back to article Buses? PAH. Begone with your filthy peasant-wagons

A bus is a fantastically efficient way to move a large number of people. Buses however are not. They are a dreadful system for getting people to work. The difference is not as subtle as that sentence may make it seem. What lies behind it is that when you want to move a large number of people from one place to another all at …

  1. illiad

    google car?? LOL

    you are pootling on in you Gcar, and it stops at a clearly open road... "end of road" it keeps saying.... LOL

    Or how about you are woken from your snooze by it crashing against gate, that is not on the map!!! ROFLMAO

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: google car?? LOL

      I can see you have a complete understanding of the technology in question and your opinion is based on knowledge and data.

      The frigging cars can "see" the environment around them, they don't just use the sat nav and ignore the actual surroundings. FFS! You're thinking of humans.

      1. illiad

        Re: google car?? LOL

        yeah, the cars may 'see' just like humans can... and the humans then blatantly *ignore* the road, believe their GPS, and end up taking their *lorry* down some footpath, JUST because TOMTOM told them to.... LOL

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Not See .NE. See Not

      When I taught my kid to drive, I made it very clear that there's a vast difference between 1) looking and not seeing anything, vs. 2) looking and seeing that the road is clear. My kid is programmed correctly, thus hopefully avoiding an entire class of 'I didn't see' accidents.

      I wonder if the Googly Cars and similar are actually programmed correctly? Giving how Google can't even program a browser to not crash, I have my doubts.

      The good news is that they'll trickle onto the roads in small numbers and we will soon see. It'd be a huge risk if they loosed a million onto the roads one morning.

  2. gaz 7

    The best urban transport

    Is the bicycle.

    It is pollution free once manufactured.

    It is space efficient unlike any form of motorised transport, be it electric or autonomous (or both)

    Around urban areas it is usually faster than anything else (unless it's 3am)

    It is stupendously cheap to run & needs very little maintenance

    It is door to door

    It keeps the user healthy and increases life expectancy and vastly reduces risks of diseases, cancer, dementia etc.

    Not everyone needs to (or be able to) ride a bike for every journey, but if UK could convert 10% or 20% of urban journeys to bike, then that would free loads of road space. It would really improve air quality which is illegally dangerous in most major UK cities.

    1. illiad

      Re: The best urban transport

      Bike is good, but...

      freezing, soaked, wind blasted...

      Used by **utterly** loony couriers about london... I am amazed there are no fatalities yet...

      money wasted due to 'lipservice'... eg 5 foot long 'cycle lane' ... Cycle lane put in road that is barely wide enough for car...

      1. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: The best urban transport

        Your points are valid but not completely thought through.

        You get cold & wet walking to your car or waiting for a bus.

        The use of a bike by a few loonies (yes, I agree there are too many, and "no fatalities yet"...? Do you not read the newspapers?) doesn't mean that the bike itself is at fault. As commented, it's healthy and life-prolonging as long as you're sensible.

        And equally the cycle lanes badly-implemented by non-cycling civil servants don't detract from the utility of the most energy-efficient person mover ever invented.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The best urban transport

          "You get cold & wet walking to your car or waiting for a bus."

          That's why they invented parasols. At least you can use one en route to the car or while standing at the bus stop. Once you're inside, though, you're in an encapsulated vehicle that keeps you dry. Cycles are open-air and not well-suited for inclement weather.

          Manual bicycles are also ill-advised for areas that are full of uneven terrain. Hilly San Francisco springs to mind, as does a place I know nearby that's in the Appalachian foothills.

          Perhaps what's needed is an encapsulated bicycle with optional motor a la a Derny. This would be the most versatile kind of vehicle: no wider than a bicycle, protects from bad weather, and optional external power in case of uphill climbs or other tricky terrain.

          Then again, there's still the matter of large shopping trips. How will we get our stuff (too much for the bike) home without having to do a boomerang trip with a vehicle rental?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Angol

            Re: The best urban transport

            A parasol keeps the sun off. It's a paraguas that protects you from rain.

            Why didn't this comment appear under @Charles 9 where it belongs?

          3. itzman
            Headmaster

            Re: The best urban transport

            A parasol is a sunshade. You mean umbrella.

            1. Dave Walker
              Coat

              Re: The best urban transport

              And "Umber" is from the Latin for "Shadow".

              Bumbershoot anyone? Hello...?

              The Germans call it romantically a "Reigenschirm" or "Rain Shield"...

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The best urban transport

            > Manual bicycles are also ill-advised for areas that are full of uneven terrain.

            Ahem... I *moved* to the Alps so I could get the most out of my bicycle.

            Won't someone think of the mountain bikers? :-(

        2. Martin Budden
          Pirate

          Re: The best urban transport

          "the most energy-efficient person mover ever invented."

          Nope, that would be a boat. OK I admit I'm gratuitously making the most of how you forgot to say "urban", but the fact is there is no more energy-efficient way to move than sitting still doing absolutely nothing while the wind and/or current pushes you gently along.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The best urban transport

        "Cycle lane put in road that is barely wide enough for car..."

        One local stretch of road which has had a cycle lane for years is wide enough. Today, however, was only the second time I've seen a cyclist riding along there. He was on the footpath. The other, some years ago, was riding at night in the middle of the car lane.

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: The best urban transport

          The issue with cycle lanes is that you have traffic rushing past at a relative speed of maybe forty miles an hour, about three inches away from your handlebar. One false move, one driver misjudging the width of his vehicle, and you're beneath it. Many cyclists prefer to ride on footpaths, legality be damned, because a collision with a pedestrian is highly unlikely to prove fatal to either party. A few bruises and scrapes is better than roadkill.

          1. Fluffy Bunny
            Thumb Down

            Re: The best urban transport

            I used to work with a guy who was run down by a cyclist. He was in hospital for months with brain damage. He never recovered his sense of smell.

          2. lucki bstard

            Re: The best urban transport

            'A few bruises and scrapes is better than roadkill.' - How about broken ribs, teeth and something nasty to the cheekbones, and that was on a cyclepath when a cyclist hit a pedestrian. The cyclist btw ended up with concussion (he wasn't wearing a helmet).

        2. Fluffy Bunny
          Holmes

          Re: The best urban transport

          "only the second time I've seen a cyclist riding along there"

          You must live in Canberra

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: The best urban transport

        You're just mad coz my tricycle tracked dog crap across your living room carpet. Serves you right for living on my route to the betting shop.

      2. smartypants

        Re: cyclist scum

        I often wonder if someone with that mentality is going to make the right choices on the road when approaching a cyclist. Why drive safely near them? They're just scum and probably death is too good for them, eh?

        Wouldn't it be better all round just to treat everyone as human beings, and other people's sons and daughters?

      3. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: The best urban transport

        Ahahahahahaha... I actually did laugh out loud. Thank you for brightening my quiet Saturday morning.

        But seriously, you did get one thing right:

        YOU ARE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE

        And in return, can I share a Switzerland joke which I believe came from a Brit comedy series? Sorry, can't remember which one.

        There's an alternative self-assisted suicide corporation whose method is to dress you in a clown suit and push you out of a high window. It's called Indignitas.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The best urban transport

        I'm all in favour of equal treatment. Make the cycling proficiency test compulsory, give the cyclists a licence with 12 points on it, and see how long it takes them to learn to respect the rules of the road.

        1. Bloodbeastterror

          Re: The best urban transport

          I've upvoted your licence comment, and I'm a cyclist... :-)

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: The best urban transport

          "Make the cycling proficiency test compulsory"

          +100

          1. kraut

            Re: The best urban transport

            Make the driving test compulsory, and actually lock people up who drive while banned or uninsured.

          2. kdh0009

            Re: The best urban transport

            Unfortunately...

            - compulsory cycling proficiency test DOES NOT EQUAL good cyclist

            - in much the same way compulsory driving test DOES NOT EQUAL good driver

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The best urban transport

          AC: You forgot to add compulsory number plate (always clear & readable.) And compulsory insurance. Otherwise I'm with you all the way.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The best urban transport

          In Islington (home to the Labour Party ) they seem to have mandated compulsory pavement cycling, going through red pelican crossings and shouting abuse at anyone who doesn't get out of THEIR way, adults and kids alike.

          Yet it's the over 30's MAMIL's and women who do this, not the local youth.

        5. PassiveSmoking

          Re: The best urban transport

          Drivers take a proficiency test and get a license with 12 points on it. Do they respect the rules of the road?

          You're far more likely to survive being hit by a badly driven bike than by a badly driven car (though I obviously don't want to be hit by either).

      5. Dana W

        Re: The best urban transport

        We call those bicyclists the little pants patrol. They think that riding a bicycle makes them morally superior, and that its the way EVERYBODY should get around. They think they will always be 25 and in good health. And that everybody should live in inner city hipster flats.

        My city has built them the second best bike trails in the US. Including cross city greenways, and parallel bicycle roadways. Do you think they RIDE on them? No, the law says they have a RIGHT to a full lane of road, and thy won't have it any other way. There is a little monument near my apartment to a man who git killed on his bicycle on the street. Literally four feet away from a bicycle only ROAD.

        These people are a nasty, pretentious menace to the road.

        1. Bloodbeastterror

          Re: The best urban transport

          And I've downvoted your "nasty, pretentious menace".

          In the same philanthropic spirit, I respond thus - you're an idiot.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The best urban transport

          > the law says they have a RIGHT to a full lane of road, and thy won't have it any other way.

          To be fair, in some circumstances taking the whole lane is the best course of action. Notably:

          a) During winter and other times when road conditions are slippery.

          b) In the presence of aggressive / inconsiderate drivers who do not leave a sensible safety distance (this is a bit of a catch 22, since then those same people get all worked up about the cyclist taken *his* lane, etc., etc.)

          c) When cycling in a group. It is often safer for the cyclists and more convenient for the drivers if they are all bunched up in the middle of the road, as that makes the overtaking distance shorter.

          One thing I really don't have a problem with is cyclists using the road. It's theirs as much as mine after all, and they're the ones sweating and/or freezing their bollocks off. Thankfully in my area everyone seem to understand the importance of being polite and considerate, regardless of their means of locomotion, and by and large behave accordingly.

      6. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: The best urban transport

        You're a realy nasty piece of work, you know that?

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: The best urban transport

          Like all users one out of a hundred can do something wrong and obviously you will hate all of them.

          Everyone needs to give each other space, look and get some f&*#ing patience, almost killing yourself to get somewhere 2 seconds earlier is stupid.

        2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      7. Shady

        Re: The best urban transport

        @Stretch, are you a bus or taxi driver? This is the wrong forum, I think you were looking for the Daily Mail

      8. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        Re: The best urban transport

        As a cyclist I had to upvote you. There are a generation of greenie nazi scum on bikes today that get the rest of us a bad name. Often riding a piece of badly maintained designer fashion crap totally unsuitable for urban roads. Or anywhere else probably.

        RANT...

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: The best urban transport

          @PNGuinn

          Jealous ?

          I am a walker, I love walking and walk anywhere through the town where I live. I do see these hipsters on designer bicycles, but those guyz can afford "professional maintenance" unlike "ordinary cyclists" whore rarely have more than one working light or all brakes working.

          @Dana W

          Incredible what kinds BS you have to tell yourself to feel better about wrecking the environment and poisoning kids. Cyclists are egocentric idiots ... motorists are angels.

      9. Kebablog

        Re: The best urban transport

        I'm guessing Stretch drives an Audi

    3. WylieCoyoteUK

      Re: The best urban transport

      Unless you are shopping.

      And don't mention bike trailers or home delivery.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Cycle shopping

        The trick is to buy small amounts each day on your way home from work. That also lets you pick fresher food, or half-price food on its smell-by date. It reduces the chance that something will go off because the week passed and you did not need it. Personally I prefer a bus because it is hard to read a book while riding a bike. The subsidy is worth it. If some of the passengers had to drive (or ride a bike) everyone else would have a really bad day.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cycle shopping

          > Personally I prefer a bus because it is hard to read a book while riding a bike.

          That's what I used to think, until I subscribed to the Financial Times.

    4. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: The best urban transport

      In the parts of the US where I grew up, one could count on a fair number of days with snow in the air and on the ground. People may be fairly good, but only fairly good, at clearing sidewalks, the roads are narrowed by the snow pushed to the side, and are filled with drivers even flakier than usual, and now spewing slop from their tires. So those days are not good for bicycle tirps.

      1. sanbikinoraion

        Re: The best urban transport

        ... and because some days are no good for bikes, that means no-one should ever bike anywhere, eh?

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: The best urban transport

        In the parts of the US where I grew up, one could count on a fair number of days with snow in the air and on the ground....those days are not good for bicycle trips.

        Yes, and ice is worse. Bicycles have been popular at all the university campuses I've been at in the past couple of decades - all northern states in the Midwest or Plains - and every winter I see cyclists slide on the ice and go down. Haven't seen anyone get seriously injured but it's just a matter of time. And it'd be far too easy to slide into traffic.

        Of course, it's also damned difficult just walking when every surface is coated with ice, but at least you're moving slower and not tangled up with a metal frame when you start to slip.

        I like to ride my bike on errands around town spring to fall, but November through April it's largely out of the question. And that's half the year. (And I wouldn't dare ride it from home to the university; it's only about seven miles, but most of that is on narrow rural roads with 55mph speed limits. They're dangerous enough with a couple tons of Volvo protecting me.)

    5. itzman

      Re: The best urban transport

      Is shanks pony.

      When I lived in London, I was constantly amazed at how little extra time it took to walk the whole way than walk to the tube/bus, spend money to be exposed to filth dirt and disease, and walk the other end.

      Bikes are OK, but they still need to be parked somewhere

      1. Wommit
        FAIL

        Re: The best urban transport

        "Is shanks pony.

        When I lived in London, I was constantly amazed at how little extra time it took to walk the whole way than walk to the tube/bus, spend money to be exposed to filth dirt and disease, and walk the other end."

        I used to walk from St Pancras to Back Hill, Many times I have been nearly killed by twats, sorry, cyclists running red lights, cycling on the pavement, cycling through parks filled with parents & kids playing. One guy knocked an old woman over (she was stupidly crossing while the pedestrian light was green, Tsk tsk) and the swore and cursed HER for being in the way!

        The noticeable facts were that they were all convinced that they were in the right, they were untraceable and (I suspect) uninsured. Oh, and were all foul mouthed sods.

    6. Bucky 2

      Re: The best urban transport

      Alas, the problem with bicycles is similar to the problem with a religion.

      In principle, it SOUNDS great. But when you actually add the people, you run into problems. Often terrible problems. It becomes easy to equate the douchebaggery of one psychopathic group of practitioners (e.g.: ISIS, Critical Mass) with the entire group.

    7. Vic

      Re: The best urban transport

      It is pollution free once manufactured.

      That depends on what pollution you're looking at...

      I did some rough calculations whilst cycling over the Itchen Bridge one day. My CO2 output per mile was easily exceeding a small car's...

      Vic,

      1. cray74

        Re: The best urban transport

        "I did some rough calculations whilst cycling over the Itchen Bridge one day. My CO2 output per mile was easily exceeding a small car's..."

        I've heard some solar car races ban muscle assistance for that reasons: humans spew as much CO2 per horsepower as a petrol-burning engine.

    8. Daniel B.

      Re: The best urban transport

      Actually, the best urban transport would be a motorbike. You have the advantage of taking less space on the road and less parking space, the ability to filter through stopped traffic and using far less petrol on your trip (cars usually do 12 km/L, my 150cc does 32 km/L). It can also do higher speeds, which means you are actually matching everyone else's speed and thus having a less frightening commute than the bicycle experience.

      It's also far better for longer distances: if your daily commute involves 10 km or more each way, you're bound to end up sweating on a bicycle. A bicycle is better suited for short distances.

  3. fridaynightsmoke
    Boffin

    From the user's POV, cars are awesome

    I am perpetually surprised by those who think that things would be great if only there were a few extra buses, or an extra train per hour; and then all the car drivers would realise just how amazing public transport is and go straight to WeWillPurchaseYourCar.com. It's not remotely true, for most people even the best public transport possible is a poor substitute for a vehicle that's ready to go directly to your destination of choice, on demand. Even environmentally speaking, buses and trains really ain't all that; when you look on a per-passenger-km basis they pollute every bit as much, on average, as cars.

    The real problems are road space and dependence. In most towns and smaller cities, things are generally OK or at least possible for maximum levels of car use (85% ish) to work well. The remaining 15% (too young/old/poor/disabled) have to rely on taxis or whatever bus 'service' the local council insists on. That's the killer app for driverless cars, if a taxi can be had for similar marginal costs to driving yourself (no driver to pay) then not owning/driving a car isn't a problem any more.

    As for roadspace, even in the 1960s it was recognised that in central London you'd need 8 lane motorways on a grid roughly every mile to handle peak flows with full car use, with everything in between being rebuilt to handle distributor roads, parking etc. This would be somewhat of an undertaking.

    The problem is that the logic that applies so well to London (sorry, really can't build enough roads, have some tubes and buses instead) had been misapplied everywhere else.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

      You're not really comparing like with like. From a transport efficiency point of view it doesn't make much difference if taxis have drivers or not. It only affects whether your money goes to Google or Uber (academic if Google buys Uber...). But you're comparing an intelligent system (using the net to dynamically match taxi supply and demand) with a dumb one (forecast demand and run buses on fixed routes at fixed times to meet it). A municipality could run (Note, I dont' say 'own') a fleet of minibuses and operate more or less door-to-door on demand, given an intelligent demand management system.

      Hmm... I smell a software business opportunity

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

        " A municipality could run (Note, I dont' say 'own') a fleet of minibuses and operate more or less door-to-door on demand, given an intelligent demand management system."

        A minicab company could run a variation on the usual service whereby you get a reduced price but may have to stop to pick up the taxi's next fare(s) before actually delivering you to your destination. The reason we don't do it that way is probably because the scheduling problem was/is beyond your average taxi company. That might not be the case these days.

        1. Uffish

          Re: A minicab company could run a variation

          I remember travelling around Nigeria by taxi/minibus. You went to some big field near the edge of town, found a taxi/minibus going to the town you wanted and purchased your seat on it. Other people would purchase their seats - deviations from standard routes were negociable. The scheduling problem was also negociable. No IT was involved.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

      A very good reason to dislike buses:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYYo49R_ZS0

      The nutter on the bus by Jasper Carrot.

    3. JamesPond

      Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

      And from the NHSs POV cars are awesome. In the 7 years since I stopped travelling 100 miles per day by train and sometime (well 20% of the time) by replacement bus, I've had maybe one or two colds and zero days off work due to colds / flu etc. In the preceding 10 years, you could guarantee at least 2 weeks off work every year through colds & flu. I can only attribute this to not sitting in a train carriage / bus for 2 hours every day sucking in everyone else's germs.

    4. Bob 18

      Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

      I agree. Since buses and trains use about as much energy as cars, the most effective way to reduce transportation energy use is to reduce demand. You can do that through compact urban design. At that point, you will need buses and trains because the city is too big to walk and too dense to fit all the cars people would need. From an energy perspective, public transit should be seen as an ENABLER of compact design, rather than an end in itself. Public transit users use less energy than automobile drivers primarily because they don't go as far.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

      I always chuckle on how much less peak traffic jams there are when the bus's are on strike in London

      1. wikkity

        Re: From the user's POV, cars are awesome

        It always makes me chuckle when schools are on holiday that just a small percentage of less cars on the road means my bus actually runs on time.

        And it always makes me frown when I get stuck in a traffic jam when on a bus with 50 people crammed in when the turn off is only 20m away. When all it would take is for a few of the cars in front (with a single driver) to move a little closer to the car in front instead of leaving a gap twice the length of their car as they can't be bothered of moving every time.

  4. Sir Sham Cad

    toll lanes

    Which is what you're proposing with the robin-hood priority lane permit idea is fine if you don't hit any junctions of which London has lots of especially Escheresque ones. If you do, you need to filter into the bottlenecked pleb lanes, which is where the buses will be, so you're still going to be held up by inefficient transport.

    Trains and tubes run on a managed, dedicated route, so are more efficient if you have a station nearby.

    That said, outside of the island of London, a car is a must and I'd happily pair my android phone to a google car via Bluetooth and punch in mum's postcode, sit back and let the robot car carry the Christmas presents if it wasn't too expensive.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: toll lanes

      "Trains and tubes run on a managed, dedicated route, so are more efficient if you have a station nearby."

      This is only half true.

      They're only more efficient if you have a station nearby at both ends of the journey and if they're directly connected by a single route. I always assume that those who laud public transport are those for whom that is the case.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: toll lanes

        "This is only half true." etc

        Interesting - a couple of downvotes.

        Over the years, from school, through university to work I've used a wide range of ways to travel - on foot, cycle, motorcycle (does a BSA Bantam count?) car, bus, train and tube, individually or in combination. I've managed to miss out horse riding, ferries & flight but I think it was a fair sample.

        The single worst commute was by train and tube from High Wycombe to central London in pre-privatisation days. No matter whether it was walk or drive to the station, train to Marylebone or Paddington, one tube or two all the rides, walks and waits for trains and tubes added up. At best they added up to at least an hour and a half each way or, as I regarded it, the equivalent of two extra full-days work a week, unpaid and unproductive. The Paddington route ran alongside the traffic jam that was the A40 and was clearly a better solution than that, but efficient? No.

        I'm aware that for many an hour and a half each way would be less than many experience. But it's not what ought to be an acceptable way to expect people to live in what's supposed to be an advanced society.

        But, my downvoters, don't you realise that your presumably preferred trains, electric cars or whatever aren't the solution? They're part of the cause of the problem. Every advance in transport since the invention of the horse-drawn omnibus has facilitated the clustering of workplaces into ever larger lumps, ever increasingly separated from where people live. It's an unsustainable mess. We ought to be looking at how to fix it, not doing more and more of the same.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: toll lanes

          Yes, a BSA Bantam definitely counts :)

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: toll lanes

            Only if the said BSA Bantam is a D1 model. Anything later is far too comfortable.

            {Passed my test on a D7 in 1971}

            Mines the 1970 vintage waxed cotton Barbour Jacket with a pair of Aviator Goggles in the pocket.

        2. itzman

          Re: toll lanes

          The way to fix it is bring the work to the people.

          It's almost at the stage where a huge amount of manual and clerical work doesn't need a real office at all or a real factory.

          Remote robots and virtual offices are the answer.

          Buses certainly are not.

          BTW the free for all minicab solution exists for real in Soweto/Johannesburg. The trains are simply too unsafe to ride. Mind yuou, competition between minicab drivers goes as far as shooting the opposition...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: toll lanes

          > Over the years, from school, through university to work I've used a wide range of ways to travel - on foot, cycle, motorcycle (does a BSA Bantam count?) car, bus, train and tube, individually or in combination. I've managed to miss out horse riding, ferries & flight but I think it was a fair sample.

          What? No teleportation?

          No wonder you would complain. :-/

        4. Bob 18

          Re: toll lanes

          > Every advance in transport since the invention of the horse-drawn omnibus has

          > facilitated the clustering of workplaces into ever larger lumps, ever increasingly

          > separated from where people live. It's an unsustainable mess. We ought to be

          > looking at how to fix it, not doing more and more of the same.

          See the paper on Scaling in Cities:

          http://www.santafe.edu/media/workingpapers/12-09-014.pdf

          It says (basically) that larger cities are more expensive and harder to get around. But the economic value created by bringing people together in large clumps is worth more than the economic drag of having to live and navigate through that clump.

      2. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: toll lanes

        The point of mass transit is to aggregate trips, where a trip is a vector with an origin (e.g. my domicile) and a destination (e.g. my workplace). In a perfect world where everyone lived in Megacity One and worked in Megacity Two, then all trips for all people would be vectors from Megacity One to Megacity Two, with vectors in the opposite sense at quitting time; and all trips could all be aggregated into one single Great Bus of Doom.

        Or, if everyone telecommuted, the trips would be from your bed to your desk with a detour at the loo and/or fridge, then back again.

        Reality is a perturbation of this of course, with more traditional cities substituting the city center for Megacity Two, and outskirts, suburbs, living areas, etc. for Megacity One.

        It is in fact a more efficient use of resources like a road to group people who share the same trip on fewer, larger capacity transports. Fifty single occupancy vehicles on a road take up a great deal more space than a single bus with fifty passengers on it.

        It is not necessarily a more efficient use of people's time however, particularly as you deviate from the Megacity model, e.g. you work and live in the outskirts, you live and work in different outskirts, etc. You are not aggregating identical trips anymore.

        The Google car model is no panacea. Yes, you can get in your car and snooze. And if all things remained equal, great! But by definition they won't if everyone were to follow the same idea. A self driving car is not a teleporter. It will be on the same road as human driven cars (unless they're outlawed - good luck with that!) and will be as inefficient at aggregating trips. So expect a long commute anyway; you'll just be working, because the car will drive itself.

        So, why not telecommute instead?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: toll lanes @CarbonLifeForm

          "In a perfect world where everyone lived in Megacity One and worked in Megacity Two"

          To a brain heavily influenced at a young age, as mine was, by 2000AD that sounds entertainingly ghastly.

          1. Havin_it
            Boffin

            Re: toll lanes @CarbonLifeForm

            Nonono. Everybody DIED in Mega-City 2.Mega-City 1 nuked it, to deal with the zombies. Now everybody left lives in MC1, Texas City, Uranium City (Alaska) and, er, Cincinnati. Almost nobody works, because robots.

            Do keep up ;)

        2. photobod

          Re: toll lanes

          'In a perfect world where everyone lived in Megacity One and worked in Megacity Two, then all trips for all people would be vectors from Megacity One to Megacity Two'

          Actually, in a perfect world, everyone would both live and work in the same city, obviating the need to commute to work at all. All attempts to manage commuter traffic by whatever means of transport are, in reality, just treating the symptom. The disease is the perceived need to travel.

  5. Denarius Silver badge
    FAIL

    the above problems point to one root cause

    in this time of mostly decent comms and sometimes tolerable cargo transport, why do CBDs exist ? Why are not all high density clerk stacking sites (aka offices) not outside residential areas instead of in center of them ? Old Canberra used to have this idea until the developer funded pollies took over. One could sanely cycle or walk to work. Even buses were not a bad idea. Maybe smaller Google buses might help as they would be mostly direct. None of these affect me as I live miles from any urbanisation so I'll keep my horse scaring internal combustion engine things.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: the above problems point to one root cause

      Because the entire point of an office block is to be near other office blocks.

      This allows the high-ups to think that they are important because they have an office near the offices of %BIG_FIRM%, despite said firm not being a customer or supplier.

      This isn't true. It's actually because most companies can only afford one location and don't like the idea of working from home.

      Couple that with the fact that people generally don't like to move home, and you end up with large central blocks of "workplaces" where hundreds of employers exist, surrounded at a distance by homes.

      Or a "city".

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: the above problems point to one root cause

        There's also the matter of zoning. It's easier to make one large commercial or industrial zone with all the associated infrastructure set up for it: like with like.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: the above problems point to one root cause

          Zoning is what creates the problem.

          It was a good idea 100years ago to stop slum landlords building houses against the walls of the United Asbestos, Arsenic and Cyanide factory - but it's crap when it doesn't let you build mixed office and apartment blocks in city centers or allow incubator office space in the suburbs.

      2. Denarius Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: the above problems point to one root cause

        @Richard; last para is exactly the point of what Old Canberra town centers were, a few office blocks surrounded by housing suburbs. The office blocks also have a mall and a selection of cafes and baristas so basic daily needs are met. No high density concrete canyons, no need for incredible electricity, water and sewer capacity as required for the Stalinist concrete high density future slums that greenies love.

        People tended to buy houses near where they worked so over time, whole suburbs tended to have maybe 3 significant employers co-located. Simplified bus route planning even.

        1. Where not exists

          Re: the above problems point to one root cause

          So what happens when the employers decide to leave?

  6. The Other Steve
    FAIL

    Obvious troll is obvious

    See title

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Obvious troll is obvious

      Indeed. The question of whether buses are more efficient than other forms of transport is irrelevant - right now there is no other form of transport that is more efficient for a buses particular use case if there were anything materially better buses would not exist

      so yes the article was a long form troll. Or OpEd if it's written by a journo.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Obvious troll is obvious

        "Indeed. The question of whether buses are more efficient than other forms of transport is irrelevant - right now there is no other form of transport that is more efficient for a buses particular use case if there were anything materially better buses would not exist

        so yes the article was a long form troll. Or OpEd if it's written by a journo."

        His point was that for every full bus at rush hour there are lots of empty buses at other times. It's very true that public transport is necessary for four hours a day (roughly 7:30-9:30 and 4:30-6:30) but at all other times it's *less* efficient than say car use, because most buses are nearly empty at that point, as are most roads. The efficiency argument is time-dependent.

        For example, I just drove my girlfriend somewhere, and it took ten minutes to get there. By bus it would be two buses and take over an hour. It's completely obvious that driving/taxi is the best answer in this case. The question of whether we can just get rid of all buses at off-peak times and replace them with a car-sharing taxi scheme is not obviously stupid.

      2. itzman
        FAIL

        Re: Obvious troll is obvious

        Like many other rent seeking subsidised BS, buses are something that exist because councils and governments decree that they should.

        Not because they are the most efficient.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use Broadband, not the bus !

    An alternate answer?

    In this increasingly virtualised "society of information" we are told we live in....

    In this country where - according to some - the immense majority of jobs are in "services" spent in front of computer screens the whole day.....

    In this country where - at least in urban areas - high speed wired and wireless communications are ubiquitous....

    Couldn't we just simply massively reduce the prehistoric need for a daily physical commute by encouraging work from home ? (With employer subsidy since they could massively reduce their costs for expensive offices, and other people hosting infrastructures)...

    Probably is too good to be true but isn't there some mileage in this idea?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

      No - its much more fun to spend half your sanity making your way into central London to sit at a desk that costs more in rent than you get paid so that you are immediately available for you boss to give you instant miss-instructions cos he's not capable of actually analysing your work or operating skype so you can work at home. And when you've been forced into the office so you are immediately available for your boss he's away at lunch most of the day - or working from home!

      And then you have to stay late as its the only time you can get any work done is when everyone else has fucked off.

    2. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: isn't there some mileage in this idea?

      No. But that's the point

    3. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

      On the bright side, the city centre office blocks that will shortly become available at rock-bottom rents will enable local governments to meet their social housing needs.

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

        Nice try but they tend to flog off the site on a promise to build 'a substantial proportion of affordable housing' which either doesn't happen or is drastically reduced.

        And in London there will be a big poster on the site saying 'Mayor of London' as if the Holy Floppy-Haired Twat even knows about the place.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

          "And in London there will be a big poster on the site saying 'Mayor of London' as if the Holy Floppy-Haired Twat even knows about the place."

          Probably his newt-bothering twat predecessor wouldn't have known it any better.

        2. Frankee Llonnygog

          Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

          It won't be worth demolishing those blocks after the bubble bursts

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

          "Affordable housing" now means "affordable by offshore kleptocrats who are investing in the London property market." That means the various Candy bars around the place, prices from £1-65 million per flat, are affordable for someone. So that's all right.

          Remember what happened in Tokyo?

    4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

      Couldn't we just simply massively reduce the prehistoric need for a daily physical commute by encouraging work from home ?

      Unfortunately it doesn't fix the problem. I'm happy to work from home some days a week, but still need (and want) to meet with my colleagues from time to time. Unless people's WFH days can be coordinated over the week you'll still end up running a Mon-Fri bus service with half the buses running part-full most of the time.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

      Actually the "prehistoric need for a daily physical commute" isn't that prehistoric. It's very largely the product of post-war town (don't laugh) planning.

      I grew up in one of the Pennine textile-producing valleys. In the '50s there were about 4 buses an hour doubled up in rush hours. That worked out very well. Most people worked in mills and had a potential work-place a short distance from home; in some cases their nearest mill would be closer than their nearest bus-stop. Typically a bus-seat would be occupied by several different passengers in the course of a journey as most passengers' journeys were small part of the route. And because some people who commuted travelled up the valley and some down the buses didn't need to make empty outbound trips.

      Almost all the mills have now closed. But they haven't been replaced by other workplaces. The predominant theory of town planning seems to have been to separate workplaces and residential areas into separate zones. The workplaces have been concentrated in cities employing so many people that they need residential catchments of over a thousand square miles plus clusters of trading estates largely adjacent to motorway junctions. So the local mills have been replaced by housing (brownfield sites!) mostly inhabited by people commuting to the various cities 20-30 miles away.

      The combination of rising population due to the extra housing, a greater proportion of the population being out of walking distance to their employment and the length of the commutes ensures that the old bus service couldn't cope so the car has to take over. But the current roads are simply the roads that were there all along and aren't really able to cope.

      It isn't sustainable. And yet it's what 60+ years of town and country planning has worked towards. Adequate public transport is a joke; only a limited proportion of commutes fit neatly onto public transport routes.

      Frankly I don't see how it can be fixed. Ideally the answer would be to convert some of the city centre workplaces into residential for those prepared to live and work there and replace them with a combination of home-working and workplaces out in what are currently the commuter belts to restore the balance. But the redevelopment of the old mill-sites into housing isn't easily reversible. As redundant mills the sites had a single owner wanting to sell. Now they have many owners of whom only a few at any one time wish to sell. Short of compulsory purchase it wouldn't be possible to reassemble a plot large enough to build a workplace and the whole notion of developing brownfield sites was to avoid using up more greenfield land.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

      This actually works AGAINST you when you're trying to establish relations with new clients. This is because newcomers like (and usually EXPECT) to be fawned upon. They expect you to go the extra kilometer and meet them in person, even if it means an 18-hour flight halfway 'round the world. And since a four-figure plane ticket can turn into a six-figure-plus contract, the ROI is there.

      So telecommuting is fine for the hum-drum everyday stuff, but when it really has to count, the human condition demands a face-to-face engagement.

      1. Suricou Raven

        Re: Use Broadband, not the bus !

        Even for low-level workers there are social issues. Management don't like it because of the problem ensuring the company is getting the time and attention they pay for - you need to set up a whole performance monitoring system, otherwise employees will 'steal' company resources by watching TV or chatting with family while on the clock. Workers don't like it because the informal socialisation that takes place at the workplace builds connections which are both good for productivity and good for job security: When the cuts come, the boss would rather fire Drone #291 than Dick from down the pub.

  8. The Axe

    Buses are like HS2

    The wrong solution to the wrong problem.

    HS2 does not solve transport problems and is a centrally planned solution to a non existent problem. Technology has already made the issue mute. WiFi on trains, 3G/4G mobiles, charging points, all allow people to work on trains so it doesn't matter that the trip takes 30 minutes longer than a hypothetical HS2.

    Buses do not solve transport problems either. Centrally planned (bus routes set by planners) with no regard to how people actually live and work. Buses cause just as many traffic problems as they solve. Rather than trying to use an inappropriate method to solve transport issues, the best thing that politicians and civil servants could have done is to have done nothing. Technology always progresses at rate to overtake centrally planned solutions which is hindered by bureaucracy and red tape.

    It's not so much that Google cars are a better solution to buses, but that UberTaxi is just as good. Anything that adapts to how people really live and work is the best solution. Maybe that might mean more small apartments closer to workplaces or more renting so that the workforce is more mobile and not tied to overpriced houses or it could mean better traffic flow or something that no one has thought of yet.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      You've clearly never actually tried to use the WiFi or mobile signal on a UK train - put simply, they don't work.

      Aside from that, most of the time it wouldn't matter if they did because you can't get a seat with enough space to open your laptop.

      I regularly try to work on the train while travelling to or from a customer's site, and about half the time I don't get anything done and have to catch up the work late in my hotel room, instead of supping at the bar as nature intended.

      If the train was half an hour quicker then that would be either half an hour longer in the office/in bed before setting off, or half an hour longer in the hotel bar.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      WiFi on trains, 3G/4G mobiles, charging points, all allow people to work on trains so it doesn't matter that the trip takes 30 minutes longer than a hypothetical HS2.

      That's not relevant. Shaving an hour off a round trip can make the difference between doing a business trip in a day, or having to stay overnight. Working on public transport, be it train, plane or bus, is rarely convenient, and doesn't require always-on connectivity anyway. It's easy to download mail, and work offline for a while. HS2 isn't just a slightly-faster alternative to other train services, it's an alternative to the hassle and pollution of plane or car travel. Other european countries that have introduced high-speed rail have all seen a drop in car traffic and virtual abandonment of plane travel between the served cities.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      "HS2 does not solve transport problems and is a centrally planned solution to a non existent problem."

      AIUI the journey time is one of the problems its supposed to solve, the other is the lack of capacity. Unfortunately the latter is a current problem to be solved by HS2 in n years' time.

      1. itzman
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Buses are like HS2

        You misunderstand. The HS2 is designed to solve a far different problem. What an EU central transport planning department is going to do with the billions its been given to develop a pan European transport system, without actually spending any of it on someone intelligent enough to provide cost effective solutions to real needs rather than high profile initiatives that end up in the majority of the cash being spent with the large businesses who support the EU and lobbies.

        It has to be understood that it cots a lot less to bribe and lobby a bureaucrat to get your product defined as the only product to be sold, than it does to develop and market a truly better mousetrap.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      Fine, except we still need to base some decision-making on rationality rather than ideology. Without buses the roads would be gridlocked twice a day on every working day. Less than half the population have access to a car (and when one family member is driving to work in the family's only car, that figure falls even further) and much of the population is too young / too old to drive safely. The concept of efficiency may be unfashionable here nowadays, but it is alive and well in the Far East.

      1. Alfie Noakes

        Re: Buses are like HS2

        AC posted: "Less than half the population have access to a car"

        ...really? Which planet does this population that you refer to exist on? Certainly not the UK!

        mb

      2. kraut

        Re: Buses are like HS2

        <blockquote>Without buses the roads would be gridlocked twice a day on every working day</blockquote>

        What do you mean, would be gridlocked? They are. Twice a day. Every working day.

        Except the Monday before Christmas. That was surprisingly good, traffic wise

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      "Technology has already made the issue mute."

      What? It's all gone quiet?

    6. kraut

      Re: Buses are like HS2

      I look forward to a careful explanation how uber taxis are going to solve the capacity problem that occurs when you mix London streets with large vehicles taking enormous amounts of road space for a single passenger - in other words: cars. And no, taxis aren't fundamentally different; while they work around the problem of parking, they do that by constantly taking space on the road. There may be a marginal increase in utilisation, but I doubt it's much beyond a rounding error.

      So when you're in the back of your uber cab at rush hour, do get started on that essay. You'll have ample time. If you don't get distracted by the cyclists passing you.

  9. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    taxis may not be subsidised....

    ... but I'm sure my town isn't the only one that let's them use the *extensive* bus lanes (about half the road capacity in Swansea City centre)

    I still don't know why that is. A taxi is less green than a car, based on mileage per journey

  10. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "While a bus is massively subsidised..."

    Well, if you're going to come out with blatant lies lies that, I'm going to stop reading.

    1. Simon Rockman

      My source for that may be a little out of date it was Ken Livingstone when I spoke to him on the Ask The Mayor programme.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        I don't know about London buses, though London does get a lot more public money than the rest of us.

        Around here there's a Great Divide between subsidised and un-subsidised routes. The subsidised ones tend to be the very rural routes where they serve a largely social purpose, while the unsubsidised are those with sufficient demand to make a profit.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Check your facts.

      All "local" bus companies receive large subsidies, it's the only way they can exist.

      For example, Sheffield's buses receive a subsidy of over £1.6 million a year from central government alone.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/news/better-buses-for-sheffield

      In 2013 the council then spent £4.5 million on bus stops etc - another subsidy.

      I couldn't find figures for the fare take, but based on passenger numbers I'd guess the subsidy is probably 10% of total revenue.

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: Check your facts.

        Yet these 'subsidies' go to private companies - who cannot make a private profit without public money.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Check your facts.

          Yet these 'subsidies' go to private companies - who cannot make a private profit without public money.

          Which demonstrates that bus services are more of a social service than just general transport. If they were expected to make a profit they could, but with reduced timetables and very carefully selected routes. The subsidy is effectively welfare spending, the alternative would be to provide free "taxi passes" or similar.

      2. James O'Shea Silver badge

        Re: Check your facts.

        Not _all_ local bus services. I can think of one local bus system which was most emphatically NOT subsidised: the bus 'service' in Kingston, St. Andrew, and St. Catherine, Jamaica between about 1987 and 2001. Until the early 1980s it was a nice, normal, subsidised, bus system, the Jamaica Omnibus Service, JOS, a.k.a. Jolly Joseph. Jolly Joseph was executed by (socialist!) politicians so that the, ahem, 'small man' could make a cut out of the 'vast profits' of the bus business (and so that the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, the KSAC, could stop losing money at a truly remarkable rate). The 'small man' was invited to purchase a franchise and run their own buses on the routes; low passenger-level routes such as the 67 (Cross Roads to Hope Gardens) didn't have anyone applying for the route, and so had no buses anymore. (Jolly Joseph went everywhere, even if at times there were one or two passengers on a bus designed for 70+; that was one reason why it lost money.) The 75 route (Papine to Duhaney Park), now that had _lots_ of franchises. Every one of them with two to six buses which were designed to hold 30-40 passengers. The 'small man' (not very small if he could afford a half dozen Isuzu buses, called 'Quarter Millions' because they cost Ja$250,000 at the time, before the Jamaican dollar crashed to its current level) quickly discovered that the only way he was going to make money was to pack 'em in as much as possible, which meant 60-70 passengers. (Yes. 70 passengers in a space meant for 30. Tokyo at rush hour ain't got nothin' on Kingston... How'd they fit? They didn't. Passengers would be hanging out of the windows and doors...) The local newspapers ran articles showing how there was actually more space on slave ships in the Middle Passage than on a Number 75 on Hope Road, and that the passengers were expected to pay for the privilege. (A quick trip to the Jamaica Gleaner's or the Jamaica Observer's sites should be quite revealing. Search for 'bus' and 'middle passage'. Be prepared to see a _lot_ of articles, somewhat fewer at the Observer 'cause the Observer didn't exist until around 1994 while the Gleaner goes back to 1838.) Because schoolchildren paid a special, reduced, fare, the bus crews tried their best to not carry any schoolchildren. This policy resulted in a lot of screaming and shouting, and policemen deployed to major bus routes to ensure that the 'schoolers' got packed in with the adults. (I'm serious. The only way to get the children on the bus was to arrest a few of the bus crews.) Jolly Joseph had a schedule, and usually kept fairly close to it. The franchises didn't move until the bus was full, and by full I mean until there were 60-70 fare-payers aboard. Plus a crew of three or four (a driver, a conductor, and one or two packers).

        A look here http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20081123/ent/ent10.html might be revealing. And also http://www.onlyinnajamaica.com/video/2010/03/16/two-white-girls-pon-a-minibus/ which shows a packer in action, packing the bus ('Two White Girls' is hilarious... unless you actually had to ride the damn buses. Then it's not so funny.)

        The franchise system has since been abolished and Jolly resurrected, complete with subsidy. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20000917/cleisure/cleisure1.html

        1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

          Re: Jolly Joseph

          @James O'Shea

          A wonderful comment! El Reg at its best, where the comment is worth more than the original article.

      3. itzman

        Re: Check your facts.

        On many (labour) council provided transport services, the subsidies of one sort or another comprise so much of the income that the companies involved really dont care whether anyone rides them or not.

        I had that from a senior executive at a major rail company some years ago.

      4. Armand A Legge

        Re: Check your facts.

        The main subsidy for buses in the UK is a grant that offsets some of the tax on fuel. If fuel tax and subsidies for diesel trains were accounted for in the same way, the rail subsidy figure would be much higher. The government also spend somewhere north of £1 billion every year on free rides for old and disabled people but this is a subsidy to the riders, not the mode.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They're still subsidised in part, it's mostly done to try to generate a profit for the bus operating companies these days. Can you say blatent capitalism?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can you say blatent capitalism?

        No, but thanks to my capitalist education I can spell blatant...

    4. Gary Bickford

      It's true, they are subsidized

      ""While a bus is massively subsidised..."

      Well, if you're going to come out with blatant lies lies that, I'm going to stop reading."

      IDK if you're pulling our leg, but just in case you're not, actually it's true. So also are trains, airplanes, and ... cars! No transportation system in the world actually pays for itself. Bus and train systems in particular run at a loss everywhere in the world. There's data out there, I looked this up a dozen or so years ago.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: It's true, they are subsidized

        "IDK if you're pulling our leg, but just in case you're not, actually it's true. So also are trains, airplanes, and ... cars! No transportation system in the world actually pays for itself."

        I'd be surprised if, in the UK at least, cars did not pay for themselves. I guess it depends on what you mean by the cost of the service, but car-based taxes were at one point six times higher than the Department of Transport's budget. Maybe that has changed, although I expect if it has it's become more than six, after budget cuts.

      2. Duffy Moon

        Re: It's true, they are subsidized

        I believe that trains in the UK now receive more subsidies than they ever did in the British Rail days.

  11. Keef

    Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

    "Then you have to wait for the bus. If I walk down to my nearest bus stop and a bus arrives as I get there I think it’s a fantastic, special happening. If I walk out of my house and my car is there I think “that’s normal”."

    http://countdown.tfl.gov.uk/#/

    I sit in my chair at home/work/pub and keep an eye on what time the bus will arrive and time my departure to meet the arrival of the bus I want. The bus arriving a minute or two after my getting to the bus stop is absolutely normal for me.

    Yes, that is a London only solution, but the author does live in London.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

      Does little good for you, though, if you have to make a connection that never coincides...

    2. Jes.e

      Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

      "Then you have to wait for the bus. If I walk down to my nearest bus stop and a bus arrives as I get there I think it’s a fantastic, special happening. If I walk out of my house and my car is there I think “that’s normal”.

      There's also an app for that.

      I found a couple of applications for my smart phone- "One Bus Away" and "Transit".

      Both will work with our local bus systems bus tracking services so you get updated live as to arrival times.

      Check application, set a timer on the phone, walk out door, meet bus.. Profit!

      Pretty life changing actually.

      1. wdmot

        Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

        Quite often for me, using One Bus Away, it says the bus is running 5 minutes late, and then suddenly it's 5 minutes early and I still have a 3 minute walk to the bus stop. How the bus gains 10 minutes in just a few minutes I have no idea. Methinks the bus location data is not accurate...

    3. Red Bren

      Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

      You can get "live" departure information for bus stops in West Yorkshire, but where the system falls down is it's inability to tell you that there's a problem, at which point, it defaults to telling you the scheduled departure time for the service. It does this if your bus has broke down, or been cancelled, but it also does this if your bus is delayed by more than about 15 minutes. So you have no way of knowing if you should make other arrangements.

      I've tried on numerous occasions to persuade the local transport authority to include a cancelled flag but been told it can't be done as the existing system is designed to support SMS and there are no spare characters. Oddly enough, the system will append the characters "LF" to the time to tell you if the bus has a low floor for wheelchair users. So there's no way of knowing if your bus won't to turn up, but at least if you're disabled, you can feel satisfied knowing whether the bus that's left you stranded could you carry you or not.

      There's also no protection against bus drivers gaming the system. I've been left stranded on more than one occasion where the bus is alleged 5, 4, 3, 2 minutes away, then suddenly disappears off the face of the earth, usually when it's the last service of the day, running a bit late and the driver obviously wants to clock off early. I've been assured this can't happen, that drivers can't interfere with the system, but unless the transponders have an independent power source, the drivers can disable it because THEY HAVE THE FECKIN KEYS!!!

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

        Most buses don't have keys, just an "OFF/ON/START" switch.

        And a clearly-marked battery isolator.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

        "Oddly enough, the system will append the characters "LF" to the time to tell you if the bus has a low floor for wheelchair users."

        IINM, THAT flag can't be helped because of disability accommodation laws. In America, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act. I believe England has something of the like.

        Have you tried telling the bus people to adapt existing parts of the SMS to multitask. The only way they can REALLY be out of letters is if all SMS-valid characters for the entire length of the text is spoken for. Under those conditions, I don't think they can REALLY say that, and I would think they can find SOME way to cram in more indicators in existing text locations.

      3. Obitim
        FAIL

        Re: Has the author not heard of TFLs Live Bus Arrivals?

        Upvote from me!

        I live in West Yorkshire and hate this...how hard is it to show a different symbol for cancelled? Really?

  12. WylieCoyoteUK

    TWM has one too......

    http://www.networkwestmidlands.com/Apps/phone_app.aspx

    It works very well, and the bus connections usually work well too.

    As someone who has to use a car to get to work on the days when I am not able to work form home, (25 miles away and no direct bus or train service)

    I was pleasantly surprised how much things have changed since I used to be a commuter.

    I regularly use it now to visit the town centre for restaurants and theatres etc.

  13. Rol Silver badge

    Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

    Driverless cars are the answer, or rather will be the answer in a decade or so.

    They could be owned by municipal authorities, businesses or individuals and be allocated to customers based on the nearest available and not the next in line.For that matter, the likes of Ford could decide never to sell a car ever again, but to rent them by the journey.

    So, basically, a driverless taxi. Without a family and mortgage to support the cost should plummet.

    The booking system would allow the vehicle to be shareable on request and thus lower the cost to the commuter even more by accepting the car will divert to get more customers who are going in your general direction.

    With such a responsive and cheap service on hand, the need to own your own car would be negated. The need to fill the road and pavement outside your house with parked cars will be gone, along with the obligatory car park that consumes four fifths of retail sites and the like.

    Also, as an individual car no longer has a need to keep going to the end of the day, an electric model with the most pathetic of batteries could do whatever it can manage before heading off to recharge thus making electric cars a very practical option. We could even see motorway services becoming shuttle stops as commuters continue their extended journey in a fully charged car, leaving the one that had got them thus far to recharge.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

      "an electric model with the most pathetic of batteries could do whatever it can manage before heading off to recharge"

      Probably right in the middle of someone's journey.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

      I like driving most of the time which makes your driverless cars a no no.

      I want to personalise my space so communal ownership is a no no.

      How about I get to drive my car when I want but can put it on autopilot when I want (or am required to by city limits).

      Cars on autopilot can entrain with other autopilotted cars going in the same direction.

      Entrained cars could travel at a higher average speed and a higher density than manual cars.

      Entrained share a connection, one of the vehicles could be an inline mobile charging station.

      The incentive of faster and cheaper journey times will lead people to choose freely to entrain where available.

      Because my car can do both modes I still keep the freedom to choose between community transport and individual transport as needs be.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

        "Cars on autopilot can entrain with other autopilotted cars going in the same direction."

        IIRC this was envisaged and trialled on closed test tracks at least 30 years ago.

        I like the idea of an in-train charging vehicle though. On motorways and main trunk roads, multiple "trains" could be running all day the full length of the road as cars join and leave. With route planning, solar cells on the car roofs could supplement and distribute power to those in the train with the least charge or who are due to leave the train soon too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

          'On motorways and main trunk roads, multiple "trains" could be running all day the full length of the road as cars join and leave.'

          You could have charging trams entraining for a section of road with a high power cable above to boost in car charging.

          In jouney refuelling (at a price), no more standing on a cold windswept forecourt pumping smelly diesel.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

          Motorway trains were proposed by an engineering lecturer at Cambridge circa 1971, but I forget his name. He was envisaging something like the automatic couplings on OO gauge trains, because this was before technology came to mean electronics + software.

        3. Gary Bickford

          Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

          ""Cars on autopilot can entrain with other autopilotted cars going in the same direction."

          IIRC this was envisaged and trialled on closed test tracks at least 30 years ago."

          Yep, that's about right. I just learned it's called "platooning". A special section of Interstate15 was set up to allow about 20 specially equipped cars, buses and trucks to drive all together down the road. The project started in 1991, funded by USDOT, cancelled in 1999. And I got to watch Red Whittaker's (CMU Robotics Institute) huge van drive around the park in Pittsburgh in 1989-1991 time period, completely autonomously - at a slow walking speed. Back then it took 15,000 lbs. of sensors, cameras, and computers packed into an overloaded box truck, along with generators and air conditioners.

          Related links:

          http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-08-07/news/9708060541_1_bus-driver-san-diego-edmonson

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_autonomous_car

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

            So I wonder. Why was the project canceled? Too difficult to implement or too many ways for Murphy to mess it up (thinking a blowout at one of the lead car or a sudden road obstruction creating a chain reaction)?

        4. Suricou Raven

          Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

          Solar cells on a car roof will make no significant contribution to the power. Physics is against you here. Wrong inclination, for a start. Plus you've got the extra weight to haul around. Far more efficient to put them beside the road.

          The only use I can see for solar power on a car would be for camping. The car's huge battery would be great for running a caravan, with a solar panel to keep it topped up.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

            "Solar cells on a car roof will make no significant contribution to the power. Physics is against you here. Wrong inclination, for a start. Plus you've got the extra weight to haul around. Far more efficient to put them beside the road."

            I accept that in terms of current production technology. But then there's this on the horizon or any one of a number of current research avenues as well as others we've not thought of yet.

            The problem with fixed power generation is getting the power to a moving vehicle. Wireless power transmission is still significantly lossy and with solar PV we're already currently only at 25% efficiency. I accept that will probably improve too, as may wireless power transmission. Using a "charging car" in a "train" on the motorway might mean we need a standard mechanical method for the vehicles to connect while in the train. A standard as ubiquitous as the "fifth wheel" on lorries.

            It's good to think about this stuff :-)

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

        "I like driving most of the time which makes your driverless cars a no no."

        Then don't enter into a rental system. Nobody is forcing you, yet. Of course, once the car parks are gone, you might have trouble parking there, but then hey, sucks to be you then.

        "I want to personalise my space so communal ownership is a no no."

        OK then, but you'll pay much higher rental rates than everyone else if Ford, etc., refuse to sell you a car. And the car sales market will be much smaller if you want to buy one.

        "Because my car can do both modes I still keep the freedom to choose between community transport and individual transport as needs be."

        I would be highly surprised if, as long as you were alive and capable of driving, driverless cars don't have a manual override.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

      "the need to own your own car would be negated."

      Along with the freedom to "just go" at the weekend or during holidays. You'll have to plan it all out well in advance to make sure there's a range extended JohnnyCab available with manual override on routing so you can just go where you feel like going as the mood takes you.

      That's a major part of freedom. Doing what you want, not being limited by what the computer programmer has decided for you. I'd expect the sort of people who read here to understand that.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

        There are a fair number of two-car households in the UK that could meet your "freedom" requirement with one car and a reliable driverless taxi service. There are also a fair number of households who fly to their holiday destinations and hire a car there because they prefer to have their holidays further away than a reasonable drive.

        I accept the freedom argument, but I don't think it is a clincher.

    4. Suricou Raven

      Re: Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

      The technology isn't ready. It may be ready one day, but it's at least ten years away - and that's if it all goes smoothly. It's not just a matter of making a car drive-itsself safely. There are other aspects to deal with too. The issue of vandalism, and the mess left after a drunk passanger. Who'd order a self-driving taxi pod if they risked the previous passanger being a group of four on the way back from a pub crawl leaving the floor a sea of alcoholic vomit? You'd need to design dirt-detection capability as well so they know when cleaning is required. The legal issues will take another decade to work through - when a self-driving taxi gets in an accident, who is liable? You can't just pin it on the driver, and there will be accidents.

      It's also going to be impossible for the taxis to handle anything out of the ordinary, like roads blocked by accidents, people standing in the road arguing, outdated maps, some idiot redrawing road markings to keep their driveway clear, etc. The obvious approach is to have a 'call center' of drivers who can be called upon to remotely direct a taxi via cell-net whenever they encounter something beyond their programming.

    5. Obitim

      Re: Driverless. It's the future don't you know.

      And what if the last 'customer' has left it full of their crap?

      Not a such a pleasant journey then

  14. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    Some points

    For many people, it is more cost effective to get the bus.

    The bus only needs to have ~5 people on it for it to be space effective (vs 5 cars)

    point to point bus service is called ring and ride.

    Some sums:

    Price of bus pass for my area: £51 /cal month (£612/yr)

    vs

    £1000 car spread over 3 years: ~£333.34 (rounded up)

    Insurance: min £1000 for 1st year insurance: £1000+

    (as e reference my 72 yr old Dad pays £553.90/yr fully comp for his 4yr old fabia)

    Tax: ~£140

    MOT:~£50

    = over £1500 not including petrol/service/repairs

    (less for no claims, more for more expensive car)

    Sooo... I can spend £800 on taxis/delivery fees and still be ahead

    even something as simple as:

    Parking in city centre = £4.80 for 4 hours

    Daysaver = £4

    I'm a single guy living on the outskirts of a major city, so YMMV.

    There are logical reasons for having/using a car, but its suprising how many people think of a car as something your *supposed* to have without really thinking it through. They think anyone who doesn't have one is a weirdo.

    Fuck those people.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Some points

      Buses can be cheaper, but there's a price for that, of course. In my car I can travel when I want, with whom I want and with my choice of temperature and music. I can change my plans at the last minute. I can also use it for long journeys where bus/train simply isn't fast or convenient enough.

      Of course I'll take the train when it is more convenient, it's all down to personal choice. I certainly don't consider not having a car as weird, many of my family members don't drive, but personally I couldn't imagine not having a car.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Some points

      "I'm a single guy living on the outskirts of a major city, so YMMV."

      And I'd guess you have a direct bus route reasonably convenient to work from home.

      At my last gig I had a car commute of about 40-45 minutes all being well. Once I tried to work out if I could do the trip easily by public transport. The best I could come up with was a three leg journey by bus. It was, of course, much less direct than my car journey. Between the first two legs there was a 20 minute wait. Between the last two there was a 4 minute gap which could have been tricky as the intermediate leg included the transpennine section of the M62 which couldn't be relied on for such critical timing. It worked out that I'd have had to leave home at about 6.25 to get to the client site at just after 9.00 if everything went well. I didn't bother working out the return journey.

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge

        Re: Some points

        @ Doctor Syntax

        I do indeed, and fair enough, a convoluted commute would have me thinking twice about not driving.

        You've thought it through and made a decision, and at least have a contingency if the car is off the road due to Reasons.

        At my previous job, when the subject came up, I was spoken to as if there was something wrong with me for not wanting a car, ('You'll never have a girlfriend unless you get a car' etc).

        But then, that was the same job where my 'Team Leader' didn't know what a tsunami was, and believed bisexual people didn't exist (that they were either gay or straight and just confused).

        Sufficed to say, I don't work there anymore.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Some points

      "I'm a single guy living on the outskirts of a major city, so YMMV."

      <snicker>, I assume that was an unintentional pun?

    4. Gary Bickford

      Re: Some points

      I don't see where you included the cost of your time. Let's assume that the bus is free, and the car costs (using US IRS expense rules for 2014) $0.56 per mile, and it's a 20 mile drive/ride. The car averages 30mi/hr, costs $11.20, and takes 40 minutes. The bus averages 15 mi/hr and takes 90 minutes. Both involve incidentals, like tolls and parking for the car, the time waiting for the bus, having to take the bus at a particular time, etc. The difference is 50 minutes and $11.20. So unless your take home pay is less than $14.40/hour (60/50 * $11.20) you are losing money on the bus. (The incidentals can get complicated, are subject to judgment calls and greatly depend on the particular situation, so there's no point in trying to decipher all of the possibilities.)

      But I've _never_ had a situation where the time I spent on the bus wasn't more costly, even at near-minimum wage, than driving if I had a car, which I didn't. I take it back - when I went back to college (early 2000s) I lived right on a bus line that went almost straight to my school, and ran every 11 minutes. My bus pass was $45/month.

      I had a job once where I had to take the bus, my job started at 2AM. The last bus I could take to town was a combined route, so I had a one mile walk to get to the nearest stop. I had to catch the bus at 12:05 AM, and it got to town quickly, about 12:25AM. I then had one and one-half hours to kill downtown before I could go to my job. I would very much have loved having a car then!

      I'll just add one more tidbit. Back a couple of decades the London bus drivers went on strike. For the duration of the strike, average traffic speeds in London increased by more than 50%.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Some points

        "So unless your take home pay is less than $14.40/hour (60/50 * $11.20) you are losing money on the bus."

        That presumes that the person can work unlimited overtime such that travel time is eating into work/earnings time. For the vast majority of us, travel times eats into personal time, not work time. I'd have been with you if you'd used a quality of life argument rather than time=money argument.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Some points

          "That presumes that the person can work unlimited overtime such that travel time is eating into work/earnings time. For the vast majority of us, travel times eats into personal time, not work time. I'd have been with you if you'd used a quality of life argument rather than time=money argument."

          Many people forget there's another time besides work time and personal time: household duty time, such as running to the store for necessities, paying bills, handling household chores, etc. It's not work time since you're not at work yet it's not personal time since you're not eating, relaxing, etc. For many people it's as arduous and necessary as work time yet you don't get paid for it. So for many people true personal time is precious since it's so little. Long commutes and so may reduce the time all the way to zero, leading to "dull boy" syndrome (meaning you cram stolen moments in when you can which can actually raise stress) if not signs of delinquency (as assorted necessary household duties get overlooked because you lost the time needed to do them).

          1. DocJames
            Pint

            Re: Some points

            Thinking about travel time as an opportunity cost for earning is reasonable. However, bus travel time allows reading, thinking, writing, aimlessly doodling, etc. Car travel time shouldn't (although does - back to the discussion at the top about bad drivers...). Bus/train travel is better than car travel as no concentration is required. (This is one aspect where cycling is also not great, but at least it's enjoyable rather than being part of the rat race.)

            And as to whether it is best to commute by bus/train/metro or car, I suggest walking. For those who live too far away, I would revisit your priorities. I (admittedly I'm lucky) live 30 mins walk from my work deliberately. This meant buying a house that was smaller, needed more work etc than one that was nicer but would impact on my life every prolonged expensive life-sucking commute to work. It also saves me hours, if you wish to calculate money, on avoiding conversations about the price of petrol.

            My best commute was 45 minutes by bike (20km). Much more enjoyable than the alternative 30 minute drive in heavy traffic. Once you shower/breakfast at the other end, it was 60 minutes and I only actually got up 10 minutes earlier as I didn't need to breakfast etc before leaving. I would also get home each day having ridden 40km, feeling great about doing the washing up/house work as I felt I'd had my "me time" for the day.

            Icon: another advantage of travel by public transport.

  15. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Buses are slow

    When I used to cycle to school, we boasted of slipstreaming the buses. Sometimes they were too fast for us, but not often.

  16. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    "Unless you live by a bus stop, in which case you have the kinds of people who hang around bus stops hanging around your house, you’ll have to walk to it."

    The people hanging around the bus stop are in fact the people hanging around my house, which is to say, my neighbors. I have met some troubling people at the terminals of inter-city buses (Greyhound and Continental Trailways), but in 30+ years of riding city buses in a couple of metropolitan areas, I have met remarkably few head cases.

    1. Queasy Rider

      Agreed, in all my years of bus commuting i never encountered a lowlife hanging around my stop (in a residential neighborhood) at 5:30 to 6: in the morning.

      1. kraut

        The whole point of being a criminal is NOT having to get up that early in the morning.

  17. ratfox Silver badge

    A taxi goes directly from point to point and tries to avoid running when empty, seeking out the likely places for fares. A bus has to run empty as part of providing the service.

    I guess that taxis would magically avoid the problem that everybody wants to travel one way in the morning, and the other way in the evening…? This problem, which you used to demonstrate the inefficiency of buses, would of course not apply to taxis.

  18. Simon Rockman

    There is no "best" form of transport

    The article is really aimed at people who think the bus is the best way to get around and other forms of transport should cede to buses. What's needed is a co-operative integrated system.

    For instance we need much, much better parking at tube stations. But parking is seen as encouraging cars, and cars are bad.

    Simon

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There is no "best" form of transport

      "But parking is seen as encouraging cars, and cars are bad."

      Seen by whom? By the self-same planners who've spent the last 60+ years carefully constructing this mess!

    2. kraut

      Re: There is no "best" form of transport

      Name a tube station where there's actually space for more car parking that isn't actually used (for parking or housing). There may be some, but I can't think of one.

      There should be more parking at tube stations. But bike parking, not car parking.

  19. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Damn you people are boring...

    If I'm commuting solo then I simply slip on my patented MagicalRainbowRocketToeSocks and leap into the sky to fly where I want to go.

    If I've got passengers or need to transport a load, I wake up my WingedMonkeyMinions, point them to the Litter, and make them earn their feed.

    If the weather is too bad for my 'Socks, then I take the Litter which has the added benefit of letting me work while I commute. (This is not suggested while using your 'Socks as failure to watch where you're flying tends to result in slamming face-first into buildings, busses, the girl's locker room of the local athletic's club, etc.)

    *Cough*

    Now if you'll excuse me, weekend or not I have to get to work.

    Go Go Rocket Socks! AWAAAA-

    AAAGH! Fire! Fire! Help! I'm on Fire!

    =-)p

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Bus lanes

    "Indeed the only thing I’d have reservations on allowing in bus lanes would be buses."

    The stop-start pattern of buses is so different from that which other road users are trying to achieve that it makes sense to segregate them in their own lanes. If only the damned things would stay in them!

    1. druck Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Bus lanes

      If taking the bus wasn't a shitty enough experience, in the few places where there is a bus lane to avoid the gridlock, there is some twat cycling along at under 15mph, at least we know who it is now.

  21. skeptical i

    some comments

    - Many older cities have street layouts that can best be described as a cluster-f*ck (while the reasons they came to be likely entirely make sense, an outsider presented with a map of a typical older city center will only see overlapping spider webs), so surface transit (buses, streetcar) may not be the most efficient mode. Subways that can simply go under the whole mess will have a better time of it, as will bicyclists and pedestrians.

    - After WWII, at least in 'Merka, world+dog embraced The Car as the new Light and Way, and city planners laid out burgs accordingly (with more than a little help from the automotive, real estate development, and other parasitic interests): offices here, commercial there, industrial way over there, and residential in protected glops separate from anything vaguely noisy (as commercial areas are wont to be). Since, the assumption goes, everyone has a car, what's the problem? Now we know that this deeply segregated style of planning is not the most efficient way to lay out cities (while keeping heavy industrial away from neighborhoods is probably a good idea, residential can generally co-exist with office, retail, and other light commercial usages as many older cities can proudly attest), and forcing citizens to own, feed, and maintain vehicles (meaning this money can not be put elsewhere into the local economy) SOLELY to get around because the city is not laid out to be pedestrian- or bicyclist- friendly is not sustainable.

    - Some cities are trying to undo or mitigate this damage (infill residential development, repurposing former commercial space for live+work, laying down bike lanes on main thoroughfares or designating parallel side streets as bike routes, running "high frequency grid" bus routes so folks can have more efficient transit trips), but not all burgs will be able to do everything.

    - I haven't heard anyone griping that the three lanes of road out of downtown are woefully unused in the morning and what dumb bunny put down "too much" roadway, or that since the roads are virtually empty between midnight and early ack emma some of the lanes should be torn up and replaced with sidewalks and trees. Why the kvetching when buses are running "too much"? Sure, there is probably room for efficiencies in ANY city's transit system, but a knee-jerk "empty bus= wasted funds" reflex is not helpful.

    - Cars are just one mode of travel, among transit, bicycling, and walking. For many years, one mode (the car) has been exalted to the detriment of the others, and we now see some cities trying to undo the damage and better facilitate transport for all.

  22. Queasy Rider

    Not quite done it all,

    Not having used commuter trains, horses, donkeys, camels, llamas, dogsleds or any other form of lower animal transport, I still feel as qualified as any of the above commenters to share an opinion. Having lived in various locales over the years, I have experimented with most modes of transportation, each for extended periods of at least a half a year or more. I have walked and hitch-hiked to work, bicycled, electric bicycled, rode a moped, motorcycled (two wheels and trikes), taxied (easiest but most expensive by far), drove a car, drove a pick-up truck and motor-boated (best commute ever). I am no stranger to public transit either, having used buses, subways, light-rail systems and streetcars in various combinations. As a tradesman working in construction I bounced around from jobs just down the street to sites hundreds of miles away.

    People, you need to get off your high horses about this subject. At one time or another any the above modes were either ideal for the situation, or sometime impossible to implement. Take public trans for instance. I once lived just inside the limits of a large city (then over 2 million pop). My bus stop was third from the end of the line, but because the line fed into the subway system, the number of people boarding at that stop would often fill the bus to standing room only and down the line the bus was so full that it was forced to skip the last few stops entirely, leaving frustrated commuters at the stops hoping the next bus in line had room for them. Some mornings my stop would be so crowded that I would walk a block up the line to the previous stop so that I would be certain of a seat.

    Why take the bus when my car would get me downtown in half the time? I could relax on the bus, do the daily crossword or catnap. The monthly pass was convenient and I didn't have to deal with the rush hour traffic every morning and afternoon (saving my already frayed nerves). I could go for drinks with the lads after work and not worry about the consequences. Wear and tear on the car was reduced and insurance and maintenance costs too. I even grocery shopped, using my buggy which I also used when walking or biking. Still, the car was convenient, and necessary for out of town jobs and for transporting tools and materials. When a car wasn't available those jobs were turned down, not a problem when jobs were plentiful, but bad news during hard times.

    There is no ideal solution, but my fingers are crossed that the Elio makes it to market. Promised price-$6,800 (unlikely). Promised mileage-84 mpg (even less likely). Promised available date 2015 (also unlikely, if ever) but if they do come, I'm there. I'll slap a trailer hitch on that puppy and I'll be grinning from ear to ear cause it is the answer to my dreams, cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to insure(it's a motorcycle trike but has an enclosed cabin, capacity of two), compact and efficient. And you naysayers can snort yourselves all the way to financial and moral bankruptcy. Jeremy Clarkson be damned if he should rule against. It's not a Robin. And I'll be richer for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite done it all,

      "My bus stop was third from the end of the line, but because the line fed into the subway system, the number of people boarding at that stop would often fill the bus to standing room only and down the line the bus was so full that it was forced to skip the last few stops entirely, leaving frustrated commuters at the stops hoping the next bus in line had room for them. Some mornings my stop would be so crowded that I would walk a block up the line to the previous stop so that I would be certain of a seat."

      Meaning what happened next was probably everyone else started hiking to the previous stops to avoid getting shut out, with the ultimate effect that everyone crowded around the first stop in the line, and each bus that arrived got filled to capacity from the go, causing pushing and shoving as late passengers got left out and so on...

  23. ScottME
    Holmes

    Some problems are just hard

    Where I live there is a once-per hour bus service between 9am and 5pm that typically arrives anything up to 50 minutes adrift from its published timetable. The large 55-seater single-decker buses that run the route typically carry no more than five passengers and I'd guess that on average four of them will be travelling on senior-citizen bus passes and the other is of student age. The remaining non-car options for getting to town are walk (five miles), cycle (on a *very* busy main road, no thanks), or call a taxi, typically £10-15 one way (the bus costs £3 ffs). This is why the average household round here has 2+ cars and part of the reason why the main road is so busy. I really wish there was a better solution, but I can't think what it would be.

    1. kraut

      Re: Some problems are just hard

      That isn't a hard problem at all. The political will simply isn't there to do it:

      Put in dedicated, segregated bike lanes. Dutch-style. That can easily take 30% of the local traffic off the road. If the cycle paths are good enough, and fully segregated, then kids can cycle to school, too, alleviating the dreaded school-run traffic.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Some problems are just hard

        Oh, great, force cyclists used to whole lanes into a narrow space, making them a target for vengeful motorists...

        On a rainy day when you need to ride 25 miles each way to the big-box with no way to carry the groceries home except perhaps a backback...

        IOW, it's not just a political issue but a safety issue, too. Especially when cities aren't geared around short-range travel and have a natural tendency against it, wanting to cluster the same kinds of things together.

  24. Gary Bickford

    Check the bus agency's total fuel, total passenger miles

    I did this back when I rode the bus. I was curious how efficient buses actually are. It turns out that in my city on average the passengers in the bus were 'burning' more fuel than the ones in the cars. IIRC it worked out to 10-12 passenger miles per gallon (sorry, I'm too lazy to convert to midget furlongs per olympic pool.)

  25. Mephistro Silver badge

    TL;DR: A few details that most of my fellow commentards seem to be missing...

    Most city centres and densely populated areas would be in a permanent state of gridlock without the relief provided by public transport. The lack of 'acceptably good' public transport has huge implications in fuel consumption, pollution, citizens health, time spent while commuting, productivity, road accidents, parking space availability, you name it.

    Regarding the efficiency argument, the closer you get to a densely populated area the most efficient public transport becomes. I've never been in the city centre in a bus with less than ten passengers, and double or treble that minimal number of passengers for peak hours. I live in a suburb of a smallish (~250,000 people) city in Northern Spain but also have some experience with public transport in other Spanish and European cities. I've used public transport in Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona, Cork, Dublin, London, Paris, Nice, Rome and several other places, and the same thing happens everywhere.

    Cabs: They aren't either totally efficient. There is time spent waiting for customers. The further they are from densely populated areas, the longer they have to wait for new clients, the least efficient they're. Something similar happens with peak hours. In peak time cabs are very efficient. The same thing happens with buses.

    Parking: How much do you pay daily for parking? How long does it take you to find parking space? How much fuel are you wasting in this Musical Chairs game for adults?

    In my opinion the efficiency of a public transport system has to be considered globally, obtaining an average from every part of the system. Incidentally, the same -but reversed - is true about private cars. The closer they are to the city centre, the less efficient they become.

    Considering these factors, it probably makes sense for City councils and Governments to subsidize public transport. They're probably receiving back dozens of times what they invested. And now that I think of it, a perpetually congested city centre would probably send commerce away to Malls built in the outskirts, removing a source of taxes from City councils. Ditto about residents.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TL;DR: A few details that most of my fellow commentards seem to be missing...

      But here's the flip side of the coin. When a city gets dense, things get closer together, meaning it becomes less and less necessary to take motorized transit at all unless you defeat the purpose of density by transiting across the city or in and out of it. This again brings up the bicycle element.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: TL;DR: A few details that most of my fellow commentards seem to be missing...(@ AC)

        You forgot that as cities get dense, land prices soar up, pushing all but -sometimes- the very wealthy out of city centres. So most of the people that want to [work, buy, study, go to a doctor, ...] there have to come from outside those city centres, worsening the traffic problem and negating your point.

        There are many other factors involved and discussing them all would probably take weeks, but in my opinion it's clearly a chaotic problem. Many complex balances interacting with each other. We know some of the attractors, though, and one of them is that a good public transport system shows a stubborn tendency towards making things better both for citizens and government.

  26. Simon Rockman

    Gridlock is a fallacy

    Or if not completely a fallacy, it's a state which very, very rarely exists when there are assorted alternatives.

    The green brigade regularly trot out "if it wasn't for us all the cities would be gridlocked", and use the phrase as a scare tactic. If it really was so imminent all the major cities would have shut down long ago.

    What actually happens is people have a tolerance for how far they commute. I worked on a project at Motorola where we spent two months understanding how people commute and their attitudes towards it.

    The magic figure is 70 minutes.

    Below that people think it's a fair door to door travelling time, beyond that it's unacceptable and they will look for a different method or even job. The perfect commute is one you don't remember, and the ideal is a ten minute walk. Second best is a ten minute drive. Introducing a need to rely on other people to create the transport (taxi, train, bus) adds frustration.

    As an aside we did this work in 2002 to took at what technology we might want to sell commuters. As most people spend at least 40 minutes of their commute sitting on a bus or train we thought there might be something in these "tablet" things but the product management people dismissed the idea.

    Back to the point, the reason we don't get gridlock is that before we get to that stage we get journeys regularly taking so long they pass the 70 minute pain point at which time people find alternatives.

    So we end up with a situation where cities are often on the verge of gridlock but never actually get there.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Gridlock is a fallacy

      How does the system then account for externalities like job crunches and housing shortages that could prevent people from having alternatives when the comfort zone is breached. In a job crunch, one may not be willing to switch jobs since they don't want to lose their job in hand. In a housing shortage, the long commute may be the only one available or affordable, meaning the price to move is too high or it simply isn't an option. And since people value face time, telecommuting may not be in the cards, either. And if fuel prices rise again, the cost of the commute may eat into the household budget, reducing commuting tolerance.

      So the worst-case scenario is one where commuters are in an unacceptable but unavoidable situation.

  27. sandman

    Bunch of wheel lovers

    Pah, personally I try and walk most places and regard ALL road users as dangerous vermin. (Except when in a car, or on a bike or a bus then all OTHER road users are as above, oh, and pedestrians).

  28. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    When you design the new hi-tech transportation system...

    ...please don't forget to take into account the needs of visitors to your home town. You know, tourists, people who come on business, people visiting relatives and friends, etc. Revenue generators, all of them, among other habits and qualities that are generally beneficial to the locals' lifestyle (well, IMHO).

    I doubt visitors can be expected to have the right app in the right language for your area on their smartphones or, indeed, to spend a fortune on exchanging data packets with the company operating driverless taxies or with Uber-like private car owners. When I travel, privately or on business, I care less for coming to a bus station less than a minute before departure than for knowing in advance which bus to take, where the stop is, and how much it will cost (preferably without involving PayPal for every bus ticket) to get where I need to go. Figuring out ad-hoc, personalized solutions in an unfamiliar place without the possibility to ask around or make a simple phone call and explain oneself to a human does not look attractive at all. And I would also want a friendly, convenient environment for the visitors to my town - I like it when people come to visit.

    I am not saying it kills the whole idea, just that it is much more complex than you getting to and from work. I see this missed all the time. Where I live, there are toll roads but no toll booths. When you use a toll road your license plate is scanned at entry and exit points and you - the vehicle owner - will get a bill in the mail - pay it over the Internet, by phone, at a post office, whatever. Very advanced hi-tech, works beautifully. Just don't drive on toll roads in a rental car though - the bill will be mailed to the rental company, usually long after you leave - and they will bill you for processing fees, rightly. Oops...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: When you design the new hi-tech transportation system...

      "Just don't drive on toll roads in a rental car though - the bill will be mailed to the rental company, usually long after you leave - and they will bill you for processing fees, rightly. Oops..."

      That's when it pays to do the homework. If you know you're going somewhere, research it and see what you need to know. If you're going to a place where the roads have ETC, that may cue you to look for a car rental agency that rents ETC-enabled cars (Avis, for example, has ETC support). That said, there are very few roads that are ETC-only, and those that exist usually have alternative routes for those without ETC since it's not exactly universally supported.

  29. Jon Smit
    Stop

    Me me me me me

    WTF is going on with this website? Every time I read an article like this, it makes it less likely I'll bother returning.

    Does the Reg realise that London isn't the centre of the universe?

    Does the Reg realise that the Daily Heil turns out self-centred crap like this every day and makes a better job of it?

  30. Tristram Shandy

    Park and Ride

    Loads of cities do this, with some success. I think there are about 6 of these dotted around York, and they get quite a lot of use. It's relatively cheap for a bus ticket, buses are frequent, and avoids having to take your car round car-unfriendy medieval streets and council parking at £2.00 an hour. There are still traffic problems and lots of congestion, but the city would grind to a standstill without Park and Ride.

  31. Canecutter

    I like the bus

    The bus keeps drivers like me off the road.

  32. Oninoshiko

    This whole article sounds like a tailor-made argument for PRT.

  33. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Looked all over and found no definition of "efficient" in context of the subject of this document. Absent that, one must question every point raised as an example of lack of same.

    Another worthless "study".

  34. HippyFreetard

    It's a society ffs.

    Can't we just get along?

    Can't we just take a look at everything when we're spending on roads? Why can't we acknowledge that car drivers, taxi users, bus users, and cyclists are all citizens and public services should serve everybody?

  35. Nifty

    In Asimov's I Robot books...

    Earth has a public transport system

    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7671484

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: In Asimov's I Robot books...

      As I recall, the cities in those books has also megasized in to arcologies, too. In these kinds of self-contained environments, every trip was essentially short-distance.

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