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Thread: How would you make transit better?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How would you make transit better?

    Related to Charlie Denker's post, what would you do to make transit better? Everyone wants transit that's on time, clean, and safe. There are also many innovations being used in places around the world that certainly benefit the transit rider's experience. But specifically, what would you do to make trains and buses on time, cleaner, safer, and generally, more enjoyable?

  2. #2
    I think 90% of the problems with mass transit are caused by the fact that they are government monopoly companies, and as such service quality is the last thing on their priorities list. When you think about it, what stops a transportation company from running on time? What stops them from cleaning the cars? From evicting bums and hoodlums who cause trouble? Nothing. Any teenage movie theatre assistant manager can perform these duties.

    So let's start treating mass transit as what it is, a service where quality matters and is rewarded with more revenue. And let's stop calling it public transportation, as though it was only a welfare program.

  3. #3
         
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    Ideas

    Needs to be:
    Faster than car (bus/ bike only facilities)
    Cooler than car (more ipods anyone?)
    Easy to use (very little time investment to understand the system) INCLUDING:
    - easy to read maps
    - easy to read time tables
    - fast information update (text to mobile would be GREAT!)

    Not holding my breath here, but ...

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by alex
    But specifically, what would you do to make trains and buses on time, cleaner, safer, and generally, more enjoyable?
    Run more trains/busses so you don't have to wait more than 10 minutes until the next one comes. Instead of running 10-car trains every half hour, run 3-car trains every 5 minutes. People don't want to sit around waiting when they could be in a car on their way. We don't just need transit to be "on time," if that means that it comes on the hour and the half hour, because people don't want to have to schedule their lives around a transit schedule.

    This is where I think jaws' point is moot on movie theater managers being able to do the job. Each train or bus needs to have a fixed amount of skilled staff (a driver, etc), but enlarging each train or bus only requires more unskilled staff, if at all. Running more trains and busses requires more trained employees, not grunt labor.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    Two Words:

    Monorails and Hovercrafts

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    I think 90% of the problems with mass transit are caused by the fact that they are government monopoly companies, and as such service quality is the last thing on their priorities list. When you think about it, what stops a transportation company from running on time?
    Lack of dedicated right-of-way, which can't be solved by privatizing transit (makes it HARDER, as a matter of fact).

    You simply can't run a bus system in shared lanes and make your schedules, unless you pad them out to ridiculous levels (and then people will be mad at your constant idling to make sure that on the days when traffic is flowing you don't get to the next stop too EARLY).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    I think 90% of the problems with mass transit are caused by the fact that they are government monopoly companies, and as such service quality is the last thing on their priorities list. When you think about it, what stops a transportation company from running on time? What stops them from cleaning the cars? From evicting bums and hoodlums who cause trouble? Nothing. Any teenage movie theatre assistant manager can perform these duties.
    I have to admit I've been skeptical about the idea of privatizing mass transit, but I've been doing some research and under strict supervision, it appears privitization of transit in scandanavia is having tremendous results. This doesn't mean that privitization of mass transit will necessarily be a great thing in the United States, as the following paragraphs show:

    All the Scandinavian countries studied have undertaken national public transportation policy reforms over the last decade. One of the main thrusts of the reforms has been to reduce unit operating costs of services by tendering (i.e., contracting out) services to the most competitive bidder.

    The results in all three countries appear to be consistent:

    Lower unit operating costs,
    Improved quality of the bus fleet, and
    Improved customer satisfaction.
    The three Scandinavian countries have approached contracting out of operations in a deliberate, closely managed manner. The Scandinavian model is like franchising services in the United States (e.g., trash collection). Standards are employed in the tendering process to consider quality and age of buses, driver performance, reliability of service, and bidderís managerial competence.

    The Scandinavian systems studied seem to have had better success in contracting out transit services than their U.S. counterparts. Although the U.S. systems have also achieved cost savings, service quality has not increased as consistently as it has in Scandinavia. The United States should consider the Scandinavian approach to explicitly emphasize quality in the selection of the most competitive bidder. The thorough evaluation of contractorsí performances through customer surveys may be a useful aid to U.S. practices.

    The United States should also be appreciative of the resilience of the Scandinavian transit systems in adapting to the dramatic policy changes over the last decade. All of the systems observed appeared to be growing and making major improvements in service quality. They face challenges similar to many U.S. systems in retaining and attracting more passenger trips in an increasingly competitive environment. They seem well able to accept and meet these challenges.

  8. #8

    Here's a concept - how about a little common sense?

    Here in Boston we have this little gathering place in the summer known as Fenway Park. Well, when a game is over and the massive hordes descend upon the subway, there are never any cars waiting, empty, ready to zip fans off to their destinations. And I know darned well that every employee is listening to the game or very aware of when the game will let out.

    And when a train does show up, it is only a half-size train. Yes, it is 10:00 PM and well after what one would call "rush hour". But when you have a rush hour size group of people trying to get from point A to point B, you'd think someone would have the bright idea to put every available car on that line. It wouldn't have to last until the T closes at 12:40 AM, but certainly the first 30 minutes immediately following the end of the game. Home games happen at least 4 days/nights out of a week.

    But, I recall some brilliant person saying, "The T is in the business of moving trains.. not in the business of moving people."

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BeansandCod
    Here in Boston we have this little gathering place in the summer known as Fenway Park. Well, when a game is over and the massive hordes descend upon the subway, there are never any cars waiting, empty, ready to zip fans off to their destinations...
    That sort of thing is a problem in Atlanta as well. MARTA just can't seem to grasp the concept that one of the best ways they can boost ridership (especially amongst the suburbanites) is to handle major sporting events, concerts, etc. without leaving angry folks standing on the platform for 25 minutes waiting for an already overcrowded train. I'd guess that the majority of peoples' first trips on MARTA are to events in the Georgia Dome or at Turner Field, and it is extremely difficult to convince these riders that transit is their best option for getting to the game when MARTA consistenly shows that they can't (or simply won't make an effort to) handle large crowds.

  10. #10
    That's what it is, Bubba -they don't wish to make the effort. And there would be such
    a stink made trying to get organized labor to buy in.... the concessions that would need to be made just to get more car-men out there working would be a nightmare.

    Our system here is so antiquated (this is one thing where the distinction for being the oldest subway in America should not be carried like a badge of honor) that the switches freeze in the winter and short out when we have excessive rain.

    We are slowly implementing an automated/debit fare system with new turnstiles, etc. Strangely enough the change is being fought more virulently by longtime passengers than by employees. The new system means they can no longer cheat and jump on the train for free.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I take New Jersey Transit and New York City Subway to work every day.

    Service on both systems is generally reliable and priced correctly - and strong ridership reflects this.

    I would change a few things about New Jersey Transit. Still, it is not that bad. If it was, I wouldn't take the train.

    1. The New Jersey Transit morning train I take arrives late to Penn Station in New York most mornings. I usually take a "non-stop" that departs my station at 6:45am and is scheduled to arrive at Penn Station at 7:19am. The train regularly departs at 6:45am but rarely arrives to Penn Station by 7:19am, even though the arrival time adds a cushion of a few minutes. Between Newark and New York, the train slows to crawl and often stops for several minutes. Normally, stoppage occurs in the middle of a dreadful swamp filled with garbage - not a great view especially when you're late for work. I think the delay is caused by too many trains and to little track capacity heading into New York.

    2. Upon arrival to Penn Station - usually late - it takes up to 5 minutes to get from the train upstairs to the station. The staircases from platform to station lack the capacity to accomodate all the passengers. So, after arriving late it you're then stuck in a huge crush just to get from the platform to the station.

    On the bright side, the things I complain about are caused by very high suburb-to-CBD public transportation ridership in the New York area. I believe public transportation spending should be biased towards places where high public transportation usage is already in place - $ shouldn't be wasted on speculative public transportation projects where driving works fine or population density is insufficient to create strong demand for public transportation.

  12. #12
         
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    Quote Originally posted by BeansandCod
    But, I recall some brilliant person saying, "The T is in the business of moving trains.. not in the business of moving people."

    Haha, the joke about Western Sydney buses is that they are moving air from the north side of Western Sydney to the south side.

  13. #13
         
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    Seattle and Sydney

    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    I believe public transportation spending should be biased towards places where high public transportation usage is already in place - $ shouldn't be wasted on speculative public transportation projects where driving works fine or population density is insufficient to create strong demand for public transportation.

    Yeah, I hear you. So many cities handicapp themselves trying to put transport spending where transport users ARE NOT! In Seattle/ King County Washington the arcane 40-40-20 tax laws (created to equitably divide transport funding between the two suburban parts of the county -- 40% to the east and 40% to the south -- where there was relatively LOW transport ridership compared to the city -- which was rewarded for good transport behavior by getting poor funding, aging buses, and the appearance of being a roving homeless shelter with bums on it).

    Sydney is not much better, the federal government has actually got a tax in place that rewards car drivers for driving further each year. IN FACT, the fringe benefits tax (FBT) is such a powerful benefit, that just before tax time, people are out driving as much as possible to get their kilometers up. its a farce, really.

  14. #14
         
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    how to beat something like this?

    This ad was recalled after it was published in Canada, with apologies to the local transport system. But as long as transport is funded as 'second rate' or fall back travel options for non-car-owners, the image of transport will stay crummy.

    http://www.memyi.us/images/creeps-thumb.jpg

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Transport Queen
    Haha, the joke about Western Sydney buses is that they are moving air from the north side of Western Sydney to the south side.
    For the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the equivalent joke is that DART stands for "Driving Advertisements 'Round Town"


    One other problem perception with transit is the largely unionized work force. Threats of strikes do not give confidence to the commuter that the service will be consistent, especially if one is trying to get folks to give up their cars entirely. If it was a free market labor system then any non-working employees could easily be replaced. But perhaps we need to get back to private transit companies to provide those advantages.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BeansandCod
    Here in Boston we have this little gathering place in the summer known as Fenway Park. Well, when a game is over and the massive hordes descend upon the subway, there are never any cars waiting, empty, ready to zip fans off to their destinations.
    That's not entirely true. The MBTA regularly queues Green Line cars at the Blandford Street stub for post Sox service. If you go west on Commonwealth Avenue for a couple blocks from Kenmore Square, you will see them waiting, empty. The smaaht fans actually board the empty cars at Blandford Street, instead of fighting the crowds at Kenmore.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Random Traffic Guy: Yes I agree. Unions are evil. Get the workers back into the salt mines where they belong.

    How would I improve transit? Three things:
    1. Funding
    2. Funding
    3. Funding

    Consider this excellent post by Payton Chung:


    The French government kicked in $800M to run the Parisian transit system in 1997, and that local employers paid nearly $1.7 billion in payroll taxes (and discounted passes) to finance system operations. The riders paid just 25.7% of the total cost, with taxpayers picking up the rest: 31% from the 2% payroll tax, 17% from the feds, and the rest from payments and traffic fines from the local governments.

    Compare that to 53% farebox recovery for CTA, with just $700M in regional subsidy (plus a small amount from the state for reduced fare reimbursement) for all of RTA, for instance—to serve a metro area of similar scope, although half as densely populated.
    We here in this country expect our transit agencies to run on fumes and still provide good service. We make riders bear the brunt of the cost of the service and expect them to still ride. Is there any question why our systems are a mess?

    Clearly, the problem is the unions.

  18. #18
    It's not just the unions, it's the whole organization top to bottom that doesn't care. In a private company you get more funding for providing better services to your customers. In a public bureaucracy the money doesn't come from the customers, it comes from taxes. Who cares if the customer is satisfied? Who cares if very simple opportunities to improve service are being overlooked? Who cares if investment in infrastructure is falling behind? You gain nothing by upsetting the status quo except putting your job at risk.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    A significant hurdle to improving mass transit is the pre-existing development patterns. Mass transit is often next to impossible to make worthwhile when the bus has to sit in the same traffic as the cars- or when you have to drive and find or pay for parking in order to use the rail.

  20. #20
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    Marta definetly has it's problems, however they deserve some create. In the past dedcated bus routes have been set up just for special events. I can recall many a ball game let out to find a whole lane of busses waiting to take us to the train.

    What is disturbing in Atlanta is the inability of metropolitian counties to come together and develop one regional mass transportation plan, I believe there are currently 3 busses systems running within the metropolitan area.

    Quote Originally posted by Bubba
    That sort of thing is a problem in Atlanta as well. MARTA just can't seem to grasp the concept that one of the best ways they can boost ridership (especially amongst the suburbanites) is to handle major sporting events, concerts, etc. without leaving angry folks standing on the platform for 25 minutes waiting for an already overcrowded train. I'd guess that the majority of peoples' first trips on MARTA are to events in the Georgia Dome or at Turner Field, and it is extremely difficult to convince these riders that transit is their best option for getting to the game when MARTA consistenly shows that they can't (or simply won't make an effort to) handle large crowds.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Clean the cars and the stations
    Improve the seats
    Better lighting

    Also design stations and the access to stations with some excitement. The NYC subway system when it was built was phenomenal and very impressive, even by todayís standards. But years of neglect have taken itís toll on the system. Why canít we do that now? There is flat screen TVís in McDonalds? Why not subway stations?

    And most importantly is an aggressive marketing campaign in an effort to chance the negative perception about public transportation. Promote it as the preferred way to get around.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BeansandCod
    That's what it is, Bubba -they don't wish to make the effort. And there would be such
    a stink made trying to get organized labor to buy in.... the concessions that would need to be made just to get more car-men out there working would be a nightmare.
    What???

    Drivers at PATCO and SEPTA and NJTransit and PATH jump all over special event service. It's a lot of down-time and you normally get paid time and half.

    SEPTA stacks subway trains up at Pattison Station (across from the stadium complex) and runs special express trains in addition to extra local service. There's never more than a 3 minute wait for an express.

    PATCO does the same thing whenever there are big events in Philly (fireworks, LIVE8, parades)

    The
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the ťlite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  23. #23
    People who say the answer to public transportation problems is privatization generally forget that almost all mass transport in this country started out as private (remember they were bought up by General Motors?) They failed economically and only those lines bought or acquired by the public sector survived.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    1) Trains not buses. Above-ground trains, preferably. How much density does it take to support a streetcar?

    2) GPS-equipped buses/trains, with position data uploaded to a website in real time. Then you can "watch" the bus approaching your stop, and run out to catch it at the last minute.

    3) Pretty obvious, but later hours. A city like Boston closes its subway at 12:40? Give me a break. What time do the bars close? Cars are never as disadvantageous as when you're too wasted to drive - if the bars close at 2, the last train should leave no earlier than 2:30.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup
    People who say the answer to public transportation problems is privatization generally forget that almost all mass transport in this country started out as private (remember they were bought up by General Motors?) They failed economically and only those lines bought or acquired by the public sector survived.
    There's a difference though. I think everyone here is talking about contracting out the labor, not the whole system. Mass transit is not a money-maker. Privatizing the whole system won't make it that. The object would be to use public funding and private labor.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
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