Transit needs some creativity

Today, on All About Cities, I found an interesting post on improvements in public transports.

What if people with longer commutes could sit in a luxury coach, fully stocked with amenities, including:

  • Wireless internet (like the google bus in San Francisco)
  • A personal TV with a variety of programs (as on many airlines, especially in business or first class)
  • A comfortable tray table for your lap top, with a plug in
  • A cup holder for your morning latte
  • Free newspapers and magazines
  • Maybe even a bathroom

(…)

  • With mobile and internet technology, you could buy your ticket 10 minutes before heading out the door once you know you’ll be ready and confirm there is a seat for you.
    • Or you could advance book tickets, catching the 7 AM bus every day.
  • What if these luxury coaches departed from certain Starbucks (or equivalent) locations in the suburbs?
    • You could buy a latte and have a clean, safe place to wait. A bus company rep might even be in there with a mobile device to check you in.
    • As some suburban areas become higher density, this Starbucks might be at a Lifestyle Centre near peoples homes (walking distance or a park-and-ride situation).
  • What if some downtown workers who lived in suburbia could make extra money driving a nice coach into town. Presumably, there will be a need for some buses to drive in and stay until the end of the work day. An enterprising person could get his or her bus driver license and earn an extra $50 per day (and not have to pay their own commuting costs).
  • On shorter commutes perhaps different companies’ buses would be en route and you could check availability by mobile device and book a seat, catching it at a designated location. From the same mobile devices the driver would know whether to stop or not.
  • With competition among several commuting providers in a given metro area, service would be good. Creativity would be essential. Someone might offer regular customers Friday afternoon TGIF happy hour, for example.
  • One company might offer “business class” seating and “economy class” seating, similar to the airplanes.

Here in switzerland  CFF already provides most of these services on several lines (i.e. the Geneva-Lausanne intercity trains I often use), and I was discussing with people in All About Cities whether these amenities can be extended to buses.  I think buses are necessary, but cannot offer all the amenities of trains, mainly because of the different kind of comfort that the two systems offer.

(quote from Washington Post)

One erroneous statement is that bus rapid transit is just like light rail but on rubber tires. Light rail runs on domestic, low-cost electricity. Bus rapid transit runs on high-cost foreign oil. That is bad and costly.

Buses last only 15 years, while light rail cars last 40 years. In ice and snow, light rail has guidance and braking. Buses do not, unless the roadway is cleared and salted, polluting streams.

On open right-of-way, light rail absorbs water, but busways need extensive water runoff provisions to prevent damage. Light rail cars are larger than buses for comfort, efficiency and safety.

Bus size is limited by highway laws and clearances. The light rail ride is smoother and faster. Rails have no potholes, and electricity provides more power for acceleration.

If we want clean air, less foreign oil, lower long-term costs and more transit use, we must think about those differences.

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