TRANSIT SYSTEMS TO DISPLACE CARS

Car displacing transit systems are different from car complementing systems. Public Transport administration is retarded by car hegemony, is driven into closed and arcane systems, instead of the open systems public systems should be, again, if this has not been a deliberate plan to increase car use by debilitating alternatives, it might as well have been, the effect is the same. The current systems of public transport throughout most of the developed and much of the developing world serve the dual purposes of grudgingly providing basic mobility for the least wealthy in society and a fallback general transport system to complement the majority car system; while systematically discouraging and demeaning any who would want to use public transport to abandon car usage. Most spending on public transport since 1980 has been designed for appearance rather than effect. This makes it seem like a good modern system (new designer looking vehicles, gleaming stop shelters, modernized fixtures and cameras) while providing a consistently uncomfortable, time consuming, worrisome and unreliable service. All the spending now does is increase un-usability (more barriers, uncomfortable but highly designed seating etc) and maximizes the jealous spite that car drivers direct at transit users, and one plausibly suspects that as much as it is the product of civic pride, the spending on appearance deliberately has the object of generating this rancour as a further disincentive to use. In Australia all public transport systems are on an increasing dynamic to become more confusing, more disorientating, more labyrinthine and more unreliable, thus embodying the systematic disincentivating bastardry that constitutes the car advocate dominated transport departments and most political parties ideological and vested interest attitudes. They labour to increase car sales and usage without actually making it compulsory.

Car displacing urban transport systems wouldn't be exercises in cosmetics; they would be utilities, delivered with the same attention to universal supply and 24 hour uninterrupted service as electricity, water, telephone, sewerage and gas supply, and they would use the same regular billing cycle business model as any other utility, with a prepaid ticket obtainable for visitors or the homeless.

Table 1 - A summary of differences between Car-Complementing and Car-Displacing transit systems
Transit TypeTCC - Transit to Complement CarsTDC - Transit to Displace Cars
EraCurrentAs Soon As Possible
PatronageMarginalUniversal
Funding SizeMinimal transit, huge carMajor transit, Minimal car
Funding TypeMarket, Political Patronage or UtilitarianCross Subsidised Guaranteed Service Standard
Vehicle SizeLarge, 25+ seatSmall, 10 seat
Vehicle NumberFew transit vehicles, many carsMedium number of transit vehicles, few cars
Route speedSlowFast
FrequencyInfrequentFrequent
RoutesMeanderingDirect radial & concentric
ComfortUncomfortableComfortable
CatchmentIrregularRegular
Required Knowledge
(Route, Stop, Timetable)
Massive, IncomprehensibleMinimal, standardized

Car hegemony has retarded bus design for decades but many passengers could define a more optimal design if asked. New commuter busses should deliberately be kept small for comfort and speed. Smallness allows a minimum of pickup/setdown stops, unless full they should stop anywhere along their route in response to flagdown, and setdown anywhere on bell ring or request, dispensing with bus-stops and minimizing the "bunching" problem (more 1). Timetables are troublesome psychic baggage for passengers, they should be abolished by running busses every 2 minutes in peak hour, all making good speed overtaking their stopped fellows, none sitting still clockwatching, maximum schedule interval should be 20 minutes or less on the graveyard shift of a 24 hour service.

There is a "topology" debate among designers about the best layout of routes; but it's puerile; the "spider web" layout is clearly the best model because it emulates a pattern long evolved to cover a given area to a requisite catchment density with minimum material. This means straight radial routes going through the central city to the other suburban extreme, perhaps branching once, combined with concentric routes every 500 metres or less completing two way circles round the city or coast to coast. This allows any-to-any point transit with 1 interchange, without meandering delay, and minimises administration; a 40k-radius city with 10 x 10 central roads would have only 100 or 120 routes.

A car displacing system can also be a system that is simple to understand and use by using open route numbering systems instead of coded ones. Radial routes could be designated R and concentric routes designated C. To replace the esoteric and almost arcane numbering system for routes usually in current use the numbers could then be based on general geographic knowledge. Thus the radial route number could be the degrees from due North, R180 meaning due South from the city centre, R270 due West, perhaps reinforced by some general direction indicator like R340(NNW). Proximate numbers would then mean the vehicles went in similar directions (except due north) and users could choose to substitute a close-enough bus in a hurry without risking ending up miles away from their goal. The concentric route number could indicate the number of kilometres from the city centre, so C7.5 would indicate the concentric route 7.5 kilometres from the city centre. "R.60 between C.14 and 15" or "C4.5 between R20 and R30" would suffice as a way description, any bus stop signs could then give precise geographic and route information, R350(NNW) C9.5, meaning 9.5 kilometres north north west of the city; instead of meaningless route and stop numbers, seeing 2 in a row would tell you which direction you were headed or busses could display inbound outbound clockwise or anticlockwise designations. All R routes would be accessible from the centre, and all concentrics would intersect with all radials (except where promontories made for eccentric urban layout, and these could be handled ad hoc). Concentric routes would ease some congestion on central city facilities. Busses should charge fares with a graded subsidy from tax to ensure standard coverage of low volume routes. Train and tram systems should be maintained and developed operating more frequently.

Universal transit systems have totalitarian problems (eg. soviet bloc transit). Enforced privacy legislation and disclosures should be enacted to limit passenger surveillance to special cases with judicial imprimatur. They also have industrial problems. The hubris and greed of monopoly transit worker unions helped open the door for the car age by making transit more unreliable and costly than it needed be (eg. Britain 1930's rail-strike, US rail wage inflation). Because the nature of unions is to only having their paying members' self interest at heart, the unions would do exactly the same thing again given the opportunity. Legislation should forbid industry-wide transport strikes, or even ban trans-corporate industry unions if necessary (more 2). Most of these problems arise from the bias toward large vehicles, meaning that large numbers of users are controlled by few workers and a monopoly administration. Such systems, which collect people in large numbers either on or waiting for vehicles, are also vulnerable to the criminal behaviour currently called "terrorism", as revealed by the Aum cult on the Tokyo subway in the 1990s and repeatedly by various groups suicide bombings of busses in the Middle East, South Asia etc. The smaller vehicles and greater number of drivers in this system would reduce the practicality and effectiveness of holding the system hostage for both unions and terrorist groups; as does the retention of autonomous vehicles, giving this system an advantage in these dimensions over the car culture's "Intelligent Traffic Systems".

The monopoly central administration problem requires a more precise solution. The system requires central coordination to provide universal coverage, standardize maximum fares, and allocate subsidies, and this would be a public bureaucracy, probably with counsel from an industrywide representative body; but bus operators should be a mix of state and private corporations. The private operators can keep competitive pressure on the state operator and push efficiency and customer satisfaction standards; the public operators can keep the state informed of actual conditions and operating costs and prevent the private corporations fleecing the public purse through the impracticality of bureaucratic administrators. The operators could be in national or international federations, franchises or corporations to ensure economies of scale; but only one operator from each commercial entity would be allowed in each city.

All operators would be centrally coordinated and allotted routes, the 40k city having perhaps 5 operators each running 2 N-S & 2 E-W radial and 8 evenly interspaced concentric routes, with unsubsidised free agent companies running fill-in routes between, and bidding for term web contracts. It is important that the routes be interspaced between operators, with no one operator running two adjacent routes. This distribution of work and layout of routes encourages competition and product differentiation and also minimises system disruption, a strike or bankruptcy in one company would just entail a 500, instead of 250 metre maximum walk for passengers.

Expensive by car complement transit system standards; this system is cheap compared to the car system in toto and more effective than car complement transit systems through improved security and improved product delivery, which makes up for the losses in economies of scale. But it is reliant on the car ban to redirect private resources from vehicles and fuel toward fares, and public resources from traffic management and road infrastructure toward other uses and operational capital and subsidies, and to minimize journey time and roadside pollution stress for passengers through traffic minimization.

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