More hours in each day, and more days in last week would have been nice. These would have enabled me to have written more than the few lines about Wednesday's TfL board meeting at City Hall I produced on the day. It was quite an occasion, with Parker and Johnson going about London business together in public for the first time and Steve Norris, a Johnson appointee, very conspicuously present. It was all rather theatrical, with the board, mayor, first deputy and Commissioner Peter Hendy surely conscious that the press/public seats in Committee Room 4 were well-populated. Johnson was last to arrive, explaining for all to hear that he'd been on the phone to the mayor of Los Angeles. "We're bigger than them," he remarked, "and we've a bigger transport system too."
My concentration was divided between trying to spot policy shifts and assessing the personal chemistries. Hendy's future has been a source of relentless speculation, given the attacks on TfL and on him personally during the election campaign by both Johnson and the Standard's Ken-haters (for a dissection of one of the more tendentious of these read my comments here, in particular no. 78.) I'd guess he's making a fair job of surviving, significantly by so enthusiastically characterising the proposed "new Routemaster" as an exciting engineering challenge at the launch of the competition to design it. He handled himself well at the meeting too, allowing Norris to be the big noise round the table yet intervening in ways that made his expertise amply clear.
But Norris wasn't all alpha-male display. He'd done his homework too, making forceful points about unlicensed taxis (a far bigger enemy in his view than the mere illegal touting addressing in the Commissioner's report), and both the pay structure of the Congestion Charge and the consultation over its western extension. He emphasised the point that became clear when Johnson announced the latter at Whiteleys the other week: local opinion appears to be extremely mixed and much will depend on what questions are asked of which interested parties. Norris and Johnson are, of course, big mates: the mayor has recounted receiving Norris's gee-up texts during his post-Lewis resignation visit to Wimbledon. I'd love to know if they war-gamed Norris's contributions to the meeting: play the tough guy, Steve, me old mucker; set a new tone for that bally consultation. I wonder...
Parker didn't say a lot. He doesn't become TfL chair until next month (Johnson assumed the role temporarily) and one of his few remarks was to approve of the idea of putting up posters in those Underground stations where walking to the next one would be quicker than actually taking the tube - this wouldn't cost much, see. It came during a presentation by Ben Plowden, director of TfL's Smarter Travel Unit, on measures to increase cycling and walking and reduce car use and pollution, with special reference to a £5 million Livingstone scheme in Sutton.
Plowden got a good response but, there were some telling exchanges on the theme of changing behaviour. Parker wondered if travellers' "laziness" could be countered by public information campaigns. Kulveer Ranger was worried about "hectoring." Norris majored on making "the business case" for such as car-sharing schemes. Down with nannying, up with enlightened self-interest! Ah, the Tories are back in town. But, there again, Norris remarked, if you're going to break the link between economic growth and traffic growth, you'll need far more infrastructure spending on cycling. Johnson thought bike priority roads would be good. Yes, Boris, but think of the expense. And imagine how pissed off all those cabbies who voted for you would be. "We need a crunchy argument about all this," the The Blond observed. Crunchy business, being mayor.