Monday, December 22, 2008

Design Matters

Interior design of buses matters as we found out with the Van Hool debacle in Oakland. But let's not forget that the exterior matters as well. I'll be interested to see how the Roadmaster double deckers will be replaced in London with a sleeker Aston Martin version. James Bond on the bus? Maybe. If people see buses as dirty old carbon spewers they won't even think to take them. It's hard now to get people to take the bus in places where the culture of bus riding is absent, but design can help change the image, and things like this are a step in the right direction.


bikerider said...

AC Transit candidate Joyce Roy was the one pushing this idea that the Van Hool bus purchase is some kind of "Debacle". She was joined by the Berkeley Daily Planet, in a big disinformation campaign against Van Hools and BRT.

In case you hadn't noticed, Candidate Roy lost in a landslide. As well, the anti-BRT measure couldn't lost by over 70%. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the European, true low-floor Van Hools, and it would appear the vast majority of voters agree.

AC said...

I like CapMetro's buses. They're clean, attractive, comfortable and have really big picture windows. They are reasonably on time. If you're going downtown they will drop you off no more than 3 blocs from your office.

I started taking buses in earnest last year after a seizure left me unable to drive. (the seizure was just a freak, one-time event, and I've been cleared to drive)

I like riding the bus, at least when there are seats available. It's relaxing. I can read or look out the window. It's just a little slower than a car because of all the stops.

But professionals just don't ride the bus, at least not in significant numbers. when I mention to one of my law partners that i took the bus in today, I get a raised eyebrow (from someone paying $187/month for a reserved parking spot.) Bus riding is just not a part of our bus culture for professionals in town.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I don't know if you noticed this, but the Van Hool's are a debacle, unrelated to all those newspaper articles and council runners. Have you ever been on one of those buses when an elderly person has to hop up into the high seats over the wheel wells? These are not true low floor buses if you have to use a foot stool to get into the seats. The interiors are poorly designed and should be fixed. I'm sure most of the voters have never ridden on one of those buses, and this really has nothing to do with BRT, though the Van Hool issue is always linked to it.

The cap metro buses that AC mentions are great. They have plenty of room for people and all of the seats up front are very accessible, you don't need to hop into them.

jon said...

the ac transit van hools are the exact same as the dc circulator van hools on the inside?

Rhywun said...

Wow, that Aston-Martin is a sexy bus. I would love to see those on the streets of NYC. Interesting point about how they could be used to replace articulated buses, too. I hadn't thought of that.

jon said...

actually to answer my own question i sort of do vaguely remember the interior of the dc circulator with the steps up to the seats. didnt seem much of a problem on the circulator but i would imagine it to be a problem with a high capacity 'rapid bus' operation like the AC Transit San Pablo line.

grvsmth said...

I do agree that design matters, but just because a comfortable, easy, aesthetically pleasing ride is a good thing in itself. I don't believe that design is that significant in getting people to shift from cars to transit. Convenience, reliability, safety and affordability are much more important.

Here in New York, professionals take the bus. Rich old ladies (and rich old men) take the bus. The bus is seen by a large group of New Yorkers as safer and more elegant than the subway.

Fancy designs that don't correspond to improvements in value will just lead to design inflation, where the previous whizzbang design gets devalued (associated with "bums and crazies") and the transit operator has to pay designers to come up with another one. Let's not get on that treadmill, please.

dto510 said...

The Van Hools are a tremendous design improvement over the previous generation of AC Transit bus. While many seats are raised, others are not. What makes the Van Hools better is that they greatly speed ingress and egress (especially for disabled riders), and have more standing room which is important on high-capacity lines.

Bikerider is right, criticizing Van Hools has been a pastime of anti-bus and anti-BRT activists like Joyce Roy and the writers of the Berkeley Daily Planet and East Bay Express. No mainstream newspaper has reported on the supposed "debacle," and ridership is up on lines served by Van Hools.

But of course bus design is important. It's also important not to take the rantings of anti-bus activists at face value.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

This is true DTO, they are an improvement over the previous buses, some of which are still running. I'd have to argue though that there are many improvements to be made on the access and egress front. I've been on the 51 a number of times when it took 5 minutes to get a woman or man in a wheelchair into the bus and strapped in. Hopefully better boarding level will improve that, but 5 minutes means a lot to the schedule.

Obviously those folks had a beef with the agency and saw the Van Hools as a way to attack because of what they saw as money wasting. I think its ok to pay more for a good looking bus, but they should have improved interiors as well.

njh said...

Trams are even better than buses. Everyone loves trams, even rich people.

Rhywun said...

> Rich old ladies [in NYC] (and
> rich old men) take the bus.

Interesting observation. To their merit, I've noticed that NYC buses are cleaner than buses in any other American city I've been in. Still slow as mud, though.

Richard Layman said...

What's wrong with Van Hool buses (other than the fact that Gillig is based in Oakland)?

I find it incredibly funny the way people out your way discuss the Van Hool buses when in DC, everyone wants to convert local bus lines into "Circulators" in part because the Downtown Circulator uses the verysame Van Hool buses excoriated in Berkeley.

Plus, for buses they are pretty quiet.

arcady said...

The internal layout of the Van Hools is almost exactly identical to the ones used in Europe. And unlike in most American buses, the space above the wheels isn't just wasted. The most serious mistake that AC Transit has made IMO is not using proof of payment: what's the point of having so many doors if people can only board through one? That would have let them hve a few more seats.

Becks said...

I ride the Van Hool buses in Oakland nearly every day on the line that has the highest ridership in the AC Transit system. I love these buses and agree with dto that they're a huge improvement over the old buses. There have been times when I see an old model bus pull up and I opt to wait for the next one because the old buses feel so much more crowded.

I've talked to many other regular riders and the vast majority of them agree that the Van Hools are a huge improvement. The only debacle here is that the Bay Area media continues to print the lies of Joyce Roy and other AC Transit haters.