Author Topic: Transit Rage  (Read 32662 times)

John_D

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Transit Rage
« Reply #30 on: March 07, 2007, 02:04:09 AM »
Quote from: Herr Magoo
Ed'd to add: or here's another idea:  privatize it.  Get companies fighting for my business.  Get some fare sales for a change, rather than the annual "we so poor" fare hike.  Get a bit of customer service.  Get the TTC a little more hungry and a little less complacent, and let them earn their money.  Somewhere out there exists a company that would love to take over transit in Toronto, and I'm betting they'd do what it takes to attract and keep riders, starting with treating their business like a business, and their customers as customers.


I actually think there's some merit to a partial privitaztion of some transit services. Right now, locally run transit is geared to deal with two very different problems. Public transit is, as is often stated, a way to deal with congestion and environmental problems. We often forget, however, that its primary role is as a social service, providing affordable mobility (and thus, access to food, shopping, jobs, school, hopsitals, etc.) to those who cannot afford a car or cannot drive one. I've never seriously studied how it would work to separate the two goals, but it does seem that one is very different from the other.

If you had a public bus system which was focused on the ability to get a person from any part of the city to any other part of the city at cheap (or possibly even free) fare, and then a private rapid transit system that competes with car travel in terms of timeliness, comfort, and price, it seems to me each end could focus on the things that matter to those segments of the population. (For the carless, that would be service levels and keeping costs down. For those we are trying to coax out of cars, it would be frequency and reliability.) That way, we wouldn't have to apply any idea of cost recovery to that part of transit that is really about helping the old, the young, the disabled and the poor - it would simply be a service the city provides. And we wouldn't have to deal with inefficiencies in the part of the service that has to compete as would any other business, in terms of quality and price.

sparqui

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Transit Rage
« Reply #31 on: March 07, 2007, 11:49:43 AM »
The two tier approach assumes that those without cars are poor and not in need of "frequency and reliability". First of all, that is a sweeping generalization that has a tinge of bigotry against poor people.

Decent public transit works for everyone. Ottawa should have planned for a metro many years ago rather than embark on so-called "cheaper" solutions that are not nearly as environmentally and access friendly.

I agree with Jane Jacobs that amalgamation results in suburban votes having far more clout and that impact is felt on so many fronts. Winnipeg's municipal and provincial governments are constantly focused on "road improvements" while public transportation is practically ignored.
If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a tractor. -- Gilles Duceppe

lagatta

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« Reply #32 on: March 07, 2007, 12:00:33 PM »
Two-tier approaches always backfire, because the somewhat-more-affluent don't have a stake in them, while good public transport benefits everyone in urban areas.

And nowadays, with precarious work at odd hours, poorer workers need a public transport system that starts very early in the morning and runs late into the evenings at least. The days of the factory bell are long gone...

Yeah Ottawa should have had some kind of métro system years ago. It would also have helped the city's structure. With so many civil servants working and living on the Gatineau side, I'm sure there could be some kind of Ontario- Québec - NCC entente.
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

John_D

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« Reply #33 on: March 07, 2007, 12:17:46 PM »
Quote from: sparqui
The two tier approach assumes that those without cars are poor and not in need of "frequency and reliability". First of all, that is a sweeping generalization that has a tinge of bigotry against poor people.


I don't think I intended any anti-poor bigotry... I'm hardly Daddy Warbucks myself. I'm just saying that those who don't own cars use transit in a different way than those who do, and what matters to them is different. In my experience, coverage is a more important goal than frequency (although both are important) in basic transit service. We need to be sure, first and foremost, that people from every part of the city have some kind of bus service, however rudimentary. (lagatta makes an excellent point about working times, and I am definitely for running night busses. Coverage has to be both geographic and temporal.)

I am not assuming that those without cars are universally poor. It is fair and factual, however, to say that average income among those without cars is lower than it is for those who do have cars. Further, people who chose not to buy cars and rely on transit can, of course, change their minds at a later date (as Magoo was suggesting) if the service is bad enough.

As for the two-tier system leading to lack of support, that's also true. I would suggest, however, that it's already happening and is a large cause of the underfunding of current transit systems. Maybe I shouldn't have said privatization either in my post, I was just riffing off of what Magoo said. I do think there needs to be a divide between the two goals of transit as social service and transit as environmental benefit/traffic relief, as they require very different strategies to work. I'm not at all committed to the idea that one or the other has to include any private involvement, however.

It is fair to say that decent public transit makes the city better for everyone, but I don't think it's fair to suggest that decent public transit means the same thing to everyone. In the short term, those with cars have a choice that those without cars don't, so they require things of transit before they will use it that others don't. In the medium to long term, those who don't own cars but have the means to do so if they desire are in the same boat.

Debra

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« Reply #34 on: March 07, 2007, 12:27:41 PM »
If the money spent now on the infrastructure of essentially "private" roads was put into having an accessible public transit system it would need very little "new money"
“Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” —  Josephine Hart

lagatta

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« Reply #35 on: March 07, 2007, 12:32:16 PM »
I wasn't assuming any bigotry - I'm simply opposed to two-tier anything...

True, even carfree urbanites with money who don't wish to drive or can't (usually this included elderly people etc. in downtown condos) can also hire a cab when need be.

But having a real public transport system cuts down on sprawl and traffic jams...
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

sparqui

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« Reply #36 on: March 07, 2007, 12:40:38 PM »
I wasn't trying to pounce on you John :-) It's just that the approach you suggested (without the privatization aspect) reflects the thinking of what Ottawa did back in the 80-90s with their dedicated "rapid transit ways". As I mentioned, it was a short-sighted but cheaper solution to a subway system and it basically catered to bringing civil servants into the downtown core in the morning and out to the suburbs in the afternoon. Meanwhile, off-peak and outlying bus service went from bad to much worse.

Another aspect that should be considered in making public transportation decisions is the negative or positive impacts on tourism. Cities with subways are a treat to visit as are countries with decent rail options for traveling from one destination to another. Ottawa would definitely benefit from a subway on the tourism front in my view.
If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a tractor. -- Gilles Duceppe

lagatta

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« Reply #37 on: March 07, 2007, 12:51:55 PM »
Oh that is for sure. The trams in Amsterdam (and elsewhere) and the little cable cars in San Francisco are a tourist draw in themselves...

Now if only they could get the ancient piss odours out of the Paris métro. In general it is clean and goes absolutely everywhere (with a newer suburban system, the RER), but the old stations, while clean, are impregnated with whiffs of ancient urine and tobacco, on the tracks...
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

Herr Magoo

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« Reply #38 on: March 07, 2007, 01:20:57 PM »
I think that public transit may be one of the last modes of transport that doesn't have more than one tier.  Airlines, ships (back when they moved people), trains... there's always the fancy version and the "I just need to get there" version.

Now for what it's worth, making one single "first class" system for everyone would be great.  But from my point of view, the TTC isn't doing that.  

Mrs. Magoo suggested I should start a campaign called "No Better Way", for people who have... wait for it... no better way.  :)  In other words, the people for whom transit is the only realistic option besides getting up at dawn and walking.  Certainly for those of us who use transit to get to work, reliability is a must.  Getting a seat would be nice, too.  And safety shouldn't be compromised.  But at the end of the day, I don't need any complimentary bags of peanuts.  I need to get there on time, safely, and ideally, inexpensively (though I'd pay more to get more).

But how can this compete with someone who has the option of driving?  The TTC keeps hammering at how much cheaper it is, but this is really most effective at my level, not at the level of the drivers.  Anyone owning a car already knows it's expensive, and what's more, since they're paying all kinds of money to have and house their car anyway, many are probably going to want to get more out of it, rather than leaving it at home and paying for a metropass on top of everything else.  If transit is going to woo them, it's going to need to do better than to tell them that they can save a few bucks if they don't mind a major step down.

I would think that from the point of view of a driver, public transit means waiting in the cold, being habitually late, standing when you thought you'd paid for a seat, and having a driver tell you he's not going to proceed until "everyone moves to the back" (what are we?  12?) so that he can pack the car past the point of comfort, hygiene or safety.

What's the TTC doing about that?  Anything?  Just hoping some kind of perverse altruism is going to overtake suburbanites like some social epidemic?  Praying that suburbanites will wake up one day and beat their cars into plowshares because they rented "An Inconvenient Truth" from the Blockbuster at the strip mall?

Right now the TTC really does have a "two tier" system of a sort:  shitty experience, premium price.  Good luck selling that to anyone who doesn't absolutely need it.
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justme

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« Reply #39 on: March 07, 2007, 01:24:10 PM »
I think I'd be happy (for a while, anyway) just to be on a bus route.

No fucking bus where I live - it's not fair, especially since my tax $ is supporting HRM bus lines.

lagatta

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« Reply #40 on: March 07, 2007, 01:27:59 PM »
Worst of all worlds?

Many public-transport systems did have first- and second-class carriages - there is a famous Daumier print of a "third-class carriage" - but I think it was simply too much trouble to enforce compliance over such short trips. Returning to Paris, where the first-class carriages on the métro were eliminated, what, 15 years ago - those "wagons" were always targeted by graffiteurs... since their elimination, the problem has practically disappeared.

I've taken several TGVs in Europe - once I had to take first-class because there was no place in economy - the main difference, except for a tasty little lunch not worth the cost difference, was the "businesslike" calm of the carriage, and slightly bigger seats, though the regular seats are fine for most people.
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
Rosa Luxemburg

John_D

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« Reply #41 on: March 07, 2007, 08:47:02 PM »
I'm a huge fan of Bus Rapid Transit systems (we've got a great new one here in Halifax in the Metro Link, which needs to be expanded to more communities). To my mind, they do pretty much everything a streetcar, subway, or LRT can do, but with more flexibility and at a fraction of the cost. Of course, they're much more suited to a region the size of the HRM than to larger cities...

As for the impact of transit on tourism, it's secondary. I don't think many people decide to go somewhere because the subway system is great there, but it can influence an overall impression and whether you decide to make a return visit or not. The main problem with using tourism as an argument for better subways is that tourists tend to stay downtown, for the most part, so it negates the need to develop good suburban transit. At its heart, it's still about the home-work, home-school, or home-shopping commute, and those don't follow the same patterns.

Finally, Magoo's post absolutely nails the problem with the way transit is being marketed to potential new riders right now. It does tend to depend on either altruism or monetary incentives, neither of which are very effective for the target market of middle class suburbanites. If the goal is to get large numbers of those people out of cars on a regular basis, you need to make the experience more car-like. People are already voting with their dollars and actions, saying that it is worth A LOT more money to them to have the conveniences of the car - minimal time spent outside, the option of leaving home when they please, comfortable seating, not being crowded, and reliability. Any transit system that competes seriously for suburban riders has to have at least one mode that competes on those levels, and if they do they can charge a lot more than is currently charged for fares.

Mandos

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« Reply #42 on: March 07, 2007, 09:38:55 PM »
I'm a living argument for "subway=tourism".

I totally loathe bus rapid transit for anything but cities who expect to stay small, like Sasquatchatoon.  It's really a terrible idea.

Zastrozzi

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« Reply #43 on: March 07, 2007, 09:50:40 PM »
Quote from: Mandos
I'm a living argument for "subway=tourism".
You mean that when you go to different cities you travel on the subway as a way of studying those cities' transit systems? That's all well and good, but how many people like us are there, anyway?

Please promise me that when we finish building the SkyTrain line out to the airport, you'll come to Vancouver and ride the line lots and lots of times, to help make it something other than a complete economic white elephant.

I'll be there too -- I'll be the one with the sign calling for a spur line out to the ferry terminal.

Mandos

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« Reply #44 on: March 07, 2007, 10:07:25 PM »
I have, actually, spent my time inspecting the transit when visiting the city.  I tried several lines of the Madrid Metro once, just for the heck of it.  And I once rode around the TTC in the front car just to decode the signaling system without cheating and looking it up online.  Yes, I am a subway geek.

But I also do think that transit systems do bring tourists out to the further parts of the city. In cities without rapid transit, tourists really are holed up in downtown, especially if taxi fares are expensive.  Subways make it possible and economical for me to stay and/or visit parts of town that aren't near downtown.

I also inspected the O-train train maintenance yards in some detail.

 

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