Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Datepalm

Public Transport in AMERICA

62 posts in this topic

FWIW, its 15.1 USD from Beer Sheva to Haifa for a regular ticket, (the bus would be about 9 dollars) which is about 120 miles, (and close to the longest train trip you could actually take in Israel.) Yes, incomes here are a bit lower than in the US or (north) Western Europe, but it's firmly an OECD country and cost of living on most indicators is as high.

More than the cost as such, this is a set price, regardless of whether I order it months in advance or buy it at the station five minutes before it leaves, regardless of time of day, level of demand for the train, etc. For me the application of dynamic pricing to buses and trains (the way flight prices work, which is definitely what intercity bus services in the US do, and what I think the train is doing also, aside from the faster/slower component) is just, well, kinda wrong and unfair. I don't know, I may be from an odd tiny country where it just hasn't occurred to anyone, but I apparently take my ability to walk up to a train station and buy a ticket for the very next train at a single, known-in-advance price (as I would for a city bus, say) inappropriately for granted. :dunno:

ETA: Merc Chef's comment on the NY-DC section of the trip made take a second look at the train (thank you!) and, hey, there's a Black Friday sale on! (While useful, I also find this somewhere between hilarious and insulting. A sale? For a train ticket? (also, its a confusing sale). But what next, 2 for 1 for school vaccinations? Coupons for pensions savings? Oh. Wait.)

Edited by Datepalm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well. I have never been to Israel, but after a look at Wikipedia I have to say that's closer to the transport system in a big city like London than, say, the Shinkansen. Which might explain why the pricing is more like local transport, too. Some of those trains look vaguely familiar, BTW. They're what Deutsche Bahn call regional trains. Fast trains are a lot more expensive to operate and require large investments in both trains and infrastructure, so it's natural that ticket prices are higher.

On your original post, public transport just isn't an option any more once everybody moves out of the city and into vast suburbs. It's a matter of population density. Just as cars don't work in crowded areas like the inner city of London.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Datepalm said:

OK, I wasn't aiming to start a fight...To get specific, the prices for the date I'm looking at (January 6th) range between 49 and 202 dollars for the train from Boston to New York. (it was 120 for the hour I wanted, but I could wait about 3 hours I suppose. It would mean potentially missing other things at the other end, but OK. This is hypothetical since I'll probably take the bus anyway.) 49 USD is more reasonable, though I also think is far too high a price point for both the strict service provided and for the social-economic optimum, but whatever.

Ini - What I don't entirely get, is why you're voiciferously defending this? Do you really think dynamically priced, 5-6 odd hours for 150 miles, 49 USD if you're lucky, is a reasonable level of mobility for one of the wealthiest metropolises in the world? (You could take the bus, but that offers the same issues - at times the prices are as high, and, with all my love for them, it is usually a qualitatively inferior service.)

I mean, does my expectation (rather in a spirit of mock-outrage) of transit that is reasonably priced, and more over fully useful and predictable to the passenger (see above - I could take the 49 train, but it is absolutely a lesser service for my needs than the 120 one) really seem like an outrageous thing?

I'm not going to defend America's atrocious public transportation, but January 6th is going to be an extremely popular time.  It's a Saturday, it's soon after the holiday breaks when students and families are returning to school or their homes.  That's a day I wouldn't even want to be on the roads because they'll be so heavily trafficked so it might explain high prices. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Europe, the prices are not always the same either. There are options that a train ticket is cheaper if you buy it X days in advance for a set train; there are regular customer bonuses ... I do not think any of these depend on the demand, though. The bus prices sometimes do though. I took a journey with Flixbus a few months ago and it offered me different prices for the same distance at different hours, which I can only explain by the fact that there was different demand for different hours. Maybe only some companies do that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

to Loge...took me a while to write the post, I got distracted looking for accessible demand forecasting for the NE corridor...

No, really? Wow, I never thought of it that way!

I mean, I started the thread just to vent a little at what I saw as an unreasonably complicated inefficient service I was startled by, and, seriously, see if anyone has any tips since this is an un-straightforward system and I figured local knowledge might be beneficial.

I did not necessarily forseee that the assumption that this is indeed unreasonably inefficient would need much justifying, given that Boston and DC form the two ends of the so called "Northeast Megalopolis", which holds about 50 million people, almost 20 percent of the US GDP, and no national borders, currency changes, separate regulatory environments or other barriers to the movement of goods, capital and persons. The population density is three times that of, say, Belgium. Or Japan. In other words, it does just fine for meeting travel demand requirements for transit. We're talking inter-city, metropolitan heavy rail/high-capacity bus here, not a poor local bus that's bumbling tragically through the badlands of the suburban cul-de-sac landscape. It's a policy choice to favour car users (to an extent, as these are not, by and large, car-distances) and more broadly just not give a fuck about a crucial public service and make almost everyone's lives fractionally more miserable. (For example, in relevant baby steps, issuing competitive tenders including minimum service quality regulations and set fares for intercity services.)

ETA - Jan 6th doesn't seem to be exceptionally bad, actually. The 49 price seems to just be the Amtrack base, and buses are all over the place (from one 5 dollar megabus sale to 50).

ETA 2 - Flixbus is a kind of "Uber of buses" - it has contracts with smaller operators that it kind of franchises (centralized ticketing, colors, some quality standards) and doesn't own its own buses. And it definitely uses dynamic pricing and things like 1 Euro promotions, ala Ryanair (as well as probably practicing 'route swamping', where it will agressively underprice a route to capture passengers and drive competitors out.) I don't know if Megabus in the US is using the same model, or what level of regulation its under. 

Edited by Datepalm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, Buckwheat said:

In Europe, the prices are not always the same either. There are options that a train ticket is cheaper if you buy it X days in advance for a set train; there are regular customer bonuses ... I do not think any of these depend on the demand, though. The bus prices sometimes do though. I took a journey with Flixbus a few months ago and it offered me different prices for the same distance at different hours, which I can only explain by the fact that there was different demand for different hours. Maybe only some companies do that.

Depends. In the Netherlands there are fixed prized for routes, only with discount cards. Although the railway company has been pushing for dynamic pricing, there is still opposition (partly because it would hurt people who need to travel at rush hour). Of course this is still a tiny and densely populated country.

International travel though (for me mostly to Berlin) is bloody irritating with its dynamic prices, even when avoiding the ICE.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Datepalm said:

Who on earth pays 100$ for a Boston-NY train trip? There can't possibly be an adequate demand for this.

Oh, but there is. Few people pay it out of pocket, but there are a lot of people traveling been those two cities who get reimbursed by their corporation or university. I've done it myself a few times. Also, as people have pointed out, you can get cheaper train tickets -- if you didn't want the peak times, it was around $60.

I went back and forth between Boston and New York when I was in college and there were a few options. By far the cheapest public one is the bus: without sales, it was an average of around $20 one way and has actually gotten cheaper since there are more bus companies. It takes around 4.5 hours which is not too different from the time it takes to drive. If there is no traffic and you're willing to ignore the speed limits, you can maybe do it in 3.5, but this is rare (and between gas and tolls, it will cost you pretty much the same $20). The Acela likewise takes 3.5, the regional train takes around 4, but they're significantly more expensive -- $40-150 depending on the time of day and such. Finally, you can actually fly for what used to be only $100 but what Google currently tells me is around $120 -- this takes less than 1.5 hours, but of course there's the usual extra airport time.

I think Boston and New York, New York and DC and the rest of the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis are actually reasonably well connected. The problem is that this is basically as good as public transportation in the US gets. Even large cities don't always have a local system worth mentioning and most suburban areas practically require one car per independent individual. Furthermore, even when the system looks good on paper, it is often crippled by design and execution issues (modern New York City is a good example of this).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Local transit in the US also suffers from suburban NIMBYism. Baltimore City was originally supposed to have a metro similar to DC's; it was attacked by suburbanites who viewed transit as bringing crime, and was eventually cancelled.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think my outrage of this morning wasn't so much at prices - connecting through New York with megabus and greyhound, Boston-DC is doable for 15 dollars. Even I won't claim that this is unreasonable. It's the jump-through-hoops quality of it all. If you find this sale on that site from this operator and get it on this day (and that sale from that site on that day...) and are willing to make that connection and wait this bunch of time, ok, great. Or maybe one or more of this doesn't work for you, or you're just not willing to twist your life around the time of a bus, well, its fine if you can afford it. Yay, capitalism. I find it deeply annoying to shop for what I see as a basic service - local metropolitan travel - the way I shop for flights, for some reason.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Loge said:

On your original post, public transport just isn't an option any more once everybody moves out of the city and into vast suburbs. It's a matter of population density. Just as cars don't work in crowded areas like the inner city of London.  


I don't think there's anything about suburbs that inherently makes public transport 'not an option'. The surrounds of London have great public transport.*


*eta: Okay, 'great' may be overstating the case, but I never had any real problem with it.

Edited by polishgenius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As much as I criticize American aversion to travel infrastructure and the primacy of the personal automobile, this feels like a contrived grievance.  It is impossible for America to have anything comparable to Europe's inter-city rail because the cities are so far apart.  Boston and NY are reasonably close but there's little value in developing their rail link if it's not part of a viable network between all the major cities -- and distance means that network, which does exist at taxpayer subsidy, just isn't viable.  The inter-city rail network will never reach critical mass usage, so it remains an underdeveloped and oversubsized boondoggle for rail enthusiasts.  The only real use for the national inter-city rail network is freight haulage. 

Intracity mass transit is generally abysmal but that is a very different problem.  Chicago is actually pretty good with a suburban rail network and an urban "subway" (mostly above ground).  If anyone has been following the travails of the NY subway and suburban rail system in recent years, the principal problem is corruption and mismanagement in transit authorities.  Transit projects, e.g. Boston's Big Dig and Seattle's waterfront tunnel, are ruinously expensive, to the point of parody, because public projects become cesspits of graft by political appointees and unions.  

The NE corridor from Boston to DC (via Rhode Island, Hartford, NY, Newark and Philadelphia) is the only semi-viable rail corridor in the US, and most of those cities are short driving distance for bus or personal car, and the further ones are better suited to low cost flights.  Even within that corridor the "high speed" Acela service is crippled by low quality track and rights of way because the track ownership -- primarily Amtrak, occasionally freight -- does not prioritize high speed.  Political turf wars by opaque and unaccountable transit authorities stymie any cooperation or development. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, polishgenius said:



But Datepalm specified a train trip between NY and Boston and while 150 miles is still quite far, 100 dollars for that is absurdly expensive. London to Manchester- a roughly equivalent journey in the UK- costs just shy of 30 quid, or roughly 40 dollars. My regular return trips from university in Middlesbrough- about 200 miles from home- would cost 100 pounds return. Berlin to Hamburg- also about 150 miles- costs 45 Euros, roughly 50 dollars (I'm quite surprised that such a journey costs less in the UK than Germany actually).
In other words, 100 dollars for the specified trip is a lot.

Boro has a university?

i don't think this sounds that expensive, London to Newcastle is about £140 and around 300 miles. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, BigFatCoward said:

Boro has a university?

i don't think this sounds that expensive, London to Newcastle is about £140 and around 300 miles. 



The University of Teesside is based in Boro.

London to Newcastle is 140 if you book the day before. According to The Trainline booking a ticket for Monday, now, would set you back 70-80, and (I am sorry to say that we do do the good old 'plan your journey carefuly or you could get fucked over' system that Datepalm hates) a weeks noticed gets you the base price of £65.

Edited by polishgenius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't wait until Datepalm discovers the state of the subway system in our august capital. :excl:

Edited by All-for-Joffrey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Trains in England for example may be more reasonably-priced but I see so many folks I know on social media complaining about lateness and cancellation. Doesn't seem Utopian to me.

Dynamic fares are based on demand and it kind of makes sense. 5-9am trains and 3-7pm trains are high demand in the NE corridor during the week because of the insane number of people who commute between NY and DC and probably to a lesser extent Boston each day. There's also the international factor such a conferences and tourism and the sheer number of people traveling this corridor by all available transit each and everyday. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly - it should be good! I know this is backwards logic these days - if something is used by many people with high frequency, clearly, we can just allow it to be crap. It's generally easier to make a service there's a lot of demand for efficient and cost-effective, but it certainly requires more forethought, coherent policy and investment than, I dunno, letting Uber/low-regulation busses do whatever they want and crossing ones fingers. Doesn't mean its not worth complaining about, and I still found myself vastly annoyed at trying to navigate it this morning, as I'm used to far more centralized and efficient systems (and god knows there's plenty to complain about in transport here, but I'm actually bathed in a warm glow of gratitude and tolerance towards my intercity services at the moment.) (I'm also all but certain that the distances and demand levels of the Bos-Wash corridor are optimized, from purely quantitative point of view, by high-speed rail, but at the rate things are going, that's something on a 50-100 year timeline, I think.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

American capitalism is responsible for the sorry state of public transportation in the US.  There's more money to be made selling cars, and good public transit would cut into profits.  Besides, those who can afford cars, see them as a sign that they are superior to those who use public transport.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is inter-city rail in Europe publicly- or privately-owned/administered?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All sorts. Off the top of my head, a lot might be fully public, though private operators run services on public owned track. (Or both.I seem to recall Germany is messing around with allowing multiple operators to run on single routes, which is unusual and historically has led to bad results and reduced services down the line with buses (where market entry is easier) at least, but maybe they know what they're doing. Found it! https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/12/locomore-germany-crowdfunded-train/510752/)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I ask because all the long-range stuff is privatized here, although some are publicly subsidized (e.g. Amtrak). If you want to tell me that privatized transit sucks and we should nationalize it, well, you won't have to argue real hard to convince me. Then again, the NYC subway is now having funding and corruption problems, and the DC metro has been having serious issues for years, so maybe that's not the solution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0