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Old November 25th, 2010, 11:42 PM   #1941
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non-sense. If you leave rail service only to private operators then it won't be reliable enough to be used as ones main transportation method, like it can be done in Europe. This basically equates to saying that having a car is completely mandatory and that trains are relegated to only a couple of routes used sporadically.
Air travel handle millions of passengers per day, worldwide, having to manage linguistic, political and technical issues. Most airlines are private, and those who are not, mostly act as private entities with State-backed funding.

You need to think outside the box. Freight in Europe has been privatized and segregated and it's been a huge success. USA, where freight transports 42% of tonXmiles, never had relevant public railway companies (don't call Amtrak relevant, please, their market share is laughable and keeping a weekly train on long-distance routes makes them, for most of their network, a touristic operator).
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:09 AM   #1942
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Just wondering but aren't airports built by the government? Or are they built by the airline industry?

What about Railways throughout the world, how many have been built by the government vs private companies?

I think the governments rule is building infrustruction like highways, Railways and airports and then letting private companies build and run cars,trains, and planes.

If that is what you are saying then I think I agree.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 08:23 AM   #1943
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Certain heavy posters on this thread (ha-hem) have no grasp of economic realities.

K_, what does Swiss schedule coordination look like? There is a coordination of a sense between SEPTA and NJ Transit at Trenton, in which passengers can use cross-platform transfers to save money on a train ride to New York. (Of course, it still takes just as long as using Greyhound from Center City to Midtown Manhattan.)

The electric economy is coming--and fast! Suburbanist is right about electric cars coming faster than we may think, but at the same time this brings up the issue of the U.S. electrical system, which is only maintained for current peak demand spikes, and not future ones. During peak times, you can get situations like squirrels gnawing through the wires and knocking out power to half the Northeast.

Railroad electric grids, OTOH, are separated from the consumer grid. Even when your lights go out and your Leaf fails to charge, the train keeps running. This is an implicit benefit electric trains enjoy over electric vehicles.

What is going to happen in the next decade? The dominant demographic trend among the 18-35 year-olds in the United States is of reurbanization. This cannot be ignored. Electric (either plug-in battery or hydrogen-fueled) vehicles are going to become an important sector of the automotive industry--however, their attempt at ubiquity is going to be constrained by an underinvested-in electrical infrastructure. Until the electrical infrastructure of the United States is modernized, it will be impossible for electric vehicles to become the dominant demand share. This modernization will have to be a modernization of both the power stations and the grid; power stations will need to be, by and large, sustainable and "sustainable" technologies such as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, clean coal, and nuclear fission. Incentives for at-home power generation (solar roofs, rooftop turbines sort of thing) will have to be greatly increased. To cope with the demands of out new electric economy, I think it might be likely that, before autos like the Volt and Leaf can claim mode-share, the electrical capacity of the United States has to at least double current capacity.

So, the technocratic claim (which is never explicit, but always implicit) that there can be a 1-to-1 correlation between the modern oil-based technology and economy and the electric-based one that will be increasingly in use a decade from now is, at the very best, deeply suspect. It will take time and a lot of energy and both public and private monies before the general electrical production-and-distribution system--the "grid"--is anywhere near able to handle modal dominance of electric personal vehicles. But oil prices, and concomitantly, gas prices, wait for no man; current technologies, dependent as they are on internal combustion, will be increasingly out of reach even before grid investment makes buying into the electric economy affordable, for most of us.

Perhaps Chance the Gardener put it best: "The winter is the time of preparing for spring". Between about 2015 and 2025, roughly, there will be the era of transition, when current technologies will no longer be inexpensive enough to allow internal-combustion based mobility, and the grid will be unable to take electric automobilization at a 1-to-1 technical replacement. What do you think will happen during this era of transition? Well, with automobility become unaffordable two (!) ways, mode share of public transit and bicycling will explode exponentially--it'll be like 2007 on steroids! If a public transit operator fails to recover operating expenses in that sort of climate (unlike the current climate where operators have to fight systemic auto bias) the operation must be very badly run indeed!

Between the cultural shifts this shift in what it means to be mobile necessitate, and the pro-urban-policy political shift that will be the natural consequence of an increasingly urban-conscious and urban-aware body politic entering formal politics, a resurgence in progressivism, borne by the climacteric of the Era of Transition and the demographic reurbanization of America, can be tentatively predicted to occur within the next 15-20 years.

What does this all have to do with the distribution of the transit pie? you may ask. Well, to put it bluntly, there is a systemic bias towards automobility in the American political institution. Ray LaHood is at the (hopeful) vanguard of an effort to unslant the playing field. This systemic bias, coupled with Baby Boomer political shortsightedness (most egregiously manifested in the quote-unquote "Tea Party"), has made it nigh-impossible for our country to invest in the infrastructure it'll take to ride the Era of Transition without encountering damaging economic bumps along the way. The realization that the limitations of the current system were the cause of these hiccups--especially when contrasted with Europe, which will ride out the transition much better--is going to be the driver of a new economic system: namely, one that devotes approximately 45% of Federal monies to roadway spending, 45% to passenger rail spending, and 10% to other projects, most notably bicycle-infrastructure spending (you can create adequate bike transportation for a lot less money than the two "heavier" modes, and the biggest bike-infrastructure projects will likely draw on both transit and parks sources) and continuing aviation maintenance (long-distance air travel must remain a viable transportation option all terms)--a vast turnaround from the current system where 90% of all monies goes to roads and the other three modes fight for the rest of the pie. Roads in the U.S. are quite literally paved with excess pork, like overengineered paved country lanes*, yet are undermaintained, so we don't have what we need to show for it.

Of course, I'm no expert on these things...all I can do is look at them intelligently, and make an effort at reading the tea leaves...
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It is my contention, however, that what Sonoma County did will set a precedent for American rural roadway maintenance. Drawn from 1920s mores, we think paving every road is a good thing; however, the reality more often than not is that paving roads that don't even meet a minimum daily traffic count (except for state highways, U.S. highways, and Interstates) presents far too high an investment in the roadway to make sense with current engineering standards.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 10:05 AM   #1944
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non-sense. If you leave rail service only to private operators then it won't be reliable enough to be used as ones main transportation method, like it can be done in Europe.
In Japan rail service is largely given to private operators. And it's reliable and efficient. Also in Europe and the US private operators were once signficant. The US had a good, privately operated passenger rail system once, and so did the UK.

I do think that, given the right incentives, private operators will outperform public ones.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 11:21 AM   #1945
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In Japan rail service is largely given to private operators. And it's reliable and efficient.
Japan is a big exception and also consider that it is very dense, very rich and collectively oriented country (as opposed to individualism like in the USA). In the vast majority of countries which have private run rail it is an unmitigated disaster. Privitizing simply destroyed the rail services. See Brazil and Argentina for example. After privitizing they killed 99% of the train routes in Brazil. And even in the USA rail only survives because it is run by the government.

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I do think that, given the right incentives, private operators will outperform public ones.
Which incentives exactly? Anyway, this is pure speculation, because I am yet to see an example excluding Japan that this actually works.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 11:36 AM   #1946
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You need to think outside the box.
So do you actually think that privitizing all train operations in Europe for example would really help the users? Do you think new reliable operators would appear and stick and maintain schedules stable for decades? Remember that many people use rail to get to work for example. Here is Poland nearly all major factories (new ones included) are built near train stations so that people can easily commute to work. If the rail schedule keeps changing all the time it is simple unreliable and cannot be used for commuting, then it looses passengers until it closes operations.

Any success cases for privitizing passenger train operations and allowing the free market to reign?

Air companies have sucess because:

1> There is no other competition for the distances they serve
2> Because they extract money from second-tier airports subdized by the government, which is an subdize to their operations

With no competition (from other modes of transport) and subdizes it is very easy for a mode of transport to be sucessful. When there is competition, for example from HSR, the air service usually just dies.

It's not a matter of thinking outside of the box, it's just what previous experience shows. See how free Market really helped the brazilian railway system. There is no rail service even between Sao Paulo and Campinas, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, etc.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 11:51 AM   #1947
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Freight in Europe has been privatized and segregated and it's been a huge success.
Freight is completely different. Companies can make contracts if they needs stability of the service and hire people to look all day for the best trainsport possibilities.

If rail companies started using the same tactics as air companies for ticket pricing it would be a disaster. While it is feasable (but annoying) to loose 1 day looking for the cheapest flight and plan ahead even 3 months earlier plane trips, because I fly only about twice a year, it wouldn't be fun at all to loose 1 day looking for the best train ticket for every single weekend trip that I do and being forced to plan months ahead every weekend trip. It would simply be unusable.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 12:04 PM   #1948
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Japan is a big exception and also consider that it is very dense, very rich and collectively oriented country (as opposed to individualism like in the USA). In the vast majority of countries which have private run rail it is an unmitigated disaster.
I wouldn't say it's an unmitigated disaster. Rather on the contrary. Almost all countries I know of the rail network got reduced quite significantly _after_ nationalisation.

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Privitizing simply destroyed the rail services. See Brazil and Argentina for example. After privitizing they killed 99% of the train routes in Brazil.
Do you think these routes would have survived if they had remained in government ownership? The state can't afford to pour unlimited amounts of money in to something either. The simple fact remains that you can't run an operation that spends more money than it receives for ever. Even if you are the government.

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And even in the USA rail only survives because it is run by the government.
The first thing Amtrak did when it took over from the private railways was close half the lines...

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Which incentives exactly? Anyway, this is pure speculation, because I am yet to see an example excluding Japan that this actually works.
One excample are all the small private operators in Germany, that have succesfully revitalized many regional railway lines. The incentive here came from government subsidies, however by contracting the services out to private companies the governments manage to get better service for a lower price tag. Similar things are happening in other countries, with similar results.
The other example is the UK. Although the privatisation has not been the success it's proponents predicted, it hasn't been a failure either.
There is even a lot to learn from it. For example: give a company a long enough franchise and they suddenly start working on reopening lines and re¨introducing services.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 12:29 PM   #1949
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Amtrak removed alot of Trackage against the states wishes , affecting alot of restoration projects in the 90s here in the Northeast. To be honest state agencies do a way better job then Amtrak every has....
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Old November 26th, 2010, 01:09 PM   #1950
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I wouldn't say it's an unmitigated disaster. Rather on the contrary. Almost all countries I know of the rail network got reduced quite significantly _after_ nationalisation.
So do you think they would have fared better if they remained private?

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Do you think these routes would have survived if they had remained in government ownership? The state can't afford to pour unlimited amounts of money in to something either.
Yes, they would have survived and now that the economy and government finances are better the government would be able to invest and increase the service quality and with it ridership.

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The simple fact remains that you can't run an operation that spends more money than it receives for ever. Even if you are the government.
Public hospitals and schools cost nothing in Brasil, therefore they have no operational income and operate on high deficits. Should they be closed?

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One excample are all the small private operators in Germany, that have succesfully revitalized many regional railway lines. The incentive here came from government subsidies, however by contracting the services out to private companies the governments manage to get better service for a lower price tag.
That's not really free market like suburbanist proposes, is it?

I still don't think this is stable. And what if a free-marketer gets allected and closes all routes in this region?
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Old November 26th, 2010, 01:14 PM   #1951
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So do you actually think that privitizing all train operations in Europe for example would really help the users? Do you think new reliable operators would appear and stick and maintain schedules stable for decades?
Actually "reliably maintaining stable schedules" is the only way you'd ever manage to turn a profit as a private operator. One of the problems with the railway privatisation in the UK is that the franchises were to short. You need to give the companies an incentive to provide a service that will attract new residents (ie. customers) to areas near their stations. 20 years would be the minimum for a workable private concession.

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It's not a matter of thinking outside of the box, it's just what previous experience shows. See how free Market really helped the brazilian railway system. There is no rail service even between Sao Paulo and Campinas, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, etc.
When there still was rail service between these towns it was hardly used and bus companies provided a more comfortable, faster and cheaper service than the railways did. Most of those trains ran at a horrible loss that the government couldn't afford to compensate for anymore.
And Brazil has been investing in roads mostly the last half century. That Brazil has become very good at bus rapid tranit is not a coīncidence.
Reliable and comfortable intercity rail travel comes at a price. Rail is actually public transit for the middle classes. You need a big enough middle class to be able to afford it as a country. Now that the population of Brazil is getting richer you can expect passenger rail to
return.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 01:26 PM   #1952
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When there still was rail service between these towns it was hardly used and bus companies provided a more comfortable, faster and cheaper service than the railways did.
Wrong, the buses were always more expensive, although they were faster.

But now with the hugh trafic jams caused by abandoning rail the situation is very different. You take 2 to 3 hours between Sao Paulo and Campinas on a bus, for just 80km!!! Its really hard to get slower then that.

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Most of those trains ran at a horrible loss that the government couldn't afford to compensate for anymore.
I doubt it was a horrible loss with so few trains per day, it is matematically impossible.

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And Brazil has been investing in roads mostly the last half century.
Should have invested in railways too, not only roads forgetting the rest.

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That Brazil has become very good at bus rapid tranit is not a coīncidence.
I don't think it is good at all compared to european public transport. But in the few routes with bus lanes transport really is a lot better then in the routes without bus lanes (the vast majority).

Last edited by sekelsenmat; November 26th, 2010 at 01:32 PM.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 04:51 PM   #1953
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Wrong, the buses were always more expensive, although they were faster.
Which make me suspect that the trains were priced low enough to still attract some passengers, despite the lower quality. This is not sustainable in the long term, regardles wether a private or government owned company runs the service.
The government doesn't have unlimited funds to spend on nice to have things, and what it spends on one thing it can't spend on another.

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But now with the hugh trafic jams caused by abandoning rail the situation is very different. You take 2 to 3 hours between Sao Paulo and Campinas on a bus, for just 80km!!! Its really hard to get slower then that.
How fast were the trains when they were still running?

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I doubt it was a horrible loss with so few trains per day, it is matematically impossible.
With only a few trains per day it's not even mathematically possible to run a break even. (except maybe if you're running a low speed tourist railway...)
You cannot justify maintaining a railroad to passenger standards unless there is at least a train every hour.
However if you don't maintain a railway to high enough standards you'll never be able to compete with other modes.

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Should have invested in railways too, not only roads forgetting the rest.
Fact is, they didn't. And you can't blame private companies for not being interested in competing with subsidised roads.

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I don't think it is good at all compared to european public transport. But in the few routes with bus lanes transport really is a lot better then in the routes without bus lanes (the vast majority).
Curitiba is often quoted as a good example of public transport planning over here...
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:05 PM   #1954
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So do you think they would have fared better if they remained private?
Probably, yes.

What I see around Europe is that in countries where the railroads operate more independently from politics the service is a lot better than in those countries where the train are basically run by a government department.

Quote:
Yes, they would have survived and now that the economy and government finances are better the government would be able to invest and increase the service quality and with it ridership.
Keeping these in government ownership might also have meant that public finances would never have improved to the point where they are now. Many government run railways were horribly inefficient, and needed losts of money.

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Public hospitals and schools cost nothing in Brasil, therefore they have no operational income and operate on high deficits. Should they be closed?
They provide a value. Where a public transit system provides value it should not be closed. Subsidies can be justified in some cases. The suburban train network around Sao Paulo is a good example.
However where private companies manage to provide a service to the public that this public deems more useful (wich you can see by looking at what choices the public makes) than an equivalent service the government delivers there is no reason for the government to keep on delivering it.

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That's not really free market like suburbanist proposes, is it?
No, it isn't. But I am not in favor of organizing transport the way he sees it.

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I still don't think this is stable. And what if a free-marketer gets allected and closes all routes in this region?
I a government runs all the trains the risk of lines just being closed through a political decision is a lot higher. In Belgium the Interurbans around Brussels were run by a government department, and only one minister who liked buses more than trams was enough to have them all closed overnight...
There was until the 50ies one private company left. It got closed for passenger transport the moment it was nationalised.
If you think it would have been better for passenger rail if it had remained under government control don't forget that in the 60ies and 70ies many governments where very much pro private car.
In Switzerland most regional lines are run by local private companies with often a very strong involvement of the local authorities. As a result virtually no rail lines have ever been closed in Switzerland.
In the years before Amtrak in the US there were still some railways that tried to make something of their passenger trains. Amtrak itself however basically closed all the lines the railways would have wanted to close (but weren't allowed to) and ran the remaining at such low standards that some private railways refused them to reuse the names (and associated image) of certain prime trains.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:11 PM   #1955
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Amtrak closed 54% of routes, and roughly 2/3 of all scheduled trains, because the tab to keep running those money-losing trains would be too high. Indeed, the creation of Amtrak was the salvation of freight railway business in US. The cumbersome obligations in regard of passenger transport were draining out whatever money they could make on freight and, back then, they couldn't just drop services.

However, it is up to speculations and heated debates whether passenger transport in US would have been better if, instead of creating Amtrak, the US government just liberalizated passenger rail transport and, more importantly, created a framework for open-access track and passing rights, with Amtrak acting just as a supervisor of the service and, where applicable, owner of tracks and stations.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:55 PM   #1956
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What I see around Europe is that in countries where the railroads operate more independently from politics the service is a lot better than in those countries where the train are basically run by a government department.
Which concrete example?

I already lived in Germany, where despite separating parts and some liberalization, the train system is essentially run by the government and guess what? It is a perfect system (at least for my brazilian standards). You can get anywhere you want very quickly via train. Using schoneswochende and landes ticket it is also very cheap.

Poland rail companies are also state-run and they offer a very good service, only a little bit slow because the short-minded free-market government doesn't invest enough in improving the railways.

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Keeping these in government ownership might also have meant that public finances would never have improved to the point where they are now.
lol!!! Please read some real reports from the brazilian government. Train subsides would be at most 1% of the government budget. Debt service is about 33% of the government expending. Diminishing the interrest rate by 1% would already cover all money the passenger rail could ever need.

Another good example to compare to is Antrak. It uses about 0,1% of the USA federal budget.

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However where private companies manage to provide a service to the public that this public deems more useful (wich you can see by looking at what choices the public makes) than an equivalent service the government delivers there is no reason for the government to keep on delivering it.
In reality the public uses what the government wants them to use. If the government puts slow and unconfortable buses as public transport, kills off all passenger rail and at the same time builds huge highways, then people can only assume that the government really wants everyone to have a car.

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I a government runs all the trains the risk of lines just being closed through a political decision is a lot higher. In Belgium the Interurbans around Brussels were run by a government department, and only one minister who liked buses more than trams was enough to have them all closed overnight...

There was until the 50ies one private company left. It got closed for passenger transport the moment it was nationalised.
If you think it would have been better for passenger rail if it had remained under government control don't forget that in the 60ies and 70ies many governments where very much pro private car.
In Switzerland most regional lines are run by local private companies with often a very strong involvement of the local authorities. As a result virtually no rail lines have ever been closed in Switzerland.
Indeed, these are compeling arguments. Over time I am getting more simpatetic to the idea of letting local governments run train services as opposed to 1 big operator per country.

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In the years before Amtrak in the US there were still some railways that tried to make something of their passenger trains. Amtrak itself however basically closed all the lines the railways would have wanted to close (but weren't allowed to) and ran the remaining at such low standards that some private railways refused them to reuse the names (and associated image) of certain prime trains.
The quality of service provided by Amtrak would be a dream in Brazil compared to the service provided by private operators (actually no service at all).
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Old November 26th, 2010, 06:31 PM   #1957
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Curitiba is often quoted as a good example of public transport planning over here...
Just to start with:
* The network of bus lanes serves a small minority of the avenues. In Wroclaw-Poland *all* major avenues have either exclusive Tram routes or mixed-bus/tram exclusives lanes and always in both directions and electrified.
* There are no time tables in Curitiba. In Poland there are timetables in every single little rural bus stop. Plus. I can access www.jakdojade.pl via my phone and simply drop by 2 minutes before the tram or bus comes, in any place of the city, and even the most distant semi-rural suburbs it will show me the fastest route to another point.
* 3 million people and no fast metro/suburban train? Bus corridors are ok as a cheap solution to improve public transport, but Curitiba is far too large to have a couple of bus corridors as the central transit network. I know it is not a fair comparison, but Vienna with 3 million people has 5 metro lines with 90 stations + a huge tram network + commuter rail.

It's really a wonderful transport if you compare with Campinas on the other hand.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 07:30 PM   #1958
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Amtrak closed 54% of routes, and roughly 2/3 of all scheduled trains, because the tab to keep running those money-losing trains would be too high. Indeed, the creation of Amtrak was the salvation of freight railway business in US. The cumbersome obligations in regard of passenger transport were draining out whatever money they could make on freight and, back then, they couldn't just drop services.

However, it is up to speculations and heated debates whether passenger transport in US would have been better if, instead of creating Amtrak, the US government just liberalizated passenger rail transport and, more importantly, created a framework for open-access track and passing rights, with Amtrak acting just as a supervisor of the service and, where applicable, owner of tracks and stations.
We tired to close the long Distance lines , but Republican and Democrat politicians keep blocking that. Thus only the Northeast , Midwest , California lines are profitable and its sad to be honest. Amtrak was formed form all the collapsed RR's , which would be still here if the Govt and GM would have left it alone.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 07:47 PM   #1959
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Originally Posted by sekelsenmat View Post
Which concrete example?

I already lived in Germany, where despite separating parts and some liberalization, the train system is essentially run by the government and guess what? It is a perfect system (at least for my brazilian standards). You can get anywhere you want very quickly via train. Using schoneswochende and landes ticket it is also very cheap.
In Germany the days that the trains system was "essentially run by the government" are gone.
IC/ICE trains are run by "DB Reise and Touristik", which although state owned is run as a for profit company. Long distance trains are not subsidised and need to be financed from ticket revenues.
Regional trains are run on behalf of regional authorities by a plethora of companies, of which DB Regio is still the largest. However DB Regio keeps losing contracts to other players. The Länder contract out services to whoever is willing to commit to the desired service level for the lowest price.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 07:51 PM   #1960
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sekelsenmat View Post
* 3 million people and no fast metro/suburban train? Bus corridors are ok as a cheap solution to improve public transport, but Curitiba is far too large to have a couple of bus corridors as the central transit network. I know it is not a fair comparison, but Vienna with 3 million people has 5 metro lines with 90 stations + a huge tram network + commuter rail.
Vienna has a much higher per capita income than Curitiba.
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