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Nathanael

Good article about language...

...but people still won't like "the lurch".

Joseph Singer

I just took link light rail this past weekend and pulled out an app for my smartphone to see how fast we got to where we were going. The _fastest_ on LR that we got was 33 MPH!

I took an express bus today and for one brief shining moment we got up to 40 MPH! Most of the time on the bus we barely break 10 MPH.

Rob

Nice article Jarrett. It will be very hard, and expensive, to meet the transit expectations of elites - and there's no guarantee that cupholders on sleek rail cars will be enough. Meanwhile the rest of us are delighted to get fast and frequent bus service if it meets our travel needs.

The places we invest in high cost rail service should provide that step-function in accessibility and reliability, not just aim to provide the missing amenities wealthy people use as excuses for not sharing transport with the unwashed masses.

zefwagner

One nice thing about good intercity rail systems is that they are able to "solve" this problem by having different classes of service on the same train, 1st and 2nd class. Both get the same functional service (frequency, speed, span, etc) but 1st class gets a nicer atmosphere, more comfortable seats, and so on.

Urban transit doesn't really have the ability to do this, so we have to decide what to focus on. For most people, the functionality of the service will always be more important than the amenity factor. Even when it comes to cars, the vast majority of people own functional, boring cars with few amenities. Our obsession with attracting purely "choice" (meaning high-income) riders is a little nonsensical. I can understand focusing on the car-owning population if the intention is to allow more commuting in a situation where roads are at capacity during peak times, but other than that it is pretty futile to expect high-income people with cars to take transit just because it is a train.

As Jarrett notes, however, there is a vast (and I believe growing) swath of middle-income people who are on that edge where they may be willing to give up a car or curtail their driving if the right kind of service is provided. These people are naturally less obsessed with amenity value than high-income folks and are likely more interested in the usefulness of the service than anything else.

dean

Thoughtful and interesting aticle, as usual.
I believe your language category distinction is pertinent and useful, as well as your pointing out the distractions of race and utility to the elite.

The example of "how things work in Germany", however, seems a bit approximate. I regularly work and drive in Germany and, while I'm certainly no transport specialist, it is my understanding that Autobahns have implicit "suggested speeds" (130kph) everywhere and, from experience, posted limits very frequently. From what I understand, the suggested limits are there in case of an accident enquiry; apparently, your insurance company may take driving at speeds over the suggested limit into consideration when accessing reponsibilty. If this is the case, then it would be prudent to consider that the term "unlimited" may refer to both your responsibility as well as your chosen speed, a distinction which significantly changes the popular thinking that says you may drive as fast as you'd like and with impunity.

Back in the cities, I use and observe public transport, particularly trams/ s-bahn, systems which seem very effective and well recieved by a large number of users. Having said this, I can't help but wonder about the contrast in the German government (regional or national?) support compared with our French natonal policies : here employers are required by law to subsidise a commuter's public transit cost by 50%. In Germany, commuters who use their cars are subsidised and that's also part of "how things work in Germany". Is it just a way to supprt car makers? Oil companies? I don't know, but it seems to be working against the development of better public transit systems and greater public use.

In the end, I don't know what any of this says about driving BMW's or elites or bus stigma, but I feel it still needed to be said.

Obviously, I welcome comments and corrections from anyone with greater knowledge or experience of German Autobahn, S Bahn or general transport policies.

TransitPlannerMunich

@dean:
The tax deduction for commuters in Germany is independent from the use of cars. The same amount per km is deducted regardless if you walk, ride a bike, use public transport or go by BMW.

I dislike this tax deduction rather for a different aspect: it encourages commuting and living away from your work place.

About subsidies: what is true in comparison to France is that the cost coverage by farebox revenue of public transport is much higher in Germany - usually in cities between 80% and over 90%. Still the federal and state government is paying money for new infrastructure and the municipalities pay direct or indirect for the remaining deficit in the operation of public transport. The question is only if you do it like in France with a special tax on work places or if you pay it in other ways.

The "suggested" speed of 130 km/h on the German Autobahn stops no one to drive faster, unfortunately. But in general you have the responsibility as a driver to drive only so fast that you can still have a safe control over your car, depending on weather and road conditions and your personal abilities in that moment.

dean

@TransitPlannerMunich
Many thanks for your corrections and clarifications. I agree
as well with your point about how some transport subsidies
may end up promoting counter-productive urban sprawl, sadly.

david vartanoff

Real life bus stigma as reported
from http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_21081380/san-fernando-valley-commuters-flock-new-expo-line

And Valley residents were found on 11 out of 12 Expo Line trips taken by a Daily News reporter last week.

For many, the Expo Line replaces an uncomfortable bus trip. Sherman Oaks resident Earl Jordan, an executive at West Angeles Church in Crenshaw, used to take a Rapid Bus down Wilshire Boulevard from the Red Line. Now he picks up the Expo Line downtown.

"The bus," sighed Jordan on a recent morning, "is bumpy. This is so much smoother and quieter. I'll read. I'll do the emails going in."

Nathanael

Wow. Some page I was reading just linked me to this:

http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/TRB1221.pdf

I know I've been saying that trains are inherently better and more popular than buses... but here's some hard evidence from history.

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