Industrial Automation Blog

Industrial Automation

The Industrial Automation Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about machine control, information and intelligence, motors and drives, instruments, sensors and networking. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Compliance Lacks Control   Next in Blog: U.S. Losing Out to China, India
Close
Close
Close
57 comments

The Mass Transit Myth

Posted July 28, 2008 8:20 AM

Let's face it, people don't like using public transportation, so let's not continue with the mass transportation myth that cities like to say will resolve environmental problems, says Leland Teschler, Machine Design editor. Instead, to save energy and go easier on the environment, do something counterintuitive: build more freeways. Traffic congestion forces drivers to waste billions of gallons of gas, producing tons of carbon dioxide each year. More freeways would help.

The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Industrial Automation, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Industrial Automation today.

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#1

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 9:22 AM

Yes! Let's make huge 4x4s compulsory with only 1 seat in each.
Build a huge concrete dome over the whole city with elevators upto it so the cars can all drive around up there anywhere they like...we can live in hovels undergound with maybe a bit of piped in fresh air...

Yeh gets my vote.

More freeways...yeah so more cars can get log jammed in the city centre?

Del

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11112
Good Answers: 918
#2
In reply to #1

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 11:33 AM

No, Dell, what this guy proposes does make some sense.

The real problem is all the time you spend idling or moving in an inefficient means where the car is not getting the best miles per gallon.

One big problem is stop and go. Here, where I live, stop lights are not synchronized. If all the lights were synchronized I could make my trip in 19 minutes. However, I typically need to budget 30 minutes because traffic is stopping for lights or restarting from a light. It's called the accordion effect.

That adds almost 10 minutes of commute time that I am just sitting with the car idling. That's why my in-town mileage is half my highway mileage.

Building more roads is only a small part of a bigger plan as I see it. We need mechanisms that allow us to move traffic freely without all the stop-and-go drama. The real issue and challenge is getting cities to invest in ways to allow traffic to move with little or no restrictions trough main arteries.

Elimination of unneeded stops and waits at lights would save time, money, fuel, and frustration for commuters and free flowing traffic will lower congestion!

Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#3
In reply to #2

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 11:48 AM

Here in the USA we used to have thousands of electric tramways that actually went places where people lived and worked. I believe it was our big GM auto company that put them out of business.

This was done somehow in a vacuum with no political intervention. We now have smelly polluting bus lines that are rarely timely. San Francisco CA is one of the few places in the USA where electric transportation actually gets you where you want to go.

It seems we have done it already, but its better politics to burn OIL.

PS:

We had one of the major freeways here in Los Angeles tore up for over 5 years while they rebuilt it. The political in charge put in a lousy Bus line rather than an efficient light rail line. Go Figure:

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#4
In reply to #2

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 11:58 AM

Yeh...If you had a sensible system that let the cars out of town in the evening rush and in to town in the morning..

But you can't have a freeway up to everyones destination. So it just moves the jam to the city centre.

In Harlow (a smallish town) we have big queues where people can't get on and off the motorway quick enough. The problem would be eased if the main routes through Harlow were all dual carriageway (room was left to allow for this when the town was designed after WWII) however this would cut the town into sections and ...

Hang on I'm arguing for something I don't believe in...
I do think they should open the routes in and out of town! One problem is Harlow is a bridge over the Railway and river which is a bottle neck, and would be expensive to widen. (The real BIG problem is the people who control the road system don't live here!)

Maybe I was just trying to be a smart arse in post #1 ..
No supper for kitty

Del

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#17
In reply to #4

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 11:36 PM

As I was born in Harlow I felt compelled to stick my oar in... The motorway access is on one side of town, the industrial estates on the other, therefore all the trucks delivering to the industrial areas from the motorway, have to drive through the town passed the houses & shops causing congestion, polution etc.

A bit more thought on behalf of the planners would have helped, even now they could build industrial areas nearer to the motorway & phase the original ones into housing.

But then Lady Gibberd would likely stick her oar in!!

Harlow, great town to grow up in, unfortunately the locals kept electing idiots!!

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#23
In reply to #17

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 2:03 AM

There are industrial areas on both sides of the Town (Temple Fields and the Pinacles) as per original plan.

Yes the main access is from the East but that is historical from the old London road. The main problem is the Villages and River which have stopped access from East and West.
The planners did a pretty sound job...considering it was designed when car ownership was a rarity, and now most households have two...they did leave room to dual up the major routes around and through the town...this hasn't been done because of worry about trafic speeds killing children...

I s'pose when pressed we'd all rather take an extra 15minutes on our hands than kill a child.

It's particularly frustrating for me as I live IN the Town but my journey is held up by queues of people who drive in every day poluting our our air to steal our jobs and women in their fancy 4x4s so they can take their sacks of cash back to their bloody converted barns tastelessly furnished in designer tat, or pick up their obnoxious brats from the school over the road. They should be made to park on the outskirts and crawl over broken glass to get here ...

Del (To exit rant mode feed cat)

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Anonymous Poster
#26
In reply to #23

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 4:15 AM

One good thing when I was a kid in Harlow was the cycle tracks, unfortunately some of them were made more for muggers than cyclists! The bus lanes that went in a few years back helped to a degree.

I like the idea of forcing the tourists to park their 4x4s out of town, I think Stortford would make a good car park!

Well nice talking Del, it's dark now over here in Oz, so I'm going home.

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: The Capital City, Cow Hampshire, USA
Posts: 477
Good Answers: 3
#43
In reply to #2

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 1:15 PM

Here on the 'Right Coast' USA the situation is even more brainless; our planners have a Quixotic urge to implement "traffic calming" measures anywhere they can.

These are the deliberate introduction of impediments to the efficient flow to traffic. Done in the name of "safety"; rather than try to find a solution for a troublespot, just bugger-up the rest of the motorway!

As a result many motorists are more agressive (maybe to make up the lost time??) @ times the commute is like a (rugby) scrum.

Wondering how much x-tra fuel has/will be wasted by these misguided methods? (won't try to calc the consumption of destroyed carparts)

__________________
If you always do what you've always done, You'll always get what you've always had!
Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#5

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 12:15 PM

I think suburban sprawl is the real reason that bus lines and electric trolleys are going to be largely ineffective, nationally. Having them in major cities, and even minor or mid-major cities is all well and good. But it is near impossible for me to take the bus to work. It doesn't start running a route that is anywhere close to where I live and work until ten minutes after I need to be into work, and obviously if I have to drive in, then I have to drive home. Also, most people I know don't work on a bus line or even have a realistic means of using one because everything is so spread out. I would have to be on a bus for three hours to get to work, stop at the drug store, bank, and grocery store on my way home.

I am speaking from a personal situation, but unless there is massive development for suburban areas, we will continue to see mass congestion all over as people come to urban areas to work (like I am now). I have had a taste of a different type of commute this summer. My commuting distance went from a round trip of about 22 miles on the county two-lane (albeit, 55 MPH) to about 80 miles on the highway (65 MPH). I utilized my motorcycle as much as humanly possible (until the clutch went on Friday). Most days I am in early enough that I miss the worst of the traffic and out late enough to do the same, but it gets heavy and slow, and in a hurry.

I travel I-87 and Rt. 787 (in upstate New York) almost exclusively, now. Both are six lanes for the entire portion that I ride them. When traffic congests (starting around 7:15 a.m), it slows down to about 35 mph, sometimes stopping, while I grind my teeth and ask why they haven't added two more lanes, already?

The truth of it is that until we have either mass transportation boosted to epic levels and at a cost effective price (why would most people give up the convenience of when to come and go for only a couple of bucks savings per week - for the good of the environment usually becomes important to most people only when a personal benefit is also attached) or a return to where people are living and working in the same community, we will be stuck crawling along the highway and burning increasingly expensive fuel and we idly wait for simple congestion to break up.

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#6
In reply to #5

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 12:29 PM

Again:

Mass electric transit that actually goes where people work and live is the answer. I would gladly trade my go-buggy and it's great music for a fine system that went between my city and Orange County CA. I do think that I am being realistic when I say we need leadership accountability to get this basic public system worked out again.

The Bus system that is avoided because it does not work for you is one of the major symtoms of the problem. In San Francisco CA I was able to get to almost anywhere on great public transportation because the leaders have yet to sucumb to the OIL loby pressure.

I know people there who have not owned a car for twenty years, and like it that way. Do you know of people like that?

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#7
In reply to #6

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 12:51 PM

I would love a transit system like that. I don't care if it runs on water, but the problem is that it is only going to work in places like NYC, San Fran, Atlanta, Philly, etc. etc.

While I would love to have a transit line like that to get from place to place in Albany, for the number of people in surrounding areas, its only usefulness is once you have made it to work, not the commute in. Ergo, it wouldn't alleviate a lot of the problems of highway congestion.

I guess it is part of the solution, if you look at it that way. No system is going to be the answer for every type of community (urban, suburban, and rural).

The problem is that there are so many people now living outside of a distance that could be reasonably developed into electric car transport.

When I am done working this job for the summer, would I be psyched if I could walk a mile, catch an electric tram to a stop a mile from my job, and then catch one back that evening? You bet. I wouldn't even mind waiting for one every hour or whatever.

The problem becomes, however, is that the infrastructure to put thousands of miles of track down in the COUNTY that I live in to make the service attractive doesn't currently exits, nor does the space or the funding.

How do we get a system like that for over half of the country who lives outside of major metro areas???

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#8
In reply to #7

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:06 PM

Well Umm ... thats the deal:

Spend our hard won dollars on such a system rather than better freeways. Again beating a dead horse soundly one more time, San Fran's railway system goes out to neighboring communities 100 miles or so. I mean the thing is thought out, well funded, and greatly appreciated by the locals.

If you pass the legal junk to get a public referrendum going. Refuse to let the politicians be swayed by OIL and GM you might get something usefull.

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#9
In reply to #8

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:13 PM

100 miles? No joke? Wow. I had no idea it went that far. Do you know if San Fran was designed with the trolley system in mind or if it was retrofitted (as an East Coast lifer, I don't know if trolley tracks were there for horse-pulled trollies or they first made an appearance as electric powered)?

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#10
In reply to #9

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:18 PM

Designed that way bro:

That is how you get locals with no car for twenty years. And the electric system went in after the cable car trolly system.

The city does have some smoggy busses, but usuaslly to get from a burb to down town an electric buss is somewhere close.

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#11
In reply to #10

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:25 PM

That makes sense. I could not even imagine the headache that retrofitting a city for a transit system that massive could make for engineers.

Although, I also guess that we either face that headache now or continue to ignore a growing problem until the country is totally crippled on both the fuel and clean air fronts.

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#12
In reply to #11

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:35 PM

Accountable Leadership:

While they are getting away with their present methods, they will continue to do so. An responsible public will demand what is good for us, or they will continue to sell to the highest bidder what is not theirs to sell.

Our futures I do believe:

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#13
In reply to #12

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 1:43 PM

It's funny, but not a funny that you can really laugh about:

Thinking about how much that systen would cost (even though it should mean less is spent on road systems in terms of development and upkeep)...

the school building that I work in is currently over 50 years old. It can't handle the electrical demands being made on it and computer system development is also hampered by building infrastructure limitations.

How do we hold current leadership accountable for a hole that has been dug so deeply that there appears no climbing out of it? Like that school, the easier (and probably cheaper in the long run) way is to level it and start over.

But taxpayers will only see the immediate bottom line: a multimillion dollar construction project. Not the cost of continually maintaining a building that is well passed its prime.

Seemed like an adequate metaphor...

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: The Capital City, Cow Hampshire, USA
Posts: 477
Good Answers: 3
#47
In reply to #8

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 3:17 PM

Add to this, some fraction of tele-commuting; there's a small hope to improve things!!

__________________
If you always do what you've always done, You'll always get what you've always had!
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Brecksville, OH
Posts: 1604
Good Answers: 18
#14
In reply to #6

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 5:46 PM

As I havent lived in a major city in many years, I cant really comment on some of these posts. I did live in Chicago at one time and I felt the transit system there was excellent (compared to Pittsburgh where I was born and raised). The main difference was that the city - Chicago - was set out on a grid and the riders were required to change buses at least once to get where they wanted to go. This was not an inconvenience because the buses were properly scheduled and so I never had to wait more than 2 minutes between buses during a change in buses. By comparison, Pittsburgh (PRR) used to run streetcars out to each individual neighborhood, thereby requiring many streetcars to be empty a lot of the time with attendant lack of cost-effectiveness. As a result, the service sucked big time. Thankfully, I lived close enough to downtown to walk when necessary.

I truly believe it is possible to have a solid mass transit system that functions well in US cities, but the politicians have to get out of the way and let the experts design and operate the systems with consideration of all the facets of such a system and it's operation. The suburbs present their own new problems and high speed rail transit to the inner city fringes to connect with the aforementioned buses would be one way to address this IF SCHEDULES were kept. Most people shy away from mass transit in the USbecause the schedule vehicles are rarely on time.

__________________
"Consensus Science got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?" : Rephrase of Will Rogers Comment
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#16
In reply to #14

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 6:01 PM

The Case I am attempting to make is:

Historical records clearly show we have been ripped off in regards to Mass Transit offering a solution for the American public.

Now the guys who manipulated the system bringing us to this "Dependancy on Big OIL" are telling us to suck it up and support a criminal War and praise them for bringing us this OIL that we have been manipulated into needing.

We are in a nobody wins situation with only the big players geting paid.

To win one must not play that game.

It just needs a big re-think and a whole lot of people acting on the problem.

Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 85
Good Answers: 2
#30
In reply to #16

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 9:29 AM

Now you are starting to sound like someone who has Bush Derangement Syndrome. The accusations of a criminal war are tired as some of us remember that the UN approved the use of force if Iraq did not comply. Politicians all over Europe and the US including most Democrats said that the use of force appropriate if Iraq did not change, and they agreed that Saddam had WMDs.

As a history buff I hate it when people re-write history to suit their political inclinations. You need to get your news from places other than Move-On.org, DailyKos, and HuffPost. I did not think the Iraq War was a good idea because it was too big a job for the US to do, and one of the first mistakes military's make is to over extend themselves and their capabilities. But calling it criminal and spouting conspiracy theories makes one look foolish and petty.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 382
Good Answers: 1
#31
In reply to #30

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 11:56 AM

It's OK:

Blind faith believers in the good part? of old GW are just fine with me. It's been fun to stir the pot once in a while and see what rattles out. My mind is a funny thing, it rarely forgets anything that that I see and here and finds a home there. So there is no room for faith or belief of any kind or flavor, where fact reigns supreme. I have clear mental records of all evidence I saw that day and subsequent days.

So now I am retiring my constant tirade on it because the blind faith crowd has won the battle. I have been shown the light in where folks running the show really have a long term plan.

Reply Off Topic (Score 7)
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 2131
Good Answers: 251
#15

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 5:53 PM

A little history lesson for the Americans.

Many of your major cities had substantial "trolley" systems early in the 20th Century, but they were bought out by a consortium that wanted to use busses. (One of your car companies, one of your tyre companies and one of your fuel companies were the major owners.)

They then ripped out the tracks so no-one could go back.

Later, this transportation monoploy (yes it should read monopoly, but it looked good this way too.) was challenged in federal court and was broken up. These major companies were instructed to divorce themselves from the operation of the bus systems.

They did this in a manner that still MAXIMIZED their profits. Contracts required the new owners to us specific brand of busses, specific brand of tyres and specific brand of fuel.

Thus, the development of the bus system was not founded in least cost of operation, or highest energy efficiency or maximum convenience, but rather maximum profit for the organisations that were able to take control of the market.

I seem to remember that "Greyhound" was one of the daughter companies formed at the time of the split.

I'll try to find the reference for this, as there may be some that doubt the authenticity of the above "memory" of something that I read, but I'm sure that the USA guys could research their own archives from around 1930 regarding federal intervention into public transport.

__________________
Just an Engineer from the land down under.
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member Netherlands - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Commodore 64 - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Japan
Posts: 2703
Good Answers: 38
#18

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/28/2008 11:53 PM

Living in japan first in kobe then in aomori

I must say in the city public transportation is a dream here, you can get anywhere, lots of subways, trains and busses.

But now i live in the countryside and everyone uses cars here, because public transportation is less here.

Suburban areas are still a part of the city so if it is connected by tram it should be possible to take a tram/metro. i used to take a bicycle to the station and then by train to work.

__________________
From the Movie "The Big Lebowski" Don't pee on the carpet man!
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
4
Guru

Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Eastern Kansas USA
Posts: 1420
Good Answers: 121
#19

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 12:12 AM

Friends,

Many of you have raised good points, but Mr. Teschler's opinion has not been addressed as well as needed. Also, regarding San Francisco's transit systems, the city was blessed with the limits to its geographic growth by being a small county on the tip of a fairly narrow peninsula, and has had a relatively stable population for decades in a land area only about 7 miles square. Because of small lot sizes and zoning which permitted zero set-back on sides, housing is dense. Furthermore, a good number of buildings are multi-family. Within the city itself you have electric trolley buses, electric trolley street cars (on rails), cable cars (on rails drawn by a steel cable running at 9 mph in a slot below the street level, and motor buses. For those commuting into the city you have ferries from the north and east, commuter trains from the peninsula, two bridges from the north and east, highways from the peninsula, and the BART subway system from the east. Other than highways, I don't think any of the tracked systems run further than about 50-70 miles from the city center. When the city took out most of its street cars, four of the five lines left had tunnels on their routes and the other had a narrow cut. The city tried to remove its cable cars but citizens revolted and put their continued existence into the city charter. When freeway building was popular, again citizens forced many to be canceled (which was fortunate because the proposed double-deck elevated designs were later destroyed by the earthquake).

I am in favor of non-automobile transit, but our present system has grown symbiotically with our urban sprawl---the two depend upon each other. Teschler says to build more freeways, but analysis of traffic flow has shown that the freeways have actually caused the traffic congestion (which is the real "counter-intuitive" result). We have zoning and land use policies which force sprawl and keep population density quite low. We have installed many hidden subsidies for use of automobiles (such as lost space and decreased tax revenue for parking spaces, cost of installing traffic signals and larger streets traffic policing costs, and traffic congestion), and then make any equivalent subsidies for mass transit obvious and claim that they are "unfair".

For mass transit to succeed, the following points are fairly widely seen to be important:

1. Higher population density means that more riders are close to transit lines and frequency of service can increase from hourly to every ten minutes (for 15 houses per acre).

2. The average distance people are willing to walk takes no more than 15 minutes, so transit stops and routes need to be close enough to stay within this.

3. If the total time for mass transit is less than 1.5x the time for automobile, people are willing to take mass transit.

4. Light rail must not supercede other transit modes. It needs to be in addition to them.

5. People, voters and leaders alike, need to be aware of the true and complete costs of each mode of transit--automobile, plane, mass.

6. We took many decades to develop the current unworkable urban/suburban structures we now have. To replace them with workable structures will also take a lot of time.

Let me add that in addition to higher population density being desirable for mass transit, this also decreases each person's portion of the infrastructure costs for the government because utility lines, streets, etc. are all shorter so tax revenues can be spent better.

Some would condemn higher population densities. But current "western" population densities are far below the historical maxima of 250,000 - 500,000 per sq.mi. Recent average numbers per sq.mi. are 86,000 in Manhattan, 16,000 in San Francisco, and only 8,000 in Los Angeles. Very many healthy cities and core areas of towns thrive because of the closeness of people to work/shops/home.

--JMM

Reply Good Answer (Score 4)
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#21
In reply to #19

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 12:51 AM

I just took Amtrak to Chicago, and my wife preferred it to driving from Central Illinois. I hate driving in Chicago, but would rather drive to the outskirts. The mass transit in Chicago was excellent however. I found the cabs reasonable also.

I really think that we do need high speed rail like they have in Japan and Europe. Starting with Boston to Florida , San Diego to San Francisco, and Washington D.C. to Los Angeles through Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and all major cities along the way. Trains are much more fuel efficient than airplanes, and are fast enough for most trips. I think that the high speed trains reach nearly 150 mph.

Reply
Power-User
Hobbies - Musician - guitar fan Greece - Member - Engineering Fields - Software Engineering -

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 244
Good Answers: 17
#24
In reply to #19

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 2:23 AM

Teschler says to build more freeways, but analysis of traffic flow has shown that the freeways have actually caused the traffic congestion (which is the real "counter-intuitive" result).

Well said. It is an historical fact, which I have verified myself out of my personal experience: During the preparations for the Athens Olympics new roads and extra lanes were added to the transport system (of course until the works finished we suffered a bit!) At that time it seemed that we could forget congestions for quite some years. Unfortunately now, four years later, we are almost in the same situation as before. The reason: More roads and more lanes generally means more incentive for one to choose his car over the public transport. More cars get injected in the roads, to fill the empty space. But even before the time the main arteries get clogged, there will be bottlenecks at the access points with the local networks.

An analogy of the roads capacity is your PC's hard disk space. Sooner or later, you will fill it up, no matter how much space you've got! (Now that I check, it's the same with my office drawers too...)

__________________
tkot
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Anonymous Poster
#32
In reply to #24

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 3:31 PM

"Unfortunately now, four years later, we are almost in the same situation as before."

Build it and they will come.

Reply
Associate

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: San Jose, California - Silicon Valley
Posts: 32
Good Answers: 9
#25
In reply to #19

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 2:30 AM

Excellent points made.

The root problem is the low population density of suburbia. The density is below that required to make mass transit competitive with the automobile. The symptom is low average number of riders. The reason is that the bus or street car does not stop near the average home or business in a large, low density suburb like LA.

Adding stops does not help. Adding stops means more adding more buses - and more cost - to keep reasonable schedules. A vicious circle. If the economics were right, stops and buses would be added to be paid for by more riders. However, we find that stops and bus lines are cut to try to reduce the loss.

New housing and new businesses have been built in the suburbs since the 1950's because the land is cheap(er). Housing and business buildings are cheap as a consequence. This allowed (and allows) many people to own a house that could not otherwise afford one. The side effect is that the homeowner needs a car. We knew this with Levitown in 1950.

The simple economics argue against higher density. Higher density = more valuable land = higher price for housing and business. So, we have "urban sprawl" = suburban city areas. LA is ~100 miles in diameter with no significant amount high density of housing or business within it that could make mass transit economical.

We may wish for higher population density, but the tooth fairy is temporarily out of service. People will not give up their homes just so they can take the bus or light rail.

Reply
2
Guru

Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Eastern Kansas USA
Posts: 1420
Good Answers: 121
#40
In reply to #25

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/30/2008 9:45 AM

Dave W,

Within certain limits you are correct when you say: Higher density = more valuable land = higher price for housing and business. So, we have "urban sprawl" = suburban city areas. However, I believe that in many more cases this is not so. In the urban core of healthy cities the property values are quite high compared to nearby suburban areas. People usually cite security, safety, and quiet when justifying the move to suburban and exurban areas. Hidden within this, however, is a trend towards isolation of the self or family from society. The delusion is that behind burglar bars, alarm systems, and fences we are "safe". My observation is that true health (safety) of a community comes from frequent and mutual interactions between people; from the "common areas" becoming used by the local residents.

Many years ago, in New York City, the police noticed that in one "high crime" area the crime rate had dropped substantially while elsewhere it was rising; since they had not done anything different there they investigated to see if people had given up on reporting problems. Instead, they found a number of blocks with residents visiting and sharing on the streets and porches, flower boxes in windows, and people of all ages outside whenever the weather permitted. It began with one woman deciding to put a flower box in her windows because she wanted something pretty in that dismal area, then spread to the neighbors and surrounding blocks.

When we design (zoning, thoughtful planning, and patience) housing that encourages people to be neighbors, then safety and security follow. This means larger porches, homes which are closer together, flowers and good trash pickup, and community or common areas which meet a variety of needs/interests. Not everyone will become an outgoing "community-type" person, but even those who prefer privacy will feel safer and become known by name and sight to those who are. Single parents will have many they can turn to for guidance or help, and their children will acquire multiple sets of "grandparents". I've watched these things happen.

You cite higher land values. True, but with lower lot sizes, the per lot cost is still reasonable in most cases. With lower lot sizes, you have a smaller area within which we need to maintain the infrastructure of streets, sidewalks, all the utilities, and schools. The per lot costs for doing this become smaller, so the property tax burden can be reduced. With higher density (still well within the single-family home style), comes more effective use of public transit systems. Thus we can improve transit, which reduces urban smog and also increases "neighborliness".

To me, this is a win-win situation, while suburban and exurban development is lose-lose.

--JMM

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Power-User
Hobbies - Musician - New Member

Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Brigham City, Utah
Posts: 163
Good Answers: 5
#20

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 12:50 AM

Reading different comments has certainly been informative. Have a couple of random thoughts. I agree that cars idling wastes huge amounts of fuel. I would like to see less congestion, but is building more highways really the answer? Don't they use petroleum based products to build roads? Would it be possible to build roads out of other material? Maybe renewable or recycled or something that is just sitting around in large quantities being unused?

"people don't like using public transportation" What people? I like public transportation and I sort of thought that I'm a people.

__________________
Kindness knows no boundaries.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#34
In reply to #20

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 10:38 PM

In New Zealand all the roads were gravel 26 years ago. That is, outside of the cities. They were not oiled either. You could go 60 and have people pass you. Not a problem, but I imagine they wore out mufflers etc. Add sand, and you might have less flying rocks.

Reply
Guru
Panama - Member - New Member Hobbies - CNC - New Member Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Panama
Posts: 4274
Good Answers: 213
#22

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 1:45 AM

Many years ago, I lived in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco. The Bart was available in those days, but I never used it. Why? Because, #1, I had to drive to the grocery store in order to transport my purchases home. I had to drive to the airport in order to transport my luggage. I worked from home, so I did not need to drive to work, but I was not able to live close enough to most of my destinations of choice.

I now live in Panama City. When I need to go somewhere, I use public transportation. I can ride the bus anywhere in Panama City for twenty five cents. Mostly, though, I use taxis, which will cost me something on the order of $2.00 for most destinations within the city (including a tip to compensate the driver for the higher costs of fuels these days). What makes the difference for me personally is the zoning approach. I live close enough to the supermarket that I can make frequent trips for small purchases (or walk to the corner for daily fresh vegetables). The hardware store is just down the street. The pharmacy is right across the street. There is a beautiful park a couple of blocks away. My office is downstairs, in the same building. There is an insurance broker in the same building, and across the street is a lawyer's office and a small printing firm. All of these offices occupy the ground floors of essentially residential buildings. Unfortunately, I am too far from the airport to walk with significant luggage.

A proper approach to zoning makes this possible- services are provided within residential areas, not separated as they are in the States. Panama City is, of course, not without its traffic congestion, lack of parking and smog- it is just that it offers me an alternative if I so choose. When I lived in the US, I did not have that option.

Mass transit works here because it is cheap and convenient.

Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Indiana
Posts: 331
Good Answers: 10
#27

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 8:07 AM

Here in Indianapolis (the 13th largest city in the US), things are different. The city is the "cross roads" of America (meaning four highways intersect at the city) and we have severe congestion problems on the interstates. The city added a new bus line to an outlying busy suburb town, called Fishers last year. The people jammed onto the buses. People have been waiting in lines for the next bus to arrive. The city is researching bus lines to other outlying towns as far as 30 miles. They have been charging $2 each way for the Fishers to downtown line. I hope they put a line in my town because this would save me $4 a day since it takes me approximately $8 a day in gas.

I think the old tail of "mass transit is inefficient and expensive" is based on old numbers and calculations. People will use mass transit if it goes to where they need to go (e.g. malls, stores, work, downtown, etc). I saw this first hand when I was stationed in Korea. The subways were always full in Seoul. Back to Indy, the city had a study done (I think it was done off of old numbers) to show that mass transit was "inefficient and expensive" because the people have been requesting a rail system. The city is currently doing the "excellerate I-465" project. It opens up more lanes on off ramps which is where a quarter of the congestion comes from. Another quarter comes from the on ramp which they have not addressed. The rest comes from there only being three lanes per direction (they don't care about this one). When I-69 is finished, We will have another interstate's traffic to deal with.

Anyway, city officials are not looking at the big picture and are not using forward thinking (which is rather normal for Indiana decision makers).

__________________
"We cannot sow thistles and reap clover. Nature simply does not run things that way. She goes by cause and effect." Napoleon Hill
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#28

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 8:40 AM

When I lived in Brooklyn (Thank you USN) I used the NYC mass transit system extensively. I loved it, cheap, and much faster then trying to drive in that nightmare. Can't really call it safe though, there were pretty regular muggings and robberies. I never went through either (6' 2" and around 200 lbs so I don't have much worry there) If I had mass transit through the cotton fields of north Alabama, I'd use it. Since that won't happen in my lifetime, I'll stick with my little 4 banger Ford Ranger.

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#29
In reply to #28

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 8:46 AM

I guess that is sorta what I am trying to say. When I lived in Nanjing, China, I used public transport extensively and loved it, as I did when I was in Berlin (not to mention I didn't own a car when I was in either place).

If I have to go to NYC, I usually drive to within about an hour (Newburgh) and then take the train in and use the subway all around town.

The problem is that other than the major cities, I don't see this type of transit development, especially non-fossil fuel powered transit, happening in my lifetime. The cotton fields of Alabama have a lot in common with the New York's North Country, I guess.

That being said, though, I would support a well-designed one, even if it meant it would be used during my kids and grandkids' lifetimes.

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 23
#33

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 8:43 PM

"people don't like using public transportation" More freeway space is part of the solution. Vehicle transponders, a real time data base, and a program to control traffic flow is the rest of it.

It is not President Bush's fault we have traffic jams except for possibly those in Texas and the war in Iraq has no relevance to transportation engineering solutions. Big oil is giving people what the desire all over the world--opportunity and freedom to drive their cars where ever they chose.

Read more >> Options >>

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#35

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/29/2008 10:47 PM

Ride sharing is the best answer for suburbanites. 90% of the cars have one rider. (guesstimate.) With the Web systems could be designed to screen people, get advanced payments, etc. This would save fuel, and lessen congestion. Smaller vehicles would help also.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#37
In reply to #35

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/30/2008 2:38 AM

Yup..It just needs someone to have the balls to say...only little city cars (and myabe electric?) allowed unless you have (say..) 4 occupants. there would be much more room immediately...probably enough to add a lane on most big street...
Of course no one will do it...
But if they had it would have enhanced the small car market in terms of cost performance and availability no end...

Del

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member Safety - ESD - New Member Engineering Fields - Transportation Engineering - New Member Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Technical Fields - Procurement - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Popular Science - Cosmology - New Member Engineering Fields - Architectural Engineering - New Member Technical Fields - Marketing/Advertising - New Member Engineering Fields - Food Process Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Mariposa Ca
Posts: 5804
Good Answers: 114
#36

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/30/2008 2:00 AM

I see most of the reasons public transportation isn't as widespread as would be optimum have been listed.

Except a big one, people don't like to give up their personal space.

This ties in to the same factors causing lower housing densities.

Would any of us consider moving every time we change careers? how much of a commute is too much? How much of a yard [lot] is big enough?

Public transportation is only part of highway use. Increasing the efficiency of the transportation of goods reduces the # of trucks on the road. The IT [logistics] of rail is quickly catching up with companies like UPS.

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Education - Seasoned Vet in the Classroom United States - Member -

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 762
Good Answers: 19
#39
In reply to #36

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/30/2008 8:05 AM

It does make a good point that people don't change houses with every job change and Americans are changing jobs a lot more often.

My wife and I found that we could get a bigger apartment when we moved 20 miles closer (and to a .6 mile roundtrip "commute") to where I worked because of how much fuel money we saved (and that was in 2004).

We bought a house in the same town (albeit five miles further away), but then I took a new job in the opposite direction. My commute jumped back up to 25 miles round trip and I drive a Dodge Ram. I bought an old motorcycle to battle the rising gas prices, but we are noting that if she gets a job closer to where I am, we could both move south and again save gas money that could go toward mortgage.

The other issue with this is that there is a real estate lull, at least in the Northeast. It is sending people who have recently bought a home into upside down mortgages, and as a result, moving, despite fuel savings, is unrealistic or impossible.

__________________
StE - "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer/Hoist with his own petard" -Hamlet Act III, scene 4, 202–209
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Hobbies - Fishing - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1061
Good Answers: 12
#38

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

07/30/2008 3:36 AM

Crime has been mentioned as one reason some people are reluctant to use public transportation. That is probably a realistic fear in some areas. I will look for some stats. On the other hand it is much more productive to be able to do paperwork, read, rest, or doze than driving in traffic jams. Commuting without traffic was never a problem for me though. I have recently moved closer in. 3.5 miles to work, yet in a semi rural setting. Five miles away from a high crime area though.

If I wanted to walk or ride a bike to work it would be very dangerous. Not due to crime, but because the roads are just not designed with pedestrians or bicycles in mind. It is also the only fear I have about making my next vehicle a plug in hybrid. Big vehicles are a intimidating, and all are big to a pedestrian or bicyclist. Provisions for small alternative vehicles and pedestrians would lessen traffic also, and save lives.

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Vancouver BC
Posts: 10
Good Answers: 1
#41

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 5:06 AM

Seems I missed the start of this discussion.

I design and develop Traffic Signal Controllers and systems that have been controlling lights on the N.American roads for over 25 years and lately we have evolved our products to enhance the Transit systems in several unique ways.

Firstly we take into account the reasons why transit users choose public transit, and these are topped by:

1. The need to save money. Simply put people who cannot afford to run a car and waste money on fuel, insurance, maintenance and real capital depreciation of their vehicle do not commute with their own vehicle (unless they use a bicycle).

2. The assurance that someone else has taken the responsibility of scheduling the departure from your pickup point and estimated the time to get you to your destination. Even if this is by way of multiple trips.

3. Ability to 'unwind' and relax during the commute to and from work.

Now I know there are some glaring generalities but ... with Rapid Transit bus routes becoming more and more popular we have proved that:

a) with some smart traffic signals that 'know' when a bus is approaching

b) using dynamic position aware systems that determine whether it is behind schedule or not

c) knowledge of how full the vehicle is

d) what the headway between similar route vehicles is

e) whether the traffic pattern is overly congested for the time of day and place

.. then we can change the traffic signal cycles to ensure these rapid transit vehicles get priority through the intersections. BTW if the bus gets moving faster so do all the cars following it too!

Now the effect of this, as all transit fleet operators already know, is that Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) pays back fast. Simply put the fleet can do with fewer vehicles to service the same passenger load in the same time.

Transit vehicles NEVER run efficiently. Most of their trips are under the minimum passenger load to make it pay, so anything we can do to improve this is a great saving. Even the empty bus returning back to the start of a commute to fetch another passenger load saves $$$ big time if it does not have to stop along the route.

My guess is that if we really get the message across to local govt to implement these systems without increasing their subsidies of public transit the system could be made literally 'free' to the users simply by upping the fleet efficiencies from the BELOW 20% today to somewhere in the 40% region.

Further the introduction of hybrid transit vehicles which do not 'idle' when traveling at low speeds or while stationary would make the effect so much more pronounced.

Our roads are like communication channels and as has been said earlier - the bigger we make them the more traffic they will attract. It is unlikely that we will ever motivate for 'less' roadway.

__________________
If you dont know where you are going, you seldom get there!
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: The Capital City, Cow Hampshire, USA
Posts: 477
Good Answers: 3
#44
In reply to #41

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 1:38 PM

Bravo! The smarter the system, the better.

Maybe if we can manage better still, we can be more flexible w/ scheduling, & have smaller units.

What i'm aiming @ here is the answer to the query "What is the difference between a limousine & a bus". I see 4 points: 1) Amenities, 2) Personal service, 3) Scheduling, & 4) "bling".

If we could make public transport just a bit less "mass" by (addressing it point-by-point): 1) Allowing more 'personal space', more 'comfy' seating, + CLEAN!, 2) Making the traveller feel like the customer (BUYER of SERVICE) rather than freight, 3) Smaller modules + computers + cellphones would make an 'on-call' arrangement possible (hey, the big busses aren't FULL, anyway!), 4) Let them use the money they just saved to find a good psychriatrist to help them deal w/ their over-sized EGO!!

__________________
If you always do what you've always done, You'll always get what you've always had!
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#42

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 7:24 AM

More freeways will mean more connecting roads, and more sprawl for people to move between where they work, live, and play. For my quality of life, no - we don't want more freeways. Yet it is true that people don't like mass transit. Satisfaction is higher in urban areas. Why is that? Because in urban areas the mass transit is more likely to take people where they want to go without them having to change busses, or switch from the train to a bus or taxi. In my home town (Philadelphia) you can go to the stores, the bank, the library, the sports venues, the bars - wherever, on the subway, or the busses. You walk a little, but it's bearable. Where I live now (Indianapolis) you don't have life if you don't have a car. If someone can work out how to make mass transit take the masses where they want to go, it would be a lot better than building more roads, having more cars, more sprawl, and higher gas prices than ever because more demand is created from all of the above.

Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: San Diego
Posts: 86
#45

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 1:38 PM

May be this reply is going to sound too futuristic in an idealistic way ... but what I would love to have is a system of rail lines and a fleet of small rental electric cars in each station.

I think of that because I don't use public transportation more often because of the difficulty of getting to the exact point I am going to after I arrive at a train station.

I live in San Diego CA and travel to Los Angeles CA often ... with the cost of fuel it makes sense to take the train ( we call it coaster here) but once I arrive at the station in Los Angeles I have to have someone pick me up or take an expensive taxi cab to get to where I am going.

Imagine if there was a way to run a credit card in an automated rental station to rent

a small electric car the size of a mini that can be easily parked etc ...

Then drive it back to the station, return it and take the train back to San Diego ...

I would really like to see that .... It would resemble the Metro (rail) In Mexico city with the exception that instead of electrical cars they have small VW taxi cabs ( they call them Ecological Cabs) where they can take you exactly where you are going for 2 or 3 dollars. I traveled to Mexico City often and I can attest to the efficiency of that system.

But imagine if we substitute the VW taxi Cabs for the mini electrical car rentals ...

Then we don't have to worry about adding a bus system on top of the rail . Short distance transportation would be by means of the electrical car and the long distances would be covered by the rail system.

Just a thought ...

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Commentator

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: San Diego
Posts: 86
#46
In reply to #45

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/08/2008 2:00 PM

Oh yes ... and add what sidevalveguru mentions in post #44 to the train system =)

Reply
2
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Earth. England/America -the birthplace of the C. S. A. - anywhere I imagine -home.
Posts: 773
Good Answers: 33
#48

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/09/2008 12:04 AM

First of all forget all your anti-capitalist rants that blame the situation on people who are dead. Mass transit only works within densely populated cities and then only for some of the people, some of the time. If you live close enough to use a rail or bus line to go to work, to keep appointments and visit people they can be great. If you are too poor to own a car, including the cost of parking, then it is great because that's all you can afford.

There are some major problems with mass transport too. They seldom take you exactly where you want to go at exactly the time you want to be there and you have to return on their schedule. Go to your nearest supermarket and buy $100 worth of groceries and there is a problem getting them on the mass transport vehicle, and definitely don't try it at rush hour. Buy a number of packages or something bulky, like a chair or a bicycle for the kid and you may not even be allowed to bring it on board. Most stores do not deliver.

Another problem is the people who live in the suburbs or in small towns outside a city. There is no economical way to provide them with mass transport, they have to drive into cities run by politicians that are ever more hostile to cars. Because of the way businesses are spread out many have to drive through the city to get to work. To buy the votes of the poor who need mass transit the politicians tax everyone else to provide it, when it should be self-supporting.

The use of cars creates problems because of inadequate highways, city streets, lack of parking in the city and traffic lights that seem designed to slow everyone down. Then there are the neighborhoods who insist that no one can make a right turn [or left turn] in the AM [or PM] rush and get through the traffic faster, because they don't want the traffic in their neighborhood and don't care if it makes it hard on the commuters. Entire downtown areas have become like dead zones due to parking meters driving away customers and some cities have yanked them out of their now thriving downtowns.

Picture a transit system that you could drive your car aboard and sit at ease until you got close to your destination, then drive off and be there. You could load up your car with whatever you went shopping for and return to drive right to your door. A transit system that would be there when you wanted to go and which would take you to whatever destination was closest to yours without high cost. Picture a system cheap enough to serve areas outside the city and still provide the convenience needed. Then do it in a way that it will pay for itself. As well dream about a system using personal carriers that come to your door when called and go to the doorstep desired. The problem is I don't know of such a system and neither do the politicians.

The politicians think in terms of providing for the poor [buying votes] by using tax money to build grand systems which are not self-supporting. The city where I work is 20 miles from where I live, but the city wants to tax residents outside the city, with the complicity of the county government, to support a bus service which operates only within the city.

I think a mixed system of mass transit and improved highways and streets is the way to go. I can see myself riding a monorail 20 miles, a bus for a mile and walking a few blocks to work on those nice days when I don't have any side trips to make. On days with side trips and errands to run I want my car to ride to work. I would love to see a passenger rail system which I could drive my car aboard and then sit in a comfortable passenger car while taking any trip over 400 miles too. Much less fuel used per mile of travel than for driving or flying, safer, less tiring too, so it might be worth a slight inconvenience timewise.

I agree about congestion [and drivers rubbernecking or talking on cell phones cause a lot of that too] wasting a lot of gas, which produces nitrogen and sulfur oxides that are dangerous. CO2 is taken in by plants to make oxygen for us to breathe and as we breathe we emit CO2, therefore CO2 is not a pollutant and not something I worry about, since there are so many other things that are really dangerous to be concerned over.

__________________
No technology is so obsolete that it won't work. A stone knife still can kill you as dead as a laser.
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Transcendia
Posts: 2963
Good Answers: 93
#52
In reply to #48

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 2:38 PM

It is the young and the old who really need mass transit in the US. Actually they deserve it in either rural or urban situations. For the Rural situations I advocate mass transit between all the educational institutions as the skeleton of the system in recognition of education as a vital priority for the young. Around here many students drop out of community colleges simply because they need a car to get to class. Last I did a study it was reported to me that 30 percent stopped studies and went to work simply to get a car. When I lived in NYC I never drove unless you were paying me to do so. There I drove a Film Truck. I was in my mid thirties then, which is a time I tell others not to take for granted. You're young enough to do all the things physically you could in your teens and twenties, but old enough to have some skills. It is true that there were times on Subways in NYC and the area that I was scared to death of the company in the car. Technology can create means for us to get around together, but if we know that we are subject to robbery, assault, and rape by the company, it is no matter how efficient, less attractive than a personal vehicle with its own door locks, and a gun.

__________________
You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.
Reply
Associate

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: San Jose, California - Silicon Valley
Posts: 32
Good Answers: 9
#53
In reply to #52

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 3:22 PM

It is not the principle of the thing, it is the money.

Much of the population of the US now livesin the suburbs, like LA and the SF Bay area. Suburbs are spread-out and no longer connected to a city. There is no central city in LA, for example. It is an ocean of concrete approximately 200 miles long and 50+ miles wide. Mass transit works well in the old cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco. It does not work in the suburbs. The population density is too low.

Cities are vertical. Think Empire State Building and apartments. Suburbs are horizontal. Think LA and one-story houses and businesses. The number of people per square mile is one or two orders lower in the suburbs than in the city.

For mass transit to to work, you need to have stops near where people live and stops where they work. You also need high ridership (full cars) to generate enough money to pay for the big capital outlay of laying the rails, buying the cars and running them. This works in the cities because everything is close. You attract a lot of riders at each stop because things are built-up, vertical.

If you try to use mass transit (railways) in the suburbs, you will need many more stops because things are laid out horizontally. And each stop will attract few riders. The result is that it would usually be much cheaper to *give* a car to each potential rider than build a large railway system with many cars, many stops and many trains per day.

Mass transit systems do get built, but for the sake of good intentions and good political PR. We have a beautiful mass transit system in San Jose. Not many riders, though. What you see over time is a reluctance to add stops to the system and a pressure to reduce the number of trains run per day to decrease the negative cash flow of the system. Remember that the difference between a business and a hobby is that a business has a positive cash flow. This will get much worse now that we are in a bad economy.

There is no railroad-form solution for the suburb problem as far as I can see. So if there is to be mass transit, it will have to be some variation of the automobile at this point. Buses are a halfway transition. They are cheaper than laying rails, but they still have the ridership problem. Perhaps battery powered electric car/pods can work. The new lithium batteries are in the process of revolutionizing the automobile - and much else. Automatic/robot pods would be even better.

Occasionally, people will pine for the old Red Cars in LA, blaming others for their demise. The movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is an example. I lived in LA when the Red Cars were running. But that was a different LA. The LA basin consisted of very many small towns (Monrovia, Arcadia, Duarte, El Monte, Pasadena, etc.) separated by miles of open land. The Red Cars provided transportation between the towns. This worked because the towns were clusters of people separated by significant relative distance. But it all died as the towns expanded and became part of the seamless concrete ocean. I saw it happen. A car lets you go anywhere; a train lets you go somewhere. By 1960, all the somewheres in LA had disappeared.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member Netherlands - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Commodore 64 - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Japan
Posts: 2703
Good Answers: 38
#54
In reply to #53

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 8:42 PM

I do not completely agree, i think the Americans are stock on their cars they are willing to sit 2 hours in a traffic jam but are not willing to sit in a train for 2 hours to get to work.

I live in japan and i used the train and metro system constantly. it quite common when i worked in Kobe that fellow engineers came from Osaka or further to get to work (some traveling more then 2and half hour) but in Japan the system is more efficient, even competing metro companies make sure that the arrival times concur with leaving competitors so the travelers can easily switch over.

Well now i live in the country side so now it is completely reversed, few trains and everybody has a car

__________________
From the Movie "The Big Lebowski" Don't pee on the carpet man!
Reply
Associate

Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: San Jose, California - Silicon Valley
Posts: 32
Good Answers: 9
#56
In reply to #54

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 9:28 PM

Americans who live in older cities such as Boston and San Francisco are happy to take mass transit. It is less expensive and you do not have to search for a parking space. Mass transit works in areas of high population density. It also works in places such as Japan where you have many large, old cities with rail connecting them.

As for taking the train, I worked for 3 years in Menlo Park while living in south San Jose. I enjoyed my daily train ride from the San Jose station to Menlo Park. I read my newspaper and sipped my coffee while the train passed the cars. I got a reputation for punctuality as a side benefit.

This worked even though I had to drive my car 15 miles from my home to the San Jose train station. It only worked because Menlo Park a stop on a commuter train from San Jose to the (large, old city) San Francisco, and my work was two blocks from the train station. I enjoyed my train ride, and would rather spend 40 minutes or two hours on a train rather than the same amount of time in my car in traffic.

If my work had been a half mile from the Menlo Park station, I would not have taken the train. It would be too time consuming to walk, and I cannot take my car on the train. A bike would be nice, but not in a suit in the rain.

The Menlo Park situation was unique. The existing train system between San Jose and SF meant that there were many trains to take, so it was convenient. There was always a train within 20-30 minutes or so of when I wanted to travel.

Many trains per day passed to and from San Jose to SF, with stops at Menlo Park, because SF is a high density, mass transit friendly town. You could easily walk or take local SF transit from the train to work, etc. because transit in SF worked.

One problem is not whether you spend two hours in the train or two hours in the car. It is if you have to spend two *extra* hours waiting for the train to come. There were many trains between 7 and 9 AM. The next train was at 10 AM, followed by one at 12 noon. With the car, the two hour trip begins when you get in the car and start the engine. No waiting.

Suburban light rail mass transit loses money. To provide the number of stops such that you only have to walk a few blocks at each end would require a large number of stops. To run trains very often so that you do not have to wait long at a stop means many trains per day. To provide the same service in the suburbs that is provided in the (big, old) city could cost 10-100 times as much to service the same number of people. And you cannot charge 10-100 times as much for fares because it will be more expensive than driving a car.

So suburban light rail has few stops, few trains per day and very few people riding the trains per day. It looks great, and restricting the number of stops and number of trains keeps the losses acceptable, at least in good times. But it is for show, not because it really works.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Transcendia
Posts: 2963
Good Answers: 93
#57
In reply to #54

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 9:31 PM

Even though I loved NYC and its transportation infrastructure, I have to admit that it is not the technology that fails, but the company. Fixing the culture is actually more important than making the technology conform to needs. Many US cities actually have things in place that work, but we do not get along.

__________________
You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#49

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/09/2008 1:43 AM

More freeways,

I am not sure if that is the best solution.

Consider the average up front price for a set length of highway in this country.

Consider maintenance costs for highway functionality over time.

Consider the cost of policing the new roads.

Consider what social impact these new roads could have. I can think of some positive and negative ones, read about what happened in the 50's after the interstate programs took effect.

I will hand it to you though, you are at least THINKING of a REAL solution, and not theoretical pie in the sky.

The next time you drive think about this for a second, if V=(x2-x1)/(t2-t1) is just a simple irrelevant mathematical equation. It shouldn't be, this defines if you are driving or are parked. The dependent position, time variables, location (1) at time (1) to location (2) at time (2). What applications are there when V<=0 , or V=infinite ? A motor vehicle with these velocity values actually should be one. Think about it.

Now

Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: San Diego
Posts: 86
#50
In reply to #49

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

08/09/2008 12:52 PM

I think that Velocity V= (x2-x1)/(t2-t1) = distance traveled / Elapsed Time

= ∆d/∆t ... cannot be smaller than "0" in the real world. Delta d cannot be negative ...same goes for delta t.

Reply
Participant

Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 2
#51

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

09/10/2008 12:54 AM

Maybe the reason people don't like mass transit is that it is too time consuming and inefficient. If we could get from point A to point B with the same effiency as an automobile then we would have something people could use. Let's see what is wrong with trains? They are only efficient if you live & work within walking distance of the station. Buses are a long wait and constant switching. Subways are good but we need a million of them, and in LA do we really want to underground when the next earth quake hits?

I have designed a monorail system that can move many people at the same time without stopping. You may board and depart at any station while the monorail is still moving. The number of stations is only limited by the speed you wish to maintain or the time you are allowed to board or depart. If anyone is interested you may contact me at denmcelry1@yahoo.com

Reply
Guru
Panama - Member - New Member Hobbies - CNC - New Member Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Panama
Posts: 4274
Good Answers: 213
#55

Re: The Mass Transit Myth

01/21/2009 9:17 PM

One of the issues related to the efficacy of a mass transit system in the US has to do with typical zoning laws. Residential areas are mandated to be separated from industrial/commercial areas. This means one must have a car not only to get to work, but to shop for groceries, attend a movie, go out to dinner. In other countries, one is more likely to find resources available in close proximity to one's residence, and, when one lives in a place with a mass transit system, it is much easier to chose a residence that is easily reached by the transit system from one's place of work.

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 57 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

agua_doc (1); Anonymous Hero (1); Anonymous Poster (6); cwarner7_11 (2); DaveW (3); dbdwoods (7); Del the cat (4); denmcelroy (1); Duce (1); Epke (2); Garthh (1); jfmart (3); jmueller (2); Just an Engineer (1); ronwagn (4); rutleddc (1); ShakespeareTheEngineer (7); sidevalveguru (3); Taganan (1); Techart (1); tkot (1); Toptekkie (1); Transcendian (2); WWkayaker (1)

Previous in Blog: Compliance Lacks Control   Next in Blog: U.S. Losing Out to China, India

Advertisement