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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Just like teenagers, self-driving cars need practice to really learn to drive

A self-driving car, of unknown level of education. Image: Grendelkhan/Flickr/creative commons.

What do self-driving cars and teenage drivers have in common?

Experience. Or, more accurately, a lack of experience.

Teenage drivers – novice drivers of any age, actually – begin with little knowledge of how to actually operate a car’s controls, and how to handle various quirks of the rules of the road. In North America, their first step in learning typically consists of fundamental instruction conveyed by a teacher. With classroom education, novice drivers are, in effect, programmed with knowledge of traffic laws and other basics. They then learn to operate a motor vehicle by applying that programming and progressively encountering a vast range of possibilities on actual roadways. Along the way, feedback they receive – from others in the vehicle as well as the actual experience of driving – helps them determine how best to react and function safely.

The same is true for autonomous vehicles. They are first programmed with basic knowledge. Red means stop; green means go, and so on. Then, through a form of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, self-driving autos draw from both accumulated experiences and continual feedback to detect patterns, adapt to circumstances, make decisions and improve performance.

For both humans and machines, more driving will ideally lead to better driving. And in each case, establishing mastery takes a long time. Especially as each learns to address the unique situations that are hard to anticipate without experience – a falling tree, a flash flood, a ball bouncing into the street, or some other sudden event. Testing, in both controlled and actual environments, is critical to building know-how. The more miles that driverless cars travel, the more quickly their safety improves. And improved safety performance will influence public acceptance of self-driving car deployment – an area in which I specialise.

Starting with basic skills

Experience, of course, must be built upon a foundation of rudimentary abilities – starting with vision. Meeting that essential requirement is straightforward for most humans, even those who may require the aid of glasses or contact lenses. For driverless cars, however, the ability to see is an immensely complex process involving multiple sensors and other technological elements:

  • radar, which uses radio waves to measure distances between the car and obstacles around it;
  • LIDAR, which uses laser sensors to build a 360-degree image of the car’s surroundings;
  • cameras, to detect people, lights, signs and other objects;
  • satellites, to enable GPS, global positioning systems that can pinpoint locations;
  • digital maps, which help to determine and modify routes the car will take;
  • a computer, which processes all the information, recognising objects, analysing the driving situation and determining actions based on what the car sees.

How a driverless car ‘sees’ the road.

All of these elements work together to help the car know where it is at all times, and where everything else is in relation to it. Despite the precision of these systems, however, they’re not perfect. The computer can know which pictures and sensory inputs deserve its attention, and how to correctly respond, but experience only comes from traveling a lot of miles.

The learning that is occurring by autonomous cars currently being tested on public roads feeds back into central systems that make all of a company’s cars better drivers. But even adding up all the on-road miles currently being driven by all autonomous vehicles in the U.S. doesn’t get close to the number of miles driven by humans every single day.

Dangerous after dark

Seeing at night is more challenging than during the daytime – for self-driving cars as well as for human drivers. Contrast is reduced in dark conditions, and objects – whether animate or inanimate – are more difficult to distinguish from their surroundings. In that regard, a human’s eyes and a driverless car’s cameras suffer the same impairment – unlike radar and LIDAR, which don’t need sunlight, streetlights or other lighting.

This was a factor in March in Arizona, when a pedestrian pushing her bicycle across the street at night was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle. Emergency braking, disabled at the time of the crash, was one issue. The car’s sensors were another issue, having identified the pedestrian as a vehicle first, and then as a bicycle. That’s an important distinction, because a self-driving car’s judgments and actions rely upon accurate identifications. For instance, it would expect another vehicle to move more quickly out of its path than a person walking.


Try and try again

To become better drivers, self-driving cars need not only more and better technological tools, but also something far more fundamental: practice. Just like human drivers, robot drivers won’t get better at dealing with darkness, fog and slippery road conditions without experience.

Testing on controlled roads is a first step to broad deployment of driverless vehicles on public streets. The Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds Partnership, involving the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, University of Texas at Austin, and Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, operates a group of closed-course test sites.

Self-driving cars also need to experience real-world conditions, so the Partnership includes seven urban regions in Texas where equipment can be tested on public roads. And, in a separate venture in July, self-driving startup Drive.ai began testing its own vehicles on limited routes in Frisco, north of Dallas.

These testing efforts are essential to ensuring that self-driving technologies are as foolproof as possible before their widespread introduction on public roadways. In other words, the technology needs time to learn. Think of it as driver education for driverless cars.

People learn by doing, and they learn best by doing repeatedly. Whether the pursuit involves a musical instrument, an athletic activity or operating a motor vehicle, individuals build proficiency through practice.

The ConversationSelf-driving cars, as researchers are finding, are no different from teens who need to build up experience before becoming reliably safe drivers. But at least the cars won’t have to learn every single thing for themselves – instead, they’ll talk to each other and share a pool of experience.

Johanna Zmud, Senior Research Scientist, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University .

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.