14 things we learned from a list of every bus stop in London

A number 15 bus stops at a stop labelled ME. Image: Oxyman/Wikimedia Commons.

1) There are 19,607 bus stops on TfL’s network

If you visited one per day, for some reason, it would take you nearly 54 years. I’ve just worked out that statistically I’d probably be dead before I finished, so I’m not going to bother.

2) A is the most popular bus stop letter

There are 1,759 stops labelled “A” in the capital.

Whilst that might seem obvious given how the alphabet works, the next most popular ones in order are D, B, E, C and then K, so maybe it wasn’t that obvious after all. The TfL press office informed me that bus routes “will typically follow an alphabetical order wherever possible” – although it must be a lot more complicated than they’re making it sound given that the majority of stops serve more than one route.

3) I is the least popular bus stop code to consist of just one letter, appearing just 37 times.

Just behind it are O (156 appearances), and Z (442). I asked TfL about this (I’m sure they love hearing from me) and apparently they try to avoid using O and I these days because they look too much like 0 and 1. Reportedly, the team responsible were “surprised” that there were still O and I stops at all, which is slightly disconcerting.


4) Which is presumably why, tragically, there are no bus stops with that say OI on them

There are 30 PCs (which have, presumably, gone mad), 47 EDs (although admittedly this is probably mainly only of interest to people called Ed), 5 AWs (providing an ideal prompt for what to say when your bus inexplicably vanishes from the display board), and, for maths fans in the Putney Heath area, one PI.

5) The longest bus stop name is “Loxford School Of Science and Technology”

Although a) I’m not counting stuff with a “/” in it like “ Hampstead Heath Extension / Wildwood Road” as that seems like cheating and b) there are lots of abbreviations as TfL’s system seems to only allow 40 character-long stop names.

6) The shortest bus stop name is “Jcoss”

It’s in New Barnet, and stands for the “Jewish Community Secondary School”.

Why not spend all your time standing around outside schools taking photos and if anyone intervenes try to explain that it’s because of some statistics you’ve read about bus stop names?

7) The highest number of buses you can catch from a single stop is 23

A lot of buses. Image: Ed Jefferson.

For example, stop J in Bedford Street, near the Strand, from which you can catch the 9, 11, 15, 23, 87, 91, 139, 176, N9, N11, N15, N21, N26, N44, N87, N89, N91, N155, N199, N343, N550 or N551. But not all at the same time though, for fairly obvious reasons. It shares the title with Savoy Street (stop U) and Southampton Street / Covent Garden (stop A).

8) The highest number of buses you can catch from a single stop during the day (i.e. excluding night buses) is 19

Stop K on Hounslow High Street. Why not go there and try catching every bus in order, then return home and think about what you’re achieving with your life?

9) The N136 is most alliterative bus route in London

Because it has 8 stops beginning with L in sequential order:

  • Lewisham Hospital
  • Lewisham Park
  • Lewisham Fire Station
  • Lewisham Centre  
  • Lewisham Clock Tower    
  • Lewisham Station  
  • Lewisham Station / Loampit Vale
  • Loampit Vale / Jerrard Street

Can you think of any better reason to go to Lewisham at 3am?

10) The longest number of alphabetically sequential bus stops on a route is 7

But there are seven possible ways of doing it, so you’ve got absolutely no excuse. Here are six of them:

  • 128: Barkingside High Street, Barkingside Police Station, Bradville Gardens, Fullwood Primary School, Hamilton Avenue, Icknield Drive, Martley Drive
  • 227: Crystal Palace Bus Station, Crystal Palace Parade, Crystal Palace Parade / College Road, Crystal Palace Park Road, Crystal Palace Pk Rd / Charleville Cir, Sydenham Avenue, Thicket Road
  • 228: Holland Park, Holland Park Station, Norland Square, Royal Crescent, Shepherd's Bush Station, White City Bus Station, White City Station
  • 282: Church Road, Emmanuel Church, Hallowell Road, Northwood Health Centre, Northwood Hills Circus, Northwood Hills Station, Norwich Road, Middleton Drive
  • 359: Edgecoombe, Heather Way, Heathfield Vale / Broadcoombe, Heathfield Vale / Farnborough Avenue, Monks Hill, Pixton Way, Selsdon Primary School
  • 638: Ashfield Lane, Bromley Lane / Chislehurst War Memorial, Centre Common Road / War Memorial, Chislehurst / Ashfield Lane, Chislehurst Sainsbury's, Ingleby Way, Oakdene Avenue

Anyone who can find the 7th for themselves will whatever satisfaction in that they can find within their own heart.

11) Ominously, there are 666 bus routes in London

That includes the 50 night bus ‘N’ routes and 2 ‘X’ express routes. Other letters in route names generally indicate the area they serve – the P routes indicate Peckham, for instance. There are, unhelpfully, exceptions – for instance, H indicates Hampstead, except when it means Harrow, except when it means it runs near Harrow but doesn’t actually stop in Harrow itself.

12) Despite all this, the numbers run all the way up to 969

The 969, a service in south west London suburbia, only runs twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays: like the 965, the only other remaining bus in the 900 range, it’s a service designed to aid people with mobility issues get to the shops. There were once many more of these services, but they’ve mostly been phased out as almost all buses in London are wheelchair accessible these days.


13) The London bus route with the least stops is the 609

This route, which on one leg has only 4 stops, is to take kids from the Harrodian school to Hammersmith station. The 600 range of numbers is reserved for school bus routes – even independent schools like Harrodian can apparently qualify for a TfL service. Honestly officer, I boarded the bus full of children because I’m doing “a blog”.

Non-bus related fact: Harrodian was until the 1980s a sports club for Harrod’s employees, and when it was sold and turned into a school it was repeatedly taken to court by Mohamed Al-Fayed who objected to them keeping the name.

14) The London bus route with the most stops is the N199

Which has 114 stops on the outbound route from Trafalgar Square.

Oddly, if you’re going the other way and starting at St Mary Cray Station, there are only 110 stops, so you’re going to have to be really committed to the idea of reaching deepest south east London at god knows when o’clock to say you’ve completed this particular challenge.

Which comes with no reward or recognition, but it is probably a good way to replicate the sort of sad, confused look of pity you get when you tell people you’ve read a list of every bus stop in London.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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To build its emerging “megaregions”, the USA should turn to trains

Under construction: high speed rail in California. Image: Getty.

An extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, out now from Island Press.

A regional transportation system does not become balanced until all its parts are operating effectively. Highways, arterial streets, and local streets are essential, and every megaregion has them, although there is often a big backlog of needed repairs, especially for bridges. Airports for long-distance travel are also recognized as essential, and there are major airports in all the evolving megaregions. Both highways and airports are overloaded at peak periods in the megaregions because of gaps in the rest of the transportation system. Predictions for 2040, when the megaregions will be far more developed than they are today, show that there will be much worse traffic congestion and more airport delays.

What is needed to create a better balance? Passenger rail service that is fast enough to be competitive with driving and with some short airplane trips, commuter rail to major employment centers to take some travelers off highways, and improved local transit systems, especially those that make use of exclusive transit rights-of-way, again to reduce the number of cars on highways and arterial roads. Bicycle paths, sidewalks, and pedestrian paths are also important for reducing car trips in neighborhoods and business centers.

Implementing “fast enough” passenger rail

Long-distance Amtrak trains and commuter rail on conventional, unelectrified tracks are powered by diesel locomotives that can attain a maximum permitted speed of 79 miles per hour, which works out to average operating speeds of 30 to 50 miles per hour. At these speeds, trains are not competitive with driving or even short airline flights.

Trains that can attain 110 miles per hour and can operate at average speeds of 70 miles per hour are fast enough to help balance transportation in megaregions. A trip that takes two to three hours by rail can be competitive with a one-hour flight because of the need to allow an hour and a half or more to get to the boarding area through security, plus the time needed to pick up checked baggage. A two-to-three-hour train trip can be competitive with driving when the distance between destinations is more than two hundred miles – particularly for business travelers who want to sit and work on the train. Of course, the trains also have to be frequent enough, and the traveler’s destination needs to be easily reachable from a train station.

An important factor in reaching higher railway speeds is the recent federal law requiring all trains to have a positive train control safety system, where automated devices manage train separation to avoid collisions, as well as to prevent excessive speeds and deal with track repairs and other temporary situations. What are called high-speed trains in the United States, averaging 70 miles per hour, need gate controls at grade crossings, upgraded tracks, and trains with tilt technology – as on the Acela trains – to permit faster speeds around curves. The Virgin Trains in Florida have diesel-electric locomotives with an electrical generator on board that drives the train but is powered by a diesel engine. 

The faster the train needs to operate, the larger, and heavier, these diesel-electric locomotives have to be, setting an effective speed limit on this technology. The faster speeds possible on the portion of Amtrak’s Acela service north of New Haven, Connecticut, came after the entire line was electrified, as engines that get their power from lines along the track can be smaller and much lighter, and thus go faster. Catenary or third-rail electric trains, like Amtrak’s Acela, can attain speeds of 150 miles per hour, but only a few portions of the tracks now permit this, and average operating speeds are much lower.

Possible alternatives to fast enough trains

True electric high-speed rail can attain maximum operating speeds of 150 to 220 miles per hour, with average operating speeds from 120 to 200 miles per hour. These trains need their own grade-separated track structure, which means new alignments, which are expensive to build. In some places the property-acquisition problem may make a new alignment impossible, unless tunnels are used. True high speeds may be attained by the proposed Texas Central train from Dallas to Houston, and on some portions of the California High-Speed Rail line, should it ever be completed. All of the California line is to be electrified, but some sections will be conventional tracks so that average operating speeds will be lower.


Maglev technology is sometimes mentioned as the ultimate solution to attaining high-speed rail travel. A maglev train travels just above a guideway using magnetic levitation and is propelled by electromagnetic energy. There is an operating maglev train connecting the center of Shanghai to its Pudong International Airport. It can reach a top speed of 267 miles per hour, although its average speed is much lower, as the distance is short and most of the trip is spent getting up to speed or decelerating. The Chinese government has not, so far, used this technology in any other application while building a national system of long-distance, high-speed electric trains. However, there has been a recent announcement of a proposed Chinese maglev train that can attain speeds of 375 miles per hour.

The Hyperloop is a proposed technology that would, in theory, permit passenger trains to travel through large tubes from which all air has been evacuated, and would be even faster than today’s highest-speed trains. Elon Musk has formed a company to develop this virtually frictionless mode of travel, which would have speeds to make it competitive with medium- and even long-distance airplane travel. However, the Hyperloop technology is not yet ready to be applied to real travel situations, and the infrastructure to support it, whether an elevated system or a tunnel, will have all the problems of building conventional high-speed rail on separate guideways, and will also be even more expensive, as a tube has to be constructed as well as the train.

Megaregions need fast enough trains now

Even if new technology someday creates long-distance passenger trains with travel times competitive with airplanes, passenger traffic will still benefit from upgrading rail service to fast-enough trains for many of the trips within a megaregion, now and in the future. States already have the responsibility of financing passenger trains in megaregion rail corridors. Section 209 of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires states to pay 85 percent of operating costs for all Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles (the legislation exempts the Northeast Corridor) as well as capital maintenance costs of the Amtrak equipment they use, plus support costs for such programs as safety and marketing. 

California’s Caltrans and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all have agreements with Amtrak to operate their state corridor services. Amtrak has agreements with the freight railroads that own the tracks, and by law, its operations have priority over freight trains.

At present it appears that upgrading these corridor services to fast-enough trains will also be primarily the responsibility of the states, although they may be able to receive federal grants and loans. The track improvements being financed by the State of Michigan are an example of the way a state can take control over rail service. These tracks will eventually be part of 110-mile-per-hour service between Chicago and Detroit, with commitments from not just Michigan but also Illinois and Indiana. Fast-enough service between Chicago and Detroit could become a major organizer in an evolving megaregion, with stops at key cities along the way, including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor. 

Cooperation among states for faster train service requires formal agreements, in this case, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. The participants are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There is also an advocacy organization to support the objectives of the compact, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

States could, in future, reach operating agreements with a private company such as Virgin Trains USA, but the private company would have to negotiate its own agreement with the freight railroads, and also negotiate its own dispatching priorities. Virgin Trains says in its prospectus that it can finance track improvements itself. If the Virgin Trains service in Florida proves to be profitable, it could lead to other private investments in fast-enough trains.

Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program, at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This is an extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, published now by Island Press. You can find out more here.