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Old February 12th, 2012, 09:04 PM   #1
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The assumptions that govern how public transport companies operate

I live in a city where half the households don't own a car, and yet this is not reflected in the frequency of buses (which are often poor), the under-use of existing train infrastructure, or the urban environment of the city where pedestrian needs are usually at the bottom of the ladder in terms of priority. I accept that to improve on the first two problems will be difficult as it requires lots of money, and the planning fields and government bodies/ politicians in general are not helped by the fact that they are made up of people who bought their first car at age twenty and haven't used public transport since. But this aside, to me the poor levels of service and the way the system is operated calls into question whether public transport providers are thinking rationally.

So I wonder, what is the thinking behind the policies that make buses & trains unnatractive to potential customers. Are they built upon myths and can common sense debunk them. Here's two examples I can think of.

Myth number 1 There is little demand whatsoever for orbital bus journeys, ie. buses that connect different suburbs as opposed to just linear routes into city centres. Tied into this is the belief that having a few bus stops in an industrial estate, place of employment, supermarket (or just anywhere which is non-residential) will lead to the bus route being unprofitable.

- Myself, I can see that car drivers make orbital journeys all the time and I don't believe that people without cars have no interest in going to these destinations. Just because it's unpleasant or impossible to carry a car boot's worth of shopping with you onto the bus doesnt mean someone shouldn't be able to buy three bags of groceries in the out of town superstore and then get a bus home to their house which is located nearby. Ditto the point about not being allowed access to some of the major areas of employment. While it's obvious that industrial estates were never designed with pedestrians in mind, it is not a hard task to route buses through them if needs be, and if they're on the wrong side of a motorway with no footpath access then it should be a requirement that they do so.

Myth number 2: Co-ordination between buses & trains is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs

- Now this is an interesting one as in Ireland both North & South the bus companies & the train companies are one and the same. And yet they are run in a way where interchange is made difficult, resources are misused by having buses competing with trains that travel more or less the same route. There just doesn't seem to be the realisation (in the north at last) that few people will use their town centre train station to commute to their job in the big city if they live in an estate two miles away and

(a) there is an inadequate bus service to take them there

(b) there is no big car park at the station to accomodate the people who couldn't use the non-existent bus service that connects the trains with the town's residents.

So, anyone here who doesnt live in the bigger cities can relate to these problems. Do you think the actions of the authorities in cases like these makes sense, and can you think of other policies that turn potential customers away in droves.
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Old February 14th, 2012, 12:18 AM   #2
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Well in Manchester in respect to two there is some little integration but for each the their own timetable comes first, theres no room in a rail timetable to tweak according to local buses needs and vice versa running an efficent bus service that connects with other bus services comes first but timings can be tweaked a little. The main problem is if you synchronise then people expect that synchronisity, for example one departs 10 minutes after the previous arrives giving perfect interchange time, if a bus or train is late people expect the other to wait for the connection which is impractical from a service perspective, therefore its better not to give people that false hope.

As to myth 1, yes theres demand and that is recognised in Manchester however the demand is not sufficent to commercially operate the services when a radial hub and spoke system is much more profitable as it concentrates passenger density on routes. They were going to create an orbital network through subsidy but then the government cuts came and with 30% or more cut in budget for existing bus services there was no money to expand the subsidised network.
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