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Author Topic: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati  (Read 5872 times)

Offline Karen W.

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Why do so many Americans avoid public transportation? Is it convienience of coming and going as you please, more independence or what! Do you think our public transpotation system lacks the careful planing to make it more accessible to everyone ? what is your opinion?

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another_someone

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #1 on: 01/10/2006 21:53:51 »
Not an American, so would not like to answer for them, but I do not particularly like public transport here either.

OK, one has to clarify what one means by public transport, but in general it usually refers to mass transit systems (although even this is sometimes with caveats.  Some people regard public transport as anything that is owned and operated for public use which includes taxis, which are not mass transportation systems.  Other people would exclude the airline industry from the notion of public transport, even though it is both a mass transportation system, and is available to the public.  Some people simply regard as public transport that which is owned and operated by national or local government, although with the increasing privatisation of the systems that were once regarded as public transport, this definition does not stand well).

Taking the notion of mass transportation, it is only viable where there is a sufficiently large number of people who require to take a particular journey at a particular time to make it worthwhile to invest in a unit of transport to undertake the journey for all those people.  In areas of high population density (i.e. in high density urban areas), it is possible to find many journeys where there are enough people willing to undertake the same journey at the same time to invest in a mass transit system to carry them on that journey.  In areas of lower population densities, it is not easy to find journeys that a large number of people wish to undertake at a similar time to justify implementing an effective mass transit system.  Implementing a mass transit system that is grossly underutilised is extremely wasteful of resources, and usually will not even provide a worthwhile service for the end user.

The airline industry is a mass transportation system that really highlights some of the extremes of mass transportation because of the great distances the network covers.  Much that is true of the airline industry is also true of the rest of the mass transportation systems, but on a more compact scale.  The airline industry, in order to maximise utilisation of the network, creates a hub and spoke system, where it aggregates passengers into central paths, so that many passengers that want to undertake an approximately similar journey are channelled into a common hub, and from there will share a common journey, and thus share utilisation of the common resources, and are then dispersed from the hub at the far end to their respective destinations.  Thus someone wishing to travel from Bristol, in the UK, to a similar town about 100 miles away from New York city, will be fed to a hub in the UK (probably London, which is 100 miles from Bristol), take a flight from there to New York City (about 3000 miles), and then have to travel another 100 miles to their end destination.  In a journey of 3000 miles, an additional 200 miles is not a significant increment (in terms of time taken, it may actually double the journey time, but not the distance).

In metropolitan areas, there are sufficient users of the network travelling in almost every conceivable direction, that there is no real need to a substantial hub and spoke system (although there are elements of it, and although there are underground rail stations about every mile, if not closer, in central London, it is still often the case that the route one has to take to get from one place to another will be circuitous, as one is fed from one partr of the network to another).

In suburban rail networks, it is a very different story, as it is in the long distance rail networks.  In both these cases, there is a substantial hub and spoke network, and in some cases this can add significantly to the overall journey distance, as well as the time, for many journeys.  This was exacerbated by the rail closures that were undertaken in this country in the 1960s.  I live about 35 miles outside London, and if I wish to travel to central London, there is a good rail network (if somewhat over-congested); but if I wish to undertake a journey to where I used to work around 1990, a small village near Windsor, that is a similar distance to London that my home is, it is a very different story.  I would commute the journey by car on a daily basis, and it would take me about 1 hour, and cover about 40 miles.  On one occasion, I needed to do the journey by train, which required that I travel into London, and then out again.  They journey distance was about double what I would have taken by car, and the journey time was tripled.  Worse yet, the train would not take me to my end destination, but required that I take a taxi at the other end for the last 10 miles.  This is not only a an expensive journey in terms of my time, but it cannot be conceivably regarded as an increase in efficiency to double the distance required to travel to cover the journey.



George
 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #2 on: 01/10/2006 22:41:10 »
Man that sounds complicated for what could have been a much shorter trip! We don't have underground rail here. Train, amtrack is an option grey hound bus lines, in california anyways Taxis Planes etc.. Surpisingly enough, there are many privte pilots around here and we see much transpotation being done through the air.. We had the first crash in several years a couple weeks ago on the hill just above the preschool the man was killed .. small little puddle jumper.. Very sad!  We are limited to buses taxi's and private vehicles as we don't have train service between Eureka arcata Blue Lake and Mc Kinleyville!!

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another_someone

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #3 on: 01/10/2006 23:08:34 »
quote:
Originally posted by Karen W.
Man that sounds complicated for what could have been a much shorter trip! We don't have underground rail here. Train, amtrack is an option grey hound bus lines, in california anyways Taxis Planes etc.. Surpisingly enough, there are many privte pilots around here and we see much transpotation being done through the air.. We had the first crash in several years a couple weeks ago on the hill just above the preschool the man was killed .. small little puddle jumper.. Very sad!  We are limited to buses taxi's and private vehicles as we don't have train service between Eureka arcata Blue Lake and Mc Kinleyville!!



Well, as I said, complex underground trains are only really efficient in high density population centres (such as New York city), and where you live I believe is very low population density, so there would be not a very large user base to use such an expensive system.

Amtrak is a long distance carrier, and so can afford fairly complex hub and spoke systems.

I believe there are people who quite like Amtrak, but it is relatively slow compared to air travel, and so is only viable for people who can afford the time.

Buses are very cheap to run, so can afford to service relatively low population densities, although even there the service that they can usually afford rural communities can be extremely infrequent, and the system can be slow even in environments where it can afford to run a fairly frequent service.



George
 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #4 on: 02/10/2006 03:44:31 »
That makes since that it is really not very economical with such small communities.. with little need to all be going to one place as you said earlier!! We have mostly buses and cabs. Alot of people bike and Drive..

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Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #5 on: 02/10/2006 10:58:37 »
Hi Loretta!!

Karen
« Last Edit: 02/10/2006 13:03:33 by Karen W. »
 

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #6 on: 02/10/2006 11:06:21 »
Hi GAia!

Karen
« Last Edit: 02/10/2006 13:06:10 by Karen W. »
 

Offline bigOz

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #7 on: 04/10/2006 16:07:22 »
Living in UK, I can only assume it's because the fuel is cheap! :)
 

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #8 on: 04/10/2006 16:10:19 »
Compared to what? UK? Yes probably!

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #9 on: 04/10/2006 17:26:28 »
The transport system here in Bristol is shocking. Very expensive for a crappy system, always late, a lot of the time they never show up due to the one you are waiting for is out of service.
But apart from all of these bad points I enjoy public transport. Usually some funny characters on there. I remember once, after a night out I jumped on the bus with a few mates, stupidly I suggested to everyone on the lower deck of the double decker that we might as well sing the wheels on the bus, and they did, even though I said it in a very dry sarcastic tone.....some people.......nah, these guys were great, really friendly lot, and apparently really easy to entertain and make them laugh. That is really all I can remember about that trip though, I got told about the rest of it.

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Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #10 on: 05/10/2006 02:39:09 »
HAd you been nipping the old bottle a tad?

Karen
 

Offline moonfire

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #11 on: 05/10/2006 05:26:36 »
LOL Love it Dansie!

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Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #12 on: 05/10/2006 05:36:38 »
I told you there was something up!! No telling how long ago the wheels on that bus rolled by!! So I guess DAniel, that for the time being you are safe my friend..LOL from what I haven't decided Yet!

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Offline moonfire

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #13 on: 05/10/2006 07:06:13 »
LOL  Pretty funny Karen!

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Offline Karen W.

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #14 on: 05/10/2006 07:31:06 »
I miss that boy!!

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #15 on: 05/10/2006 16:33:35 »
I was very drunk, as were my mates. We went out because our friend Yo had got back from uni and was going to be travelling to a few countries. It was a kinda welcome back, congratulation on finishing uni, and farewell and have a safe trip. The partying went on over the weekend. Was a very good weekend, saw a lot of my old school buddies :D

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #16 on: 07/10/2006 03:34:09 »
Sounds Like you had fun!! The wheels on the bus!!!

Karen
 

Offline NewBill

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #17 on: 07/10/2006 15:47:13 »
Perhaps I read the comments above too quickly but I did not see, what is to me the obvious answers as to why people don't use public transport.

Public transportation is close often crowded, uncomfortable, usually smelly not just bad smells but overwhelming smells of all sorts, too hot, too cold, too slow ... and so on.  And we don't have to use it.

It's not all bad.  When I chose to bicycle commute and gave up parking privileges and so on, public transportation keeps me out there in uncomfortable weather.  It is during bad weather that public transportation is the worst.

The fix?  In the cities. Individual units that hook up and are powered by stationary power sources like embedded rails.  Consumption is metered and and the vehicle when detached has only enough power to get to a parking destination and back to the public rails again.  Larger bus like units could ride the rails for those who chose not to have individual units.  Public transportation corridors which would be all dense transportation networks, and would not be available to independently powered units.  In the sub urban communities, tugs could be employed to get the buses and individual units to the rails.  Such technology has been spec'd out in many parts of the world.

It just makes no sense to have vehicles which transport the fuel and their own bulk for hundreds of kilometers.  A unit getting its power from a rail and traveling entrained can be so much lighter and safer and ultimately faster.  The vehicle's bulk is further reduced  because such a vehicle need not crash another vehicle.  Alternate energies are far more efficient when they energy source is stationary and only the energy is transmitted.  Stationary fuel cells for instance.

Let me have my own small space and have some control over my capsule's environment and I would be happy on the public rail.  And I'll pay a lot for it too.
 

another_someone

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #18 on: 07/10/2006 21:50:46 »
quote:
Originally posted by NewBill
Perhaps I read the comments above too quickly but I did not see, what is to me the obvious answers as to why people don't use public transport.

Public transportation is close often crowded, uncomfortable, usually smelly not just bad smells but overwhelming smells of all sorts, too hot, too cold, too slow ... and so on.  And we don't have to use it.

It's not all bad.  When I chose to bicycle commute and gave up parking privileges and so on, public transportation keeps me out there in uncomfortable weather.  It is during bad weather that public transportation is the worst.



All agreed, but an inevitable consequence of a system that is not capable of doing the job people would like it to do.

quote:

The fix?  In the cities. Individual units that hook up and are powered by stationary power sources like embedded rails.  Consumption is metered and and the vehicle when detached has only enough power to get to a parking destination and back to the public rails again.  Larger bus like units could ride the rails for those who chose not to have individual units.  Public transportation corridors which would be all dense transportation networks, and would not be available to independently powered units.  In the sub urban communities, tugs could be employed to get the buses and individual units to the rails.  Such technology has been spec'd out in many parts of the world.

It just makes no sense to have vehicles which transport the fuel and their own bulk for hundreds of kilometers.  A unit getting its power from a rail and traveling entrained can be so much lighter and safer and ultimately faster.  The vehicle's bulk is further reduced  because such a vehicle need not crash another vehicle.  Alternate energies are far more efficient when they energy source is stationary and only the energy is transmitted.  Stationary fuel cells for instance.

Let me have my own small space and have some control over my capsule's environment and I would be happy on the public rail.  And I'll pay a lot for it too.



The use of publicly available automatically driven person transportation cells I would agree with, I do believe would have the flexibility demanded of personal transportation while having the central control to allow efficient use of resources.

Not so sure about your concern for the weight of fuel in the system.  Don't forget that transporting energy to the vehicle also carries its penalty, and if the vehicle does not carry its own energy, then that energy must be delivered to the vehicle on demand (whether by wires, and thus have to worry about resistance costs, as well as maintenance costs in maintaining the network; or however else).

I agree that travelling entrained has benefits, not only that the reduced distance between units have little chance to allow significant relative velocities to build up, thus reducing the maximum speed of impact; but also improving aerodynamic costs as each vehicle travels in the slipstream of the vehicle ahead.  This does not require the the vehicles need necessarily be physically joined, only that they maintain close distance while travelling, and that distance being maintained as well by electronic control systems as by physical linkage.

One advantage I can see with physical linkage between entrained vehicles is not so much with regard to the transmission of of propulsive force between vehicles, but with the redistribution of energy between vehicles (e.g. when a new vehicle joins the train, with a full load of stored electrical energy, it can redistribute its energy amongst the other members of the train, and as its own energy supplies run low, as newer vehicles join the train, it can receive fresh energy supplies from the newer additions to the train, and if there is an insufficiency in energy through the whole train, then the network operators could attach a special energy transport car to the train to make up the deficit).  As you say, all of this would require that each car has a reliable metering system that can be used to calculate the cost chargeable to each network user.

I am not as obsessed about vehicle weight as some seem to be, although ideal vehicle weight does depends very much on the technology being used.  So long as a vehicle is propelled forward by friction between its wheels and the surface upon which it runs, it will need some minimum weight in order to be able to obtain sufficient friction (this would be different if the vehicle uses electromagnetic or electrostatic forces to propel itself forward e.g. Linear electric motors). Weight can also provide stability against undesirable internal and external forces (e.g. it helps maintain stability in conditions of side winds; and if the vehicle is so light that its weight is comparable to the weight of its occupants, then it could easily become unbalanced by the movements of the occupants within the passenger cell).

Additionally, the penalty of weight can be mitigated if the journey is computer controlled and designed to have the minimum needs for deceleration (i.e. no traffic jams, no traffic light)s over the distance of the journey, and the use of regenerative braking when appropriate (this is far from 100% efficient, but nonetheless valuable).



George
« Last Edit: 07/10/2006 22:00:02 by another_someone »
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #19 on: 09/10/2006 02:19:18 »
As an American living in Virginia, I believe there is another reason why public transit is lacking here. Really there is no public transportation in my local area. Some politicians are very hostile towards it. Have you ever heard a Republican say anything good about any form of transportation other than air or car? I have not. They do suggest that we can eventually replace gasoline with alcohol or hydrogen, but they do not like the idea of asking people to make the sacrifice of giving up the individual convenience of the car for something that works on someone else's schedule. They are willing to spend billions of dollars on highway construction, but not a dime on bus, train, or subway service.

We are not yet serious about possible solutions to our petroleum addiction. Those solutions are not necesarilly going to be cheaper and more convenient than what we have now, but we are eventually going to have to do them anyway. Or maybe we could all have rocket sleds that work by magic if we wish hard enough.

chris wiegard
 

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
« Reply #20 on: 09/10/2006 12:27:26 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
As an American living in Virginia, I believe there is another reason why public transit is lacking here. Really there is no public transportation in my local area. Some politicians are very hostile towards it. Have you ever heard a Republican say anything good about any form of transportation other than air or car? I have not. They do suggest that we can eventually replace gasoline with alcohol or hydrogen, but they do not like the idea of asking people to make the sacrifice of giving up the individual convenience of the car for something that works on someone else's schedule. They are willing to spend billions of dollars on highway construction, but not a dime on bus, train, or subway service.

We are not yet serious about possible solutions to our petroleum addiction. Those solutions are not necesarilly going to be cheaper and more convenient than what we have now, but we are eventually going to have to do them anyway. Or maybe we could all have rocket sleds that work by magic if we wish hard enough.

chris wiegard



I would actually contend that airlines (as distinct from private air travel) come under the classification of public transport but ofcourse popular prejudice will not regard it as such.  If it is usable, and people are willing to pay good money to use it, then it cannot be regarded as public transport; this seems to be the popular prejudice.

The reason public airlines do work is because of the enormous distances that they cover, which makes the relative inefficiencies of the network insignificant in comparison the to advantages of scale they produce (the only perceivable benefit of public transport, apart from the lack of personal capital investment, is the advantage of scale associated with pooled resources)..

As I said, the biggest problem the USA has with public transport is the overall space population density across the USA.

You may complain about a lack of public transport availability in your area, and I do not know what the local population density in your particular area is, but I can well imagine there are vast areas within the USA where population densities are sufficiently low that the inefficiencies of providing public transport to such areas (by any measure of inefficiency not only in monetary terms) would substantially outweigh any efficiency of scale.

As a comparison, it make absolutely no sense to build a massive factory that can efficiently produce millions of units of some gadget, when there is only a market for 100 units such a factory may well be regarded as more efficient in an optimum situation (i.e. running at full capacity), but is grossly inefficient when operating at 1000th or less of its optimum capacity.  The transportation system is like a factory for moving people (and goods) from one place to another, and it has to be designed to be optimum for the scale of production it needs to achieve, and where that scale is small, it is best that it operate on a small scale.

As for being willing to adjust journey times to available schedules this will have an impact not only upon what you are able to do for yourself, but what others are able to do for you.  If, every time you call out a plumber or electrician, they have to take into account the public transport schedules, this will not only effect the length of time you have to wait for them to arrive to fix your problem, it will also effect the number of customers the plumber or electrician can service in a day, and thus the cost he has to charge each customer in order that he can make an adequate living.

Ofcourse, there are lots of other areas where we can improve efficiencies of scale by reducing personal choice.  For instance, do we really need such a wide range of clothing and furniture styles available to us.  If we drastically reduced the number of styles of these items, we could then increase the scale of manufacture, and thus the efficiency of manufacture; but we could also improve the efficiency of the distribution network (including the transportation costs) because there would be fewer lines of stock that retailers need to hold, fewer sources of supply, less wastage in terms of unpopular lines, etc.  If people are really that worried about efficiency, then why have they not suggested such (by the way, I believe that much of this is clearly in line with Marxist philosophy, so it has actually been suggested before, but not part of the Environmentalist creed).  Oh, and ofcourse, you should prohibit people from building low density communities that cannot be efficiently serviced by high capacity transportation systems.

One interesting issue regarding efficiencies of scale that is happening here in the UK (I do not know how this is reflected in the USA) is the move towards ever more centralised super-large schools and hospitals (the same issue arises in a slightly different guise with regard to super-large out-of-town shopping centres and hypermarkets).  Clearly, bigger is (at face value) more efficient, but the knock on effect of centralising these facilities in order to gain the advantages of size is to increase the demand that people place on the transportation systems in order to reach these highly efficient super-large facilities.  Sometimes, simply looking for economies of scale is not sufficient to measure the overall efficiency of the system.



George
« Last Edit: 09/10/2006 12:30:58 by another_someone »
 

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Re: Why do so many Americans avoid public transportati
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