Monday, November 17, 2008

A Fetish About Flexibility

Peter Newman talks about Rail and Bus in Perth. He also talks about many transport planners fetish with flexibility.



Justin said...

In Toronto, the new fetish seems to be "seamless transit", and subways. Transfer are viewed as being evil, and seperate transit routes must be merged into superlong routes, so people will not have to transfer. Subways are the considered the answer to all our transportation problems. If we do not have subways, no one will use transit.

Cavan said...

They do have a point about the subways. Buses here (Washington, D.C.) are still viewed by the majority as transit for those who have no choice. However, everyone takes the Metro because it's so convenient and comfortable. It also goes fast and does not have to fight traffic. I personally think the not fighting traffic aspect has a lot of appeal.

arcady said...

But in Toronto, there is an alternative to buses and subways: streetcars, or in their newer incarnation, LRT, which also does better on the seamless front by the way, since you can run trains both on the surface and in a subway. And building a partly surface-based system is a whole lot more cost-effective than building subways everywhere.

BruceMcF said...

So the point of the fetish would be to take the inefficiency of the automotive "one size fits all trips" model and project it into dedicated transport corridors, "one mode fits all trips".

The European cities that Peter Newman refers to (and I should mention that Peter Newman is a top bloke) that have 20% public transport, by contrast, tend to run the gamut from buses through light rail through metros through regional heavy rail, and sometimes with the regional heavy rail merging into a parallel semi-subway when it hits the central urban core.

Instead of "one size fits all", "a size to fit each".

And the Perth experience on bus to rail transfers is quite applicable to many US cities ... in the northern line, these are very car-oriented suburban developments that have well dressed commuters hopping onto a short bus ride to get to the train station. Somehow "I've got to catch a train" has become an acceptable excuse to hop onto a bus.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Of course Bruce. I remember the train and bus can be friends post on Kos. The problem is that a lot of anti-rail or even sometimes anti BRT people use the flexibility argument against rail when its warranted on certain corridors or on your(size to fit each) approach. I don't think rail fits in every corridor and I've mentioned that here many times, but on the corridors that it is warranted over bus, I don't want to hear the flexibility argument because that is just a sidetracking mechanism.

Matt Fisher said...

I don't want to hear that crap about "flexibility" either. That crap about "one seat rides" as a justification for BRT baffles me. In fact, here in Ottawa, we've had to cut some suburban bus routes using the Transitway on Albert and Slater Streets to try and reduce the problem, and nothing seems to work. Light rail would have been a better choice. These cutbacks actually nullify the concept of "one seat rides".

Somehow certan Ottawans apparently think "forced transfers" from trains to buses (probably cue organ music? Ha ha ha...) are evil.

You're right. It is a sidetracking mechanism. And Perth, the capital of the state (as they're called in Australia) of Western Australia, is called "the world's most isolated capital".

njh said...

subways are crap. You have to go down stairs or escalators, then you have to come up. Build more trams (or give them priority).

It's interesting to compare Melbourne with Perth at this point. Melbourne has one of the biggest rail networks in the world, with 250km of trams (including a few light rail routes), 370km of commuter rail (average speed 30km/hour with stations every mile or so), and several thousand km of diesel regional trains based on the N-class (100km/hour loco + carriage) and v'locity (160kh/hour DMU).

Perth on the other hand has 6 routes, 150km of fast regional trains (average speed 90km/hour) and buses. Yet Perth has a higher mode share. Part of this is the Melbourne gov't complete inability to actually spend money on the right things, spending money on new ticket systems every decade, trying to remove all human contact (and hence having problems with people not buying tickets) and using PR rather than basic infrastructure investment.

For an example, the PTUA (the Melbourne PT Users Association) and the Greens both have produced carefully funded lists of investments to improve the main problem areas for a total of $1B. The government instead chooses to spend their money on a $10B cross city rail tunnel and a matching $10B road tunnel.

Basically, Perth understands that to optimise a system one should always look at the biggest bottlenecks and highest bang for buck. Melbourne on the other hand goes for big spending projects with little real ROI.

A lesson for people who wish to build BART subways to downtown SJ, or subways through toronto.

jon said...

so much for flexibility when many urban bus lines follow the exact same route since it was a horse car. some even have the exact same route numbers/letters.