Buses Alone Can Never Get It Done

In response to one of the most common anti-rail arguments out there, pill paraphrased: “Why don’t you get more people to ride buses and then come back and ask us to build rail”, visit this I posted the following to a yahoo group concerning the Mueller redevelopment, and it bears archiving here.

Buses cannot and will never be faster or more reliable than the
private automobile, unless a vast network of bus-only lanes is built.
Until that glorious day, anybody who argues that we need improve the
bus system before building rail is either foolish or hiding a desire
to avoid investment in transit altogether.
In other words, the bus system is, in fact, being run about as well as
it could be run, given the political and financial constraints under
which Capital Metro must labor. You could run buses every single
minute down every street in Austin and not pick up many more
passengers than ride today – essentially all of the people who are
willing to suffer the significant time, reliability, and comfort
penalty inherent in mixed-traffic bus service are already doing so.
That being said, these streetcars aren’t the magic bullet which can
get people out of their automobiles either. They’re still stuck in
traffic, slow, and unreliable; just like the Dillos they will
presumably model after.
Only reserved-guideway transit can really beat the private automobile
in cities where parking isn’t that expensive and is widely available,
like ours. Too bad so many center-city folks, including so many
Mueller backers, fell for the con job of Krusee’s commuter-rail plan,
which has in fact not only failed to deliver light rail to the urban
core, it actually precludes it from being delivered anytime in the
foreseeable future.



2 thoughts on “Buses Alone Can Never Get It Done

  1. I agree. The busses here are run phenominally well. I think the most people I’ve ever seen get on at a bus stop is about 6 (and that’s pretty rare), so the busses are already going about as frequently as they can go without having completely empty trips.
    I disagree on the commuter rail, and I’ll tell you why. WiFi. Austinites are notorious work-aholics. I bet you that some businesses will encourage their workers to take the train so that they can make them work the whole way in and out. If they would put WiFi on the busses (please!), they wouldn’t be able to get people to leave.
    The problem with public transit is that it’s still only attractive to people who would rather do anything but drive. But if you added the Internet? Bloggers blogging all the way to work. WOW junkies getting an additional fix in. I think Internet will be the tipping point. But then again I like the bus, and I don’t really mind talking to pan handlers, so maybe I’m living in a fantasy world.

  2. Tim,
    Good point about the wireless. However, remember that most employees downtown and at the capitol, and arguably even UT, aren’t likely to be wireless enthusiasts. This would be a much bigger potential force for reverse commuters if the line came closer to the 183 corridor offices.

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