New Posts
  • Hi there guest! Welcome to Register for free to join our community?

Get off the bus . . . the future of public transport in America?

Photo above - Is this metro bus simply advertising the state penitentiary, or is that it's destination? Would you personally board this bus at night, with wrapped windows that the public can't see in thru?

What if public transit was like Uber? A small city ended its bus service to find out | AP News

I have to confess – I don't live in an area that has a subway system. Tampa (where I live now) is one of the largest cities in America, and doesn't have a subway. We should probably thank our lucky stars. Anyone who has used the NYC subway system needs no explanation. DC's Metrorail is half a century newer, and still plagued by breakdowns, vandalism, graffiti and crime. California's bold plan – to avoid earthquakes causing a subway mass casualty event – is to build more light rail above ground. Politicians are simply having trouble deciding which communities to bulldoze to make way for more trains, and how many hundreds of billions to spend. California has spent almost $10 billion just on drawings and consultants so far, without laying a single mile of track for high speed rail. But California residents who insist on living 50 miles away from the high crime district they work in, high speed rail seems like a good idea. Provided this WFH (work from home) idea doesn't become a permanent thing.

Municipal Bus advocates say “try us . . . we are the solution”. And buses generally ARE safer(ish) in places like NY and DC. Sometimes buses might even be safer after dark, although many buses are nearly empty. If a platoon of fun-loving teens - possibly carrying BB pistols and pellet guns because they are too young to legally own real handguns – climbs aboard, you can always jump out the back and make a break for it. At least you're above ground – not in a dimly lit cave. A police officer might see you, and help.

Bus advocates – especially ones with lifetime political offices in municipal government – point to all the union jobs are created by large transit systems. Not just drivers, but also mechanics, cleaners, schedulers, transit police, dedicated paramedics, accountants, hotline complaint operators . . . In some cities the municipal bus system employs nearly as many people as police and fire departments. So buses are great, right?

The link above suggests that might not always be true. For smaller to medium sized cities, money might be saved by trying “on demand” (uber style) bus services.

I know what you're thinking – who wants to wait 45 minutes for an Uber bus to arrive? But apparently, if done right, a rideshare bus can cut time off your journey. And because you don't have dozens – hundreds? - of full-sized buses prowling the streets day and night, nearly empty for most of their schedule, maybe instead you have smaller buses, fewer buses, fewer drivers. What's not to like? Well, the unions can probably share some reasons . . .

Wilson NC - admittedly a smaller burg than my own Tampa, or NYC, or Washington DC - got rid of almost all its buses – and drivers – when it went “bus rides on demand”. There's a single driver per shift now. The bus itself is like a hotel shuttle, not the size of a railcar. The operating expense, maintenance, insurance and labor are miniscule vs. what Wilson was struggling with before. If those right sized shuttles go electric, the recharge times probably drop back down to earth too. They won't need 750,000 watt power stations staffed by a platoon of certified electrical engineers, like Musk is demanding for his Tesla 18 wheelers. Existing fast charge infrastructure is already right-sized for shuttle type electric vehicles.

Let me be clear – what quaint little Wilson NC is experimenting with WON'T solve the problems of NYC (subways which attract more hoods and homeless than commuters). Uber-buses won't have the mojo of full sized municipal bus systems, which spin off thousands of legacy union jobs offering high pay to low skilled dropouts. On demand buses are a small city/safe city solution.

But lots of people actually want to live in small, safe cities. Nobody wants to use public transportation in NYC. In fact, municipal governments are constantly trying to prevent rideshare companies from competing with their municipally operated transit goliaths. Uber and Lyft siphon off many of the law abiding, fare paying passengers, leaving legacy municipal transportation with a core user base of turnstile jumpers, drug dealers, gropers, and panhandlers.

I'm hoping that Uber style buses come to Tampa. I think it would save (taxpayer) money, even with subsidies. Compared to the present situation, where Godzilla sized empty buses run to and from University Mall beginning at 6 am, and at least through midnight. I don't feel safe on an empty bus. But I might feel better about an Uber bus, if I know it's going straight to my destination, and isn't going to randomly stop and let 10 teenagers jump on board while I'm miles from nowhere.

I'm just sayin' . . .
Last edited: