|"The Albury Coach Rail Interchange opened in 2003. The million-dollar project is a joint venture between Transport NSW and Albury City."|
I have been following Daneel's excellent series on Local Rail, with Chapter 3, Local Rail (3/5): Subways, metros and RER, appearing this afternoon.
However, one odd feature of the discussion that struck me was the "fightback" from bus advocates. At least, this strikes me, since it seems clear to me that the best way to boost bus ridership per mile is to anchor bus routes on regional train routes and link them to suburban origins and destinations that are off the line of the rail.
Why is it that we get this habit of advocates for different modes of public transport spending a lot of effort fighting to undermine each other? All it accomplishes in the long term is slow down the move away from yesterday's car-based public transport system to the energy efficient transport we will need in the future.
Some speculation on this question after the fold.
I have had very little time for blogging this summer, as I am spending most days of the week slinging boxes of up to 90 pounds off a boxline as a transhipment warehouse ... such being the life of a instructor level academic when there is no class to instruct and there remain bills to be paid.
However, I have made time for Daneel's excellent series on Local Rail, with Chapter 3, Local Rail (3/5): Subways, metros and RER, making its appearance this afternoon. While the first two made more of a splash (the first of Daneel's diaries was guest hosted by Jerome a Paris), Chapter Three is every bit as important as Chapters One and Two.
First, I am going to focus in on the money quote from the repeated intro to Daneel's series:
... Coordination between different modes of transport, rather than rivalry, is essential. Even just in rail, one shoe doesn't fit them all. Different public transport modes are for differing kinds of travel, and it's best to have them as different levels in a linked-up system, say:
1. high-speed rail,
2. express rail,
3. normal stopping trains,
4. rapid transit,
5. metro (subway/elevated),
6. light rail,
Of these, this series covers the four categories of local rail (nos. 3-6 on the list); as well as some ingenious ideas to mix these categories.
In Chapter One, Local Rail (1), focusing on regional stopping trains, this prompted one of the type responses that I noted above:
Much more flexible and don't require the huge infrastructure build up.
Rail works in Europe because they have (never lost) the early rail infrastructure. In US it requires massive building projects.
Using suburban/urban bus stations, folks driving from suburban homes 20(?) miles to bus stations for last 10 (?) miles to city jobs, US could make a huge transition over next 10 years.
Eliminating cars from cities allows for fast easy transport in the cities via frequent Diesel-hybrid busses like the Jitney system in Atlantic City where you are never more than minutes from hopping on a transport.
Busses can quickly adapt to changing city structures and job patterns.
The suburban/urban system eliminates the rush hour lost time/energy of the main commute to work. Frequent, fast bus service is the key which eliminates the real show stopper for mass transit, the long wait for crowded transport.
Diesel-hybrid bus system allows for upgrade to hydrogen-hybrid bus system going forward.
by Azulchico on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 03:37:02 PM EDT
... and I won't go into detail arguing the specifics point by point, because underlying the whole argument is the underlying premise that there is one choice that is "best" for everywhere across the country, "right now".
Also in Chapter 2, Local Rail (2/5): Rapid transit, there was the comment:
For example, while 94 percent of its ridership are bus riders, MTA customarily spends 70 percent of its budget on the six percent of its ridership that are rail passengers. Despite increasing demand, MTA reduced its peak hour bus fleet from 2200 to 1750 buses in the last decade. 1992 data reveal a $1.17 subsidy per boarding for an MTA bus rider. The subsidy for a Metrolink commuter rail rider was 18 times higher ($21.02); for a suburban Blue Line light rail passenger, more than nine times higher ($11.34); and for a Red Line subway passenger, two-and-a-half times higher ($2.92).
granted, those numbers are old, but if you also consider the income level of metrolink riders vs bus riders it would make sense to me to concentrate on dropping bus fares at the expense of light rail fares.
Quick! Man the Blogs!
by HiBob on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 02:14:13 PM EDT
... which elicited the reply:
This was played out in the first diary of this series Bob. So lets look at the cost of buses versus trains in real costs...just vehicles. In 2007 your transit authority buys two LRVs for six million. It carries 464 passengers per two car consist with one driver. 60 foot articulated buses (nothing longer is legal in the US nor should it be if it is on the same streets as cars) carry 90 passengers max. So to carry the load of the LRT you need about 5 buses. Those 5 buses cost about a million each, each need a driver and have to be replaced in 12 years which means in 24 years you have spent 6 million on two LRVs and 10 million on 10 buses not to mention inflation for the 12 year bus replacement. Then, you have the costs of paving the roads, which in the case of the Orange Line in LA are already messed up (photo proof) But no one ever adds those costs in. Nor do they mention that rail attracts 34-43% more riders.
Let's also look at energy usage...The Department of Energy Oakridge Lab puts out data every year. The most recent shows rail on top again. 4,318 BTU per passenger mile for bus versus an average of 2,978 BTU per passenger mile of any rail (Amtrak, Rapid Transit and Commuter Rail)
Now I've certainly given more than enough data here to prove the point that Daneel will probably get to. So can we quit this bus obsession now? Rail is an investment to save costs over time. To make money you have to spend money. Why are people so worried about making the up front investment in rapid transit. We know from experience in Chicago, Boston and New York city that it pays you back over and over and over again.
by The Overhead Wire on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 08:37:51 PM EDT
... But Its Not Just Buses Versus Trains
Its not just buses versus trains. In various public transport forums, I have seen heavy rail vs light rail fights, light rail versus monorail, high speed rail versus local rail, metro versus rapid transit, people movers versus any and all of the above, and I am sure that is just a sampling.
One reason is, of course, that in online forums, a disagreement and an argument often generates far more verbiage than agreement does, so the profile of disputes is artificially inflated. But that is, I think, only a subsidiary factor here.
More to the point is the idea that "public transport" is one category ... a single pigeon hole for everybody who does not want or cannot drive a car, plus those unusual cities that never agreed to destroy themselves with an entirely auto-dependent public transport system, and so retained a portion of a pre-existing system to build upon.
So in other word, the argument is a symptom of the core problem ... the absurd idea that a one-size-fits-all system is possible. In reality, one size fits all systems never actually fit all, and they never fit most very well.
And when we are thinking about improving the nation's Energy Independence, and reducing our CO2 emissions, "fitting well" in the sense of serving a particular transport task becomes very important. We have, in other words, been spending more than three quarters of a century building a transport system that does nothing particularly efficiently, and throwing lots of energy at it to compensate. ... and when we started doing it, we were a major global oil exporter.
After WWII, when the Europeans were looking at their current account balance and realized that they could not afford to allow people to buy gasoline at its commodity price ... America was still an oil exporter, and still had rising oil production.
And then we hit our national peak oil in 1968, and in the 60's started to be an oil importer, and then we had two OPEC oil price shocks, and then we started to grow up. And then we had, just as I reached voting age, the conservative Morning In America Again fantasy that this fundamental core change in America's economic relationship with the world regarding Energy was an Inconvenience that we could avoid by ignoring ... and if necessary, defeat with military force.
It has been, in other words, a quarter century past time to slowly and incrementally attack this problem. This had become a problem we must attack on all fronts at once ... from electric bikes and circulator buses through to trolleybuses through to all the modes of local passenger rail that Daneel is describing in his series, through to high speed electric rail.
And especially for all of us who took the 7/7/07 Live Earth pledge, equipping ourselves with information is one of the most important things we can do to meet the transport point in our pledge. Because while "one size fits all" works fine based on stereotypes of what "most" people iin "most" places "mostly" want to do "most" of the time, an energy efficient transport system requires a far more information intensive understanding of what particular people in particular places want to do in particular at particular times of day.
Luckily for us, America really is not the only nation in the world, and there has been ongoing design solutions for specific situations in cities all across the world. By learning, we can become effective advocates for transport that is both energy efficient and effective for the specific role that it plays.
Well, that is the long winded way of saying it. The quick way would be to just say, "Go, read, rec and comment on Daneel's diary." Let's work through the nuts and bolts of the role that different types of systems play.