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Re: Fare-free public transit

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  • Erik Sandblom
    ... This is auto-centric reasoning. 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
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 17, 2009
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      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, Christopher Miller
      <christophermiller@...> wrote:
      >
      > In particular, public transit has suffered from this economic mis-
      > focus, and ironically enough, it has only worsened perennial problems
      > like chronic underfunding and running incomplete systems that can't
      > compete with the private automobile.



      This is auto-centric reasoning. 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).

      Erik Sandblom
    • chbuckeye
      ... 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
      Message 2 of 8 , Apr 17, 2009
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        --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "Erik Sandblom" <eriksandblom@...> wrote:

        > This is auto-centric reasoning. 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).


        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.

        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. Also, with fewer cars on the road we can narrow our roadways, reducing maintenance costs and increasing buildable area.

        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.
      • Christopher Miller
        I was beginning a response but I see chbuckeye beat me to a couple of my points ... These considerations, of course, apply to the vast majority of all trips
        Message 3 of 8 , 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
        • Erik Sandblom
          ... everyone. Particularly for the very young and very old, and in extreme weather conditions. ... Minneapolis -- US cities that see a fair amount of winter
          Message 4 of 8 , Apr 17, 2009
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            --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "chbuckeye"
            <coleridge3150@...> 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.


            The very young and old aren't likely to drive cars either, or cope
            with a twisting, turning bus.

            In Umeå, population 110 000, 20% of all journeys are done by bicycle,
            and almost as many on foot. That's even though the town is located at
            63 degrees north. That's further north than Anchorage, Alaska. You
            just need to plow the bike paths.
            http://www.copenhagenize.com/search/label/cycling%20in%20winter

            I agree that transit needs to be improved and expanded. But I don't
            think lower fares are the answer, mainly because it discourages
            walking and cycling for short journeys. I want to re-iterate that
            50% of the working population in the USA commutes five miles or less
            to work. This needs to be considered when looking at the future of
            transportation.

            Erik Sandblom
          • Gus Yates
            Re. Fare-free transit Here in the San Francisco Bay area, BART (subway) riders were polled at one time to see if they would support eliminating fares. I have
            Message 5 of 8 , Apr 19, 2009
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              Re. Fare-free transit

              Here in the San Francisco Bay area, BART (subway) riders were polled at one time to see if they would support eliminating fares. I have only heard this by word of mouth, so I can't direct you to supporting documents. But the story goes that the majority voted against it, apparently for a couple of reasons:

              1. If BART were free, homeless people might take to riding it all day just for warmth and entertainment. Homeless people are unpleasant to share a train car with (noise and smell).
              2. People tend not to value things that are free. Eliminating fares might attract more riders who like to slash seats, spill food, mark the walls, etc.

              The dollar cost of fare collection is certainly an unfortunate overhead. The time cost of fare collection is really only a problem on local buses, where the driver does the fare transaction. Subways, bus rapid transit and most light rail systems avoid delays by having the fare transaction occur before boarding.

              Gus Yates

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Christopher Miller
              ... I concur with this, as long as you have a fully separate dedicated cycling infrastructure like what is available in many places in the Netherlands, and
              Message 6 of 8 , Apr 19, 2009
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                On 17-Apr-09, at 2:50 PM, Erik Sandblom wrote:

                > In Umeå, population 110 000, 20% of all journeys are done by bicycle,
                > and almost as many on foot. That's even though the town is located at
                > 63 degrees north. That's further north than Anchorage, Alaska. You
                > just need to plow the bike paths.
                >
                I concur with this, as long as you have a fully separate dedicated
                cycling infrastructure like what is available in many places in the
                Netherlands, and religiously keep it snow-free.

                However, a *big* disadvantage to winter cycling in an auto-dominated
                environment like Montreal, Winnipeg or other winter cities in which I
                have biked year round, one that deters the vast majority of people
                from biking, is that cyclists are forced to share a narrower available
                roadway with auto traffic. This is because (from what I have observed)
                due to accumulated snow, motorists tend to park their cars further out
                from the curb, often a good half metre, and there is usually another
                half metre or so of thick, unbikeable snow between the cars and the
                cleared portion of the street because the ploughs cannot come too
                close to the cars in order to avoid damaging them. Normally, on side
                streets there is only enough cleared to allow one car at a time to
                pass (with no safe room for a bike, which often gets forced into the
                snow by aggressive drivers to stop and let the car past). On main
                arteries, the cleared area is also much reduced (for the same reasons)
                relative to what is available in the summer.

                > I agree that transit needs to be improved and expanded. But I don't
                > think lower fares are the answer, mainly because it discourages
                > walking and cycling for short journeys. I want to re-iterate that
                > 50% of the working population in the USA commutes five miles or less
                > to work. This needs to be considered when looking at the future of
                > transportation.
                >
                It's certainly a reasonable hypothesis that lower or zero fares could
                discourage walking and cycling for short journeys, but before I could
                accept it, I would have to be shown studies that establish that this
                is what happens. Do lower fare transit systems (all other factors
                accounted for) correlate with lower levels of walking and cycling for
                short journeys?

                I think your hypothesis neglects important differences between taking
                mass transit (whether trams, bus, or metro) and walking or cycling. As
                I said in my earlier message, cycling (and walking) as transport modes
                are available at a moment's notice wherever you are (including a
                generally very short walk if by bike), are not subject to periodic
                scheduling that requires planning your trip ahead, and give you great
                flexibility in the route you can take, including the luxury of
                changing your route at a moment's notice without requiring a waiting
                period to take the new route. On the other hand, all mass transit
                operates on periodic scheduling that requires you to go from your
                starting point to a particular street (usually a main street) where
                there is a stop for the relevant route, and unless you are a very
                lucky person, wait until your bus/tram/metro arrives. You then proceed
                at a speed not much greater (with all the intermediate stops) than a
                bike, and don't have the liberty of changing your route at a moment's
                notice without having to waste a lot of time going through all the
                waiting again.



                Christopher Miller
                Montreal QC Canada
              • Jym Dyer
                =v= The official line from Bay Area transit systems is that free transit would increase ridership and they re not prepared to handle that. The regional
                Message 7 of 8 , Apr 19, 2009
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                  =v= The official line from Bay Area transit systems is that
                  free transit would increase ridership and they're not prepared
                  to handle that. The regional commission that handles funding
                  for the area allocates most of the money for cars and roads,
                  which is the root problem in need of a solution.

                  > 1. If BART were free, homeless people might take to riding it
                  > all day just for warmth and entertainment. Homeless people are
                  > unpleasant to share a train car with (noise and smell).
                  >
                  > 2. People tend not to value things that are free. Eliminating
                  > fares might attract more riders who like to slash seats, spill
                  > food, mark the walls, etc.

                  =v= These are just opinions, and are more conservative than the
                  population of the Bay Area is generally regarded as being. (Of
                  course, BART was built primarily for the benefit of white-flight
                  suburbanites, so its ridership may skew more conservative than
                  the region as a whole.) Blatantly racist opinions have also
                  been put into play.

                  =v= It's much easier to sneak onto much of San Francisco's
                  intra-city Muni system for free than onto BART, but there's no
                  particular difference in noises, bad smells, spilled food and
                  graffiti between the two systems. Like most transit systems,
                  BART and San Francisco's Muni do have policies against all
                  these things, with varying degrees of success.

                  =v= The Bay Area's many transit systems used to have free days
                  3 to 6 times a year, and the systems were overwhelmed with
                  folks (not the homeless in particular) riding for entertainment.
                  This is quite a different dynamic from being free every day.
                  <_Jym_>
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