2 Comments

  1. Buses are indeed a more efficient use of space, but that in itself is not enough to get people to use them. At an individual level, what reason does someone who can afford LyftLine/UberPool have to take a mixed-traffic bus? If prices keep falling then most people will take LyftLine/UberPool and buses will suffer even more from the resulting traffic. This could be solved with truly uncompromised bus lanes with strong signal priority, but even at present US cities have been unwilling to institute such lanes. In the future it could be even more politically difficult if buses are seen as simply welfare for those who can’t afford LyftLine/UberPool (whereas in the past they also served riders with plenty of money who preferred not to own a car or deal with parking hassles). Congestion pricing (high enough to put LyftLine/UberPool prices out of reach of most riders, which is essentially the role taxi medallions played in the past) is another solution but also politically very difficult.

    At the very least this should serve as a wakeup call to those who propose mixed-traffic / very slow transit in the hopes of decreasing average trip length. Transit does not exist in a vacuum and needs to compete politically and economically with private cars, taxis, app-based ridesharing, bicycles, walking, and other alternatives in order to remain relevant. We should focus on transit projects that can provide total trip times competitive with cars (which typically requires grade separation or absolute signal priority). Otherwise we run the risk that nearly everyone will make (or continue to make) the individually rational choice to abandon transit for less efficient modes, with the aggregate result that it becomes much more difficult for anyone to get anywhere in the resulting congestion.

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