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Datepalm

Public Transport in AMERICA

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The way most places do it is via a mixed method where private operators vie for set public contracts - like most infrastructure. So the public authority sets the routing, capacity, level of service, price point to the consumer, etc it wants (some flexibility on this, obviously, as well as a variety of financial arrangements - is there a subsidy? who gets the fares? What level of protection against competition is there?) and then the market can do its thing and see who is able to provide this at the best cost to the public purse. A more widely discredited approach is of competition at the 'curb' level, basically where different operators try to each get more passengers - generally leading to a lot of inefficiency through to total catastrophe. 

What appears to be happening here is somehow the worst of both worlds - you have de-regulated free curbside competition (which seems to be in the early honeymoon phase of increased services before it hits the drop as monopolies emerge and marginal services are gutted, which is why I can find a 5 dollar fare, but, based on past evidence, won't be able to in ten years) AND inefficient un-competitive publicly operated/subsidized monopolies. Dunno what to tell you.

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7 hours ago, Datepalm said:

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. 

Stagecoach, the Scottish company who run Megabus in the UK and US, did have a reputation for route swamping and other shenanigans to gain market share in Britain. I don't have any experience of the US version, but the original British Megabus definitely felt like an attempt to transplant the Easyjet/Ryanair budget transportation model to intercity buses.

3 hours ago, Inigima said:

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

In Britain the company that looks after the tracks is publicly owned (it was originally privatised but this did not go well) but the train operators are privately owned.

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12 hours ago, Datepalm said:

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/)

Well, the original Locomore didn't last long. The service is now run by Leo Express (a Czech railway operator) and Flixbus.

EU regulations require that the railway network be open to competing operators, but I don't see much competition in inter-city passenger transport. The Locomore example shows that it's technically possible, but it doesn't seem economically viable. In Germany, there is competition for the concessions for regional trains, but that doesn't mean there are competing operators on the same line. The only are where competition seems to work is cargo.  

Edited by Loge

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To respond to the OP, I've a few thoughts:

Public transport generally follows the same pattern within Western Societies. It is originally made as a means of cheap transport for everyone. Over time, though, various blocks are put in place as part of the by-products of society that make its cost creep up.

Firstly, there is usually pressure on the system to make money. Even when the system is still state-owned, there is an expectation that infrastructure cannot be too expensive. The overwhelming majority of infrastructure was made at a time when tax rates were much higher, allowing governments to build far more of it at the same time. With lower taxes, the costs must be recouped in other ways, like tolls or increased tickets.

As well as this, living near public transport is preferable as it increases mobility for a family unit, especially one with children who cannot drive yet. This increases the costs of nearby housing. Those who cannot afford to live in such areas are more dependent on cars, putting pressure onto their roads, and this usually means that they favour political parties who are willing to extend access to such roads. After all, what's another train service when they live nowhere near a train?

Finally, there is a problem of population increasing faster than capacity can cope with. Extending roads doesn't reduce the number of cars on a road, for instance. A train might take cars off roads, which alleviates pressure, but there is no way as many can be built as are needed. Numbers always look so small when a report says, "Population is increasing by 2% per year..." but that 2% is a massive number when a city has millions of people in it. That's a lot of extra vehicles that must use the same physical area of space.

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22 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

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. 

Have you heard of Trans-Siberian railway? :P 

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On 11/27/2017 at 3:24 AM, baxus said:

Have you heard of Trans-Siberian railway? :P 

I'd go a step further and dispute that the USA's cities are any further apart than any other major geographic region.

Here's a map of the population densities of the world:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/49/World_population_density_1994_-_with_equator.png/450px-World_population_density_1994_-_with_equator.png

The important thing to keep in mind: Europe's continental railways were built at a time when there density was less packed than what the USA already looks like now. The importance of infrastructure is that it needs to be built for tomorrow, not yesterday.

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38 minutes ago, Yukle said:

I'd go a step further and dispute that the USA's cities are any further apart than any other major geographic region.

Here's a map of the population densities of the world:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/49/World_population_density_1994_-_with_equator.png/450px-World_population_density_1994_-_with_equator.png

The important thing to keep in mind: Europe's continental railways were built at a time when there density was less packed than what the USA already looks like now. The importance of infrastructure is that it needs to be built for tomorrow, not yesterday.

Are we looking at the same map?  The US has much lower density than anywhere that has a critical mass rail network, e.g. western Europe, East Asia, South Asia.  Lots of other places have density as low or lower than the US, but they generally don't have critical mass rail networks either.  High density and high construction costs are workable, low density and low construction costs may even be workable, but low density and high construction costs will require a lot of subsidy.

Europe's rail network may have been built when density was lower but it was also before there was any competition from airplanes or automobiles.  The only other alternative for land transport at the time was horses: carriage or canal barge.  America built a rail network at the same time for the same reason.  But as automobiles and airplanes became available, and especially as the modern highway system was built, the inter-city rail network could not sustain critical mass.  Cars or buses were better for short distances and airplanes better for long distances.  Once the critical mass faded, it wasn't worth the subsidy cost to invest in infrastructure that would make rail competitive again and so it lost further ground.

I've traveled on Amtrak several times just to avoid the dead time of airports, airplanes and driving because I can work online throughout a rail trip -- NYC-Philadelphia, Chicago-Milwaukee and occasionally NYC-Boston are all in the worthwhile mid range sweet spot -- but even with my preference for rail it doesn't make sense beyond those limited routes.

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Yea when I lived in DC it was nice to have the rail option to go to New York.  I definitely prefer it to flying, driving, or the bus.  The airport sucks and is not really saving you any time between cities in the NE corridor because of the hassle it entails, driving sucks because the parking situation is something you don't want to have to deal with, and the bus just sucks in general (though it is the cheapest option). 

For wider travel in the US though, rail is really not a good option.  You can take a train most places but it's rarely the best method of travel outside of major urban corridors.  

Personally, for business travel to any area of the US that is not limited to ONLY a few blocks around the core urban center of a major city (DC, NYC, Boston, Chicago, SF, etc) I'm definitely renting a car.  And I even will rent one in those larger cities sometimes too.  LA, San Diego, any of the cities in Texas or Florida, I will probably want my own wheels regardless of where I'll be staying.   Due to my innate American-ness I like to rent cars in foreign countries too... sometimes.  I'll use the rail systems and public transport in the big cities, but at some point I like to have my own car or bike for at least a few days and go places where the train can't go.  In the US though, the rental car is more because it is often the most practical choice rater than because I just feel like going wherever I want.

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28 minutes ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Are we looking at the same map?  The US has much lower density than anywhere that has a critical mass rail network, e.g. western Europe, East Asia, South Asia. 

Here's one that better illustrates what I mean:

https://citygeographics.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/unwcp_largest20301.png

The distances between major urban hubs are more or less the same in the USA as they are in other areas of the world, except Australia and Africa (which are much more spread out).

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3 hours ago, Yukle said:

Here's one that better illustrates what I mean:

https://citygeographics.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/unwcp_largest20301.png

The distances between major urban hubs are more or less the same in the USA as they are in other areas of the world, except Australia and Africa (which are much more spread out).

That's because around the world, the fundamental constraint on distance between cities prior to refrigeration was the distance that could be traveled with a livestock drawn cart in a day. In other words, the agricultural belt around cities that fed the cities (carrying capacity) absent refrigeration or faster transit was always the same distance, roughly.

You can see the settlement pattern change due to new technology like rail when looking at the United States map. The states being settled before rail (Illinois, for example) have common distance between cities as the states developed a hundred years prior, the states being settled on the cusp of rail (Missouri) have slightly more stretched settlement patterns, and after rail, states had very spread out settlement patterns (all the western states) which is why Wyoming and Montana have so few people, they were never settled in a normal human pattern, but were settled in an unnatural technology dependent pattern that negatively reinforced itself over the following century resulting in a perpetuation of their low density status.

Los Angeles sprawl is also technology caused. Because it was built after rail, Los Angeles in much the footprint it has today was built from the ground up around the worlds largest and most comprehensive rail network (courtesy of Huntington et al). This allowed in the 1920s people living 20-40 miles away from the city center to commute there every day for work, while they rode the train as it zoomed through the farming communities in between the residential areas and the urban core. The introduction of refrigeration meant that all those supportive farms supporting Los Angeles no longer had much relevance and urban infill quickly redeveloped the farms into residential areas. So the sprawl filled in and became congestion. Once automobiles became cheap, they out competed the rail network they shared streets with, since rail cars broke down frequently and became increasingly unreliable in their third and fourth decade of service the public quickly began to hate all the service disruptions and eventually agitated to remove most all of the rail transit.

 

 

Edited by lokisnow

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The comments about the corruption in the NYC transportation system has amused me somewhat, because NYC has just stolen away the head of the TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission, who just announced he's leaving on a few weeks notice. He's done a lot of good for Toronto, and I guess the challenge of NYC is something he's looking forward to, and I imagine the bucks are huge. But part of me hopes he has an absolutely miserable time.....

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On 11/25/2017 at 0:50 PM, All-for-Joffrey said:

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

lol, buddy, she said shes going to d.c. from boston... the metro's gonna seem like a dream after the t ;) 

(p.s. @Datepalm its not really that hard getting around boston unless you're driving, but if you have any question or need any help/suggestions from a local, feel free to pm me)

Edited by r'hllor's redrum lobster

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Way back in the glorious halcyon days of the Great Recession, californias legislature voted to ask for a couple billion in stimulus funds for regional and commuter rail projects. Banal stuff like grade separations for dangerous intersections, double tracking where there is available right of way, more sidings where there isn't room for continuous double track, Electrifying heavily utilized corridors, replacing aging Diesel engines with cleaner greener alternatives, and some general repairs. Would have been state wide and made huge improvements for regional rail systems. Just a win win from a policy standpoint a really great ask, they would have started work on some of it relatively right away because many are projects studied but unfunded.

governor Schwarzenegger vetoed that proposal because he wanted to bid for the high speed rail money being bandied about and he felt if California asked for general stimulus rail funds and hsr rail funds they would get neither or miss out on the hsr honeypot because all the other states would get it instead.

(unrelated CA hsr authority successfully spent the last of the 2.2 billion in stimulus funds they received last month, with forty km of railway under construction at about fifteen different sites there's about two thousand construction workers working on it daily, when construction package two and three begin simultaneous  heavy construction next year on the next batch of rail there should be around five thousand plus construction workers on the project daily).

In any event, the point of this post is that now Los Angeles regional commuter rail, metrolink, of which there are several hundred km of track across a half dozen lines with about fifty thousand daily riders (really pathetic). Metrolink is now hoping to once again finally address some of the problems Listed in the first paragraph (though they have already replaced a lot of diesel rolling stock with less terrible diesel rolling stock).

thats right! Some modest double tracking goals . Some modest electrification goals ! Progress right?

not really, they're being forced to do these by future interlining with hsr for a few select areas of track (also true of the SF peninsula and they started on this years ago.)

and they're planning on building an "express!(!)" track on one east west line rather than double tracking the line. Cool right? 

Nope. It is exactly the wrong thing to do. They are building an express to bypass forty km of track where there are a total of four stops! Pretty sure by every European standard a stop every ten km is already an express right?

Heres alon with more details:

https://urbanize.la/post/metrolink-plans-increased-service-and-partial-electrification

 

Edited by lokisnow

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Public transit in New York is an abomination. I can't imagine the guy who took over the MTA having any measure of success, it's been left to deteriorate for way too long to the point where entire routes or stations have to be taken out of service for extended periods of time.

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1 hour ago, Arch-MaesterPhilip said:

Public transit in New York is an abomination. I can't imagine the guy who took over the MTA having any measure of success, it's been left to deteriorate for way too long to the point where entire routes or stations have to be taken out of service for extended periods of time.

The new guy came from Toronto. He had to deal with crackhead  Rob Ford as his boss. He may surprise you.

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12 minutes ago, maarsen said:

The new guy came from Toronto. He had to deal with crackhead  Rob Ford as his boss. He may surprise you.

Short of shutting service overnight I just can't see anything getting done beyond the usual raise fares, cut service and tell people to wake up earlier.  

I'd almost prefer someone under the influence of crack than the bureaucratic nightmare that is the MTA.  

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1 hour ago, Arch-MaesterPhilip said:

Public transit in New York is an abomination. I can't imagine the guy who took over the MTA having any measure of success, it's been left to deteriorate for way too long to the point where entire routes or stations have to be taken out of service for extended periods of time.

 Welcome to DC. WMATA is the worst.

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39 minutes ago, kairparavel said:

 Welcome to DC. WMATA is the worst.

A buddy of mine works down in DC and he's told me the same thing. It's just hard to believe.

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I wish we had more a extensive subway system in Toronto, but apparently the soil / bedrock is swiss cheese with underground ravines, so it is impractical in most places.

Edited by SpaceChampion

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On 09/01/2018 at 10:58 AM, Arch-MaesterPhilip said:

Public transit in New York is an abomination. I can't imagine the guy who took over the MTA having any measure of success, it's been left to deteriorate for way too long to the point where entire routes or stations have to be taken out of service for extended periods of time.

I think he has a good a shot as any. When Byford was brought on to Toronto, our system was not as bad as yours but it certainly wasn't running great. He also had a very hostile government to deal with. In the time he's been here, we haven't got a perfect system, but it has certainly improved a lot. 

Mostof all, I think that he really improved working relationships both within the Byzantine TTC and between the TTC and th city government. It is pretty impressive  considering that he was a complete outsider (came to Toronto via Australia). That experience should really help him in NYC.

And what hasn't improved and is causing the big crisis isn't really his fault anyway (Bombardier being late on streetcar deliveries).

Edited by Lord of Oop North

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