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Why don't we have public transport in smaller cities?

tapeshwar sharma
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Joined: Mar 10, 2006
Posts: 245
Hi,
I want to know why in the US, despite rising oil prices and concerns about global warming, we have no or scant public transport barring a few major cities?
May be its very difficult to introduced trains and subways in the already developed wonderful cities of ours, but what about Buses?
In my city Orlando atleast, I see a lot of scope for public transport where every body takes the I-4 for going to work.
And this is not something totally unheard of that I am talking about.
Europe has a very successful public transport, and so does India.
(Well, its another matter that the latter has a population that still manages to outdo the no. of buses and subways, but think about what would happen if everybody took personal vehiccles to office on Indian roads)

Any Ideas ?
Mark Spritzler
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    6

Yeah, we are odd in that we can't seem to create this great transportation system like Europe. I think in US there is some stigmatism with riding buses. But in some cities it is more accepted, like San Francisco has a great system, but in Los Angeles it is there, but people don't want to take it, mostly because we have this, I want it done now type feeling and we don't want to wait for buses, and have to change buses to get where we want to go.

Mark


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Cameron Wallace McKenzie
author and cow tipper
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Joined: Aug 26, 2006
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    1

I think a better approach is more highway lanes, so there's less idling.

The problem I find with public transit is it tends to be filled with people that can't afford cars.

-Cameron McKenzie
tapeshwar sharma
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Joined: Mar 10, 2006
Posts: 245

mostly because we have this, I want it done now type feeling and we don't want to wait for buses...

Well, I guess one way or the other, we'll have to change our lifestyles or face the high oil prices and global warming etc. forever.
Riding on buses specifically may not be the ideal solution for our needs, but mass transport in general is.
Mike Simmons
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Joined: Mar 05, 2008
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  10
[Mark Spritzler]: mostly because we have this, I want it done now type feeling and we don't want to wait for buses...

While I think that's true, another major factor is population density. LA is a lot more spread out than is SF, for example - which is one reason why mass transit is more viable there. Likewise many Eastern US cities have better mass transit than cities like LA. This applies to Europe and India too. The more people you have per square mile, the more economically viable it is to provide bus routes, light rail and subway routes to move people around in that area.
[ September 10, 2008: Message edited by: Mike Simmons ]
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
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    5

Originally posted by prashant bhardwaj:
I want to know why in the US, despite rising oil prices and concerns about global warming, we have no or scant public transport barring a few major cities?

Because public transit (at least other than busses and taxi) require huge amounts of money to design and build, and ever larger subsidies for operations, forever.

In New York City, the subway is not an option, the city would not function without it. So NYC taxes are high, and they make subway rides very cheap, I think about $2 per trip. Even with the heavy subsidy, they need heavy concentration of people who want to all go the same place to make it even close to feasible.

One of the last subway systems built in the US was the Washington DC Metro. It cost a zillion dollars. Its very nice, but it loses millions of dollars every year. It loses money for every mile that a train travels. The fares are very high, so high that too many folks chose to drive rather than take Metro, yet they still lose millions.

The DC metro has a more fundamental problem: it doesn't go where masses of people are or want to go to. When the DC Metro was designed in the early 1960s, everyone worked "downtown" DC and the suburbs barely went out a ten mile radius. So the train lines go from just outside "the beltway" to downtown. If you want to go from one suburb on the beltway, say Springfield VA, to another, say Bethesda MD. you have to go all the way downtown, change trains and go out to the other suburb. It takes nearly an hour. Outside of rush hour, you can drive the same trip in 25 minutes.

So no one wants to go downtown and out.

Which might have been good in the mid 1960s, but the Internet boom, and the biotechnology boom have moved where people work. When AOL started, they had their headquarters in Tysons Corner. It was "just outside the beltway" but there was no Metro station for miles. When AOL became widely popular in the late 1990s, they moved the office out to the boondocks near Dulles Airport. (Granted, AOL is not the power it was, and the AOL HQ is now in NYC).

Its a twenty mile drive from the AOL office to the nearest DC Metro. Nobody can take Metro to work.

When Metro was designed, 80% or 90% of all jobs were downtown. Today, Fairfax county, a well to do suburb in Virginia, as more than 50% of its residents commuting across the county. And another 25% or so commute from Fairfax across to another county, or places like Bethesda MD.

You can't get there from here via Metro.

There are about four million folks living in the DC Metro area. And Metro does not work. How is it going to work in a smaller town with folks even more spread out?

Give us a few decades of $6/gallon gas, and we'll move back into areas close enough, with sufficient density to make public transportation work.

Of course, in the meantime, the voters are going to be very, very angry.
tapeshwar sharma
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Joined: Mar 10, 2006
Posts: 245

Because public transit (at least other than busses and taxi) require huge amounts of money to design and build


Yeah, besides it will be even more painful to travel while it is being built...diversions and narrows lanes etc.
That's why I am suggesting to use Buses.

How about more work from home options ?
Allow people to come to the office only once or twice a week, the rest of the time, they can work from home.At least the IT people can do ti because we all carry more laptops than the brick and mortar industry people, and we are a sizable population.
Joe Ess
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Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8907
    
    8

Originally posted by prashant bhardwaj:
How about more work from home options ?


I'm a fan of telecommuting (i'm doing it right now), however there are some serious problems with it. In my own experience, I've had some casual conversations and relationships around the office that solved some big problems. Those relationships would not be there if I were not in the office 32 hours a week.


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Sri Anand
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Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
There is lot of over head in maintaining public transport, which would not balance out unless you have huge demand and customers to it. For sparsly populated areas it would become over head in short time.
For crowded places public transport serves very well and profitable, the other issue is who manages it , if it is
Governament, its going to be lot of over kill and if it is private sector the next question that comes hwo much do the Governament control it. But a decent public transport will keep the nation running at low cost which will save millions of money
tapeshwar sharma
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Joined: Mar 10, 2006
Posts: 245

I'm a fan of telecommuting (i'm doing it right now), however there are some serious problems with it.

The problems as noted in this article arises because of people being divided into 2 groups : those who telecommute and those who don't.
I am suggesting to have a roaming profile for telecommute.Today Tom is telecommuting so tomorrow Bob will and then Nancy.
Actually, it should be like :
Today Tom is [bold]comming to the office[bold] so tomorrow Bob will and then Nancy.
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4655
    
    5

Originally posted by Joe Ess:
I'm a fan of telecommuting, however there are some serious problems with it. In my own experience, I've had some casual conversations and relationships around the office that solved some big problems. Those relationships would not be there if I were not in the office 32 hours a week.


Yes, humans are social animals, and those water cooler bull sessions are key to effective communications.

At my last day job, I went into the office from 10 AM until 3PM, and left. I did very little "work" in the office, I'd write most of my code from 9PM until 2AM or so.
Mike Simmons
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Joined: Mar 05, 2008
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  10
[Pat]: There are about four million folks living in the DC Metro area. And Metro does not work. How is it going to work in a smaller town with folks even more spread out?

I think the Washington DC area is rather unusual, not necessarily representative of other cities. They've evolved an alternate informal mass-transit system, slugging. Which is a pretty cool phenomenon, in my opinion. Especially since it wasn't legislated or designed - it just evolved, in response to a need. However it's possible that this phenomenon may also detract from the viability of the "official" system, the DC Metro. Though that could go either way - slugging decreases the number of paying customers for the DC Metro, but by reducing the load on DC Metro it also makes the metro more appealing. At this point it's hard to tell whether slugging exists as a response to the problems with the earlier DC Metro system, or whether it's a cause of those problems. It's a chicken/egg situation, I think. But whether slugging is a cause or effect, it's a phenomenon that most other US cities simply don't have.

However, I also think Pat's complaints about DC Metro reflect a more general problem with mass transit in many cities, which is this: most mass transit systems (in the US at least) tend to be reasonably good at transporting people in to the center of a metropolitan area, in the morning, and out of that same area, in the evening. They may also support a secondary wave of people coming in to the city center in the early evening, and heading out later at night. Maybe they came for dinner, a movie, a football game, or a concert - whatever. But most transit systems do not provide such support for travel from one outlying region to another outlying region. You usually need to go in to the center first, then come out in whatever direction is needed. If your goal was to get from [Outlying region A] to [Outlying region B], this may well seem inefficient. Especially if A and B were close to begin with.
tapeshwar sharma
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Joined: Mar 10, 2006
Posts: 245

But most transit systems do not provide such support for travel from one outlying region to another outlying region. You usually need to go in to the center first, then come out in whatever direction is needed.

Now that's hitting the nail on its head. Perfect diagnosis.
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4655
    
    5

Originally posted by Mike Simmons:
most mass transit systems (in the US at least) tend to be reasonably good at transporting people in to the center of a metropolitan area, in the morning, and out of that same area, in the evening.


Right, and that was cool in the 60s. But today in DC, and in San Francisco, the folks go from what was a suburb to another suburb, while the subways are shaped like an octopus, center and long legs.

New York, in contrast, has a grid subway. You can go about anywhere from anywhere, typically by two or three routes. So New Yorkers love the subway, use it and support it with taxes. (OK, there are parts of the subway they don't love, but they are New Yorkers, they gotta hate something).
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30516
    
150

Originally posted by Mike Simmons:
They've evolved an alternate informal mass-transit system, slugging. Which is a pretty cool phenomenon, in my opinion.

Neat!

Originally posted by Pat Farrell:
New York, in contrast, has a grid subway. You can go about anywhere from anywhere, typically by two or three routes.

Sure - if you consider NYC to be only Manhattan. Those of us in the outer boroughs don't have such a perfect system. It's still better than many other cities, but it's not a grid and like in Manhattan. The outer boroughs do have (mainly) decent buses. Of course DC has buses too, but I don't find it's easy to want to go someplace that isn't near a bus. Or at least not one with a good connection.


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Pat Farrell
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    5

Originally posted by Jeanne Boyarsky:
Sure - if you consider NYC to be only Manhattan. Those of us in the outer boroughs don't have such a perfect system. It's still better than many other cities, but it's not a grid and like in Manhattan.

I've mostly been in Manhattan, Brooklyn and a bit of the Bronx. I guess it depends on what "outer boroughs" mean. Clearly Staten Island has bad subway, but isn't Staten Island considered New Jersey anyway?

Brooklyn's subway is not a grid, or as interconnected as Manhattan's, but there are multiple lines a few blocks apart. Granted, the blocks between the avenues are kinda long.

But compared to DC Metro, Brooklyn's subway is a fully connected graph.
Solving the traveling bagel saleman problem on the DC Metro is O(1) since there is usually only one way to get there.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Originally posted by Mike Simmons:
[QB]

I think the Washington DC area is rather unusual, not necessarily representative of other cities. They've evolved an alternate informal mass-transit system, slugging. Which is a pretty cool phenomenon, in my opinion. Especially since it wasn't legislated or designed - it just evolved, in response to a need. However it's possible that this phenomenon may also detract from the viability of the "official" system, the DC Metro.
Since there will never be a perfect match-up of drivers and riders, a mass-transit system is needed not only to give riders a place to congregate, but also to serve as a back-up for riders who don't get rides. So slugging is only feasible where mass transit is feasible. In fact, for mass transit to be feasible you need enough users in addition to all the sluggers. (It does sound like a good idea where mass transit capacity strains to meet the demand, but that's even more unusual than ordinary mass transit feasibility.)

On the other hand, of the cost of having to take a cab occasionally is not too great, then maybe taxis can serve as the back-up system.

Another idea is that certified tiny fuel-efficient cars could be allowed to use the high-occupancy lanes without passengers. The idea would be to have special fast lanes where there is very low fuel use per rider, by whatever means. Then maybe more people would take the risk of riding in fuel-efficient (but more dangerous) cars.
[ September 12, 2008: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Pat Farrell
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    5

Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
Another idea is that certified tiny fuel-efficient cars could be allowed to use the high-occupancy lanes without passengers. The idea would be to have special fast lanes where there is very low fuel use per rider, by whatever means.

So you want special vehicles and special lanes. Very high fuel use per person moved. Sounds like a train to me.

The DC areas will be trying special "high toll" lanes soon. For people with more money than time.

Clearly sometime in the future, we could have autonomous vehicles that we rent for one trip, and then the vehicle could pickup another passenger. Essentially a taxi without the taxi driver.
Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30516
    
150

Originally posted by Pat Farrell:
I've mostly been in Manhattan, Brooklyn and a bit of the Bronx. I guess it depends on what "outer boroughs" mean. Clearly Staten Island has bad subway, but isn't Staten Island considered New Jersey anyway?

Brooklyn's subway is not a grid, or as interconnected as Manhattan's, but there are multiple lines a few blocks apart. Granted, the blocks between the avenues are kinda long.

I agree Brooklyn is good. The Bronx doesn't have much interconnection, but many branches. Staten Island has one subway. Queens (which is the borough I was thinking of when I made my comment), has 8-9 lines which is really an illusion as there are only 3-4 main sets of tracks. They intersect a bit. What gets me is that the subway stops before it gets 2/3 of the way through Queens. There are a number of communities where it is a 40 minute bus ride to get to a subway. Brooklyn has a smaller area with no subway. The Bronx and Manhattan have pretty much full coverage.

I do agree the subway is way more interconnected in DC of course.

If anyone is curious, here is the NYC subway map which shows the lines/interconnections.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Originally posted by Pat Farrell:

So you want special vehicles and special lanes. Very high fuel use per person moved. Sounds like a train to me.

The DC areas will be trying special "high toll" lanes soon. For people with more money than time.

The problem with trains is that you are limited to the tracks. What we need are like trains for the main routes, but where individual vehicles can attach and separate to travel individually. Sort of like convoys. The assumption is that while vehicles are attached into groups, their per-vehicle fuel use should drastically shrink.
Pat Farrell
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Joined: Aug 11, 2007
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    5

Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
What we need are like trains for the main routes, but where individual vehicles can attach and separate to travel individually. Sort of like convoys. The assumption is that while vehicles are attached into groups, their per-vehicle fuel use should drastically shrink.

Popular Science invented this sometime in the 50s or 60s. Your car would take you from your garage to the station, where you'd link up with others in a train, so you could let someone/the computer drive, and you would get the fuel economy of a train (at least a rubber tired train).

Should be just a SMOP
 
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