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comments on xTransit

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  • Simon Norton
    I m afraid I can t count myself among those who believe that xTransit can have a significant effect on our transport problems. Certainly there are some niches
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 4, 2008
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      I'm afraid I can't count myself among those who believe that xTransit can have a
      significant effect on our transport problems. Certainly there are some niches it
      can fill, but I think that's all.

      Let's start with demand responsive (mini)buses. I may say that I have a rather
      jaundiced view of these because while there are quite a number of such schemes
      in rural areas in the UK few of them live up to their potential in terms of
      bringing together diverse people wishing to travel on the same corridor at much
      the same time. Some reasons are as follows:

      1. There may be institutional restrictions on who can use the service. Many DRT
      buses can only be used by local residents, and for some there are disability
      restrictions on top of that. This may apply even when there is no alternative
      public service. In other cases the general public may be permitted to use the
      service, but either the publicity is ambiguous on this or the service isn't
      widely advertised. In either case they are unlikely to ask about it. Also, DRT
      services are often not shown on journey planners -- indeed how can one show a
      service that doesn't run to any timetable, as is so often the case ?

      2. The service may be so sparse that there are few needs it can cater for. For
      example it may just provide a morning shopping journey into town and an midday
      return.

      3. The process of requesting a ride can be cumbersome and things can go awry.
      For example a year ago I used a DRT service to visit a building on a Heritage
      Open Day. For my return journey there was a different driver who had been
      misinformed about where to pick me up by the call centre many miles away -- as a
      result of which I was nearly stranded. Eventually he did turn up 25 minutes
      later than scheduled. On another occasion I arrived at a town to find that the
      bus which should have taken me to a nearby village had been suspended due to a
      road closure and replaced by a demand responsive minibus -- for which one was
      supposed to book a day in advance, but how could I have known I would need to
      use it ?

      4. The logistical problems of planning a journey can be insuperable. For
      example, suppose one wants to get from A to C using DRT buses from A to B and B
      to C which are coordinated by different centres with neither running to a fixed
      timetable. How does one plan for the two to connect ? (To take another example
      which may be more relevant to the typical user, how do they coordinate a
      hospital appointment with transport to hospital when the latter does not run to
      a timetable ?)

      Also, all too often one feels that local authorities are procuring a DRT service
      as a halfway house to complete withdrawal. Or alternatively they are hoping that
      as few people as possible will use it so as to keep operating costs down.

      In urban areas there is also the problem that the fare differential between
      conventional buses and taxis -- especially for small groups of people -- is
      often too small for there to be a niche for xTransit to exploit.

      I believe that the main niches for DRT buses are as follows:

      (a) Running between two towns on a fixed corridor but diverting where necessary
      to serve villages close to the corridor. And then only if the road network is
      suitable so that several diversions can be accommodated. With this system there
      should be no need to require that people boarding in one of the towns should
      book in advance, but many systems do, even if they are travelling to the other
      town.

      (b) Connectional services, whereby people can come in from a given area to pick
      up a main line bus or train. This would apply in both urban areas (where the
      emphasis would be on times outside the operating hours of conventional buses)
      and rural areas (where operation would mainly be during the daytime period).

      (c) "Journey to work" services which enable people from remote rural areas to
      get to work in the morning and return in the afternoon. The key factor here is
      that during school term the morning journey can be on the vehicle that takes
      children to school, saving about 1/3 of the cost. It should also be noted that
      both the morning and afternoon journeys can be shared with other travellers,
      from shoppers to visitors staying in farmhouse accommodation. I may say that I
      am unaware of any DRT service that runs according to this paradigm -- does
      anyone know differently ?

      I may add that I think that in introducing a service of type (b) in an urban
      area the main opposition would, I think, come not from bus operators but from
      taxi drivers, who currently make too much of a good thing out of a system where
      passengers have to pay through the nose for exclusive travel. When I go home
      from my local station in the evening on the half hourly bus service, for which I
      often have to wait 25 or so minutes because trains have a habit of arriving just
      after the bus has left, I have to watch a continuous procession of taxis (that
      gives the lie to the plea by bus operators that it's difficult to get people to
      drive in the evening) which would cost me perhaps half the train fare I've paid
      for perhaps 1/50 of the distance. Several years ago, following a dispute between
      the then rail operator and the taxi companies, the former proposed a shared taxi
      service but the idea was defeated by strong taxi driver lobbying.

      As far as disabled people go, the modern way of thinking is that mainstream
      transport should be adapted for their use when possible. There are of course
      some for whom it isn't possible. However, there probably aren't enough such
      people for shared travel to be worthwhile. For those who can only travel with an
      escort the best solution would probably be for them to join a carsharing scheme
      which has vehicles capable of carrying the type of wheelchair they use.

      There are other types of xTransit, but I believe that if they carry the mass of
      travellers they cannot relieve the environmental and safety problems of
      excessive car use (including the inhibition of cyclists) -- at least until we
      are in a position to ban private car use completely except for people with a
      special permit.

      Incidentally, as far as discussion of xTransit is concerned, I am not sure that
      a dedicated forum is the best way of doing things, and would rather see the
      xtransit forum (and some of our others) merged with our two main groups --
      New Mobility Cafe and Lots Less Cars.

      Simon Norton
    • Eric Britton
      Dear Simon, A very brief comment on your telling critique of your experience with and views on DRT in the UK, old mobility style if I may. IF you turn to the
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 4, 2008
      • 0 Attachment

        Dear Simon,

         

        A very brief comment on your telling critique of your experience with and views on DRT in the UK, “old mobility” style if I may.

         

        IF you turn to the latest report on this from the TRB in the States, "Guidebook for Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance of Demand-Response Transportation" at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_124.pdf  you will see a point of view which is in many ways the mirror of your good comments.

         

        However when we recast this past-laden vision of this particular sub-set of xTransit, such as we are now setting out to do with the joint project with Livable Streets Network (http://www.livablestreets.com/) you will, I sincerely hope, see a very different version of how this can and should (and will!) work in and about our cities.

         

        But the first step, as always, is to allow our minds to break from the constraints of the past. A first step is for me to urge you to check into the new Forum (I promise to moderate it so that it is lean and mean (sorry). This you can do by clicking to http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/smart-para-transit/request-membership. Let me note in passing that this new forum is going to be greatly improved in many ways over the Yahoo Groups fora that we have been using here for more than a decade. There is plenty of room for improvement and I hope you will see that we are taking this challenge head on.

         

        I hope very much to see you there Simon. We need your independent thinking to keep us on the crooked and wide.

         

        ;-)

         

        PS. Your suggestion that we do a better job of bringing xTransit into the two main New Mobility fora is well taken and will be respected. Thanks Simon.

         

         ____________________________

          Eric Britton

              New Mobility Partnerships  

         

          8, rue Joseph Bara  –  75006 Paris France

          T: 331 4326 1323 – www.newmobility.org

         

         

        From: xTransit@yahoogroups.com [mailto:xTransit@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Simon Norton
        Sent: Friday, 5 September 2008 01:22
        To: xtransit@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [xTransit] comments on xTransit

         

        I'm afraid I can't count myself among those who believe that xTransit can have a
        significant effect on our transport problems. Certainly there are some niches it
        can fill, but I think that's all.

        Let's start with demand responsive (mini)buses. I may say that I have a rather
        jaundiced view of these because while there are quite a number of such schemes
        in rural areas in the UK few of them live up to their potential in terms of
        bringing together diverse people wishing to travel on the same corridor at much
        the same time. Some reasons are as follows:

        1. There may be institutional restrictions on who can use the service. Many DRT
        buses can only be used by local residents, and for some there are disability
        restrictions on top of that. This may apply even when there is no alternative
        public service. In other cases the general public may be permitted to use the
        service, but either the publicity is ambiguous on this or the service isn't
        widely advertised. In either case they are unlikely to ask about it. Also, DRT
        services are often not shown on journey planners -- indeed how can one show a
        service that doesn't run to any timetable, as is so often the case ?

        2. The service may be so sparse that there are few needs it can cater for. For
        example it may just provide a morning shopping journey into town and an midday
        return.

        3. The process of requesting a ride can be cumbersome and things can go awry.
        For example a year ago I used a DRT service to visit a building on a Heritage
        Open Day. For my return journey there was a different driver who had been
        misinformed about where to pick me up by the call centre many miles away -- as a
        result of which I was nearly stranded. Eventually he did turn up 25 minutes
        later than scheduled. On another occasion I arrived at a town to find that the
        bus which should have taken me to a nearby village had been suspended due to a
        road closure and replaced by a demand responsive minibus -- for which one was
        supposed to book a day in advance, but how could I have known I would need to
        use it ?

        4. The logistical problems of planning a journey can be insuperable. For
        example, suppose one wants to get from A to C using DRT buses from A to B and B
        to C which are coordinated by different centres with neither running to a fixed
        timetable. How does one plan for the two to connect ? (To take another example
        which may be more relevant to the typical user, how do they coordinate a
        hospital appointment with transport to hospital when the latter does not run to
        a timetable ?)

        Also, all too often one feels that local authorities are procuring a DRT service
        as a halfway house to complete withdrawal. Or alternatively they are hoping that
        as few people as possible will use it so as to keep operating costs down.

        In urban areas there is also the problem that the fare differential between
        conventional buses and taxis -- especially for small groups of people -- is
        often too small for there to be a niche for xTransit to exploit.

        I believe that the main niches for DRT buses are as follows:

        (a) Running between two towns on a fixed corridor but diverting where necessary
        to serve villages close to the corridor. And then only if the road network is
        suitable so that several diversions can be accommodated. With this system there
        should be no need to require that people boarding in one of the towns should
        book in advance, but many systems do, even if they are travelling to the other
        town.

        (b) Connectional services, whereby people can come in from a given area to pick
        up a main line bus or train. This would apply in both urban areas (where the
        emphasis would be on times outside the operating hours of conventional buses)
        and rural areas (where operation would mainly be during the daytime period).

        (c) "Journey to work" services which enable people from remote rural areas to
        get to work in the morning and return in the afternoon. The key factor here is
        that during school term the morning journey can be on the vehicle that takes
        children to school, saving about 1/3 of the cost. It should also be noted that
        both the morning and afternoon journeys can be shared with other travellers,
        from shoppers to visitors staying in farmhouse accommodation. I may say that I
        am unaware of any DRT service that runs according to this paradigm -- does
        anyone know differently ?

        I may add that I think that in introducing a service of type (b) in an urban
        area the main opposition would, I think, come not from bus operators but from
        taxi drivers, who currently make too much of a good thing out of a system where
        passengers have to pay through the nose for exclusive travel. When I go home
        from my local station in the evening on the half hourly bus service, for which I
        often have to wait 25 or so minutes because trains have a habit of arriving just
        after the bus has left, I have to watch a continuous procession of taxis (that
        gives the lie to the plea by bus operators that it's difficult to get people to
        drive in the evening) which would cost me perhaps half the train fare I've paid
        for perhaps 1/50 of the distance. Several years ago, following a dispute between
        the then rail operator and the taxi companies, the former proposed a shared taxi
        service but the idea was defeated by strong taxi driver lobbying.

        As far as disabled people go, the modern way of thinking is that mainstream
        transport should be adapted for their use when possible. There are of course
        some for whom it isn't possible. However, there probably aren't enough such
        people for shared travel to be worthwhile. For those who can only travel with an
        escort the best solution would probably be for them to join a carsharing scheme
        which has vehicles capable of carrying the type of wheelchair they use.

        There are other types of xTransit, but I believe that if they carry the mass of
        travellers they cannot relieve the environmental and safety problems of
        excessive car use (including the inhibition of cyclists) -- at least until we
        are in a position to ban private car use completely except for people with a
        special permit.

        Incidentally, as far as discussion of xTransit is concerned, I am not sure that
        a dedicated forum is the best way of doing things, and would rather see the
        xtransit forum (and some of our others) merged with our two main groups --
        New Mobility Cafe and Lots Less Cars.

        Simon Norton

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