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Old 12-15-2010, 10:18 PM
 
Location: Duluth, MN
101 posts, read 193,759 times
Reputation: 68

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I am very interested in public transit (as I choose to not drive and, therefore, must use public transit). One thing I've noticed is that in small to medium sized cities, transit systems are severely lacking. While I understand that there isn't a great deal of money to be spent on systems most of the citizens of such cities won't ever use, it is still important to have another option.

I will cite two examples with which I am familiar:

Oshkosh Transit System (Oshkosh, WI)

For a city of 65,000, it seems ludicrous that the bus system only runs until 6 PM. Yet every route runs every 1/2 hour. Also, buses don't run on Sundays at all. Personally, I would prefer a system that runs every 1/2 during the peak morning rush and peak afternoon/evening rush Monday-Friday and operates every hour not at those times (or maybe every 45 minutes). This would allow buses to run well into the evening and on Sundays. Or what about a system that consolidates 8 or 9 "day" routes into 3 or 4 "night" routes. It's expanding service without raising prices or fares.

Duluth Transit Authority (service to Superior, WI)

When looking at this one, note the "Routes & Schedules" link on the right and then the #16 and #17 Routes serving Superior.

This one is a little tricky in that Superior contracts their service out to the DTA and doesn't have a whole lot of room for additional funding from the state of Wisconsin. But there are several things that jump out at me. First, on the #17 route, do they really need 2 buses breaking up a 25 minute route? During the peak hours, they operate 2 buses that cover two different neighborhoods normally served by just one bus? Also, cutting down on peak trips a little more could free up room to expand evening/night service.

I know this was long-winded, but I'd really like to know why some transit systems are so short-sighted. Anyone care to answer?
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Old 12-15-2010, 10:27 PM
 
8,328 posts, read 14,563,164 times
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Because they're not 100% public funded the way that highways and other auto-centric infrastructure systems are.
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Old 12-15-2010, 10:30 PM
 
Location: Duluth, MN
101 posts, read 193,759 times
Reputation: 68
Good point
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:36 AM
 
Location: New York City
4,036 posts, read 8,939,859 times
Reputation: 3703
It's a question of critical mass/density. A city of 65,000 is close to the minimum necessary to make public transportation viable in this country. Europe is different because small cities are far denser than they are in the US.

For public transportation to succeed, it has to be more convenient than driving (because traffic is really bad or parking is expensive). Frankly, it has to be a middle-class issue. If public transportation is solely for poor people who can't afford cars, then it will never be well funded.
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Old 12-16-2010, 10:03 AM
 
Location: London, NYC, DC
1,118 posts, read 1,971,265 times
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It's not that they're ineffective, it's that they're subjugated to second-class instantly and never equated with private transport. There are three waves of public transport in the US: the first was in the early 1900s with New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and in fact Cleveland; the second in the 60s and 70s with Washington, San Francisco, and Atlanta; and the last in the present day with the renewal of light rail in many cities (and in Los Angeles' case, rapid transit).

Looking at these, the most successful are those of the first wave because they are fully integrated with their cities, and those cities were in fact built around those systems at appropriate densities. The second wave has more mixed results, with DC's being by far the most successful and proof that an auto-dependent area can become walkable, mixed-use, and less reliant on cars, while BART was more mixed. MARTA, depending on who you talk to is either moderately successful or a failure, although this could be attributed to its funding structure and the county-level nature of the Atlanta area. The third wave is up for debate, but I personally don't think they'll be much of a dent, although Los Angeles could be quite successful if it develops properly.

What's the overriding theme here? It's that for public transport to be effective, it must:

1) Go were people want to go
2) Be built at a scale appropriate to the city it's serving (light rail will not solve Los Angeles' problems in the long term)
3) Serve areas of medium to high density or, in outlying areas, centres of large catchment areas
4) Be accompanied by transit-oriented development or smart growth (look at the developments in the DC area, especially Arlington)

Simply building a rail line won't do anything if there's no base to support it. Because highways can be built as arterial roads, or collectors for lower-level roads, they don't require as much central planning as rapid transit, which is much more expensive initially.
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Old 12-16-2010, 02:39 PM
 
Location: On the Rails in Northern NJ
12,381 posts, read 23,376,922 times
Reputation: 4519
The City has to be dense , the system has to have good service. The Service is the main reason why many systems have terrible ridership outside the NE. Every 10-15 mins is good service.
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Old 12-16-2010, 04:33 PM
 
724 posts, read 1,471,526 times
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Generally speaking public transport falls prey to political decision-making as opposed to what the sound business decision would be. In order to satisfy constituents, politicians will make something that is not so practical and would not withstand scrutiny from a business perspective.
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Old 12-16-2010, 07:54 PM
 
Location: Sacramento, Placerville
2,487 posts, read 5,121,203 times
Reputation: 2172
Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Because they're not 100% public funded the way that highways and other auto-centric infrastructure systems are.
Unless you throw in revenue from fares, public transportation is 100% publicly funded, and is supposed to be funded from the pool of money generated from various transportation-related taxes (registration fees, tolls, etc.) and fuel taxes. If politicians disbursed this money properly we would have an awesome network of public transpiration, and likely would have a high-speed rail system in place years ago. Unfortunately, some feel it is a great way to buy votes by claiming they are saving the taxpayers money by not investing in any transportation infrastructure, and some make up grants to buy votes because the majority of voters aren't aware that the money really should have went to transportation in the first place.
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Old 12-18-2010, 01:32 PM
 
Location: Parkridge, East Knoxville, TN
469 posts, read 959,982 times
Reputation: 362
In many places public transit is seen as a poor man's alternative, and therefore creates a stigma that prevents many middle class people from using it. The biggest issue for me is the fact that I could be stranded if I need to go somewhere not on a route. It also prevents me from leaving work to go run errands during lunch, or to take care of an emergency if one arises if I take the bus to work.
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Old 12-18-2010, 03:02 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
10,238 posts, read 18,750,013 times
Reputation: 10164
Quote:
Originally Posted by geoking66 View Post
It's not that they're ineffective, it's that they're subjugated to second-class instantly and never equated with private transport.

You deny it's ineffective and then tell us why it's ineffective in the same sentence.
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