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11322Re: [carfree_cities] Re: Fare-free public transit

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  • Christopher Miller
    Apr 17, 2009
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      I was beginning a response but I see "chbuckeye" beat me to a couple
      of my points

      On 17-Apr-09, at 1:23 PM, chbuckeye wrote:
      > I agree that more cycling would be great, but it isn't possible for
      > everyone. Particularly for the very young and very old, and in
      > extreme weather conditions.
      >
      > I cannot see the populations of say, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago,
      > Minneapolis -- US cities that see a fair amount of winter snow --
      > agreeing to move en masse to only walking and cycling. We might see
      > a snowstorm drop six to eight inches (15-20cm) of snow on the
      > roadways between lunch and rush hour. Few of us would want to or be
      > able to walk or cycle 8km in those conditions. On the other hand,
      > mass transit, although surface transportation is slowed somewhat,
      > can continue to function in those conditions. Similar problems may
      > arise on summer afternoons in the heat of the south.
      >
      These considerations, of course, apply to the vast majority of all
      trips made, whatever the distances, though some hardy souls like
      myself are willing to bike regularly to and from work in what others
      find to be intolerably snowy conditions (for up to 5 km in my case).
      > We're not going to build car-free cities for everyone from scratch
      > and move the entire population into them. We need to transition our
      > existing cities to car-free environments. It probably will take a
      > long time to change the infrastructure, one neighborhood at a time.
      > Fare-free mass transit can actually help encourage the transition by
      > making it easier for people to minimize their use of and ultimately
      > give up their cars.
      >
      A BIG plus in my opinion, and as the author of the article points out,
      much of the cost of fare collection is eliminated.
      > Also, with fewer cars on the road we can narrow our roadways,
      > reducing maintenance costs and increasing buildable area.
      >
      Precisely. One of my observations, especially during the 2007-2008
      winter in which Montreal was gobsmacked with a 30-40 cm snowstorm at
      regular three week intervals from early December through the end of
      March, was that when the main part of the roadways had been ploughed
      clear, car drivers made the conditions just as bad by shovelling snow
      off their cars and from around them onto the sidewalks - blocking them
      in many areas - and onto the main roadway. In addition to this, cars
      driving out from their parking spots would track heavy, dirty snow out
      into the roadways as well, often making them more difficult to
      navigate than if the snow had not been cleared away in the first place.

      Suffice it to say that the same problems would not be had if the city
      only relied on publlic mass transit (buses and hopefully in the future
      trams) and cycles for individual transit. The amount of street surface
      needing to be cleared would be limited to that required for buses or
      trams to pass on their routes, plus cycling paths and walkways. And
      the problem of streets and sidewalks being blocked as a result of
      people digging out their cars and then driving the under-car snow onto
      the streets would be eliminated. Those problems are purely the result
      of a car-biased transportation system.

      Even in the kind of exceptionally snowy conditions we had in Montreal
      a year ago, the roads would be much more easily passable by bike AND -
      now that I think of it - the problem of snow compacting into ice under
      the weight and friction of all the cars on the streets would be
      greatly mitigated.
      > Collecting fares slows down the loading process on the buses in our
      > area (the only mode of mass transit), so eliminating fare collection
      > could actually improve service, which also would increase ridership.
      >

      To respond to some other key points made by Erik:
      > > 40% of all trips in the USA are made
      > > within two miles of the home, and 50% of the working population
      > > commutes five miles or less to work (8 km). Eight kilometres takes
      > > 20-30 minutes by bicycle. The solution is more cycling, and
      > > free local transit works against that.
      > > http://www.1world2wheels.org/get-involved
      > >
      > > Free transit might work in a planned car-free city. But if you're
      > > talking about existing places, cycling is the solution to most
      > > problems (congestion, health/exercise, pollution, walkability, etc).
      >

      When citing percentages it's always useful to remember that if a glass
      is half empty, that also means it's half full...

      The same statistics tell me that 60% of all trips (is this ALL trips
      or all *commuting* trips?) in the USA are made to/from destinations
      *farther* than 2 miles/3 km of the home and that 50% of the working
      population commutes *over* 5 miles/8 km to and from work. At that
      distance, human-powered commuting becomes less attractive time-wise,
      even in ideal (flat terrain, mild weather, vigorously healthy adult
      cyclist) conditions. This is one of the main reasons public transit
      was first put in place a good century or more ago, around the same
      time that cycling really took off as a means of personal transit.

      It seems to me that free public transit definitely has its place in
      the urban transportation system in already existing cities, whether
      they are spread out or relatively compact. It is very unlikely that
      buses and trams will anywhere be run on more than a part of the road
      system - essentially main routes - and their availability will always
      be periodic and schedule-bound. Even with public transit available for
      free, bicycles will have the added attraction of taking you directly
      point to point without the need to walk to a transit stop and wait for
      the bus/tram/metro to arrive. Even if the bus and metro were to become
      free tomorrow, I would still prefer to go by bike because of the
      greater flexibility this gives me in taking a particular route (or
      changing my itinerary on a moment's notice, for that matter).
      Although fare-free transit would coax many away from cars for many
      trips, and it might do the same for some cyclists, it is unlikely (it
      seems to me) to convince many to forego the freedom of movement (and
      the pleasure of the ride) given by cycling. However, even if other
      measures will be necessary to reduce in-city car use in the future,
      fare-free public transit would be an excellent inducement for avoiding
      the congestion and parking problems induced by heavy car use.

      Of course, the opinions each has put forth are hypotheses. This whole
      question would be an excellent subject for simulation studies in
      different environments.


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada
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