Thursday, September 18, 2008

The downside is that people are riding the bus

This morning Streetsblog linked to a Gotham Gazette article called The Downside of Low-Cost Buses. It's another one of those "huh?" articles. Buses are good for the environment and good for social justice, but when they get too popular they're bad? Why is that a "downside" and not just a side effect that needs to be better managed?

It seems clear that the author likes buses and wants them to succeed, but framing the issue this way seems to encourage people to think of the buses as having a downside, as opposed to some growing pains, so that if any new challenges appear it would be that much more difficult to overcome them.

In fact, I had no idea that the buses were expanding so much. I'll bet most of the bus riders don't live in Chinatown; where are they coming from? Sunset Park? Flushing? Williamsburg?

Why not send survey teams out to ask bus riders where they live and work, and arrange for direct service from those places. Imagine if you could hop on a bus to DC at the corner of 59th and Fourth, or Metropolitan and Union, or Main and Roosevelt, or West Farms? Isn't flexibility supposed to be one of the advantages of bus service?

It turns out that there is already some flexibility. A website called Bus DC NY lists 120 bus stops in the area, including some in Brooklyn and Queens, but there is very little information (in English at least) on the web about any of these bus companies.

It's no wonder that transit is unprofitable in many places. As soon as a transit operator starts having growing pains, they're treated as dealbreakers, not just challenges - by their supporters!

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