St. Giles Circus) and a tramway running at least between Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square via Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road using modern Light Rail vehicles. The overwhelming majority – 87 percent – thinks that this is at least a ‘good idea’, even 37 percent regard it as a ‘very good idea’ (chart 7). Only 3 percent regard the scheme as a ‘bad idea’, which is negligible. This result shows the broad acceptance of pedestrianisation and the introduction of tramways. It is a big support for traffic calming in any case, which is consistent with the results from the intrusion question. But whether these people will actually use the tramway is another aspect.
The impacts on the economy in Oxford Street, mainly shopping activities, was the intention of a question whether this scheme would be an incentive to go shopping on Oxford Street rather than somewhere else. 50 percent answered this question positively, 28 percent said ‘no’ and 22 percent did not know (chart 8). The answer ‘no’ could be given for two reasons: Either the respondent already prefers shopping on Oxford Street, in which case the scheme would not change the shopping behaviour but only make shopping more pleasant, or the scheme does not attract this person as a shopper. Though the opposite that the scheme deters people from going to Oxford Street was excluded the result shows that traders will not be worse off. They will rather benefit from the increased attractiveness of the area.
Whether people are willing to actually use the tram system as a mode of travelling through the West End can be concluded from the question about the fares. People were asked how much they are willing to pay for a single or daily ticket provided that LT Travelcards and Bus passes are valid on the tram. The answers must be seen in relation to the current fares on bus and underground (from ‘Underground and Bus fares from 4 January 1998’). A single tube ticket for zone 1 currently costs £1.00 (carnet) or £1.30 (single purchase), a single bus ticket for zone 1 is £0.90 or for short journeys £0.60 (short hop). Possible tram fares were given in a range from £1.0 to £3.0 in steps of £0.5. A category ‘pay nothing’ (£0.0) was included for those preferring to buy a Travelcard or those who do not want to use the tramway at all.
53 percent are prepared to pay one pound for a single ticket (chart 9), which is roughly equivalent to the corresponding fare on bus and underground. As expected people would pay more for a daily ticket, 22 percent would pay £1.50 and even 18 percent would pay £2.50. This is of course less than the price for a One Day Travelcard (£3.50), which is valid for the whole London Transport network. The amount of people who are not prepared to pay anything is surprisingly low – 32 percent for a single ticket and 15 percent for a daily ticket. 65 percent of all passengers in London are holders of some kind of Travelcard (daily, weekly, monthly), and those will not be required to pay extra fares for the tram. Maybe this point should have been stressed more in the questionnaire. Nevertheless the overall conclusion is that people will use the system.
3.5 People’s Comments
In the people’s comments (see appendix B.2) a lot of questions were raised that are a subject of investigation in this project. These include: -
Some comments were about the character of the system as a means of travel within the area. Either easy connection with other access modes as tube and taxi are wanted or people do not want to change at all. They get close enough to their destination by tube or bus and do not use the tram because the line is too short. The shortness of the tramline was often criticised. This is of course a problem of this study due to the time limitations and some aspects of it will be mentioned in section 4.4.
The omission of some access modes in question 4 is often mentioned (not only in the comments given on the questionnaire but also during private conversation). Some people go to Oxford Street by cycling or walking which should be considered in designing the scheme. In this context one expressed the opinion that public transport services as a whole are too expensive.
One comment was about the role of the red double-decked buses and black cabs as landmarks of London very much liked by the tourists. The question here is if the tourists really like these landmarks that much and whether they enhance the attractiveness or just reduce the environmental quality of Oxford Street. However, route-master buses and black cabs will not disappear from the scene after implementation of the scheme.