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Public Buses in the 21st Century

By Rasman in Technology
Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:29:01 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Traffic is a huge problem in urban areas. Most cities have public bus systems, but not enough people use them. This article explores some of the reasons people refuse to use public bus systems and possible solutions to the problems.

This article addresses problems with current bus networks, specifically that of the United Kingdom (outside of London). It does not address the issues of topological and demographic mapping and the design or expansion of bus systems. It does not address bus cleanliness and upkeep. The main goal of these solutions is to entice people using cars onto the buses, which will alleviate pollution as well as traffic congestion.

"Public transportation is great...for everyone except me."

The Problems:

My car is faster. I don't have to stop at all the bus stops and my car goes directly from my home to my destination.

Waiting. If I walk to the bus stop, who knows when the next bus will be there! They have a schedule, but with traffic these days there's no way they can stick to their schedule. My car leaves right when I want it to!

The Solutions:

Bus lane. What's the point of being stuck in traffic on a bus when you can be stuck in traffic in a car that doesn't stop so often? Buses need to be immune to traffic congestion. If you're sitting in your car in traffic and you watch the buses zoom by in the bus lane, you might think about using the bus next time. Bus lanes, however, are no good unless they are clear. Parking in bus lanes must be strictly prohibited and bus drivers need to have the ability to fine violators by writing down license numbers and returning a list of violators to their supervisors. Police aren't going to (and shouldn't) spend nearly enough time checking out the status of the bus lanes, but for sure the bus drivers will. With sufficient traffic congestion, a bus lane might actually make taking the bus faster than your car, even with the added stops.

Bus Tracking System. The addition of a bus lane will greatly improve how well buses can stay on schedule, but lanes can only be added (or donated to buses) on the major thoroughfares. Buses will still inevitably be held up for one reason or another in more rural areas. Not only do I want to know when the next bus is scheduled to arrive, I want to know where it is now and how many stops away. At each bus stop, there should be a screen showing at which stop the next bus currently is, and its estimated arrival time. They already have these showing the next scheduled time, but that only saves you the trouble of reading the schedule. I want to know when the next bus is really coming.

Wireless technology is almost certainly going to be cheaper than wiring every bus stop, so I expect the individual bus stop displays would probably receive the necessary data wirelessly from a central bus tracking computer. As for knowing which stop the bus is at, the low-tech solution would be to have the bus driver press a button or combination of buttons upon arrival or passage of each stop. However, for safety reasons, I think I'd rather have it done automatically. Perhaps a short-range wireless connection between the bus and the bus stop, so each bus stop could notice if a bus drove by or stopped. You could even have different states of a bus "being" at a stop, like "approaching", "stopped", and "leaving". A higher-tech solution would be placing a GPS unit in each bus. This would give you the same information as above, with the added datum of speed. For example, a bus stop could tell you that the next bus was stopped in traffic or at a traffic light between stop A and stop B. With GPS and a little AI added into the tracking computer, you could probably get pretty accurate guesses of when the next bus will arrive. Maybe, for instance, it always takes a long time between point A and point B even though the distance is short, so the estimate could be adjusted. Or maybe all the buses today have been slow at a specific spot where road construction is taking place; the estimate could be modified for that.

Now here's the real kicker... I don't want to have to go all the way out to the bus stop just to find out that the bus is held up in traffic three stops back. I want this information in the palm of my hand, or more accurately, on my mobile phone. A WAP interface for querying would be fine. Obviously you could have a list of your "favorite" bus stops for quick access. Once phones get GPS capability, you could just select from a list of the closest bus stops. Not only do I want WAP access to the bus arrival times, but I want to be able to subscribe to receive text messages, both about the bus that usually arrives at X o'clock (like when I usually leave for work), but also about when the next bus arrives at the stop before the one I'm near. I know when my phone beeps that I have approximately four minutes to get down to the bus stop.


Some bus tracking R&D has been done at Cambridge. Pilot systems are being tested in Minneapolis and St. Paul in the US. There also seems to be some action in the US Senate for tracking school buses. London already has SMS and WAP updates about public transportation.


These solutions are expensive, but how many problems facing society have cheap, effective solutions? Although buses have mainly been discussed here many of the ideas can be applied to most other public transportation systems where the main reason for their disuse is scheduling problems. Also, if people could be certain of bus arrival, the number of buses could be cut down. Most people wouldn't mind less frequent buses if they didn't have to wait at the bus stop for the next one. Of course there are many other benefits to public transportation, such as lowered pollution and the fact that you can be more productive with your attention during your commute.

I imagine that most of you have never ridden a public bus, but those of you that have can probably appreciate the concerns addressed here.


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How do you feel about buses?
o Never used them, never will. You'll never get me out of my car! 6%
o Never used them, but I might with changes suggested. 4%
o Tried them and stopped for reasons described 17%
o Use them and hate it for reasons described 28%
o Use them and like it 43%

Votes: 123
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Cambridge
o Minneapoli s and St. Paul
o tracking school buses
o SMS and WAP updates
o Also by Rasman

Display: Sort:
Public Buses in the 21st Century | 204 comments (171 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
Police Camera Action! (3.33 / 3) (#3)
by rdskutter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:42:36 AM EST

Police Camera Action is an extremely condescending piece of British TV that shows us all how stupid drivers are. The whole program is made up of clips from police traffic cameras and on board cameras in police cars with some self important idiot doing a really condescending voice over.

One episode showed an experiment in a British city (I can't remember which one) where they attached cameras to busses and they automatically took photographs of any obstructions in the bus lanes (including cars driving in them) and sent the photos off to the police.

The problem was that people who committed very minor offences like using the bus lane to undertake someone who had stopped to turn right were charged the same (50 fine) as people who parked in bus lanes or drove in bus lanes to get through traffic jams.

If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE

any offense (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by Subtillus on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:14:27 PM EST

is an offense.
a crime is a crime is a crime.
I think we should resurect the penal colony system and send anyone who gets in the way of beaurocratic laws off to a penal colony somewhere in the remote pacific.
We could call it Australia 2!!!

I'll let you decide if I was kidding or not.

[ Parent ]

Why not just call it the world (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by rdskutter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:42:53 PM EST

Coz everybody's broken a beurocratic law at some point in their lives.

If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

Bus lanes (none / 0) (#196)
by PenguinWrangler on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 10:52:41 AM EST

The problem was that people who committed very minor offences like using the bus lane to undertake someone who had stopped to turn right were charged the same (50 fine) as people who parked in bus lanes or drove in bus lanes to get through traffic jams.

Personally, I don't see a problem with that. It's a bus lane, and if you're driving a car you've got no business in it. Anything that keeps regular motorists out of bus lanes and convinces people that trespassing on bus lanes is a bad idea, gets my vote.
"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
Zero Tolerance Policies are bad. (none / 0) (#197)
by rdskutter on Fri Sep 06, 2002 at 11:19:07 AM EST

This is a tautology.

If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

Missing points (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by bob6 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:23:58 AM EST

IMHO the most important factor is a good transportation network design, ie the path of each bus line. It should take in account the topology and the demography of a city. A poor design will make the city traffic even worse.
Information is also a must: anyone should know where goes a particular bus line, where is the bus stop, which line goes to a particular place, etc.

Bad System worse than No System (4.71 / 7) (#21)
by bodrius on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:10:32 AM EST

Public transportation should be done right, otherwise it might actually worsen the city's lifestyle. This applies particularly to buses.

Currently living in Miami without a car (which probably makes me certifiably insane by some local law) means I have to deal with an inadequate bus system every day.

The metrorail system, ambitious as it is, also seems to be crippled by design.

I don't think the "My Car is Faster" argument is that important. Rather, I think it's indicative of a bigger, more important and valid argument: "I already have a car for X reason, so I don't need the system anyway".

Using the public transportation system should be a choice, so of course you have to make it an attractive choice. The reason for that is that if you don't get enough people to use it, not enough people will feel it's worth the taxes and you'll see reductions in budget which will make the service worse and reduce the attraction... a vicious circle.

Some problems I have seen first-hand that detract people from using a public transportation system:

- The biggest problem with buses is, of course, buses not sticking to schedules.
  Depending on the route (any but the most important ones), they can be quite unpredictable, sometimes due to traffic and sometimes, it would seem, due to drivers not following the routes or taking unescheduled breaks.
   I have had to wait up, on two opportunities, up to 2 hours for a bus that appeared on time accross the street in the opposite direction... only to give up and take that OTHER bus and go all around the city and back.
   The stops were active, because that's how I got there in the first place.
   I also had the amusing opportunity once of riding on a bus that got lost for 10 minutes, but this was an exceptional (I hope unique) case.
   A bus system MUST BE DEPENDABLE.

- Residential areas cannot be ignored. In many modern US cities this means most suburb-like residential zones should not be assumed to be transportation independent.
  If you assume that the middle class will provide for their own transportation, they will because they'll have to.
  They will also be strongly opposed to the taxation cost of public transportation because they don't see the benefits once they have been forced to buy a car.

- Buses should work in realistic schedules. This means covering all periods of mainstream human activity in the city.
  It may sound expensive to provide transportation 5am-1am (at least). But if you don't you're forcing most people to buy a car.
  People do have to move at those hours, unless the city has effectively no city life. That's why the main routes typically cover those hours... but if the main routes need it, so does almost every other route. It's little use getting out of downtown if you're still left half-a-city away from home at 1am.
  If people are forced to buy a car to carry on their lives "normally", they will oppose your public transportation system and be unwilling to pay for it.

- Bus Stops should be Bus Stops. By that I mean, they should be structures designed for that purpose, which implies sheltering people waiting there from the elements.
  A bench is not a bus stop, unless you want to force people to buy a car so as to avoid waiting 20 minutes in the rain/snow/sun/whatever and run the risk of getting sick every time the weather gets really bad.
  If people are forced to buy a car to avoid getting soaked in the rain for half an hour every morning every summer, they will not be happy to pay for your transportation system.

- A mass transit system (subway/metrorail/etc) should be centric. It should be a network that connects the city. It should connect the people FROM the places the leave TO the places they want to go.
  As far as I have seen this means many lines accross the city. Sometimes this means one or two centric lines that go accross the city and connect with the rest through a heavy, dependable network of buses.
  A single line that goes AROUND the city's territory does not seem to be the best way to achieve that goal, because it will rarely cover the typical transit in the city.
  This is the case with Miami, where a few centric stations are actually used by significant numbers, but most stations are around the city's territory, not through it. The bulk of the public transportation seems to rest then on the intrinsically more inefficient bus system.
   The stations see relatively little traffic, therefore they are seen as a waste. People don't use them and are reluctant to finance expansion of the system.

I'm being reiterative, of course. It's all about getting people to accept the system as an investment, and not an imposition of something they don't use because they cannot, practically, use to their advantage.

If people depend on cars because of the absence of a public transportation system, they will be more likely to support an ambitious, high-tech system that aims to provide a superior service.

But most cities that really need a public transportation system already have one, it's just not working.

A dysfunctional transportation system makes the massive upgrade, as likely to solve the problems as it could be, a very hard sell.

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

Schedules (4.00 / 2) (#66)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:05:31 PM EST

As well as the problem of busses at 1 AM, don't forget the weekends. Public transportation tends to be bad on Saturdays and worse on Sundays. In many places, the bus system is totally useless on a Sunday.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (3.50 / 2) (#107)
by bodrius on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:32:46 AM EST

I should have explicitely mentioned that.

I guess the problem is that whoever plans these things sometimes considers public transportation a "commuting service", not a "transportation service".

For some reason, unless it's to go to-and-back-from work, they feel they can cut the transportation system, so you end up with bus routes that shut down before 8:00PM and don't operate Sundays.

Of course, just because a city planner thinks so people are not just going to stay home Sundays (and Saturdays in some places). They'll get a car.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

Birmingham, UK (4.00 / 1) (#84)
by FeersumAsura on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:41:23 PM EST

Has an amazing public transport system. I have a car but hardly use it. Although I live in the suburbs I have a bus service that runs every 6 minutes at rush hour and 12 minutes at off peak. I have a 35 pass that lets me use any bus in the west midlands for four weeks.

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
[ Parent ]
Symmetric routes (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by dsaint on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:33:57 PM EST

I would also add that symmetric routes are important. I can get into downtown Dallas pretty easily, it's getting out that's hard. All the one way streets play havoc with the bus routes. In order to get back out I sometimes have to jump to a new bus route.

A slight variation on that is the bus that has one route number, but takes two totally different routes depending on whether it's 19 or 49 minutes after the hour.  Just make it two routes.

These asymmetric routes complicate things a lot and thus deter people from using the system.

[ Parent ]

Docklands light railway in london (4.00 / 4) (#22)
by duncanp on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:10:40 AM EST

Already used this in London, when I lived in docklands two years. There was a WAP service for the Docklands light railway.

I accessed the site and chose my local station from a listof all stations and then it displayed the next three trains and how many minutes away they were. Then I could sit in the warm house watching tv until one was four minutes away :)

er, did that make sense?

Light rail ... (4.00 / 10) (#27)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:09:17 AM EST

... has been found to far more appealing to users than a bus system. Not only can it be ultra-smooth and quiet, but it requires many fewer people to keep it operating (one-two drivers for 500 ppl). Moreover, it's fairly cheap to put in place (compared to heavy-rail), can be run on a near-perfect schedule, and can go quite quickly.

Moreover, you can run (quiet) light rail through residential neighbourhoods since it's much less wide than an arterial road, and, has even less impact when implemented completely electrically.

Finally, such a system can easily provide the proper framework for sound urban design. Such systems exist in Switzerland and Germany (digression: too bad the flooding couldn't happen to one of the North American suburbs responsible for it instead of beautiful historic districts of Europe) and are remarkably successful.

An efficient, comfortable, effective and extensive light rail system, coupled with little/no fare for its use would be a cost effective way of beginning to deal with the traffic and smog that plagues nearly all our cities.

Why has this not been implemented in a serious way in NA? I would say because most politicians are spineless morons, constantly pandering to big auto, who having trouble seeing beyong the windshield of their Lincoln Navigators.

The solutions to these problems exist, and have existed for a long time. Light rail is a far more viable option for the long-term than a bus system.


Beware, everybody (3.00 / 1) (#126)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:54:33 PM EST

the proper framework for sound urban design

Translation: central planners telling people where they should live, where they should work, where and when they should go shopping, and what they should do for recreation.

If you are going to let the bureaucrats plan your transportation, you have to let them plan everything else as well.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

It's called (5.00 / 1) (#140)
by Rk on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:59:04 AM EST

Zoning. And yes, America does use it too, not just us commies in Europe.

You aren't being told where you should live work or go shopping. Rather, the idea is to make rational decision about where it is appropriate to build housing, shops, commercial districts and factories. So people don't end up next to a factory manufacturing highly dangerous, explosive materials like in Toulouse FR or Enschede NL, or next to a noisy disco, or under the flight path of a major airport, or beside a congested freeway et cetera. Needless to say, there are countless examples of zoning being fucked up.

And yes, transport is relevant to zoning. Unless you enjoy having to commute without a car in an area where riding the bus is seen as having the mark of the devil. Or spending four hours in traffic every day, gridlocked on that eight plus lane freeway. And yes, there are ample examples of both, in "communist" Europe and in the US of A.

[ Parent ]

Commies and zoning (4.00 / 1) (#147)
by PullNoPunches on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:40:38 AM EST

I was mainly referring to the commies in the US, not the ones in Europe.

Your example of the poison gas factory next to a school or some such is a valid one, and if that is all that zoning was being used for I woulodn't have such a problem with it. The fact is, zoning is used to steer certain kinds of develpment according to a grandiose urban plan that has such considerations as only one part. Public transportation is a major factor in those plans.

In some parts of the US, Oregon is one example, major development outside a certain radius from the city is banned entirely (there may be exceptions or loopholes, but that does not negate the basic idea). In many other places, there is not an outright ban, but zoning regulations highly favor building very densly close to the city center and discourage building on the outskirts.

You may say that it only makes sense to build that way, and for the government to enforce or even encourage doing so. But that is exactly my point. Once the government starts planning transportation, then it has to plan everything else as well.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

I think the government (none / 0) (#166)
by baniak on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:58:44 AM EST

should start planning our slippery slopes!

[ Parent ]
If you really think that... (none / 0) (#143)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:32:18 AM EST

Then you should be against governments building roads.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
I am (5.00 / 1) (#149)
by PullNoPunches on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:50:52 AM EST

Partly because of the planning issue, but also for other reasons. Primary among them is that government does a shit job of it. The roads are often designed terribly (for instance, where I live, all the major roads have high medians, forcing anyone wanting to turn left into a business to make a U-turn at the next traffic lite and backtrack), poorly maintained (and when they do do maintenance, they go about it with complete disregard for the disruption caused), underbuilt where they are most needed and overbuilt where they are less needed.

Another reason is that government roads represent a taxpayer subsidy to drivers. I love having a car, and I coudln't image doing without it, but that doesn't mean that I want taxpayers subsidizing my use of it. Someone who chooses not to have a car should not have to pay so I can use one. Also, subsidizing driving means that no matter how much capacity is built, demand will exceed it. When roads are free, that means that they are priced under market price, and when something is priced below market, there is always a shortage.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

Light rail vs Tram (4.00 / 1) (#139)
by Rk on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:42:04 AM EST

I think you're confusing LRT with an old fashioned tram system. There are no LRTs at the moment in Switzerland, all of the narrow-gauge railway lines are either tramway, like in Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Bern, mountain and regional railways, of which we have many, or some kind of hybrid, like the partially underground subway system in Lausanne. As for Germany, most larger German cities moved on to subways decades ago, only a handful actually have an LRT (as opposed to a tram). I believe that Hannover has an LRT system the runs on standard rail but apart from that I'm not aware of anything exceptional.

Zurich was going to build an LRT called "Glatttalbahn" (Glatt Valley Railway) into Zurich's northern suburbs and its airport, but the plan may now be axed as there is much pressure to save money. Lausanne is currently planning to build a subway, which would be Switzerland's first, an odd choice, considering Lausanne isn't really that large of a city and probably could have done with LRT.

[ Parent ]

OC Transpo (5.00 / 6) (#28)
by Nikau on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:24:34 AM EST

In Ottawa, where I live, we have OC Transpo for serving our public transportation needs. I've been riding on Transpo for a few years now, mostly because I'm a student, my campus is near-downtown, and it's relatively easy to get to from where I live.

A quick rundown of OC Transpo services:

OC Transpo's big "feature", if you will, is the Transitway. The Transitway is a series of private and public roads on which the major routes operate. On the public roads there are almost always bus-only lanes which 98% of motorists respect. The Transitway starts at four different terminii (one in the east, one in the west, and two in the south - Ottawa is bordered on the north by the Ottawa River and Gatineau, Quebec on the opposite shore) and eventually all the extensions of the Transitway come downtown. There are multiple stops along the Transitway (not like regular bus route stops, these are only at locations where it's needed or where there are many local bus routes that start/finish at the same point), and there are two major routes that run on the Transitway which operate more frequently than any other (anywhere between 2 to 10 minutes during the day). Oh, and the Park and Rides, which are large parking lots adjacent to a Transitway stop for those who live outside the service area or who simply want to drive part of the way.

In the mornings and afternoons during peak periods there are express routes which run from the suburbs, along the Transitway to downtown. It is less than 30 minutes from my home to downtown in the morning, slightly longer at night.

OC Transpo last year also started a light-rail pilot project, running a light-rail train along existing railroad tracks from one point on the Transitway to another. This provided some much-needed access to Carleton University here, as it was not adjacent to the Transitway. There are plans to expand the light-rail system to elsewhere in the city as well.

Now that you're familiar with the system here, I would like to present my thoughts on it:
I really don't like riding on OC Transpo.

Well, perhaps I should rephrase that. I like it when I happen to be going downtown, whether to downtown specifically or just to get to classes, as it's very convenient that way. Ottawa, being the capital of Canada, has many government offices downtown in addition to other corporations operating there. So if you work downtown, it makes far more sense to bus than drive.

If you want to go anywhere else in the city, outside your community, you're screwed. Be prepared for multiple transfers and a minimum of one hour of travel time. There's a large mall about 20 minutes (by car) from where I live. It'll take you an hour and three (or four) buses to get there. There's another one about 15 minutes (by car) from where I live, and it'll take you about 45 minutes and three buses to get there.

The planners at OC Transpo are obviously trying to make things more efficient for themselves this way - eliminating long routes, balancing routes, etc., and that's fine. But it's difficult to make a good connection, meaning waiting less than five minutes for the next bus. That's where you lose the most time, because the buses themselves make good time unless there's bad weather.

Someone here mentioned the TTC in Toronto. I had the opportunity to take the TTC once, and was very impressed with it. I think a large part of it comes from the subway system - Toronto's a large city and the subway trains run very fast.

I guess the Transitway here in Ottawa was meant to be modeled after a subway system. But it doesn't seem to be working that well now. I'd like to see Ottawa with a subway - that would likely help matters, but we probably don't have the population to make it worthwhile.

My other gripes about the service come from the lack of air conditioning on the buses during the summer (it gets very hot here), and the overcrowding on some buses. The overcrowding could be solved by increasing the frequency of the trips, but OC Transpo already has most of its fleet in service during peak periods anyway.

The problems with OC Transpo in Ottawa actually don't require a high-tech solution to help improve the service. They just need some better planning and a little extra money to make things better.

I have a zero-tolerance policy for zero-tolerance policies, and this policy itself is the exception to itself which allows me to have it without being contradictory. - Happy Monkey

Kanata express (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by Swashbuckler on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:05:18 AM EST

I heard rumor of an underground express "train" from Kanata to the downtown area including both campuses within the next 2 years. Probably just lore.

*Note* - this comment contains no inside K5 humour because inside K5 humour is only for/by K5-wankers. Media does not = "community."
[ Parent ]
Doesn't really matter.... (3.00 / 1) (#96)
by cb on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:51:26 PM EST

Kanata will be a ghost town within the decade. Mark my words. One-industry towns are always toast, in the end.

[ Parent ]
Here's the dilemma for the commuter (4.40 / 5) (#29)
by lb008d on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:43:20 AM EST

You have to factor in all costs, including how much you value your time.

My time is worth $20.00/hr, according to my employer. I commute in a reliable, old car - a 1981 toyota corolla that gets about 25-30mpg.

My commute to work is 18 miles, and it takes 25 minutes by car. Let's assume gas is $1.75/gal. For a 4 week period, 20 days, this amounts to a time + gas cost of $383. I'm not putting in insurance or maintenance costs just yet.

For the bus, a monthly pass is $25. However, to take the bus to work from my home is 1 hour each way. The 20 day cost of time + pass is $825.

Notice that this is $442 more than driving my car - and I certainly don't spend that much monthly on insurance and maintenance. Notice however that the gains of commuting by car drop drastically if you drive a new car and have full insurance - in that case my time would have to be worth more per hour to still justify commuting by car.

My solution to this dilemma has been to run from my house to the bus station downtown. This takes about 30 minutes. The bus ride takes the other 30 minutes. Since I like to run an hour a day anyway, this is the best way for me to get exercise and save money.

Basically, the lesson is this - your time is worth money, commuting in a new car is stupid, unless you make a lot of money, and buses are necessary for those who simply don't make enough to afford even a cheap car.

And ... (4.75 / 4) (#31)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:50:01 AM EST

... how much work can you get done while driving your car vs sitting in a bus. In a bus you can read - you cannot do that (ethically) in a car.

The time-is-money argument simply isn't valid unless you have absolutely nothing to do while sitting for extended periods of time.

I know many who use your argument, but instead reach the opposite conclusion.


[ Parent ]

Good point (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by lb008d on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:22:45 AM EST

Being able to do work on the bus would give that time more value than in the car. Personally, I've never been one to be able to concentrate on the bus. I would figure out how if my employer would count commute time as work time, however :-)

[ Parent ]
PDAs and AvantGo. (none / 0) (#142)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:28:27 AM EST

I read my day's paper when I'm commuting. It fits in my hand.

I love my PDA.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Exactly (none / 0) (#193)
by alyosha1 on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 11:06:56 AM EST

I commute by public transit to work every day. The journey is around an hour and a half each way, and this time stays consistent. If I travelled by car, it would take maybe a little over an hour, assuming that there are no road works, accidents etc. to hold up traffic (An almost daily occurence on the highways around Toronto.) However, this way I get to spend the entire journey working on my laptop. If I leave for work at 7:00 in the morning, I can leave the office at 1:30 in the afternoon, and still have put in an eight hour day. (Granted, I almost always put in several hours more than that.) Furthermore, I save myself the stress of dealing with rush hour traffic, paying for the maintainence and ownership of a car, and dicing with death on the 401 every morning.

On the downside, the Toronto metro isn't nearly as comprehensive as, say, the London underground, but fortunately in my case transit takes me door-to-door, apart from a 5 minute walk at the beginning. This may not be the case for everybody. But I'm all in favour of investing in solutions that reduce the number of single-occupant SUV's crawling around the city every day.

[ Parent ]
Valuing your time that way (4.60 / 5) (#36)
by acceleriter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:07:45 AM EST

is a fallacy unless you would have been performing the work that earns you $20/hour during your commute time. I've heard the same argument used by people who don't do work on their own cars or homes on the weekends, using the value of their time from work. But if they wouldn't be working for that wage on the weekend, they've only lost leisure time, not $x of salary per hour.

[ Parent ]
Leisure time (4.75 / 4) (#43)
by lb008d on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:24:40 AM EST

If you ask me, my leisure time is worth more than $20 an hour.

I was giving leisure (or non-work) time a monetary value equal to that of work time for comparison purposes - of course you don't earn money on leisure time. Each person must make the same calculation I made in their own personal manner, and evaluate their commuting choice in that manner.

[ Parent ]

Leisure time worth > $20/hr.! (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by acceleriter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:27:44 AM EST

That, I understand.

[ Parent ]
"My Car is Cooler" (4.00 / 5) (#30)
by asv108 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:48:37 AM EST

As a nation of individualists we learn very early on at school that taking the bus is not cool. People in the US love their cars, and why not? Cars give individuals control over their destination. The car one picks is usually somehow representative of their personality, interests, and/or class standing. From the geek who drives a Honda Hybrid to the yuppie in a leased Mercedes S500, people love their cars.

People love their cars so much that they put stickers on their cars to tell others more about their opinions. I think a bus lane is a good idea in some areas on some roads, but it should not become a common site on roadways. Nobody is going to leave the Porsche in the garage and take the bus. For people who can barley afford to drive, this would be a great incentive.

People might ... (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:52:21 AM EST

... leave a Porsche in the garage to take a pleasant (and quick) ride to work aboard a light train.

[ Parent ]
You've missed a problem... (3.50 / 10) (#33)
by S1ack3rThanThou on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:00:31 AM EST

In my car I don't have to deal with the smelly, weird, retarded, scarey public.

"Remember what the dormouse said, feed your head..."
Public transportation (3.20 / 5) (#34)
by acceleriter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:03:18 AM EST

will never be a viable option for those who can afford cars, so long as they have to associate with the people who can't afford cars.

The fastest way to get public transportation utilized would be to start pricing gasoline at $5/liter in the U.S. Of course, those in office at the time would be turned out, but it's for the environment, right?

Not true. (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:11:44 PM EST

In many places both people associate quite happily, so you may be kind enough to let us know how did you reach such conclussion.
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]
By having used the bus. [nt[ (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by acceleriter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:47:06 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Bus tracking (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by gromgull on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:09:16 AM EST

works in Aberdeen... On every (well, nearly, along the major lines anyway) busstop there is lcd display telling you how long the next few buses are will be...
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot

Another problem (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by Caton on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:09:23 AM EST

Here in Paris the public transportation system is pretty good - but it's crowded. And I have agoraphobia, can't stand crowded places...

As long as there's hope...
My train is cooler ... (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:10:54 AM EST

... take a look at this!

Trains have enormous untapped potential in NA. This is but one example of the sensible enthusiasm the Swiss have for public transit.


Missing Reasons (4.16 / 6) (#46)
by bouncing on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:35:37 AM EST

I think you need to do a little more research on why people don't use public transportation in general. All the studies I've seen have mentioned your reasons as secondary to the main reason: class separation.

At least in the United States, the main reason a lot of people avoid public transportation is that they want to be separated from the lower classes. With automotive transportation, the classes are separated. The rich have extremely cars, the middle class have nice cars, the poor have poor cars. Besides that, toll roads even give the middle and upper classes better speed. What the middle and upper classes don't want is to have to sit or stand next to the poor.

It's like this. A couple weeks ago in Portland I was using their light rail system to go from the airport to downtown and back again. Even from the airport, most of the people riding light rail seemed to be either students or the poor. On the way back, a homeless man a few rows over had a trash bag of cans he was collecting for recycling. He stunk and his bag was leaking beer on the floor. THIS is why people don't use public transportation in America.

I don't know that there is a solution to that or not.

the MAX beer can guy! (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by baniak on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:48:48 PM EST

I've seen that guy too... he is pretty out of it most of the time.

You are right about the class issue. Luckily I can ignore it, and get just about anywhere in Portland for $1.55. And I don't have to buy a car!!! HALLELUJAH!!!

(I hate cars.)

[ Parent ]

It's not just rich vs. poor (5.00 / 1) (#157)
by Polverone on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:41:58 PM EST

I'm one of those students who rides MAX frequently. It's pretty nice, better than the bus. On the bus you have a lot more opportunities to meet people, and by "meet" I mean "try to avoid." It's not a money issue. It's not as if people who buy clothes from thrift stores are scary. I buy clothes from thrift stores. But, yes, I do prefer to travel with people who have bathed in the last 3 days, especially in the summer. And I don't relish passengers who smell as if they drank their last few meals.

Worse are developmentally disabled individuals who want to talk with you. I don't know if it's my bus or the bus system in general, but there seem to be a good number of these people. They are difficult to understand and just keep talking and talking. I don't want to be rude/cruel and tell them to shut up or just ignore them, so I usually try to sit in a rear seat with my nose buried in a book where I will not come to their attention.

Once in a while there are also people who I will just call "crazy." Whether they merely mutter about the government for 30 minutes or start shouting at the driver, it's an extra bit of tension that I could do without. And there are large groups of loud, rowdy teenagers that tend to take the MAX (especially downtown, during the summer, and on weekends).

Notice that these people are mostly poor but it's certainly not their defining characteristic. You even noted this in your own post. It's not as if Jane Middleclass is avoiding the bus system because of the alarming number of non-homeowners. It's because she doesn't want to be panhandled or encounter rowdy/crazy/unbathed people. I don't much want to encounter those people either, which is why I carefully select my seat and try to avoid contact with other passengers, except (occasionally) other students.

If there is a solution I certainly don't know of it.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Busses aren't the only answer (4.00 / 3) (#47)
by the scooter king on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:46:14 AM EST

Busses, in fact, have many of the same problems as trains and cars.

Like Trains:

They operate on a schedule, meaning you can only make your trip when they are booked to.

They have to make multiple stops along the way, so that everyone and their grandmother can get on and off.

You are surrounded by people you don't know, because they lose money if they aren't standing room only.

Like Cars:

They get stuck in traffic.

They pollute.

What we need is a solution that takes the best of both systems instead of the worst.

It's been mentioned before on that other site, but here's what I think is a better way.

ULTra Urban Light Transit Currently being tested in Cardiff, Wales

It's an example of Personal Rapid Transit

Instead of tweaking the same old tired technology, why not try something new?

The secret is not to try and bend the .sig. The secret is that there is no .sig.

This sounds like a great idea (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by rdskutter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:25:49 PM EST

It would be good to see the implmentation in Cardiff. I bet the local taxi drivers aren't too chuffed about it though.

If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

On public transportation... (4.80 / 5) (#48)
by Nafai on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:55:15 AM EST

...every day for about 4 hours. That means ~20 hours a week.

First let me describe my commute. I travel from Milwaukee's (WI) east side to Waukesha's south side.

  • I start out in front of my house, take the Milwaukee County Transit System to downtown.
  • Get on the coach bus from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Waukesha
  • Take Waukesha Transit to the front door of my work
This may seem like a lot of work, particularily to those who would never consider public transportation. However, I don't mind it at all for several reasons.
  • Cost: my weekly transportation cost is exactly $27.25. With a car it'd be closer to $125 with gas/insurance/auto payment.
  • Reading: I spend a lot of time reading now, and it's helped me tremendously at my (3 week old) job. I read work materials, books, magazines. I'm feeling much better informed
  • Relaxed driving: Driving on the highway can be rather stressful at times. Now if traffic sucks, I get to read and extra 50 pages or so of Cryptonomicon. (rather than be stressed out and swearing at everything.)
  • Coach bus: my favorite part of my commute. The coach bus is actually more comfortable than many planes. It's quiet and the people are a lot more "normal" than the folk on the city bus. I have a bathroom on it too!
  • I have about a 20 minute wait at night in downtown Waukesha, so every day I sit down and have a couple beers at the bar right next to the bus station.
I get home later and have to leave earlier, but I'm more relaxed, better read, and have more money in my pocket. I will probably get a car eventually, but for now I quite enjoy my mass transit.

Sorry, no (4.14 / 7) (#52)
by yamla on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:22:18 PM EST

When I was a university student, I used to take the bus to and from school every day.  I simply couldn't afford a car and my time at that point was essentially free (that is, I'd study on the bus).  I lived just short of 7 kilometres from school and the bus route was actually fairly fast so long as you timed it right.  If you walked out of the door at a random time, the average commute (including waiting) would be about an hour.  If you timed it right, about half an hour.  While half an hour isn't bad, I could just about walk to school in an hour (I walk quickly) so that always annoyed me.

The buses, of course, stopped running around midnight.  In Computing Science, back in the days before everyone and their dog had high speed Internet access, I often needed to stay on campus past midnight.  So those times, I had to make a snap decision whether to go home at midnight or stay for another SEVEN HOURS.  Several times, I choose to stay because I still had work to do, then had to find a place to sleep when I finished my work a couple of hours later.  And let me tell you, there aren't enough places to sleep.  :)

It is far worse now.  I am working full time.  I live approximately 11 kilometres from work and it takes me 20 minutes on a good day, 35 minutes on a bad day to drive to work.  Clearly, the traffic is not bad so a 'bus lane' wouldn't help matters any.  I called the transit company and asked for the best route to work from where I live and they planned a route out for me.  Very nice.  Unfortunately, the route requires that I leave my house at 7:05 am in order to make it in for work at 9.  That's almost a TWO HOUR COMMUTE each way.  TWO HOURS in an ideal situation, assuming I do not miss my bus and assuming I don't catch the earlier bus to have a bit of leeway in case things go wrong?

Come off it.  I'm not spending four hours of my day each day commuting to and from work.  And neither of your solutions above will help.  Traffic isn't the issue, nor is knowing where the bus is.

Other significant problems with public transit (4.40 / 5) (#56)
by hatshepsut on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:53:22 PM EST

While the two problems discussed in the article do exist, there are a number of other problems that are greater contributors to significant numbers of people writing off public transit and using their cars.

Schedule Coordination: What good is trying to take the bus, if you need two (or more) of them and the schedule is such that you may wait upwards of 20 minutes for your connection(s) (either in whatever interesting weather you are having that day or crammed into a shelter with umpteen other people)?

Transit Pass Issues: Many larger metropolitan areas have expanded to the point where two cities/communities end up joined together...god forbid that each city combine their transit passes however. Since the proximity of the two, or more, communities means that many people will cross from one into the other for work, the creation of a single regional transit pass for these areas will be necessary before people will use the system (no one will WANT to pay for two transit passes, just to get to work).

Bus Routes: Cities concentrate their bus routes in the downtown cores, however many cities are building commercial/industrial areas nearer the edges of the cities. Since land is cheaper, they build large parking lots, but the bus routes may or may not go out there often, meaning that large numbers of people pretty much HAVE to drive to work. This could also apply to "bedroom communities" where bus service is sporadic at best, forcing people to drive into the downtown core to get to work.

Overall, I feel that the two problems discussed in this article are real but are not, of themselves, the primary problems faced by many large metropolitan areas.

Vandalism? (4.00 / 3) (#57)
by SDrifter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:56:23 PM EST

A big problem that may arise with implementing this sort of thing in the US is vandalism. Not just the random tagging that seems so common around here, but actual destruction.

I've seen places (like at my local University) where people are drunk and will tag or break things for apparently no reason? What will happen to the bus tracking system once repairs have to be made to it for the third time after some drunk smashes the screen in a fit of rage because the bus won't be around for another 20 minutes?

It burns!!!
It's loaded with wasabi!
A Darwinian System (5.00 / 2) (#136)
by wnight on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:17:37 AM EST

*Very* high voltage screens.

[ Parent ]
Bus/Train vs. Car (3.72 / 11) (#58)
by catseye on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:01:13 PM EST

I've done both, so I speak from experience. If I can help it, I'll never take inner city public transportation again. I'm not sure the things I hate about it can be changed in a reasonable manner.

1. The bus/train/etc. may not stop anywhere near my workplace, whereas I can park right next to my building if I take my car. Better routes may help this, but they won't get everywhere.

2. I don't get exposed to disease in my car. No one sneezes or coughs on me, there's no vomit and there's no urine in my car.

3. I don't have to listen to crying babies, people arguing, or fussy children in my car.

4. I don't have to associate with smelly homeless people in my car. Yes, they're human too, but I shouldn't have to associate with people that stink if I don't want to or have to.

5. The chances of me getting robbed or assaulted in my car are much less than getting robbed or assaulted on a bus, train, or terminal in the inner city.

6. I don't want to walk to the bus stop in the rain/snow/115F heat.

7. I don't have to sit ass-cheek to ass-cheek/shoulder to shoulder with a complete stranger. I don't like people I don't know touching me for extended periods of time.

8. I don't like when those 3 guys wearing bandanas sporting gang tattoos getting on the train or walking into the terminal are probably very well armed, and simply by being in the same area with them I risk getting killed in the crossfire.

It's not a class issue. I was never embarassed to take the bus. I just didn't feel safe and it was really inconvenient. While waiting for a bus one night (about 7pm) in Miami when I was sixteen, a black guy approached me and started telling me that I really haven't lived until I had oral sex performed on me by a Jamaican black man. There was no one else there buy me and him, and I thought I was going to get raped. Fortunately, the bus came in a few minutes and nothing bad happened. I don't have this problem in my car.

How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?

Just a quick note (2.00 / 1) (#204)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 12:55:13 PM EST

What do you drive anyway, a Ferrari? Nice ego...

The guy said he'd give you oral sex, i.e., a blowjob - not that he would rape you.

[ Parent ]

Your Solving A Non Problem (2.66 / 9) (#61)
by thelizman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:20:01 PM EST

The problem with public transportation is that it's public! People, particularly in America, don't buy cars to get to work. They buy cars as personal expressions of themselves. We invented the custom car market, and we are about the only western culture that will buy a car and then dump performance mods worth more than the car itself under the hood. You will never convince a large portion of Americans to succumb to public transportation. The closest you will get will be the carpool.

If you want to solve pollution, support alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen. If you want to solve congestion, support concepts like flex time and staggered shifts.

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
Heh (4.16 / 6) (#62)
by trhurler on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:24:53 PM EST

Yes, but after you spend all that money and do all this neat stuff, you still won't have fixed the fundamental problems.

One: buses are necessarily ridden by people who cannot afford cars, and most everyone else doesn't want to ride with them. This is primarily a social problem; technology cannot solve it.

Two: (partly US-oriented, but you'll see the point,) no matter how you use bus lanes on highways and no matter how well you track buses, the fact is, getting from any arbitrary point a to another arbitrary point b is going to involve walking some distance to a bus stop(not likely in bad weather, if you have a choice,) waiting for a bus(as long as half an hour or more, because unlike much of the UK, the US is spread out too much to run buses everywhere all the time and actually see them utilized efficiently,) then riding that bus while it makes stops every couple of minutes until you have to transfer to another bus, repeat once or twice, finally, walk from last stop to destination.

A five minute car trip can take half an hour. An hour round trip by car can take half a day or more using a bus system. This is not a practical system of mass transit anywhere that isn't densely populated. Sorry.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

chicken and egg (4.66 / 3) (#67)
by calimehtar on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:12:56 PM EST

You're quite right. But think about it this way: cities in Western North America were built for automobiles. This is the primary reason a 'five minute car trip can take half a day or more using a bus system'. In downtown Toronto, for example, a five minute car ride can take five minutes on foot. And a 10 minute subway ride will take you about a half an hour by car especially if you include the time it takes to find where you parked.

Similarly, I believe, the social problem you describe where only people who cannot afford a car use transit is a product of cities designed for automobiles. In cities like Toronto, again, people from all social groups ride the transit. When the whole community travels the same way in a relatively intimate setting (compared to the freeway) like that of a bus, there is less mistrust among economic and racial groups.

It's worth mentioning that in densely-populated cities with vibrant downtowns, the young and newly wealthy want condiminiums downtown that they cannot afford and so represent a fairly large percentage of transit users.

[ Parent ]
Transportation affects politics (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by driptray on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 08:44:52 PM EST

In cities like Toronto, again, people from all social groups ride the transit. When the whole community travels the same way in a relatively intimate setting (compared to the freeway) like that of a bus, there is less mistrust among economic and racial groups.

I agree 100% with this. People that ride public transport get to interact with a very wide range of people, and this affects the way they view the society they live in. I get the feeling that many people go from home to car to work to car to home, and so only get to interact with their family and their work colleagues. This makes them very narrow people who are unable to relate to (or realistically imagine) people outside their own social class.

Even more awful is when people view their car-centered lifestyle in a positive way as a means to insulate themselves from the rest of society. Personally I find it interesting to be out amongst a wide variety of people in a relatively intimate setting. I prefer the train to the bus though...
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

my experience (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by calimehtar on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:51:46 PM EST

Moving from the west (Alberta, but spent some time in California and found it the same way) to Toronto, I have found that people in the west tend to be much more clique-ish, and closed-minded than those in Toronto. I agree there must be a correlation related to the use of public transit, or to population density or something, since a lot of people I have met from the suburbs of Toronto seem to have a mindset more like that of the west.

And I agree with what you say about trains vs busses, too. I personally think that busses will never equal trains, and any good transit system needs to have at least a core of light-rail.

Some possible reasons: busses don't have a very smooth ride and tend to be a bit noisy, making it difficult to talk to other people or focus on reading. Riding trains in general is a pleasant and unobtrusive experience. Busses are more offensive to pedestrians since they tend to have loud engines and brakes. Trains usually ride on tracks and aren't dependant on traffic or weather conditions to the same extent busses are. What this means is that trains can usually be relied on to come regularly and arrive at their destination on time. All these comparisons apply to long-haul passenger trains as well as to streetcars.

[ Parent ]
Streetcars suffer from some of the bus problems. (none / 0) (#152)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 03:49:25 PM EST

They also are louder than trains, and do suffer from weather, although not to the same extent as buses - but if the snow covers the tracks, they're gone; admittedly this is also true for trains, but with trains, there's usually a cover over the tracks to reduce snow.

Streetcars, however, look incredibly cool. Possibly my favourite thing about life in TO.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

yes (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by calimehtar on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:43:51 PM EST

I've heard other people say how much they like streetcars in toronto. Personally, I think it's because riding in a streetcar you feel like you're thumbing your nose at all the car drivers. Same with the very popular sport of mass jaywalking on Queen Street.

[ Parent ]
Target the Congested Areas (4.00 / 1) (#191)
by chrislamb on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 06:31:21 AM EST

By definition the congested areas are going to be the places that lots of people want to get to. It is precisely these areas that can benefit from public transport - not the areas that are very spread out.

If the car trip only takes five minutes then either:
  • There is no congestion so little need to reduce the number of cars, or
  • If it is congested, you could probably walk!

It is only where lots of people want to go the same way that buses are useful, otherwise they are just wasting road space.

[ Parent ]
Bussing cannot work as public transportation (2.14 / 7) (#64)
by guyjin on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:50:55 PM EST

For public transportation to work in the united states, 1 of 3 things has to be true: the public transportation must be cheaper, more convenient, or faster than cars.

Busses cannot fufill any of these. They use the same gas cars do, and the busses temselves are more expensive than most cars, so bussing cannot be cheaper.

They arent more convenient because nearly every home in america has infrastructure to support the use of cars (driveway, garage, etc) unless the bus knows when you leave the house and when to be in your driveway, you'll use a car.

they arent faster, even with 'bus lanes'. They have to use regular roads at some point, and this is where the 'last mile' slowdown occurs.

A Japanese-style solution, with neighborhood light rail/subway stations would make more sense for most urban areas.
-- 散弾銃でおうがいして ください

Faulty logic (4.50 / 2) (#79)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:33:49 PM EST

Your other points are well-taken.  But this one is either badly written or the result of some faulty logic

"They use the same gas cars do, and the busses temselves are more expensive than most cars, so bussing cannot be cheaper."

You've got to look at cost/passenger, not cost/vehicle.  If busses are fully-loaded (yes, an optimistic view, I know), then the gas-cost/passenger is insignificant.  The same goes for cost of vehicle.  So busses can be, and *are* cheaper.  Especially for individual people who don't need the carrying capacity and overhead of a four-person car.

[ Parent ]

Cost of a bus (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by dsaint on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:16:53 PM EST

Busses don't necessarily use the same fuel as cars. Some are natural gas powered. In cases where they use diesel the fuel for a fleet is cheaper than individual vehicles. This coupled with the fact that busses carry more passengers than a car makes them cheaper.

One question about the light rail, we have one here in Dallas and I think it's great, how do the people get to it without a bus? They don't seem to be particularly effective at short hauls. It does beat every form of transportation for getting from one end of town to the next though, even cars.

[ Parent ]

Many ways of being convienient (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by Lynoure on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 04:02:46 AM EST

You seem to measure the convenience by being eble to leave when you want to.
I measure it mostly by being able to use my travel time productively. I cannot read, handstitch or use a laptop when driving, therefore bus in more convenient for me.

(Background: I live in a town where busses and other public transportation are cheaper to use than cars (Helsinki, Finland) and go rather often.)

[ Parent ]

Bwahahahaha (2.00 / 1) (#124)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:34:12 PM EST

You seem to measure the convenience by being eble to leave when you want to.

And I suppose you measure it be being able to leave when the City Council want you to? It's amazing how far some people will go to try and justify their own sacrifice to some ill conceived and impossible ideal, and their attempts to force everyone else to make the same sacrifice.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

about 7 minutes (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by Lynoure on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:22:42 AM EST

Busses where I live go about every 15 minutes. That means on average 7 minutes difference to my leaving time.IMO not big difference.

And no, I am not trying to force anybody to use a bus. They are already very popular here as parking space is expensive and hard to find.


[ Parent ]

change the infrastructure (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by turmeric on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:57:40 AM EST

do you think it grew on a tree or fell out of the sky? no , we payed trillions of taxes for it and let big oil and big steel and big rubber influence the traffic engineers.

[ Parent ]
Buses suck. (3.66 / 6) (#68)
by gbroiles on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:41:44 PM EST

I've used public transit buses to commute on a daily basis in LA, Portland, Oakland, and San Francisco, and all of them sucked.

I'm strongly against investing any significant money into speculative improvements - I don't think they're likely to work, and they reduce the funding and attention which might be spent on other solutions, like subway/light rail (which I've used in the Bay Area, Chicago, and Portland, and have been very happy with.)

The biggest aggravating factor I've seen with buses is that they're slow because they have to accelerate/decelerate from stops every 2-3 blocks, and because people are frequently slow about getting on the bus, paying, and so forth. I don't see how to get around that; if you create a lot of express buses/lines which skip stops (that helps), then the system becomes much more complicated for people who don't use it frequently, and the frequency of stops at any particular location goes down, which makes buses less attractive. On the other hand, if the bus does continue to stop every 2-3 blocks, it takes absolutely forever to travel 5-10 miles, which is a distance that shouldn't be too much for an urban transit system. Until someone solves that, I don't see how buses can possibly work better.

Here in the Bay Area, the best thing we could do to improve the traffic/transit situation would be to dramatically expand BART (or, if costs are prohibitive for real BART, work on transitioning to another, more open, technology).

Why do light rail systems work where buses don't? I'm not an urban planner, but my hunch is that it has a lot to do with density and commitment - bus lines can change easily and overnight, so it's pretty risky to build housing or commercial buildings near a bus line, thinking that the bus line will make that property or business an attractive one. The transit system has made an expensive and hard-to-change commitment to a particular location, which lets others commit to it, as well, in locating jobs and stores and housing. Light-rail systems tend to carry more passengers more often per stop/station, which again emphasizes the attractiveness of the surrounding area as a good place to be, either because of the opportunity to travel, or because of the opportunity to be near other people who will need things.

I've worked in management in two small companies in the SF Bay Area - in both cases, we were located directly above urban BART stations (literally), and that location was a big help in terms of attracting and retaining employees (including me). Once I moved away, my commute got much worse (had to drive to CalTrain, then CalTrain for 70 mins, then bus to work) which had a dramatic negative impact on my quality of life. I ended up quitting that job, and the atrocious commute was a significant factor. I can imagine spending 45-60 minutes one way on BART commuting without it being a terrible burden - it's not a bad way to catch up on reading or think quietly. That same 60 minutes on the freeway (or 90-120 on a bus which stops every 2 blocks) would be awful and unsustainable over a long period of time.

Public Transit is more costly than a car (1.57 / 7) (#69)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:44:45 PM EST

Here in Vancouver, Canada, a monthly bus pass costs more than it does to keep my car insured and gassed up.  Lets break the cost down, shall we?

Bus: $267 monthly pass

Car: $90 (insurance) + $90 (gasoline) = $180

The car comes out costing 2/3 what it would cost the bus.

But it gets worse!  I have a wife and kid.  Now all of a sudden the cost of the bus jumps to $267*3, or $801.  But the cost of the car doesn't jump at all!  Maybe an extra $50 for gasoline.  So lets say $230 for the car, versus $801 for the public transit.

Parking is a very irritating annoyance, but I stay away from downtown whenever humanly possible, so it's not a big deal; I don't spend more than $10/month on parking, although that could easily run into the hundreds of dollars if I wasn't careful.

Finally, there is the convenience factor.  No, I'm not talking about walking to the bus stop; I live in the city, and the bus stop is right outside my door.  It doesn't get more convenient.  And I am a 5 minute walk from 3 different monorail stations, which are included in the price of the bus pass.

The convenience I am talking about is transport.  I don't carry heavy things very much, but when I do, I do, and the public transit systems makes no provision for that.  With my car I can just load it up with my stuff and haul it around.  Taking public transit to a car rental place, and spending $50 to rent a car for a day just so I can move two boxes seems REALLY wasteful, especially if I am already paying for the bus pass!

There is hope for the future though. If I can scrape together the $500, I plan to join the Vancouver Car Co-op, then I will be able to drive a car when I need to haul stuff around, and use public transit the rest of the time.  In Vancouver, public transit isn't as fast as a car, but it can be almost as fast.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

It's misleading to ignore the cost of the car (4.00 / 3) (#72)
by gbroiles on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:53:39 PM EST

.. unless you know someone who gives them away for free, and fixes them for free.

So tack on another $100-200/month if you assume you're starting with a used car paid for long ago, to cover repairs .. or maybe $300-400/month if it's a new car, where most repairs will be covered by a warranty but car payments will be higher, and you need to amortize the cost of the car over its useful lifetime.

[ Parent ]

Cost of the car is insignificant in my case (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:11:50 PM EST

I have an old beater I bought for $1000 2 years ago.  I take good care of it, make sure the engine oil is topped up, etc.  Monthly costs of "maintenance" end up being much less than $50.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

[ Parent ]
not over the long term, they don't. (4.50 / 2) (#81)
by gbroiles on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:00:36 PM EST

.. cars are full of parts that wear out - bearings, rings, belts, hoses, tires, brake pads. They're not free, and neither is the labor spent to replace them.

If you're going to twist the numbers with best-case assumptions (e.g., very cheap old car that never needs maintenance), you might as well do the same for the public transit side (e.g., "My work pays for my bus pass, so public transit is free.").

If you don't think your particular experience generalizes well, then it's distracting to use it as an example. Do you really mean to suggest that everyone else in Vancouver is driving $1000 used cars? (is that $100 CDN or USD?) It's not like everyone can drive a used car - to get cheap used cars, someone's gotta buy them when they're expensive and put tens of thousands of miles and a bunch of years on them, first. That person's transit is not going to be cheaper than public transit, even if you personally don't have to pay for it.

[ Parent ]

Full cost of the car ... (3.40 / 5) (#85)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:42:08 PM EST

(This is taken from a pretty interesting editorial-thread discussion)

The main reason Public Transit is not financially self-sufficient is because everybody drives cars, instead of using public transit. Before the 1950's almost all public transit was run at a profit, in fact, before the 20's almost all "public" transit was privately owned and operated. Incidentally, auto manufacturers bought up many street car companies in the 40's, only to let them fall into disrepair, forcing people to buy automobiles.

Public transit is self-sufficient insofar as society can afford to pay for it through taxes, and be confident that the long-term impacts will be minimal, but we do not know what the eventual societal costs will amount to for automobiles.

We perceive cars (and the auto industry) as not subsidised, when they are, and heavily so.

Even if you don't have a car, your taxes go to pay for freeways, environmental cleanup, and road repair. The amount we currently pay for road maintenance, surveillance, and construction, pales in comparison to amount we pay for public transit (in taxes). The investment in Boston's Big Dig is huge, but few people see that as a subsidy, while investments that benefit far more people and are 1/100th the cost are whined about (by wealthy car drivers) till the cows come home.

It's time we recognised how much these huge hunks of metal are really costing us - maybe then we'll feel the impulse to start doing something different.


Related: Does Free-Flowing Car Travel Reduce Fuel Consumption and Air Pollution?

[ Parent ]

Roads used by buses (3.00 / 2) (#86)
by Rhodes on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:54:07 PM EST

The roads that cars drive on are used by all surface vechicles (except street cars that were purchased by GM and torn up).

[ Parent ]
Most of the damage is the result of cars, though. (none / 0) (#145)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:48:01 AM EST

And that means, most of the maintenance costs result from allowing cars and trucks on the roads.

This is especially true in a place like Vancouver, where the winter does nothing to the road.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Ive kept detailed records (3.00 / 1) (#123)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:30:44 PM EST

on close to a dozen cars that I've owned. Buying an old beater and driving it till it dies can produce overall costs of operation (not counting insurance) of under 4 cents per mile. I had one in the low 3's. That inclueds gas, oil, repairs, tires, batteries, and amortizing the original cost.

A car a few years old driven to beaterdom yeilds a cost around 10 cents per mile. These numbers are for subcompacts. Comparing costs to luxury cars is irrelevant because with those you are paying for the luxury in addition to the transportation cost, and we are only comparing transportation costs.

Insurance only matters if you are going to give up the car entirely. Once you drive the first mile, insurance is a fixed cost.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

are those numbers current? (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by gbroiles on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:00:45 AM EST

or are you talking about diesels?

If you're getting better than 30mpg out of beater cars, I'm impressed. At .04 per mile and assuming 30 mpg, you're buying your gas for $1.20 per gallon, and getting all of the rest for free. I don't see how that's possible, at least not at recent gas prices.

If you're thinking back to the late 1980's when gas was down to $.50 a gallon for a little while, then, OK.

[ Parent ]

Through the late '80's and early '90's (4.00 / 1) (#150)
by PullNoPunches on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:14:38 PM EST

No, these were not deisels, and gas was always over a dollar that that I ever remember. You may be right that the average I stated was for gas only rather than gas and repairs, but it was nto far off in any case. The car I did best on was a '76 Datsun b-210 that I bought for $500 with something like 80K (miles) on it. That car got around 30 mpg the time I had it and my total repair and depreciation was under a penny per mile. The total cost would then have been just over 4 cents per mile.

Another was an '89 Toyota Tercel that I bought around 1992 for $900. I drove it 120 thousand miles before it died, and put just under $2000 total repairs and maintenance for that time. It got slightly less than 30 mpg over its life with me, making the total cost of operation under 7 cents a mile. This was the "under ten cents for somewhat newer cars" that I mentioned in my previous comment.

When I say "drive them till they die", I mean it literally. Both of these cars were eventually abandoned on the side of the road. The key to getting these kinds of numbers is to buy from a private party, not a dealer. They are more honest about the faults in the car, often fixing the worst ones before selling it, and are much more willing to accept a low price. I have always done very poorly with used cars bought from a dealer. On the flip side, I was making a living with the car in those days, and driving them very hard and skimping on basic maintenance.

Even today, gas is not that much more expensive, around $1.40 where I live, but cars get much better mileage, last longer and need far fewer repairs (though the repairs that are needed are more expensive). I is still possible to get a car that is just simple transportation (don't mind the rust), mostly reliable, and no frills for around 10 cents per mile, if you shop around for a good price and have the car checked out before buying. But again, this is only for used cars that you pay cash for from a private party. They can still be found for under $1000 where I live.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

$267/mo? (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by SDrifter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:56:06 PM EST

Damn. Even when you account for the exchange rate, an annual pass costs less than that here in Arizona. Of course, that's with a University subsidy, but monthly passes are still $30.
It burns!!!
It's loaded with wasabi!
[ Parent ]
he's full of shit /nt (2.00 / 5) (#76)
by ShadowNode on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:06:05 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Disinformation (do you really live in Vancouver?) (4.33 / 3) (#75)
by ShadowNode on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:04:34 PM EST

A monthly transit pass in Vancouver costs $63 for an adult, $40 for a child. Using the real numbers, your costs for public transit come to $166, assuming each member of your family rides the bus at least twice every weekday (it's cheaper to buy books of individual tickets if you don't).

Public transit in Vancouver is far from perfect, but it's never been that expensive. It's a bit more expensive in the areas outside the city which are served, but even the furthest away is less than half that.

[ Parent ]
Looks like you're the one spreading disinformation (1.50 / 2) (#78)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:14:41 PM EST

The $267 figure I quoted is for the 3 zone pass.  The one zone pass limits me to Vancouver proper; for a large metropolitan area like the Lower Mainland, that is insane; many of the job opportunities and interesting things I like to visit are outside Vancouver, in Burnaby and Richmond, even as far afield as Surrey and North Vancouver.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

[ Parent ]
A 3 zone pass is less than half of that (5.00 / 3) (#80)
by ShadowNode on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:39:08 PM EST

If you'd followed the link I provided, you'd see that a 3 zone pass is $120. However, you claimed to live in Vancouver, which you obviously do not if you need a 3 zone pass. Even a 2 zone pass, which covers the "metropolitan area" (ie: suburbs) is only $87. Again, it's only worth buying a pass if you visit these areas every weekday. If you don't it's cheaper to buy an one zone pass, and buy and add fare when you do. All of the areas you mentioned are within zones 1 and 2, with the exception of Surrey. For the non-locals reading this, there is nothing interesting in Surrey, unless by "interesting" you mean crack dealers and skanky prostitutes. Even if that is what you mean, I imagine you could find cheaper crack and cleaner whores in Vancouver anyways.

I'd ask you to provide a source for your $267 figure, but I'm afraid that since you're pulling it out of your ass, you'd just point to goatse.cx.

[ Parent ]
The car co-op is a pretty neat idea (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by speedfreak2K2 on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:31:36 AM EST

I like how you have access to a car when you need one. But I would still have to have my own personal sports car, just for fun on weekends. By the way, you guys don't rent out rice rockets do you? :)
You! Take that crown off your head, I'm kicking your ass!
[ Parent ]
The biggest reason (3.00 / 3) (#74)
by godix on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:58:09 PM EST

Time. My car is in the shop now, so my wife and I are using the bus. I have to get to work at 8am, and she needs to get to school at 8am. In the car that means we leave at 7:30. With a bus that means we leave at 6:45. That's an extra hour and a half per day spent commuting. Now I don't want to see the enviroment go kablooie, but I have to wonder if it's worth 7.5 hours a week of my time to what's really a rather insignificant effect.

People on buses (2.00 / 4) (#82)
by kphrak on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:20:52 PM EST

In America at any rate, riding the bus in most neighborhoods usually means that you can't get a license. Since the DMV of most states would give license to a moderately intelligent chimpanzee, you can imagine who most of your companions on the bus will be.

Not to be biased or anything, but I don't want to talk to some people. I don't want to be cursed at for some imagined offense by the 500lb drunken prostitute who stumbled onto the bus. I don't want the "homies" in the back giving me a sample of their trash-talking. And I don't want the dude who hasn't showered in three weeks to sit next to me. Hell, no!

Buses (Portland, OR buses anyway) have a reputation for being dirty places to meet people you soon grow to hate. I'd rather ride a bike...they're almost as fast, they don't pollute at ALL, you get good exercise, and you don't have to hang out with degenerates.

Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

it's not that bad (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by gbroiles on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:55:37 PM EST

Most of the people on urban buses are normal people having normal lives - going to school, going to work, going shopping.

It's not like not having a license is a big obstacle to driving - people drive all the time without having a license (never got one, got it suspended/revoked). It's much more likely that people on the bus simply can't afford a car and/or its maintenance and operation, or have a physical condition which prevents safe operation of a car.

Other people aren't nearly as interested in you as you seem to imagine - they're not going to seek you out and engage you in conversation, 99% of the time. They're probably not any more excited than you are about deeper social contact - do they want to spend their afternoon talking to some judgemental middle-class snot? Probably not.

[ Parent ]

It is that bad (3.00 / 1) (#90)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:01:07 PM EST

The 500 lb prostitute, after cursing at you, will sit next to you and put her flab in your lap.

One time when myself and my friends got on the bus we were treated to some insane woman ranting about how she was going to "kill all the honkies".

If you are female you get the scary fat bald guy staring at you all the time.

If you are lucky, the bus won't smell like piss that day. One day someone actually took a shit right there on the bus. He got up at his stop and walked off the bus leaving A TRAIL OF SHIT ALL DOWN THE AISLE.

That's what makes all the normal people having normal lives not want to ride public buses.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Experience is on my side (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by kphrak on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:00:35 PM EST

Considering I rode the bus for a few years, yes. It is that bad. I knew I'd get flamed for saying it, but some people on here get this utopian idea of a bus full of peaceful, normal people, which is not the case. It helps that I don't live in the nicest neighborhood. :)

Buses depend on the neighborhood. If you've only caught the bus downtown or in an upper-middle-class area (and the fact that you just called me a "judgemental middle-class snot" strongly indicates that you are middle-class yourself), or maybe a college bus, your companions on the bus might be a bit different. Portland really doesn't have much of a "ghetto" like Chicago or even SF, but there are enough crummy neighborhoods for everybody.

What's more, I suspect you misread my post; I don't recall mentioning that anyone is interested in me on a bus. However, all the garbage that goes on in the background can get quite offensive sometimes.

Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

[ Parent ]
I've been on the bus in Portland, too (4.00 / 1) (#132)
by gbroiles on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:48:42 PM EST

in Northeast, near 33rd & Wygant/Prescott, 10 years ago when that wasn't a nice neighborhood and I was the only white person on the bus, and I still think you're full of shit.

And after that I rode the bus to & through downtown and west Oakland.

So, no, I'm not talking about some happy commuter bus full of yuppies and college kids. I'm talking about buses in Portland. And if you're freaked out by the buses in Portland you ought to see if you can learn to be a little less uptight, especially if the sort of anxiety you described in your first message occurs when people aren't even talking to you.

And, yes, the people on the bus in Portland are nice, normal, happy people - at least not any more or less happy and normal than the people inside cars in Portland or on bikes.

[ Parent ]

*Most* are normal, nice, happy (5.00 / 1) (#158)
by Polverone on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:09:40 PM EST

It's the glaring exceptions that can make the experience unpleasant. Whether they are exuding L'odeur de Vin or towing screaming children, they can annoy me without speaking a single word in my direction. Besides, isn't this article about how to increase public acceptance of bus transportation? Telling everybody who finds their fellow passengers unpleasant that they should be less uptight doesn't seem like much of a solution.

That said, I find the Portland bus system tolerable and MAX to be pretty nice.

The people on cars and bikes in Portland are not my fellow passengers, so I don't care if they are normal or axe murderers.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Most of them. (none / 0) (#173)
by katie on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:18:28 PM EST

Most other passengers on busses are normal people. OAPs, students... the other members of one car families.

Most of them are OK. I'm not worried about them.

I care about the one psycho it takes to cause me harm. There are FUCKING NUTCASES out there.

I don't use public transport. I don't feel safe on it. Remotely safe. Yeah, driving is dangerous but to an extent, how I drive influences that. Trapped on moving bus, I can do nothing, run nowhere if someone has a go at me.

It's not even being mugged. You can just let go of the bag and avoid injury. It's the maniacs who don't want money just to hurt people. I've been attacked once already - a six-foot tall bloke punched me unconscious at Bank tube station one day. I couldn't have picked him out of a crowd before it, I couldn't even now because I never actually got to see him. I was just in his way. The transport police said "yeah, we get a lot of these things happening in the summer. We call it tube rage..."

Yes, that's right, being whacked by some stranger is common enough to have a name.

Public transport can just fuck off until ALL the public are someone I want to be near.

[ Parent ]

Choose appropriately (4.00 / 2) (#89)
by dsaint on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:59:54 PM EST

I'm a regular Dallas, TX bus/train user. The buses and trains are full of people who just stare into space straight ahead, or read a book. Interaction is the exception, not the norm. Occasionally I run into the guy who hasn't showered but again the exception and not the rule.

Riding a bike is cool, but do you plan on doing that when it rains, or you have packages, or if the temperature is sitting at 95-100 degrees all day. Also, what about night, is visibility good enough for biking?

Ultimately any transportation decisions are a series of compromises. You can't just rule them all out. Each time you time you go out you should choose wisely. For example, in Dallas perhaps only riding public transportation during a red pollution alert is the best one, bikes in Fall, cars for Christmas shopping, etc. People should be more mindful about how they make their transportation decisions.

[ Parent ]

So not true. (3.75 / 4) (#94)
by Apuleius on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:27:02 PM EST

You'll also be riding with people who have a license but can't afford a car, or can't afford downtown parking, and with people who prefer to spend their morning commute reading the paper (or the email on their PDAs).

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Cars: the perfect alternative to buses (3.50 / 4) (#88)
by bananajr on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:58:46 PM EST

Automobiles would be the perfect system of transport if it weren't for the $!%# people driving them.

In order for a transportation system to be efficient (in the sense of getting all the packages to their destination in a miminal amount of time), centralized planning is required. Humans in their cars, however, are a perfect example of decentralized planning -- i.e. every woman for herself.

That's why we need to keep the current system of cars and networks of streets, but get rid of the drivers.

Thus, a centralized system can plan the optimal paths for each car, so all the soccer mom's can get their SUV's to the mall and back on time, while still being able to talk on their cellphones.
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is all it really is about?" -- Jimmy Buffett

Cars: Grossly inefficient (4.00 / 2) (#108)
by swr on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:37:08 AM EST

Automobiles would be the perfect system of transport if it weren't for the $!%# people driving them.

What is so perfect about cars?

Take a look at how much space is used up by roadways and parking lots. It is quite a bit. The footprint of a car is much larger than the footprint of a person. Worst of all, cars spend most of their time sitting in a parking lot doing nothing but wasting space. But we just accept these gross inefficiencies because they are perfectly normal to us.

Buses are far more efficient. The footprint of a bus is larger, but their capacity makes it more than worth it. They also don't spend as much time idle. If everyone traveled by bus, most roads could be reduced to single-lane. Parking lots would be a thing of the past.

Same applies to bikes, and taxis.

I'm not saying that cars necessarily suck, but the way we have based our society around them really is quite stupid. If everyone used transit, transit itself would be less of a hassle. For example, busses would be more frequent. Economies of scale, and all that. But because our infrastructure is already built around cars, not around transit, most people will continue using cars instead of transit.

[ Parent ]
Cars: a necessary evil (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by bananajr on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:21:26 AM EST

I agree that cars are often grossly inefficient for the purposes they are put to. I made the joke about soccer moms in their (usually otherwise empty) SUV's, but in fact that sort of thing irks me greatly.

If more people used transit, it would indeed be more effiecient, and it might even be the case that I would not have to walk almost a mile every morning to catch the bus. But there are two problems that I don't ever see transit solving: (1) what do I do when I need to move my piano, and (2) how am I going to get my mountain bike up that remote logging road to the trailhead?

However, I see transit, plus a system such as Zipcar for those special cases, as a possible solution.
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is all it really is about?" -- Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]

Pickup rental (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by Rasman on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:17:29 AM EST

You take a bus down to the DMV and rent a pickup truck for one or two days and return it like you do books to the library. The cost would be considerably less than owning one.

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
What are you driving now? (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by ShadowNode on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:41:17 AM EST

What commuter vehicle can move your piano? Do you drive a panel truck?

[ Parent ]
Time for switched rail (4.50 / 6) (#92)
by pdrap on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:23:19 PM EST

I imagine a rail based system that would replace all cars. Scenario: I have a house, with a street in front. In the middle of the street is a rail line, with small 4 or 6 passenger cars passing from time to time. There is a short rail spur in front of my house, where my driveway used to be before I had it replaced with some landscaping. I have a computer terminal in my house. When I want to go somewhere, I press a button on the terminal to call a car to my house. It pulls up less than two minutes later, and stops at my rail spur. It will wait for me to get inside. If I don't come out in 10 minutes, it'll leave, and I'll have to call another one.

So, I get into the rail car. It's clean and private, but not particularly fancy. If I wanted to, I could have my own private rail car, but that costs a bit extra and is actually not as convenient. The reason is that when I'm not using it it has to park at a special railyard which might be miles away from me. Of course, if I'm at home it's on my private railspur.

After I get into the railcar, I enter my destination somehow, probably a voice recognition system, and off it goes. The car travels quite quickly, well over 150 MPH where the old Interstates used to be, and perhaps 80 MPH inside of cities. At this speed, it's less than a minute to get to the grocery store. As I pass through intersection the car doesn't even slow noticeably, though I know that the computers controlling it are always varying the speed, to make intersection timing possible. All over the city cars zip at high speed through intersections, sometimes switching from one track to another, but never colliding. They interleave like the teeth on a gear.

When I reach the grocery store, the railcar pulls up into a large spur for the store. Last week, the spur was full, and the rail system rode me around the block twice before it dropped me off. It was only a couple extra minutes, and that delay will go away when the store completes its second rail spur queue. When I get out of the railcar, it does a quick automatic check of the interior cleanliness and zips off to pick up another passenger.

Time for cold fusion (4.22 / 9) (#101)
by sjf8 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:50:16 PM EST

I imagine an airway based system that would replace all cars with personal hovercraft vehicles. Scenario: I have a house, with an "air-lane" in front (where the street used to be). When I wish to go somewhere, I turn on the tap and fill a small cup with deutrium (heavy hydrogen) and pour the result into my personal hovercar. The hovercar then zips me to my intended destination, accelerated by the fact that it can travel through any of a number of "worm-holes", or rifts in the space-time continuum...eliminating the need for long-distance travel systems.

So I get into the hovercraft vehicle, enter my destination, and the onboard computer writes and compiles a program that will carry me to my destination. Further, it checks that this program will successfully complete under all input conditions, ensuring that there is no way for me NOT to end up at my destination, say a grocery store.

When I reach the grocery store, I realize that I didn't even need to go to the grocery store, I simply buy "mini-food", and use an "enlarging" machine at home to "super-size" the food when I return. When I finally get home, my hovercraft vehicle opens up, does a quick re-check of its operating system (to make sure no hardware/software misalignments have caused its "unhaltable" state to be recinded). While this is going on, I carry my thimble-ful of groceries into my kitchen, and grab a seat at my anti-gravity table. I then take out my four foot crack pipe, and take a real good rip...


[ Parent ]

Control during accidents (4.00 / 1) (#113)
by Rasman on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:40:18 AM EST

The human mind is such an illogical machine. The reason people freak out when they hear about commercial airline crashes is that all but two of the people that died had no control before or during the emergency. In cars, on the other hand, people have more control and generally feel much safer, even though the very reason that they feel more safe is the exact reason they are much more likely to die.

My point is, in your scenario, the general public is going to have an infinitesimal threshold of fear once any accidents occur. Who would get on a plane driven by the same pilot who had a crash that killed everyone? People aren't going to see a new code revision as a different pilot. The Computer, the same one controlling my car, was responsible for that disaster I saw on the news last night! And there won't be any non-fatal crashes at the speeds you're talking about.

Also, you're going to need some kind of id/key card to make your car go. That way no one that caused vandalism can be allowed in again (until they call up the National Transport Service and get some money deducted from their account and their card reactivated).

Great post, though!

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Fear seems not to deter (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by pyro9 on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 01:38:08 PM EST

While airline accidents do seem to cause fear, I notice that in the U.S., air travel is STILL approaching gridlock due to so many passengers. Apparently, the fear is not a deterrant.

There are many benefits to the idea of automated cars.

Maintenance is much cheaper in bulk when all of the vehicles are essentially the same and the rate of repairs is more or less dependable due to a large statistical population.

People could ACTUALLY get work done. I have tried working on the train, with mixed results. Often, that plan is foiled by the loudmouth who would rather shout across the car than go sit by their friend. Or made difficult by the person who wears eye watering amounts of perfime to compensate for apparently not having a working shower.

Cars going a fair distance (such as suburban commutes) could link up and operate in a train like manner.

Electric cars could be a lot more practical. Ride to your destination, and the car goes off to wherever in order to recharge.

Although vandalism would need to be considered, theft and vandalism of private vehicles would be a thing of the past.

In spite of fears, automated cars would tend to have less accidents than human controled vehicles. Road capacity would be effectively improved by reducing gaps, and preventing jam ups at intersections and highway ramps (mostly caused by drivers refusing to yield).

Using the cell phone in the car would be O.K.

No more road rage

No more drive by shootings

Police could concentrate on real crimes rather than writing traffic/parking tickets.

No more D.U.I. The worst that could happen is ending up in the wrong place due to being too drunk to specify a destination.

I'm sure it won't be the cartopia we all hope for, but it could sure improve things and reduce wear and tear on both commuters nd the environment.

The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Driverless trains (none / 0) (#174)
by katie on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:25:34 PM EST

The docklands light railway has driverless trains. They seem fairly safe in that respect.

[ Parent ]
sorry to be a killjoy (none / 0) (#182)
by Nyarly on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 05:13:17 PM EST

Here are the issues I have with your rail system proposal:
  1. Pedestrians How the hell am I going to live in a city with an automated expressway running through it. Everywhere. Don't bother looking both ways when you cross the street, just sprint and pray. The efficient systems that could conceivably route rail traffic at high speeds will probably have a very hard time dealing with pedestrian traffic. Which probably means establishing seperate pedestrian paths - bridges and tunnels etc.
  2. Unserved locations When I want to go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's, I'll need a car. This uberrail isn't going to be everywhere, so I'll need some sort of transit to places not on the route.
  3. Business extortion The flip side of that is that any business that doesn't install a spur will be pretty much SOL. It means another "price of doing business" tax on any consumer retail outlet. And places like groceries, where I need to load cargo, will pay to most, since they'll need large stationary spurs, unlike boutiques and restaurants which could make do with a smaller siding. Either the system is centrally controlled (and so the rail siding is a "private tax") or cooperative (with all the integration costs and safety issues that entails.)
  4. Public fear This point has been made elsewhere quite effectively. In short, though, one midtown collision at 80 mph and the clever rail system is scrap.
  5. Elimination of privacy I would need to identify myself somehow in order to control damage and vandalism to the cars. By doing that, I make my travels effectively public. Or worse, the secret of a stranger. Alternatively, there's no reason I can't vandalize the car, or hide aboard one as a private mugging booth.
  6. Theft Assuming that everyone would have a rail card of some kind, stealing that card would give me your access to the rail, allowing me to use it with impunity. Complicated security measures would prevent this, but c'mon. People right their PINs on their bank cards.

"The believer is happy. The doubter is wise" --Hungarian Proverb
[ Parent ]

Don't kill the joy, man! (none / 0) (#184)
by Rasman on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 04:21:14 AM EST

Some responses to your points:
  1. Pedestrians I always kind of imagined the scenario described as being raised off the ground, so people have free ambulatory reign everywhere (except through the posts holding it up).
  2. Unserved locations Of course it won't go everywhere at first! Therefore you'll still be allowed your car. For purposes of maintaining the auto-ban within the city, you might be forced to keep your car parked outside the city somewhere. But then, when it goes national, you won't need your car any more. To borrow from pyro9 earlier, for your long journeys over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house, the automated cars would "link up and operate in a train like manner."
  3. Business extortion It's no more a business's responsibility to provide a spur as it is now to provide parking. Supermarkets do it (they must) and big downtown buildings have it provided by the city or the owner of the building. For sure the spurs would be even cheaper than parking decks. The cost of converting current parking structures/lots to spurs would have to be government-subsidized for the first few years. Obviously the whole system won't be cheap.
  4. Public fear Yeah, that was my point made elsewhere quite effectively. :-)
  5. Elimination of privacy Unfortunately, this is just something that must happen when you are required to have an electronic ID. A Microsoft Passport is both a convenience and a loss of privacy. However, your electronic ID doesn't necessarily have to be attached to your name. You could buy cards good for X kilometers of travel at your local convenience store. But the fact is, any government agency that wants to track you can figure out which ID left from your house this morning. But then again, if a government agency wants to track you, you can't stop them in your automotive freedom world you live in now either.
  6. Theft Theft will always occur. Car-jacking happens now, train mugging happens now, theft will happen with this new system too. The best thing to do is have an easy hotline for reporting your stolen transport card, and put some kind of bio-detection system in the cars to make sure they're empty before you hop in.

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Bus lanes (2.80 / 10) (#93)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:25:49 PM EST

I'm strongly opposed to the use of bus lanes. The roads are for the free use of all travelers. We should not use unnecessary rules to change the way people live their lives - that's government messing around where it doesn't belong. If the roads are congested now, why make them worse by taking away an entire lane and dedicating it to vehicles that will only use it once every 5 or ten minutes? Doesn't sound like the most efficient use of limited resources.

HOV lanes (high occupancy vehicle) are a failed experiment in social engineering. One whole lane is removed from service, except for vehicles with more than one occupant. They are underused, while they contribute to even more congestion in the non-HOV lanes. Bus lanes don't seem to be any different.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

bike lanes (5.00 / 1) (#164)
by turmeric on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:56:26 AM EST

me too. bicyclists should be allowed to use the entire road, as it is there for the benefit of all. furthermore all stoplights should have detecotrs that work with bicycle aluminum wheels as well as automobiles, as presently the standards for magnetic signaling only require it to work for autos. this is yet another form of government meddling in our lives and trying to force us to use cars.

furthremore, the government built highway system is another example of the government messing with our lives as these commonly make it illegal to ride bicycles along them.

[ Parent ]

Better solutions (3.33 / 3) (#97)
by glog on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:58:15 PM EST

I don't believe public bus systems are a good solution for American suburbs, in particular, due to several reasons mentioned by other posters:
  • Americans love their cars too much.
  • People do not want to migle with strangers on the public transport, and be exposed to disease, stupidity, and crime.
For these reasons I think that several other things can be done. These are not quite within the capabilities of the current technologies but we'll be there very soon (say next 10-15 years):
  • Car manufacturers should work to reduce the amount of exhaust gases and reduce the consumption of fuel. Better yet - vehicles should be exhaust-free. Fuel-cells and hybrid (hydrogen) cars are the closest we have at the moment. I believe politicians and car manufacturers are not doing all they can towards solving this problem. For instance, just recently a proposed law that would have required car manufacturers to have a ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) SUV by the end of this decade was killed (couldn't find a link). The reason? Why spend big bucks on research when you can just keep selling the cars you've got now. Look, they sell just fine!
  • Smart road systems and smart cars must be developed. Such as roads that are lined up with sensors to guide cars along. And cars that are equipped with radar technology to avoid crashes. And road surfaces that do not freeze or do not overheat easily. All of these things combined will allow for transportation arteries to handle automobile traffic many many times greater that it is today (see the highways in the movie Minority Report). Yes, I know these things are very very expensive. For the moment. This is going to change, however. The Virginia Tech Transporation Institute with its Smart Road Design is one of the organizations working towards solutions.

Nice idea, shame about the reality (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by epepke on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:56:25 AM EST

Smart road systems and smart cars must be developed. Such as roads that are lined up with sensors to guide cars along. And cars that are equipped with radar technology to avoid crashes.

That would be wonderful, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, I can't ever see it happening, ever. Unless such systems were 100% perfect, any car company that actually implemented any such system would be sued into bankruptcy about fifteen milliseconds after the first accident.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
why not? (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by glog on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:12:22 PM EST

Ok, I understand why you can't see it happening in the immediate future. Technology is fallible, and people are prone to put all of the blame on it rather than accept part of the responsibility. However, I beg to disagree from your opinion. Assuming humanity does not wipe itself out in 500 years we will have to transition to some sort of smart, safe, fast, and reliable transport system. It's either that or teleportation, you know. And teleportation, as much as I want to believe it's real, is less likely than smart roads/airways.

[ Parent ]
Oh, sure (4.50 / 2) (#127)
by epepke on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:42:03 PM EST

Assuming humanity does not wipe itself out in 500 years we will have to transition to some sort of smart, safe, fast, and reliable transport system.

Oh, sure. But they won't be smart cars, evolved from existing cars. The whole idea of a smart car is to take not only an existing technology, but an existing culture and set of laws, and tacking on smartness. It isn't going to happen, because no legal entity is in control of the entire system. This is especially true as most roads are paid for and maintained by government. We can't get there from here. The automobile has a peculiar history, and the first automobiles were probably only possible in that era, when there was far less litigation, and people were used to risking death every day. They evolved from horse-drawn carriages, which happened not to have the kind of legal baggage that automobiles have today.

These things are subject to a kind of evolution that has cul-de-sacs like biological evolution is. I submit that the private automobile on a public road is such a cul-de-sac. It's like a local minimum of a function; though there may be a better global minimum, motion in all directions from the local minimum are too costly to traverse.

Now, I could see something like miniature versions of the automatic shuttles that run in airports these days, evolving over time to be devices that look a lot like passenger cars and run on things that look a lot like roads. But it can't evolve from the existing cars and roads. It has to evolve from somthing with an existing notion of centralized responsibility, such as railroad law. Which means that if this happens, at first, the same legal entity is going to be in control of both the vehicles and the roads, probably leasing transportation rather than letting you just buy a car and put it onto the system with no fees other than taxes. At first, the transportation network will be entirely isolated from the existing road network. Eventually, as the culture gets used to the legal ramifications, the monopoly may split up, and even existing roads may be granted some sort of "non-guaranteed" access. But it can't happen the other way around.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
I feel sorry ... (2.50 / 2) (#130)
by glog on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 09:17:51 PM EST

... for you. Please note that I NEVER said that the transport of the future will evolve from the present-day cars (althought it probably will in some form or shape). You may be right in your own mind. However, I feel that your views are too narrow-minded and set in the present. Granted very few people can imagine what the world will be like in 500 years - but you are certainly not one of them. Millions before you have thought precisely in the way that you do right now - oh, this is SOOO impossible and is SOOO never gonna happen. Too bad they were not around most of the time when it did happen.

[ Parent ]
Just what is your problem? (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by epepke on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:18:27 PM EST

Look, dude, I don't know what your problem is. Smart car technology has been in research since the 1950's, and it's certainly been viable since twenty years ago. I'm just trying to figure out why, against the thinking of most futurists, it isn't here yet. And I'm discussing it because you asked, which fooled me into thinking that you were interested in a discussion. Yes, I'm a sucker. Five million bonus points for you!

Millions before you have thought precisely in the way that you do right now - oh, this is SOOO impossible and is SOOO never gonna happen

Not only did I not suggest that it was impossible; I suggested a specific mechanism by which it might be accomplished. I did so in plain English. Apparently this is of no interest to you. So, OK. Have a nice day!

You may be right in a sense; I'm not one of those people who just like to sit around and imagine what "might be" in 500 years but not lift a finger. I'm one of those people who is interested in making the future happen, and that cannot be accomplished by pretending that the present does not exist. If you're not interested in that and just want to feel superior, well, that's fine, and I understand you better now. But, for people who actually are interested in things like that, how to get around existing problems is of essential importance.

It's like the difference between "Oh, goodie, a flying car!" and "Let's see, if we had a flying car, how would it be able to avoid overhead wires?" I'd feel a lot safer in a flying car made by someone who had thought about the second. Your mileage differs.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
your tone (1.50 / 2) (#138)
by glog on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:20:43 AM EST

You are asking what my problem is? Your tone. You started off on the wrong foot. Yours was not a constructive criticism - it was designed to put me down. And no you did not reply in plain English - not in your second longer post anyway. If you had I may have actually understood you. Hiding behind big words does not a good answer make. Peace out.

[ Parent ]
Oh, OK (none / 0) (#156)
by epepke on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:00:53 PM EST

Well, I admit that I do have a penchant for stating things in a rather sarcastic way, especially initally. But usually, when a discussion is established, things go smoothly.

I went back and re-read my second post, and I can't find anything in it that is particularly unpleasant. I also can't find anything that isn't clear or in plain English. Just which "big words" are the problem? "Centralized"? "Responsibility?"

Yours was not a constructive criticism - it was designed to put me down.

It's clear that this is your belief. I believe that I wasn't trying to put you down and that you overreacted. I also believe that you saved this overreaction for later. You asked a question and I answered it, in what I think was a non-nasty way. I still don't see how it's hard to understand, but I would gladly have explained bits of it that didn't come across. However, you appear to have saved up some percieved slight from my first posting, and so the request for clarification comes across more like a bait-and-switch.

And, as far as putting down, you were the one to initiate direct, first-person statements, attacking me, personally. I was talking about the ideas. For whatever personal slight you may have inferred, you were the one to bring out the personal accusations.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Why it would never work in America (none / 0) (#203)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 12:27:53 PM EST

Americans love their cars too much. - you're right about that, the car is a part of the American culture.
People do not want to migle with strangers on the public transport, and be exposed to disease, stupidity, and crime. - this is a common reaction to public transportation by those who never used it and tax it as a 'low-class' means. That, in my opinion, is a stupid way to think.
exposed to disease - get on the first class of the corcord, London to NY. Couldn't get more luxurious, right? One passenger has a flu (let's say he just has a flu, but consider any dicease) and sneakes: by the end of the flight and thank's to the miliion-dollar airplane's air conditioning system, lost of people will leave with the flu. Hey, think pneumonia, maybe tuberculosis...
stupidity - Hell I don't need to get on a bus to see stupidity in action!
and crime - unless everyone's driving armored cars you can still get robbed on a red light.

As far as your solutions go, smart cars and smart car-managing systems are a fact, but just aren't developed enough to be used. As for smart fluels... well, gas cars (cars that use bottles of gas, not sure if it's propane, butane or some other) al ready exist - I see then everyday. Buses use this as well. Solar cars exist, not very cost-effective yet. Fluel cells, electrical cars... it's all feasable.

So how come no big effort is being put into develipoing all these technologies? Easy: think petrol lobby helped by a government that will do everything (including overthrowing governments and arming factions) to get cheap oil. - yes, this is a political comment and I won't reply to any comments on it. Bottom line is: all the solutions you presented are feasable, if there's enough effort put into them.

Hope I didn't seem too agressive.

[ Parent ]
Here's a better idea. (4.00 / 4) (#98)
by psicE on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:29:28 PM EST

In four words, "Leave your car behind."

States are huge, and definitely too huge to be making lifestyle decisions for their citizens. However much I may condemn the isolated suburban lifestyle, the fact remains that some people want to live like that, and aside from pollution problems (which will soon be fixed by fuel cells), that's their problem.

Communities, on the other hand, are just that - groups of citizens that choose to live together and have a (relatively) common lifestyle. Therefore, it's in no way a stretch for major cities to simply ban cars.

Take Boston for example, which recently completed the Big Dig. Right now the Big Dig is road. But suppose Boston decided to build a huge, huge parking garage, or series of garages, outside the entrances to the city from the Big Dig. Then, they build multiple light rail subway lines, that go through the tunnels and come out at various points in the city. The stops can be made so frequent, and the trains fast enough, that you can get to any point in the city with a maximum of 20 minutes on the train, and another 10 minutes walking. All buses are decommissioned in favor of this expanded light rail system; therefore, streets are returned to the pedestrians (and bikers) they belong to.

Suburbanites can continue living in their developments, never walking a farther distance than from the parking lot to the mall, not knowing their neighbors. But urbanites can get a better deal. Get rid of the cars.

please! (none / 0) (#177)
by gregholmes on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:57:47 PM EST

Communities, on the other hand, are just that - groups of citizens that choose to live together and have a (relatively) common lifestyle. Therefore, it's in no way a stretch for major cities to simply ban cars.

Oh, please, please do that. I love seeing the absurd dreams of enviros go up in smoke :)

Just warn me, so I can avoid the fleeing masses as they stream out of the city ...

[ Parent ]
One problem... social attitude... (none / 0) (#194)
by bigbtommy on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 05:10:08 PM EST

That's Boston, MA your talking about, right?

And that's in America. The country where people get in their car to go and talk to their fucking neighbours.

Social attitude is such that most American's will barely walk 400 yards a day! And most of that will be getting up to get a beer and potato chips while watching TV.

Therefore, your idea will simply not work. I support it and all. Park and ride is a fantastic idea, but nobody seems to do it. Why? Because people suck.
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
[ Parent ]

A twist to your suggestions (3.00 / 6) (#99)
by smallstepforman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:39:04 PM EST

Bus Lane:  Sounds great, but here is an even better idea - let cars use the extra lane.  Suddenly, the existing lanes aren't congested as much, and traffic flow improves significantly.  There is nothing more annoying than to see bumper to bumper traffic in 2 lanes, and an empty 3rd lane.  In my experience, this is a recepie for disaster - impatient drivers decide to temporary jump into the bus lane, simultanouesly, and end up colliding.

Bus Tracking System:  Sounds great, but an even better idea is to have a car tracking system.  Equip each car with a computer controlled navigation system (navigation, not driving), with realtime updates on traffic conditions, and inform the drivers of the best route to take - even if it means detouring for 2 kilometers or so.  This will balance the congestion.

Finally, how about shuffling work hours based on locality.  It is idiotic for everyone in an industrious zone to start at the same time, likewise for business zones.  Spread out the traffic throughout the morning/evening.  This requires city councils to talk to businesses/industries.

twist and rebutt (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by gauze on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:39:56 PM EST

<<Bus Lane:  Sounds great, but here is an even better idea - let cars use the extra lane.  Suddenly, the existing lanes aren't congested as much, and traffic flow improves significantly.  There is nothing more annoying than to see bumper to bumper traffic in 2 lanes, and an empty 3rd lane.  In my experience, this is a recepie for disaster - impatient drivers decide to temporary jump into the bus lane, simultanouesly, and end up colliding.>>

The lane is already there, I don't think many cities have the room to add an extra lane, they'll reuse what is there, so the roads will be more crowded after adding the bus lane.

Also I am assuming they'd add a thin barrier to fence off the bus lane from regular traffic. (this is something cops and fire etc could use if they need to get through traffic quickly too)

<< Finally, how about shuffling work hours based on locality.  It is idiotic for everyone in an industrious zone to start at the same time, likewise for business zones.  Spread out the traffic throughout the morning/evening.  This requires city councils to talk to businesses/industries.>>

Business takes place during business hours. People want to know the people they have to reach are there. Industry is a bit more flexible. I never understood why they "need" people in at 6am in factories even if they don't run 3 shifts.

There's nothing wrong with a PC that a little UNIX won't cure.
[ Parent ]

Bus Rapid Transit (4.00 / 3) (#100)
by frankwork on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:40:59 PM EST

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the concept of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Reduced to a slogan, it would be "Think light rail but use buses."

I did a little project on this a couple years ago (we even got a $5000 award!). The idea is to use dedicated lanes, signal priority, queue jumpers and the like to speed up the progress of buses over that of cars. The number of stops is limited to one every couple of kilometers (like a subway might be). Passengers generally pay their fare before boarding the bus (i.e. in the station), and many systems use level boarding (again like a subway) to speed up the loading/unloading process.

While all of this is old hat for light rail and similar systems, BRT provides quite a bit more flexibility at a much lower cost.

Like Boston (none / 0) (#175)
by psicE on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:23:19 PM EST

You must be from Boston to know about rapid bus transit. After all, that's the system we used for the new Silver Line, which is slower than the old Orange Line streetcar, and as dirty, and it runs in dedicated lanes but a car could easily go there...

About the only good thing bus rapid transit has going for it is that it's cheap and easily upgradable to a light rail system. Namely, once you've got all those bus lanes and tunnels, you can just put rail over the lanes, and you've got light rail. So it's a good system for small cities that are just starting to experiment with mass transit. But for a city the size of Boston, that already has four subway lines and could certainly use a fifth... it's absurd.

[ Parent ]

A different twist: (3.66 / 3) (#102)
by MicroBerto on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:55:10 PM EST

Why I'll never stop driving my car: music.

I want to drive, blast my CD player, feel some bass, and use my steering wheel, dashboard, and floorboard as my drumset. Public transportation does not open up to this kind of behavior, and headphones aren't as fun anyway. Nobody's taking my European deathmetal away from me!

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip

Danger (3.00 / 2) (#103)
by j harper on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:37:43 PM EST

You are an argument for public transportation: you don't pay attention whilst you're busy drumming away on your dashboard. In fact, you're a hazard to everyone around you.

Bring a cd/mp3 player with you instead.

"I have to say, the virgin Mary is pretty fucking hot." - Myriad
[ Parent ]

Bullshit (1.75 / 4) (#121)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:15:16 PM EST

You're just projecting your own incompetence on others.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

I'm an outlier (4.00 / 1) (#134)
by MicroBerto on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:00:04 AM EST

Perfect driving record here (knocks on wood)... I DO always pay attention to what's going on around me. I can multitask that, and hit things and keep a beat while watching out for problems. I've prevented more accidents than caused.

But I'll concede that if everyone did what I did, the world would be a worse place. I don't encourage others to do it because hey, maybe you're right, and it'll bite me and someone else in the ass eventually.

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

the pedals of a moving car... (4.00 / 2) (#115)
by voltron on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 09:30:46 AM EST

are not the preferred way to perfect your blastbeat technique.

[ Parent ]
On long trips they are (4.00 / 2) (#133)
by MicroBerto on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:58:13 PM EST

With cruise control I can get quite a nice double-bass pedal going on!

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]
I take my Rio on the bus. [n/t] (none / 0) (#144)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:42:20 AM EST

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
couple of things... (3.50 / 2) (#119)
by laerm on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 01:56:31 PM EST

I don't want to have to go all the way out to the bus stop just to find out that the bus is held up in traffic three stops back.

hey, um, maybe try walking down the bus route (i.e. towards a few stops back) to catch a bus that hasn't made it to your stop yet? or are we riding the bus to avoid the dreaded exercise?

as for the "value your time" comment...i live in NYC. subway, train, bus, car, segway, you name it - it's still gonna take you an hour to get to work. the ONLY way to get to work that saves on time and comfort and all those other joyous intangibles is telecommute.



putting things in boxes

You're dreaming (2.00 / 2) (#120)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:13:39 PM EST

it's still gonna take you an hour to get to work.

I have taken the bus a few times when my car was not available. (I don't even bother anymore, I just call a cab if I don't have the car.) My home and work are both two blocks from the bus stop, and no transfers are involved. It is a 4.5 mile trip.

Travel time in the car: 12-15 minutes, and I can stop at the Circle-K halfway there if I want. And I have my choice of where to go for lunch. Cost each way: $.30 for gas, maybe another $.20 for wear and tear on the car, no parking fee.

Travel time by bus: 45 minutes, and no stopping at Circle-K (unless I want an additional 15 minute wait for another bus). My choices for lunch are brown bag or Wal-Mart food counter. And if I leave work after six, the busses only come every hour instead of every twenty minutes. Cost each way: 1$.

These travel times are door-to-door, which is the only measurement that counts. It may be true that there are a few select locations where busses make comparable times to cars. In 95% of the world that is not and never will be possible.

hey, um, maybe try walking down the bus route (i.e. towards a few stops back) to catch a bus that hasn't made it to your stop yet? or are we riding the bus to avoid the dreaded exercise?

And when the bus passes you halfway between stops?

Busses are a niche solution at best, and at worst a pipe dream propogated by liberal utopains.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)
[ Parent ]

And what about the cost (2.00 / 1) (#189)
by rickydazla on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 08:51:39 AM EST

to things other than your good self?

I'm a million different people
[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#202)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 11:59:19 AM EST

When you say In 95% of the world that is not and never will be possible. I assume you've been to oh let's say... Amsterdam? The public transportation there is effective, works, and it's free. Not many people own a car there, the closest thing you'll find is bicycles. An utopia? Gimme a break will ya? Cars will be an utopia when oil ends (yes, it will end and I only wish it'll happen soon). By then, public transportation will be lng using alternate power sources (electrical, water, gas - as in not gasoline but gas). Give a big city trams to cyrcle around downtown, buses to cover it's extent and connect to the outskirts, where trains are a fact and add a decent subway system. If all these resources are managed well you don't need a car - unless, of course, you're lazy!

[ Parent ]
Point to pooint (2.00 / 4) (#122)
by PullNoPunches on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:20:39 PM EST

You brought up the issue of a car going point ot point while a bus cannot, but failed to address that in your solutions.

The reason you failed is that it is not possible. This issue is what makes wide scale mass-transit a preposterous idea. Busses and trains will never solve real transportatin problems. They have their use in very limited circumstances, but eventually, the central planners and social engineers will have to give up their delusions and move on to something else.


Although generally safe, turmeric in large doses may cause gastrointestinal problems or even ulcers. -- Reader's Digest (UK)

You forgot Promlem: Minnesota (2.66 / 3) (#125)
by cs668 on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:45:36 PM EST

Who wants to stand waiting for the bus when it is -25 F with a windchill of -60 F?

Cost and other issues (4.00 / 1) (#128)
by RosaRL on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:12:56 PM EST

I have found public transportation very easy to use in several of the large cities that I have lived in, although in smaller cities it is often extremely inadequate to actually getting around town. In areas where it is well developed it seemed to me a lot more people were using it.

But an issue that I don't see addressed by those who want to improve public transportation is the fact that while the cost might be reasonable if you are single and don't have any kids, once you are paying for yourself and two little ones- and most cities charge full price for the little ones- it often becomes cheaper to just hop the taxi to the grocery store. Of course taking the taxi doesn't help the environment but that's the point of saying it.

Also, I do honestly feel that may people would be quite relieved to have public transportation systems instead of 300 dollar a month care payments. Or at least relieved that the option really is an option. In more rural areas if you don't have reliable transportation, you can't work, you cant eat and in many ways you cant live, so you make that care payment even if it means living in mom's basement In these areas if there are busses, they come once every two hours and may even stop running at 6pm and not start back until 8am.

Love-hate relationship with public transport (5.00 / 1) (#137)
by Pseudonym on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:12:14 AM EST

I once worked with a guy who did research into the problems of public transportation here in Melbourne.

One of the things that you have to understand is that Melbourne has three main forms of public transport: trains, trams and buses. The trains and trams almost all run radially, that is, from the CBD to anywhere and from anywhere to the CBD. If you want to go from anywhere to anywhere, you either need to go via the city or you need to find a sequence of buses which goes where you want to go.

Anyway, he was looking into these problems and discovered something remarkable: There is no real data about commuting vectors. Nobody knows exactly where people want to go from and to on any given day. About the only thing which remains constant is that a lot of people want to go from suburbia to the city in the morning and from the city to suburbia in the evening. However, the system is simply not optimised for people who want to go in any other direction or at any other time.

I discovered this first hand at this particular place of employment. I lived in the inner city and had to commute to the suburbs to work. Not only did my journey require three steps (tram, train then bus), but it was extremely unreliable. Trains going in the opposite direction of peak basically were routinely 10 minutes or more late, and would often change platforms at a moment's notice. In the end I had to get a car because I was spending so much time waiting for connections that I had almost no time with my family.

Now I live in suburbia and work in the city, and I'm very happy taking public transport, because my work habits and public transport's scheduling are finally aligned. However, I pity those who are still in the situation that I used to be in. It's only going to get worse as communication makes it cheaper to do business basically anywhere.

So to try to answer your question: Without reliable information on where people want to go and when, public transport will always be suboptimal compared with taking your own car.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
A nice theory... shame about the practice (4.00 / 1) (#146)
by nairobiny on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 10:26:47 AM EST

A nice article. Perhaps I could add how it actually works in London.

You rightly identify the issue of blocked bus lanes as being one that must be fixed. Indeed, our hallowed mayor, "Red" Ken Livingstone, has instigated swingeing fines for people parking in lanes. However the problem of cars using the lanes remains in many bus lanes. Although certain bus lanes are monitored (the infamous Heathrow bus lane jumps to mind), many are not and cars continue to use them with impunity, thereby negating their usefulness. This extends my normal bus journey of 1.5 miles by some 15 minutes as we wait for the traffic to clear.

The idea of bus tracking is a neat one, but Londoners will tell you that it doesn't really work all that well. Many of my local stops do not have bus tracking fitted; and not all routes are covered by the system at those stops that do. The system would seem to have most purpose at major terminals; why then did they fail to introduce the system at the recently-built North Greenwich bus station?

A third issue, not touched upon by your article, is that of continuous feedback on the system. I've noticed that many passengers appear to take exactly the same (short) journey on the bus as I do... the "powers that be" ought to pick up on trends like this and improve the service over this short stretch, perhaps at the expense of longer, less-travelled routes.

London, public transport, and continuous feedback (none / 0) (#167)
by Rasman on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:24:21 AM EST

What blows my mind about public transport in London and feedback/data collection is the apparent lack of interest to force you to put your ticket through the machine when entering or leaving Underground stations. If every ticket had some sort of unique identifier (I assume it does. What else is that magnetic strip on the back?), they could track where you enter and exit the Underground system. One of the nice things about it is that it's anonymous, but they can still track you individually. They don't need to know which lines you took, just where you entered and where you left. That data could be crunched so easily to provide great usage statistics and help the system more closely meet the needs of its users. You could even make a pretty good estimate of the number of passengers currently "in the system".

But no. A lot of stations around the edges of the system don't even require you to "swipe" your ticket, and even in the busy stations, you can get by if your ticket is crumpled and unreadable by the machine. The holes at the perimeter destroy any hope of accurately tracking the movement of passengers.

It seems to me this is a sadly wasted amount of data that could so easily be collected and utilized to better the system. I wonder if those machines really do anything and what kind of partial data they do pick up...

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
The primary problem with this article... (2.66 / 6) (#148)
by kurtmweber on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:50:15 AM EST

...is that the author assumes that it is within the proper role of government to provide transportation. It isn't.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
ah, yes (5.00 / 2) (#161)
by Luke Francl on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:23:26 PM EST

But, of course, it is within the proper role of government to provide roads?

Building roads is just as much a subsidy as providing buses to drive on them. More, in fact, since the US government's aggressive road-building program has bankrupted a number of privately funded and operated transit companies.

[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#181)
by kurtmweber on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 04:24:45 PM EST

Government should NOT provide roads, either.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
As soon as government stops... (none / 0) (#183)
by Luke Francl on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 08:47:15 PM EST

As soon as government stops providing roads, I'll stop demanding that it also provide public transportation. It is unfair to fund one, yet demand the other be stopped. I do not own a car, so I depend in part on public transportation to get around. Yet my taxes help build your roads.

You say government shouldn't build roads, either, but see how far that argument goes towards stopping road construction.

Government created this problem by destroying the privately run street car system, so government has to help fix it. It can do this by limiting road construction, stopping road subsidies, charging usage fees, increasing the gas tax to a level that covers all the negative externalities of driving, funding public transportation, or a combination of all of the above.

[ Parent ]

yeah, so stop funding freeways and cars (5.00 / 3) (#163)
by turmeric on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:50:52 AM EST

stop giving money to chrysler when it hits financial problems (like int he 80s), stop the federal interstate highway system, stop US foreign policy to support oil imports, stop having publically funded traffic lights, highway patrol officers, speeding limits, highways, freeways, drainage systems, bridges, overpasses, etc. all that should be from some other source besides government.

do you think that automobiles are somehow 'separate' from the government simply because you have to buy one yourself? all the stuff that automobiles need to run is supported by the government without any thought as to profits whatsoever.

[ Parent ]

For the most part... (none / 0) (#180)
by kurtmweber on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 04:23:27 PM EST

You're right. Government should fund none of that.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
government (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by John Thompson on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:05:36 AM EST

kurtmweber wrote:

[...] the author assumes that it is within the proper role of government to provide transportation. It isn't.

There is no requirement that the government be the only entity to provide public transportation. The problem is that so much money is spent providing infrastructure for private car use (multi-lane freeways, interstate highways, parking, etc.) that public transportation simply is not as attractive.

Until the 1950's, public transportation was pretty much on an equal footing with private automobiles. And in my city (in the USA), the bus system was privately owned until the late 1960's. And privately owned railroads for both passenger and cargo transportation flourished nationwide until automobile manufacturers managed to convince the government to spent billions of dollars to build interstate highways, subsidize interstate trucking and so on.

So, if you're going to wear the libertarian hat, please try to see the whole picture. If you took away the huge subsidies lavished upon private vehicle ownership things would look very different.

[ Parent ]
Whoa, whoa, whoa (none / 0) (#179)
by kurtmweber on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 04:21:47 PM EST

If it's provided by someone other than the government, it's not "public transportation".

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
learn to read in context (nt) (none / 0) (#185)
by kubalaa on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 11:55:21 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Depends (none / 0) (#201)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 11:42:18 AM EST

Public Transportation can be provided by the government or a private entity. What makes it public is the fact that anyone can use it.

You are a private entity, your car is yours and yours only - noone can use it: it's private.
You are an enterprise, your buses belong to you and you make them available for anyone to use -they're public transportation.

[ Parent ]

Id like to post something intelligent here (none / 0) (#153)
by Phillip Asheo on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:18:29 PM EST

But instead, I am just going to say that people on buses smell and I would rather take twice as long to get to my destination in odor-free air-conditioned comfort thank you very much.

"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long

Not all smell bad (none / 0) (#155)
by marc987 on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 07:15:08 PM EST

Most people smell good.

Get used to it, you'll feel better.

[ Parent ]

Not all need to smell bad (none / 0) (#159)
by Polverone on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:28:36 PM EST

Just a few smellbads ruin it for the smellgoods. Cheap wine, cigarettes, and extended periods without showers can enable smellbads to actually convert the smellgoods to smellbad-ness.

I cut my hand pretty badly a couple of weeks ago and it bled quite a bit before I had it stitched up. It turns out that inside, where it really counts, I smell like meat. Like a fresh steak. I imagine that most people smell this way, deep down. But I also imagine that busbleeding is even worse than busstinking.
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Perth, Australia (none / 0) (#160)
by blisspix on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 10:36:17 PM EST

has had bus tracking in the city for five or six years now. They have free buses which go all around the city, are very clean, and they have a display on the bus stop telling you how many minutes until the next one comes. There is a plan to extend this to buses all over the suburban area eventually.

On the other hand, I frequently wait for over 45 minutes for buses in Sydney. Too many taxi drivers hog the bus lanes, and the buses are just getting old.

I've been a public transport fan all my life but I've just inherited a car, and I'm thinking about using it at least some of the time, just so it doesn't take me half an hour to get to the supermarket.

bus lane? (none / 0) (#162)
by turmeric on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:47:32 AM EST

people will start driving in them.

Tickets (none / 0) (#171)
by p3d0 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:07:38 PM EST

Well, the idea is that you give people traffic tickets for that, and then they don't do it. That only works if there are enough tickets given out to make people worry about getting one.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Fines. (none / 0) (#200)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 11:34:29 AM EST

Only public transportation is allowed the use of bus lanes. If people use them, they'll be fined big time. If people park their cars on them, they get towed by the city. Also, everyone hates it when some jackass jams the whole traffic by parking on a bus lane.

[ Parent ]
worst of cars and rail and call it compromise (none / 0) (#169)
by Shren on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:38:27 AM EST

Buses suck. Who could advocate buses? Buses take the very worst of automobiles and fixed mass transit (such as rail) and combine them in one form of transportation. The primary function of a bus is to give you an early view of hell. What idiot decided the best solution to automobiles was to make the automobile really big and call it a bus? Morons. Everybody knows that dumping money into useless bus lines is local government's way of sticking it's head in the sand regarding mass transit.

Every time I spend time in a city with some decent form of mass transit, I use the mass transit as much as I can. In my home city, they have a piss poor bus-only solution which nobody, including myself, uses if they can help it.

Toronto (none / 0) (#170)
by p3d0 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:06:16 PM EST

We need more subways in Toronto. I actually prefer the subway over my car when the former lies between my origin and destination.

I used to live at the intersection of our two subway lines (Yonge & Bloor), and I would always take the subway when my destination was along its route. I wouldn't have to worry about parking or traffic, and I could concentrate on something other than driving for the duration of the trip. They came every 5 minutes or so at peak times. Also, the subways in Toronto are reasonably clean and safe, as subways go.

Buses, on the other hand, suck. The suggestions about knowing where the next bus is would help, but they still suck.

We need more subways in Toronto.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]

Cost. (5.00 / 1) (#195)
by vectro on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 04:56:19 PM EST

Buses are cheap. You can get a bus for less than the cost of a single rail car, and the infrastructure is cheap. That means for the same amount of money you can provide more service than you could with rail - especially from a capital perspective, but to a lesser extent even from an operations one.

That is why many transit systems have a pattern of using rail for longer-distance trips, and buses for shorter ones - then your longer-distance trip is of the form bus-rail-bus (unless you live near the station) allowing moderately-high-speed transit without sacrificing coverage.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

How cute (none / 0) (#199)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 11:32:08 AM EST

"What idiot decided the best solution to automobiles was to make the automobile really big and call it a bus?" - who are YOU to judge that person? And oh yeah, mass transportation is just great... if you wanna crowd cities, cause traffic jams and so-on. Think before you post and try not to judge people by their opinions - it only demonstrates your lack of brains.

[ Parent ]
My bus experience (none / 0) (#172)
by Cro Magnon on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:37:12 PM EST

I got my job about 3 years before I got a car. I had to get my lazy butt out of the house at EXACTLY 6AM. I walked 5 minutes to the bus stop and waited for the 6:20. I got there early because I couldn't afford to miss that bus. The ride downtown wasn't too bad, but then I had to walk 2 blocks to the next bus stop. I usually ran because there was a slim chance of catching a bus right away, but I often just missed it and had to wait another 15 minutes. I'd get to work at 7:45, and after work, I'd run at top speed for the bus stop. Usually, I'd miss the first bus. If I got to work late, I might miss the second. If I missed the third, I'd have a long walk because those busses didn't go all the way downtown, and I'd still have the 1/2 hour trip from downtown to my house.

I don't miss the bus!
Information wants to be beer.

First, state the obvious (5.00 / 1) (#176)
by psicE on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:48:51 PM EST

Separate the question. What are we asking? Are we talking about long-range transport, for example getting from Boston to Seattle? Or are we talking about intra-city transit, getting from one street to another in the city? Or are we talking about going from your house to another down the street?

The arguments for and against cars are also twofold. There's the argument of whether mass transportation or individual transportation is better, and whether roads or rails are better.

In my opinion, in any remotely urban areas, rail is superior. It's smaller and faster. The only argument against rail is that, well, it requires a network of rail. Therefore, in rural or lightly populated areas, roads are better, but in populated areas, a rail network is perfectly feasible. As several people have pointed out, systems are under development that can provide personal rail transport; people can call a personal mini-rail car, have it arrive almost instantly, and choose their destination from any stop along the network.

For rural areas, roads are the only practical form of transport. Therefore, as long as fuel-cell cars come along soon, cars are the best idea for those areas. Buses or taxis can be deployed in a limited fashion, but that's about it.

The arguments in favor of cars for long-range urban driving don't exist. There's a very limited number of major urban centres; yes, 300 is a limited number, and I doubt there's even that many metropolitan areas. Connections between those can easily be done by a national rail network. The network can still use individual cars, meaning that if you live in Boston near Government Center (a subway stop) and want to travel to Oakland, you call a personal car, say you want to go to Oakland in San Francisco, and it automatically bridges the city and national rail networks to bring you to your destination.

In terms of intra-city transport, again, the system that makes the most sense is personal rail. This means people can finally reclaim the streets, using them as a public resource instead of an automobile path. Good.

Finally, in terms of intra-street transport (heh); many people are making the argument that Americans won't accept public transport systems because they want to arrive exactly at their destination, instead of having to walk from a subway stop. Let me be the first to say, that's a problem. America is the country where obesity is on the verge of becoming an epidemic, and overweight-ness has pretty much become one. If they have to walk from their home, down the street to the nearest subway depot, good! I mean, god, if they don't want to walk, why don't they just get everything delivered to their home, and then telecommute, so they never have to see the light of day?!? I for one look forward to the death of the driveway.

So, in short, individual rail for urban areas (and suburban areas, if they still exist ;), roads for rural areas. But the distinctions are important.

Not just walking (none / 0) (#178)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:47:07 AM EST

Finally, in terms of intra-street transport (heh); many people are making the argument that Americans won't accept public transport systems because they want to arrive exactly at their destination, instead of having to walk from a subway stop. Let me be the first to say, that's a problem. America is the country where obesity is on the verge of becoming an epidemic, and overweight-ness has pretty much become one. If they have to walk from their home, down the street to the nearest subway depot, good! I mean, god, if they don't want to walk, why don't they just get everything delivered to their home, and then telecommute, so they never have to see the light of day?!? I for one look forward to the death of the driveway.
For me walking was never the problem. The major problem was the inflexibility of public transportation. As I mentioned in my other post, I was on a strict schedule when I could leave my house, and when I left work. In my car I don't have to be on a rigid schedule.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
I really hate busses (5.00 / 2) (#186)
by srn on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 02:28:59 AM EST

On the other hand, I use trains pretty much every day.

What I like about the train is that I can read, or play games on my laptop or work or whatever I like. When I do drive (for whatever reason) I end up wasting the time I spend in transit.

So, I catch the train most of the time, even though it takes about 10 minutes longer to get to work. The judgement I use is:

a) Drive - takes about 1 hour/day, can't do anything else.
b) Train - takes about 1.4 hours/day, can do lots of things.

I'd rather have 1.4 hours of mildly reduced useful time than 1 hour of wasted time a day.

The potential's there: theory vs practice (3.00 / 1) (#187)
by permaculture on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 03:51:59 AM EST

"Not enough people use them" - in my area of London you can't get a bus between 8am and 9am - they're all full.

"Bus tracking system" We have these, but they're not reliable. Buses 5 minutes away sometimes change to 'due', stay there for 10 or 15 minutes then vanish. Mostly, the electronic noticeboard is lit up with "Information not available".

Anyone else here heard of bus passengers called 'Twirlys' ?

Yes (none / 0) (#188)
by rickydazla on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 08:39:45 AM EST

Old Scouse OAPs.

I'm a million different people
[ Parent ]
Twirlys (3.00 / 1) (#190)
by permaculture on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:25:17 PM EST

That's them. They have free OAP bus passes for offpeak hours. When they get on the bus they ask "Am I too early?" (Hence 'Twirly').

We have them here in London, too. :-)

[ Parent ]

Novel solution to long walks to bus stops (4.00 / 1) (#192)
by cokane on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 06:37:44 AM EST

I live in Cincinnati, and the transit authority (SORTA) has devised a novel plan for solving the problem of long walks to/from bus stops. They installed bike racks on all busses in the network, so that you may ride the bike to the stop, then to work when you get off. I only live a couple of miles from work, so I would probably just ride my bike there. With the sprawling suburbs surrounding the city, though, it works nicely, where you may only have one main strip through the center of a 50k pop. area with bus stops. They are also in the middle of this giant reworking plan for the entire system to better regionalize it, add rail, etc... but are running into the typical roadblocks of this type of area (big city surrounded by a massive blanket of separate suburban municipalities). Anyway, the bike rack idea was pretty cool, and it is prtty efficient too: you just put the bike in the bike basket and close the door. Each bus has a few racks that can hold a few bikes each.

Works nice, could emprove (none / 0) (#198)
by morceguinho on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 11:22:47 AM EST

In my hometown (Porto, Portugal) we have a fairly decent bus system: on my street alone there are 3 different lines and just up the street other three. The buses are modern and confortable.

The are bus lanes and they really help, especially downtown where traffic tends to jam alot due to the old architecture. Yet, I don't think bus-drivers ought to have a permit to write down license plates, as they might feel temped to 'fine their exwives'! Bus lanes are also used by taxies, the police, the fire dept. and, of course, ambulances.

It seems that they are triyng to devise a bus-tracking system, as some stops do have some screens showing when the next bus (and which line) will arrive. I've seen those screens work only a couple of times however (but they estimated well) as most of the times they're either 'out of order' or just shut down.

The bikerack seems cool but I wouldn't leave my bike there unless I was the only one who could take it out; so I'm assuming that system in Cincinnati (?) works if you carry your own lock-n-chain - which delays the buses. Bikes as a means of transportation are useless because the city is all ups and downs. However in a neighbouring city they're adopted a public bike system, where one picks one of these bicks up pretty much like you do with a  shopping cart at any public bike rack. Of course that city is flat! :-)

Some cities (like San Francisco, CA, US) adopted the carpool system, where one leaves the car on the ourskirts of town and either gets the nearest public transportation or 'hitch-hikes' with other drives. Maybe it would work here but I'd anticipate some culture shock.

Of course, the STCP (the bus system in my homwtown) isn't perfect: some lines take, by sccedule, longer to pass than others (20 schedulled minutes can go up to 45min of waiting in real time) and the night-network pretty much sucks. Also, unless you have a pass, buying a ticket on the bus is expensive (1€, maybe insignificant in other 'euro-countries', but the minimum wage here is 400€). But overall I'm happy with it.

However the problem is people: everyone's just too damn lazy to wait for a bus; others even are too snobish to ride with 'the average people'. Most people like their nown space and confort. Also, unless you're an extremist enviromentalist, you don't really thing about how much your car polutes when you turn on the ignition every day.

(here's my second post, now in a more readable format!!)

Public Buses in the 21st Century | 204 comments (171 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
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