For example it may make sense to charge more for luxurious buses, or for a buses that drive on a dedicated lane for which they pay a more expensive license but are faster, or buses that offer wifi, or buses that come by every five minutes, or buses that drive at 3am. These all have fundamentally different cost components. Does the government pay for it all, allowing bus companies to inflate prices? Are there caps? If so, on what basis? And how does pricing work in a low-competition area like a subway operator with a 30y license, and government paying for it all?
Again, I'm a big fan and we need to move this forward. But I'm interested in what system they (and other cities that experiment with this) put in place to manage it all.
Either way, can't wait to see this arrive in my city. Working remotely, strong local walkable communities, ubiquitous public transport and automated ridesharing are strong candidates for the future, all of it electric and low-sound. That should increase traffic density, clean up cities from sound and pollution, make traffic safer and cheaper.
edit: another issue that comes up is demand-control. For example I currently have a 60-70% discount subscription but only if I travel outside of peak hours. That absolutely induces me to travel differently, e.g. leave home earlier or stay a bit longer at work or uni until I get my discount. Free public transport removes that instrument. There's a lot of talk nowadays about trying to change the 9 to 5 model to one that's spread out more. e.g. universities having an 11 to 7 model, some companies going 10 to 6. Part of that story is traffic management, and free public traffic throws out this instrument. It may also disincentivize cycling, to a small extent walking, and perhaps most importantly, wanting to live as close to the 'rest of the day' (work, school, friends) as possible to reduce costs.
In the UK, most of the bus network was in public ownership until the 1980s. The Thatcher government deregulated the bus industry, allowing any operator to run bus services and set their own routes and timetables. This greatly increased the level of competition on popular and profitable routes, but it also created the problem of cherry-picking.
The new private operators didn't bother with unprofitable but socially-valuable routes, which local governments felt obliged to serve or subsidise. The most profitable routes often became massively oversaturated, with competing operators engaging in "bus wars" in an attempt to dominate that route and force out the other operators.
For what it's worth, local governments in the U.S. don't feel all that obligated. Just because something is public doesn't mean that it looks out for the little guy all that well.
Also, is your comparative perspective based on time living under multiple local UK governments, too?
Also, it appears(?) the parent comment to my initial comment was adjusted.
You've got the economics completely backwards. Running a bus route has a fixed cost; where the fares collected fall short of that cost, it may be necessary to subsidise that route. You actively want to encourage more people to use that route, because it reduces the level of subsidy necessary. People who find the route merely convenient help to fund the service for people who vitally need it.
Bus subsidies are often remarkably cheap on a per-journey basis, because the service would only be modestly unprofitable without the subsidy. Paying a few pennies per passenger to make a service profitable is vastly cheaper than paying for taxis to ferry all of those people to their destination.
Some smaller, more efficient buses should be also employed.
If market forces aren't aligned with social values, it's sensible to use a different resource-allocation mechanism.
This isn’t about socioeconomics if anything poor neighborhoods would have more people commuting via buses than richer ones that can afford petrol, parking and rail passes.
What bus operators like is predictable routes even if you fill only 4 busses between 8-9am and again between 5-6pm it’s a very good route because it’s bother predicable and that most of your users would likely buy seasonal tickets.
So essentially routes that connect people to places are very attractive but routes that connect people to people are not.
This means that there would be much fewer routes that connect neighborhoods directly especially within the same socioeconomic level which forces many people to change at a city center or at any other service hub to get to their destination.
This also affects commuting routes outside of rush hours and especially night buses.
Governments have limited resources and so they’ll focus and optimize their spending to maximize efficiency and the same reason a bus route would be unattractive to a for profit operator would likely force a non for profit one to direct their attention somewhere else.
The best way is usually forcing the for profit operators to bid on whole regions rather than individual routes and mandating minimum service levels across the board which would prevent operators from running a bus once a day and calling it a served route.
The only way in which a government run transportation provider would not experience this issue is if the people are aware of it and are willing to pay the extra money in taxes to cover the costs of running unprofitable routes and would actively lobby their governments to spend that extra money on exactly that which isn’t likely.
Those that connect underserved communities?
Those that enabled the educational improvement of the population?
I highly doubt that. People carpool. NYC has dollar vans which serve underserved communities at lower cost than the state.
Providing subsidized bus routes to work is basically subsidizing employers who employ these people.
I can only assume that you've never been poor, because lack of transport is a massive obstacle for people struggling to get or stay on the bottom rung of the employment ladder. The world is a very different place if you're on the breadline - quite minor issues can become crises if you just don't have any spare money to fix them.
How do you get to the job interview if you can't afford a taxi? How do you carpool if you've only just started the job and don't know anyone who works there? What do you do if your shift pattern changes and you can't get a ride any more? What do you do if the person giving you a ride quits or gets fired? What do you do if they lose their license for drink-driving or their crappy old car breaks down?
If there was a private bus operator ("dollar van") serving that route, the local authority wouldn't have to subsidise it.
>Providing subsidized bus routes to work is basically subsidizing employers who employ these people.
Yes, but what's so wrong with that? Running a subsidised bus route is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying unemployment benefits and dealing with the social costs of long-term unemployment. It'd be nice if those companies were willing to pay for it, but they clearly aren't.
Place A has a lot of unemployed people with low skills. Place B has a lot of low-skilled jobs. There's no public transport between place A and place B, so a lot of those unemployed people can't get to those jobs. Is it really so irrational for the local government to solve that problem?
> If there was a private bus operator ("dollar van") serving that route, the local authority wouldn't have to subsidise it.
This assumes the government isn't actively trying to shut them down because they're unlicensed and the licensing system is excessive.
> Place A has a lot of unemployed people with low skills. Place B has a lot of low-skilled jobs. There's no public transport between place A and place B, so a lot of those unemployed people can't get to those jobs. Is it really so irrational for the local government to solve that problem?
I think this situation with a bunch of people sitting around unemployed because they can't get a ride and then suddenly getting jobs because you add an (unprofitable, i.e. underutilized) bus route is a contrived example.
I also think you would probably do better by subsidizing these people directly (e.g. through transport vouchers or just direct payments), rather than having the local government running an unprofitable route.
That's a really weak excuse for not helping people in need. The continued existence of unemployment, poverty, bankruptcy and suicide demonstrate that some people don't find ways to resolve their issues.
>This assumes the government isn't actively trying to shut them down because they're unlicensed and the licensing system is excessive.
My original comment was in the context of the UK. I have no idea what the situation in the US, but it's incredibly straightforward to legally start a bus route over here. To start a local route, the only significant administrative hurdle is a ten-page form and a £60 ($80) application fee. It's entirely feasible for a small company to open a new route with one vehicle.
>I think this situation with a bunch of people sitting around unemployed because they can't get a ride and then suddenly getting jobs because you add an (unprofitable, i.e. underutilized) bus route is a contrived example.
It definitely isn't. Here are some case studies to prove it:
>I also think you would probably do better by subsidizing these people directly (e.g. through transport vouchers or just direct payments), rather than having the local government running an unprofitable route.
We already do that through a variety of means, but other transport options can be prohibitively expensive to support and there is a very significant administrative burden associated with means-tested benefits. Subsidising a bus route can be quite inexpensive on a per-journey basis, because the local authority only needs to cover the shortfall between fare revenue and the cost of running the service. Subsidised bus schemes can also provide broader benefits in terms of access to healthcare and social inclusion - a subsidised bus taking a low-income worker to their job may also take a young mother to a doctor's appointment, an elderly person to a social club and a disabled person to the shops.
> Obviously, Cornwall is a rural county and more likely to experience poorer levels of public transport provision. In the Walsall study, which is clearly more representative of conditions in an inner-urban area, one officer felt that it was less to do with the lack of transport provision and more to do with people’s willingness to travel outside the immediate area
The next section which sites lack of links from areas of "high unemployment to key employment sites" is also talking about Cornwall again.
I actually like public transport, I just think your initial comment was an exaggeration.
I will be very surprised if you can point to any prominent public figure who wants to slash publish transportation but also wants to increase the minimum wage or provide more welfare or whatever alternate means of helping the poor you feel wouldn't be an employer subsidy.
That's exactly how it should be. A lot of people have the idea that bus operators should be forced to drive the unprofitable routes in order to be allowed to drive the profitable ones. This would work if buses were literally the only way to get around. Since they are not, what it does is drive up the cost of public transport and make it less appealing. In Finland, it eventually caused the prices to rise so high, that it was generally cheaper to drive. This is socially disastrous.
If there is a route that is not profitable to run, you should not expect a company to run it. The free market should manage the profitable routes, and drive down the prices as low as they can go. Any socially valuable routes on top of those should be subsidized out of the taxes of the people they provide value to.
Essentially I believe public transport should be encouraged as a common good that pays dividends in society as a whole.
Strongly disagree. That may be true if there is no good way of getting information, but once there is a website/app that lets you enter your source, destination and departure time, and which clearly lists all the options with their prices, people do effectively shop around and make rational choices about their routes. This has been shown to work pretty well in Finland.
The clearest example is probably Hamburg-Köln-Express in Germany, which operates trains that take around the same time as the state-owned incumbent (DB Fernverkehr), but on older rolling stock for a lower price.
The hard part is "how do you divide up the capacity on the infrastructure", but this is a problem that has clearly existed throughout the EU since 2007 (when there's been open access freight operators), though has in reality existed much longer (most international services, for example) hence track access and allocation being the subject of an EU directive all the way back in 1995.
We want a system optimized for transportation. We do not want a system optimized for wealth extraction.
Say someone is buying a house. He will look for the stuff he needs. If they have kids that have to go to school or if they cant drive for some reason they look at the bus and train schedule and kinda expect that service to be there the next month.
How you imagine it actually doesn't happen. You don't get a substantial number of people with kids, old and disabled people moving to an area without public transport so that you can move in for the killer profits. Even if there is a bus it would be unreliable if profit rather than transportation is the goal.
Its just like we don't wait until the entire region smells like human poop before we put the sewers in. Oh and no more internet and electricity for you! You are just not using enough of it to be relevant compared to urban centers!
Meanwhile in the already overly crowded city centers real estate prices will explode and force families to live in tiny single room apartments. From a strict profit driven perspective utopia is now happening!
Then why not debunk something I said instead of going off on a weird tangent that is orthogonal to it?
> We want a system optimized for transportation. We do not want a system optimized for wealth extraction.
> Say someone is buying a house. He will look for the stuff he needs. If they have kids that have to go to school or if they cant drive for some reason they look at the bus and train schedule and kinda expect that service to be there the next month.
> How you imagine it actually doesn't happen. You don't get a substantial number of people with kids, old and disabled people moving to an area without public transport so that you can move in for the killer profits. Even if there is a bus it would be unreliable if profit rather than transportation is the goal.
Who spoke anything about killer profits? To put it simply, in my proposal any place that could be a competitive market would be one (so profits are driven as low as possible), while any place that could not be would be subsidized. Regardless, this is entirely orthogonal to my point.
What I railed against was the idea that public transport in areas with lots of demand should subsidize public transport in areas with low demand. This is an absolutely terrible idea, whether your public transport system is private or government-ran. It's bad, because it drives the cost of public transport up, and unless you ban private cars, it therefore also drives the incentive to use public transport down and the incentive to use a car up.
Instead, since we want to optimize for transportation, we should drive the cost of public transport as low as possible. Especially in areas with high demand, simply because as they have more people, they matter more in reducing emissions and traffic. And do note that as low as possible will be lower in areas of high demand than in areas of low demand. For this task, I propose using an open, competitive market. You might like a government-ran system better. I think either approach might work, although I prefer my version because it is less fragile. The important part is that not a penny of the fare prices paid by people in high-demand areas should go to subsidizing service to people living in low-demand areas.
Because having public transport in those low-demand areas is also socially good, any areas where a competitive market cannot work should probably have subsidized public transport. However, that subsidy should not come from other public transport, because that makes public transport worse where it matters and makes people drive cars instead, making traffic and pollution worse. If you look at my original post, I proposed subsidizing it from taxation.
Have I now repeated my point enough times that you have understood it? I'd have repeated myself less, but I thought it necessary since if you actually had bothered to go read my original post, instead of ad-libbing your favorite strawman on it, this entire post would not have been necessary.
Sometimes there are other issues too, like too much crime, but even then there's still something for the government to solve that would make it profitable for private transit.
If people cannot get to and from their jobs, especially folks working low-paying jobs, in a timely manner, it works against the goals of public transport.
Now, there are other good points to having odd hours: Getting drunk folks home, enjoyment of city life when city life is happening, and so on.
As far as the competing companies, they probably would bid to run the bus system in an area for x years. Overlap might be an issue otherwise.
Just running buses empty isn't smart.
You'd be excluding few percent who still can't or wouldn't own a smartphone tho.
That's fine, until the Lazy people conspire to take away the choice from the rest of us.
In the UK, we have people complaining about the price of power, however all you have to do is visit a site like uswitch.com, put in your details, and save hundreds, yet millions of people haven't done that, instead spending their energy complaining about the prices.
The same with transport -- there's half a dozen ways to travel from say Edinburgh to London, including Planes, Train (multiple operators), Car, Taxi and Coaches. They all have pros and cons.
But because people can't be bothered to either look up different options themselves, or go somewhere like trainsplit.com, there is a lot of pressure to "remove loopholes" like break of journey, split ticketing, slower but cheaper trains, etc, meaning those of us who do travel cheaply will lose out, because a few selfish lazy people can't be bothered to visit a website.
No. When you're planning a journey from London to Edinburgh you should be able to go to the national rail journey planner and get the cheapest ticket, the shortest travel time, and then first class options on top.
You shouldn't need to go to a separate website to include weird options like split tickets, broken journeys, or alternate routes. These should all be built into the system.
The reason these weird options exist is because the UK train ticketing system is so stupidly complicated.
Prices for you aren't going to come down, but those of use that know what they're doing will lose out.
Also, people want to get from A to B the quickest. Taking longer, and possibly slower alternative routes is absolutely not an option, considering how our trains are already slow compared to most other nations anyway.
> Also, people want to get from A to B the quickest
Clearly that's not right. Some people want to travel the quickest. Some want to travel the cheapest. Some want to travel in the most comfortable way.
(OK everyone wants to travel at 125mph non stop from their local station to their destination, with a service every 5 minutes, for free. These changes aren't going to do that, they'll simply remove the choices that people have, and removing choice gives no benefit to the traveling public.)
As multiple people have pointed out you seem to live in a dreamworld where everyone can sit down and work out pricing, and doesn't mind going slower or less comfortably. But here's a thought, what if it's possible to have all of those things at a reasonable price? That's the aim of such changes, by removing shareholders all profits can go back into improvements, just look at TfL. Travelling in London, while not 100% awesome, is still miles better than the rest of the country.
I'm at uni in exeter, it's sometimes cheaper to fly from Yorkshire down there than take the train, that is absolutely ridiculous.
You're the exception, not the rule my friend.
Most european countries spend far more per passenger-mile in subsidies for the rail network. This would allow cheaper tickets, but that would mean more students taking the train instead of the coach, and therefore even less room. Until we build more infrastructure we can't sensibly reduce ticket prices.
The changes in discussion now are nothing to do with removing shareholders, it's about 'simplifying' the tickets. This will cause 1% of passengers to pay £50 more, and 99% of passengers to pay 50p less, all because that 99% value their time over buying their tickets from someone other than 'thetrainline' (which saves £1 a ticket straight up)
However if you do remove shareholders, you'll save about 3% on the price of train tickets -- i.e. they'll cost the same next year that they do today. Whoppee.
I went to Exeter Uni, I drove down from Warrington. The train is expensive, but the reason for that is that crosscountry trains are massively overcrowded, and the decision not to run longer trains on crosscountry routes is down to the government, not to Arriva (or whoever runs crosscountry)
Last time I took the train to the south west I chose to travel on ATW and FGW rather than Cross Country.
However if I were going to travel Leeds to Exeter tomorrow, I would go to 'trainsplit.com', type "Leeds", "Exeter", and select the date, and within 30 seconds find a fare for £62.61 (including the fee for using the service)
Now if you were to buy it at the station it would cost £153, which is silly.
Banning split ticketing ("simplifying") will not drop the price
Renationalising the rail network may drop that price to £148
The reason that "simplifying" tickets and "removing anomolies" is again in the news is because more and more people are doing it, and this is harming profits.
All those travel options are still there. But now instead of paying something (but a bit less than other people) you're paying nothing (the same as everyone else).
I don't see how losing your cheaper price is a disadvantage if you're now paying nothing.
People who like obscure routing hacks can still optimise for stuff - quicker trains, more scenic journeys, nice rolling stock, not Virgin.
So .. how exactly do the savings come about? The electricity comes from the same power stations. You're not buying it on the spot market. Literally the only thing the power companies do is billing. The only way they make a profit is through confusing pricing and market inertia.
As someone else said, spending ages getting cheap tickets is only free if your time is worthless.
It's not true that it's as simple as putting numbers in a price comparison website because energy companies use bafflement pricing.
We know they use bafflement pricing because we need Tariff Comparison Rates so people can compare.
Ignoring for a moment that some tenants can't change; some can change but are told they can't; some people in debt or on prepayment meters can't change; people with some smart meters have limited options; (this list is quite a few people who can't change) we are left with people who need to work out if they need cheap price per unit (but with a large standing order charge), or cheap standing order charge with a higher price per unit.
The other two reasons we know it's not easy to switch are 1) OFGEM has to regulate the price comparison websites to prevent poor behaviour and 2) most people never switch.
(I find it annoying g you've been downvoted. You're making points in good faith and not being rude.)
However I strongly suspect you're wrong -- people choose cheaper tickets all the time, they book specific trains in advance and they travel at non-business times of the day ("off-peak"), and they choose cheaper services (say 'virgin only' from Crewe to Manchester, rather than 'any permitted')
This is good -- it allows you to make choices. Why would you want to take those choices away?
We are talking urban transit here and not advance bookable trains. If given the choice of a 20% cheaper ticket but half the trains people would take the more frequent service.
Why take the choice away? Because more operators means fewer trains/busses/trams per operator as the infrastructure is generally limited. So in urban areas shared ticketing is what customers prefer.
"The same with transport -- there's half a dozen ways to travel from say Edinburgh to London"
That's not urban transport.
> Why take the choice away? Because more operators means fewer trains/busses/trams per operator as the infrastructure is generally limited. So in urban areas shared ticketing is what customers prefer.
In well run urban areas (like London) the competition comes from providers bidding to run the service, but the actual specification of the service including the conditions and ticketing, are done by the local authority. There are multiple bus operators in London, but most people don't realize that.
The day to day choice comes down to choosing Bus vs Tube vs Bike vs Uber vs Taxi.
In poorly run areas (like Manchester), the on-bus competition rarely exists, and when it does tickets aren't interchangable.
> If given the choice of a 20% cheaper ticket but half the trains people would take the more frequent service.
Some people would. You and I would, because we're highly paid IT professionals. Others wouldn't -- hence the reason that where direct commuting services do compete (say Milton Keynes to London), some buy flexible tickets, others buy "Virgin only" ones to save 15%.
Board the 1900 or 1920 ('off peak') and it's standing room only.
Transport is not 'primarilly for commuters'. There are very few commuters traveling from Warrington to London.
You're taking your corner case (local commuting on a metro style service) and applying it to the network as a whole. This is a failing. However you still have a choice. I used to commute from Leighton Buzzard to London. I could either
1) Take the London Midland service into Euston and tube on (most frequent, least comfortable, slightly faster)
2) Take the Southern service to Shepherds Bush and walk (less frequent, more comfortable, slightly slower)
3) Take the commuter bus (slower, far cheaper, less frequent)
4) Drive (slower, cheaper than the train, more hassle)
When we were both doing 5 days a week we took the train, as it was less hastle. When we dropped to 3 days a week we drove, as it was far cheaper.
Commuter tickets are already massively subsidized (35% discount for being a commuter traveling from Guildford to London for example vs a one off trip), I hope those are got rid of when they get rid of break of journey. That will allow large scale price cuts across the network.
The Uk system is also skewed by the bidders also having to say how much £ they will return to the government.
I used actual swear words because it is that bad
If I recall correctly, the city busses, airport transportation busses, and the long-distance busses are different companies (or at least theoretically can be). The taxis are another company altogether.
Taxis are a different story, most of them are private franchizes and it's working pretty well. Part of the reason ridesharing services were unable to gain any foothold here I believe.
Germany's railway (DB - Deutsche Bahn) has been privatized and they make a profit on long-distance high-speed routes. Local routes are purchases service from a variety of smaller local train companies that sprung up, and also from DB. Ticketing can be very messy, and you have to read the small print to know where some special applies. For example, some regional ticket (one or two states) may restrict you to certain providers and routes.
This… isn't true.
Deutsche Bahn AG is a private company, yes, but its 100% owned by the federal government.
> they make a profit on long-distance high-speed routes
DB Fernverkehr AG (the long-distance subsidiary) do this by operating them on an entirely commercial basis: they make a profit in part because they only run services that are profitable. The same is true of the companies competing on long-distance services (which are admittedly relatively few and far between, undoubtedly in part because of the huge start-up costs).
> Local routes are purchases service from a variety of smaller local train companies that sprung up, and also from DB.
Here's where it gets complicated: this depends on the state (within Germany) and how they arrange public transport. The primary services are typically put out to tender (and how differs between the states) and these aren't necessarily run by DB (through its Regio subsidiary) as DB Regio has lost a number of bids.
At the same time, even on track, there's far more competition when it comes to profitable routes, as various local train companies as you mention have started competing.
Which does not change the fact that it's been made into a private company, and that their mission is profit. Ever since that happened we've been hearing it in the news whenever they announced their results, apparently the whole country, or at least media and the government care very much about it. So they are not like a government agency at all, they really are a business.
So OPs statement is not true, competition (on the local routes) and profitability very much drive DB. That was my point, in the context of the comment I replied to.
But your points are valid. One approach would be the good old market. Give people x amount to spend on transport and let them decide how to use it.
When I had parking cashout in Santa Monica early in my career I loved the extra $2500 a month in my paycheck, and starting my day with a bike ride.
Of course, this only works if, every road is tolled high enough to account for the negative externalities of driving (pollution, people killed while walking, cycling, motorcycling, etc., noise, the end of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning circulation causing northern Europe to be nearly uninhabitable in winter.. so on and so forth), and of course, to build/maintain/police it.
There are roads within the complex for Fire/emergency/moving-trucks, but no other cars are allowed onto the ground of the complex. So there are no cars driving around within the complex.
Not having to worry about dodging cars or dealing with car-noise/engine-exhaust-smell all combined to make the quality of life so much better. With some grass and greenery planted, walking within the complex felt like walking on a hiking trail. And this is in the of a huge apartment complex with thousands of units.
Why would they need five bussing companies when one suffices? They might not even need the one, the government could run it.
As someone living in America I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live somewhere you can trust the government to run something like public transit. This is the on time performance of the Amtrak I’d take to work if it was ever on time: https://juckins.net/amtrak_status/archive/html/history.php?t....
The delays there are poor but train 111 departs from NY so has a long time to get delayed en route to that station. It's not a classic example of a commuter train.
Because my tax dollars are paying for it (Amtrak receives about $1.4 billion in subsidies each year) and I expect it to run as scheduled. Being an inter-city service is no excuse--Germany, Japan, etc., manage to run timely intercity train service.
Metro is a disaster. According to WMATA, the 26-minute scheduled trip from NCR to Federal Triangle takes me on average 37 minutes (about 50% over schedule). That's for a service that starts at NCR.
MARC is the least bad option (only about 5 minutes late on average) but it's typically standing-room-only at NCR.
The government here runs the tube (TfL) and it's fairly good, a lot better than the privately run stuff elsewhere in the country. I come from Yorkshire, where we have "Northern Rail" which is usually the butt of most jokes about our country's infrastructure...
Because they're lazy and irresponsible. But its impossible to fire them because of the public unions.
> And why is competition necessary?
Because at least a private company can go out of business and be replaced by something else.
> The government here runs the tube (TfL)
TfL is run in a much more "corporate" manner than public transit in the U.S. For example, it covers almost 100% of its operating costs, while U.S. transit systems are massive black holes for tax money.
I think one of the things that Europeans don't realize is that its not like Americans are choosing between private companies and European-style public services. No public service in the U.S. is run like what I see when I travel to Germany or Japan. The NYC subway and DC subway were historically the two best, and both are currently in a state of meltdown (despite being very well funded systems in overwhelmingly Democratic areas).
Americans choose between the private sector (which leaves a lot of people without service, no doubt), and a rapacious corrupt public sector that spends several times as much money to offer shittier service than what you have in Europe. (E.g. despite running almost identical systems, the NYC Subway spends twice as much per passenger trip as the Tube).
Estonia is in Europe.
Which transit system with a subscription model does that? We have a year ticket in Vienna and since that is a flatrate you can already not do that.
Some partial answers/comments (my 0.02):
1) You can measure competing bus companies by revenues, or in the case of Estonia by other metrics (e.g. number of rides (assuming you can track passengers, perhaps with cell phone apps), satisfaction, "on schedule" rides, transportation coverage).
2) I actually don't believe that buses are the right type of public transportation, going forward. There's a chance that it will be cheaper to offer self-driving cars instead. I am not too optimistic about driverless cars "time to market", however you can constraint the complexity of the problem if you have a) Fixed routes, and b) specific vehicles / sensors (e.g. how to deal with snow in Estonia), paired with a great maintenance service (again, if the government can provide an SLA on snow removal, you can assume that as a reduction in complexity).
Not sure I'm a big fan myself. They sort of sit between bicycles and electric mini cars.  The cars are safer and allow easy multi-passengers, groceries, long-distance, all weather conditions, intercity travel. Bicycles are cheap, good for your health, nimble, safe on dedicated cycling infrastructure (see the Netherlands).
Scooters take the best but also the worst from both. They're low-effort and relatively high-speed compared to bicycles, but nimble and relatively cheap compared to cars. But they're also relatively expensive compared to bicycles, have poor weather conditions of bicycles and are relatively unsafe and can't do intercity trips or grocery runs as easily as cars. They also aren't really suited for automation, and I feel they're less suited for ridesharing, but it's not easy to identify exactly why that is.
I kind of feel every scooter ride is better off either as a bicycle ride or car ride, assuming you have these ubiquitous self-driving car2go 'travel pods' you could call em, and assuming you have nice cycling infrastructure. (I have a very European/Dutch perspective on this, outside cyclist-friendly cities I'd much rather have an electric scooter. But as a city I'd rather promote different infrastructure choices than scooters.)
Compared to bicycles they’re smaller, so easier to maneuver in crowded spaces (not that you should be riding them on the sidewalk for instance, but on a mixed use bike path or something they’re actually slightly less disruptive to pedestrians than bikes) but also slightly scarier if you have to use on a street with no bike lane. They’re lighter so easier to pick up and move, they’re more one-size fits all than bikes are so better for renting. They can go faster than a slow cyclist but the max speed, at least of the ones we have today, is slower than a moderate to fast cyclist. Plus you’re not sweating when you get to your destination which is the main reason I prefer it for a short commute over biking.
The downsides vs biking are that it’s less comfortable and worse for longer distances, and you don’t get any exercise if that’s part of the biking equation for you.
So no, every scooter ride is not better as a bicycle ride. It’s a new form of lightweight transportation with its own strengths and weaknesses, and the nice thing is it fits very well into existing bike infrastructure so there’s no reason to have to choose between which to support.
Cheaper than bikes, low effort, high speed, nimble, shopping limited to a back pack, bad in weather. Less weight, less space and less dangerous than bikes.
It's quite interesting, I grew up in a cycling city/country. Sometimes we see reports of my countrymen going abroad to consult other cities in the US, Africa, Asia etc to go cyclist-first, and a key issue pops up is that of convincing people on the image aspects I never considered. i.e., jumping on a bicycle in a place like Cairo just means you're poor and low-class and a self-respecting salaried person wouldn't do it. I always understood that even though I never experienced any such thoughts myself due to growing up in a cyclist culture.
I feel a bit like that with scooters. I mean I'm young, a student, I'd ride them. But as silly and self conscious as it sounds, I probably wouldn't in my 30s, 40s or 50s. I wouldn't take one to work and I'd feel weird about showing up at my gf or friends on one or walking around with a folded one. I now know what it feels like when people say these things about cyclists.
It's hard for me to shape an opinion on adoption. Is it one of those things where if the infrastructure etc is good enough, everyone will do it. (e.g. cycling in Amsterdam, all ages, genders, ethnicities and classes cycle, although there is a bit of an ethnic divide). Or if it's one of those things where generally 30+ year olds will just never use scooters in substantial numbers in most countries.
A simple look at the geometry of a scooter (the small wheeled kids type not a vespa or c90) vs a bike will tell you that.
Let a lone the better and safer breaking you have on a bike vs an electric scooter
That sounds suspect. Taking the example of a model used by one of the rent service in Paris, the Gogoro Smartscooter, that weighs 122Kg (incl. batteries), or 61Kg/tire. In comparison, a car like the Renault Zoe weighs almost 1500Kg, or 375Kg/tire. I know that bike tires are skinnier, but is it really enough to make more damage considering the weight differences?
Fat women weiring high heels usually don’t stand on one foot at the same place for a couple of days.
The bus system is not generally used by wealthy people (house/rents are way higher near a tube station) I would guess that at least 60-70% of the people on a given bus in London are either over 60 (so not paying), under 18 (paying a reduced rate) or on benefits already (so the government is already paying indirectly).
So what is the point in charging? I think you could remove the requirement to pay / tap in on the bus and cut the number of buses running in half, without reducing profitabliity or service significantly. And you'd get better air quality in London as well.
This is true, but it's actually fascinating that this is required for the elderly and immobile. If the stops are too far apart then people have to walk too far to get the bus, and so in practice they don't.
I used to feel the same when I lived in Edinburgh, that the stops were too frequent, but despite the stopping/starting it was useful for others.
Edinburgh has (had?) a fantastic local bus-service. Definitely the best I've experienced in the UK, cheap, reliable, and an unusually friendly set of drivers.
I would at least like to see a trial, where half the stops (of those which are really close) are marked as meant for disabled/elderly/blind people. Everyone can stand at every stop and the bus will service it, but everyone likes faster transport and hopefully they'll choose to not stand at disabled stops. Some assholes will undoubtedly refuse, but if that happens at one or two stops out of ten or twenty, that's a win.
Or, alternatively, only service each stop with every other bus. The lines where there are enough people to have stops every 1 minute walking distance, there are also enough buses (like every 10 minutes) to not have to wait long if you don't want to walk to the next stop. Or you time leaving work so that you're there when your closest stop gets serviced: that's no disadvantage for you and a win for speed.
(And of course sometimes a bus will stop when people want to get off, not necessarily because people want to embark.)
And for disembarking same thing: half of them are for disabled people (or aren't serviced with every other bus, depending on the variant of the idea).
The payment system stinks: cash-wise, they only accept exact change only. You can pay a £1.70 single with £2, you just don't get change.
You can pay with the bus app, but this is a hideous payment app that is seriously flawed. Firstly, you have to top up minimum of £10, so no automatic integration to your bank account or PayPal. Secondly, you have to 'purchase' a ticket on the app just before the bus arrives, and it has a time limit. Within this time-limit of 2 minutes, you have to show the driver the ticket. The driver does nothing other than Yay/Nay it. No scanning or anything. Makes it infuriating to use. This is not just Edinburgh, but other parts of Scotland, like Dundee.
If you pay too much you can get a form from the driver to claim your refund - alhtough I know almost nobody does it, and I never did the few times I was caught short of change.
(I remember before it was a flat-far, when I moved to Edinburgh in 1994 there was a sliding scale to pay for bus-journeys. Something like 50p for 1-3 stops, 60p for 1-5, etc. I remember when that changed and it became 80p for any journey and gradually crept up to £1, £1.10, £1.20, etc.)
Either way, if there’s 4 double doors along the whole side of the bus that can be used to board / alight, without a tap in queue, the turnaround time per stop could be 3-4x faster.
The new Routemasters definitely optimise the loading/unloading speed, hopefully they will be rolled out to new routes. Also all new London busses over the last few years have been hybrid or electric, so idling isn’t that much of an issue now.
They do send controllers "randomly" to check whether people have valid rides and hand out quite hefty fines if not.
So far I have only ever heard the transportation companies complaining loudly about not being able to collect fines from some people, rather than fare dodging itself being considered a big problem.
Consider that London has a ton of people from outside of the city, and tourists. You can go free for residents, but you'd still need an RFID card system for everyone else. Moreover, if just London decided to do this you'd still need an RFID system for transport that goes in/out of the city, e.g. every train station, many buses. In Estonia they still used cards even though it was all free. You essentially need to make the whole country have free public transport, that's a big decision. Hope the UK will get there within 15 years!
That would be horrendous.
Trains are already crowded enough off-peak. In lieu of more infrastructure (like HS2) the real solution would be to increase the prices to encourage people who are more concerned about price than speed, flexibility, frequency, to take less crowded trains, or other solutions like coaches.
I travel Crewe to London every few weeks, if I want to arrive in London before 11.30, or avoid the 1900-2000 overcrowded 'offpeak' trains, without using the slow train or the loopholes, that's £261 return, or about 90p/mile.
If I were to commute every day (and it's only 90 minutes), that would cost £361.90 a week, or 25p per mile (for a monthly ticket it comes down to £1,133.20 for the month -- or under 20p per mile.
However if trains were free, why would people take a coach? Currently those who are more concerned with cost can take a slow cheap coach rather than a expensive fast train.
Of course, that relies much more on trust and/or fear of inspectors.
Or CCTV and face recognition to auto-bill users or fine fare dodgers. That may or may not be good enough to replace user actions like tapping a card reader (Amazon stores are not the whole population, and I don’t know the reliability, thry may be an expensive public beta for all I know), but there are also privacy implications for such systems.
Getting rid of the barriers would get people in and out of stations faster, reduce queues and get rid of a lot of redundant station jobs which only exist to get people through the barriers. Actually those last two points may get significant backlash from the British public and the public transport unions respectively..
Tourists or rare users? They're liming up at a handful of machines. Can't figure out the options. May be having trouble with language. May be having trouble with payment. Can't choose among the many options.
I've been in this latter situation many times. I have my cards and apps for the places I routinely go. For the vast bulk of other places, I'm usually reminded of how difficult these systems can be to navigate--even if I've taken the time to do some homework in advance.
Also there are capabuses, China tested them, ultracapacitor based for 3km trips between recharge. Funny.
The bigger problem IMO is dental charges and the shortage of NHS dentists. The NHS fee for a Band 3 dental procedure (crowns, veneers, bridges etc) is £256.50, which is prohibitively expensive for people on low incomes. Many people can't access NHS dentists at all because of a shortage of providers in their area.
It made sense to buy the annual pre pay card for £104.
1) Usage might be "free" but ultimately someone somewhere is paying for it.
2) More accurate wording would actually better reflect the priorities of that particular culture, often in contrast to others of different priorities.
Free here sounds like "oh, a ride doesn't have to pay a buck. How nice." But the accomplishment is much bigger (and requires a larger financial commitment) than that.
p.s. As a side note, I hope someone is going to study the health related side effects. That is, for example, will riding more mean walking less? Will that add up to an unintended consequence?
It's not too far a stretch that to abbreviate "toll-free" or "fare-free" as "free". TANSTAAFL. I think everyone understands (to varying degrees) that someone has to pay, though it's arguable how much anyone understands just how much these things cost in the end. :)
However, as others have pointed out, the instant situation makes the criticism of calling it "free" more apt.
It's not that all riders aren't paying a fare. It's that only riders that are, in effect, voting with their taxes, to the tune of 1000 euro per year, by registering as city residents, don't have to pay the fare.
Suburban commuters might want that annual kilobuck to go the municipality where they actually sleep, instead, in which case, no "free" ride for them.
> But the accomplishment is much bigger (and requires a larger financial commitment) than that.
I think even that is arguable in many locales, given how high the existing public/tax subsidy of public transit already is as well as how high it costs to collect fares.
I see it differently.
1) I'm absolutely certain "free" and "taxpayer funded" would result in two very different impressions.
2) Along the same lines, how many times do you hear "...government grant..." as if that's manna from heaven. Not at all. It's a euphemism for "tax dollars that Uncle Sam took from taxpayers, took a cut, and then gave it back after we begged for it."
As subtle as it is, the use of "free" is vague, lacks transparency, and in most cases misleading. Why don't we get better language? Better communication?
Maybe, but that's a false dichotomy, anyway. It's "taxpayer funded" either way. You'd have to say "fully tapayer funded" to be accurate, and then the difference in impression may have nothing to do with the content of the message but the tedious verbosity of the form. It certainly would for me, and I'd smell an agenda on the part of the person using those words in, say, a headline.
> As subtle as it is, the use of "free" is vague, lacks transparency, and in most cases misleading.
Again, maybe you're right, but, without even basic psychology research showing that's the case with that word, by intuition says it's not misleading for most cases.
> Why don't we get better language? Better communication?
A combination of there being no incentive (or incentives to the contrary), or we just don't want it. Headlines are especially notorious for having something like the opposite of "better language".
Ultimately, who are you to say what's better?
Language is usage is language.
That said, I would like to add an anecdote to your P.S. I commute to Copenhagen, so I take a train and then a bus to reach my destination. I have a travel pass that lets me take public transport for free in a specified region. Copenhagen also has a bike sharing system, but using the bike sharing system costs money, even with a travel pass. As such, I'm incentivized to not use the bike sharing system and take the (usually crowded) bus instead.
In fact, I know of no one who uses public transport for some part of their journey, who also use the bike share. People either live within biking distance, and therefore use their own bikes (unless broken or for other reasons unavailable,) or they live far enough away that they need to take some public transport no matter what (my situation,) and then just take public transport the entire way. In the end, the bike share mostly just gets used by tourists, when it could very conveniently replace the bus for last-mile transport for many people.
That is the definition of free.
Free always means that someone is paying for it. If I give you a book for free I still had to pay for it. The purpose of the word is that the receiver of the good didn't have to pay.
Let's not be so naive.
A study a number of years ago for my city suggested that the costs of a ticketing system from maintenance of machines to employing station staff and ticket inspectors was higher than the revenue that was collected from fares.
That was before they went $AU1billion over budget designing Myki, a smart ticket system.
Tickets are more expensive than most international cities I've visited and even then they still run at a loss, having to compensate private operators.
My lobbying is always met with "heh, how are you planning to pay for that plan!" and all the mechanisms I point to will take some amount of work and political will to shift around, notwithstanding the same sources that currently pay for the remaining 6/7ths of opex. if anyone has constructive new ideas for me to sell the idea, I can be in the mayor's, MATA GM's, and DMC's Pres' office next week to pitch it. end rant.
Do you happen to know?
Modern fare collection systems can be expensive boondoggles in their own right. That likely doesn't apply to a historic trolley, but you mentioned ticketing services, and even one annual salary is a hefty proportion of that $700k.
Estonia is interesting, small enough to make risky moves, large enough to make them meaningful. I wished NL was half as progressive.
In the case of Estonia the expenses could be directly or indirectly covered from EU budget (which is filled by NL, DE etc.) and also the experiment is possible due to relatively low salaries. I cannot imagine such an experiment in NL.
As to other towns and rural regions, which are poorer, the central government recently passed a measure to increase subsidies to municipalities in an amount that would allow them to make all public transport free, if they wanted. It's now up to municipalities to find a balance between fully subsidized, partially subsidized and commercial lines.
So that's more like €83 per month public transit. In comparison, a 30 day pass in Tallinn costs €23, or €8.50 for students. Seems like you could simply not register as a resident and come out ahead. Does anyone know if being a registered resident of Tallinn comes with any other benefits, or is this just a case of people willing to lose €60 to get something for "free"? The following quote from the article makes it seem like clever marketing.
>There’s no doubt that we not only cover the costs, but also come out with a surplus. We earned double as much as we have lost since introducing free public transport. We’re happy to see that so many people are motivated to register as residents in Tallinn to make use of free public transport
And this is all assuming the public transport will be useful and efficient, instead of being the bare minimum of what is available and chronically underfunded and underrepaired. That stuff is capital intensive and expensive, which bureaucrats will soon find out to their chagrin.
You are comparing the total cost with the heavily subsidized end user price, which doesn't make any sense.
What a scheme like this does is move all of the cost to the subsidy, instead of just most of it, by eliminating the end user price.
In this light the taxes are redistributed, Tallinn local government has been incredibly corrupt (but strangely functional and with moves like this pretty bold and not dumb) and so one could argue that there has been more theft through corruption but that would assume that the neighboring municipalities are less corrupt, which is not exactly given.
As the goal is to entice people to register as Tallinn residents the tracking part of the plan is absolutely vital.
So in the end this is still a zero sum game or even net negative as it accelerates regional income and by extension brain drain.
If you don't agree with it, don't move there. Society doesn't need people like you.
I think the ones doing the ripping off are the ones charging €83 for a €23 service then calling it "free". Then again, there could be other benefits to registering as a resident of Tallinn, so I don't know.
>If you don't agree with it, don't move there. Society doesn't need people like you.
I don't plan to move anytime soon, but what's stopping the current residents from putting 2 and 2 together? I think society needs more people who know to read the fine print.
Such scheme incentivizes municipalities to compete with other municipalities and offer their residents all kinds of benefits ranging from childcare to public transport to keep them registered there.
The general problem with "free" is that, without the price signal, overuse occurs. But public transport is orders of magnitude more efficient at moving people than cars, so even if people use public transport to travel 10x more than they would use a car-- which is a ridiculous assumption-- this would still make cities like 6x less congested if those people stopped using their cars.
1. High % of the cost of running it is due to the fare system.
2. The infrastructure is paid with tax money and yet only rich people (as in, able to pay the fare) can benefit from it.
So, it should really be free to use.
From the article. it looks like Tallinn requires residence permits or something. So perhaps they still need a fare system. I'd make all local public transport free for anyone.
May even avoid the need for the diesel car bans being mooted in my city (and some other German cities).
4. It reduces the use of a severely limited public good.
It's a wonder that they are not free to use everywhere.
I would explore more of the city here if this were possible... work from different parks and establishments. Instead, seniors and the disabled get hit with another $1 price-hike and have more of an inconvenient, expensive bus system without additional value being delivered.
That said - I wish they would do it in my eu country too.
It would be cheaper on the taxpayer - even if he/she doesn't use public transportation.
Wait a minute... What about USSR?
If I were in charge of this I would make public transit free for the lowest income levels and very cheap for others.
Can you name a service and a city/country that operates effectively in the manner you state?
> The company is headquartered in Bern. Formerly a government institution, since 1999 it has been a special stock corporation with all shares held by the Swiss Confederation or the Swiss cantons.
That certainly sounds like market forces to me.
At least in Northern California, municipal utilities, seem to be quite competent. Notably, in the SFBA, Santa Clara and Palo Alto have lower rates  and better service than what PG&E offers in all the surrounding communities. Santa Clara even built its own modern, local, efficient generating facilities.
I also heard from my telecom friends who grew up in more rural Northern California that there were towns (and surrounding rural areas) who ended up building and operating their own phone systems and that call quality (due to engineering/maintenance), features, and cost were always better than a neighboring community's service from AT&T or GTE, until, inevitably, it was privatized and sold off.
 Palo Alto's electric rates haven't been so great post-Enron, but still better than PG&E AFAIK.
> This Good Practice Guide provides information on improving urban public transport. It showcases how cities in Sweden, Finland, France and Germany have improved the environmental and social standards in urban public transport through the competitive tendering process or through preparations for competitive tendering.
> Competitive tendering refers to the awarding of an exclusive right to operate a route, or a network of routes, to an operator (or possibly a consortium) following a competitive process. Along with, or instead of an exclusive right, the Authority may also grant subsidises to the successful operator in compensation for the fulfilment of public service requirements.
"... following a competitive process." That certainly sounds like market forces at work to me.
> not every service requires market forces to operate effectively
private companies = market forces, even if they're government contracts.
Much like E-Residency the commentary here on and on most tech blogs pretends it'll be implemented to change the world and vast engineering-think discussions of how to implement, whereas in a couple of years it'll be yet another "New Coke/Classic Coke" and Estonia will have moved on to getting massive positive press over... I donno, changing all national laws using grep and tr to have gender neutral pronouns, or free 3-d printing as a constitutional human right, or ban freedom of association to eliminate racism, or legally mandating drone transport corridors in the national building code and planning commission documents, or ...
The E-residency thing is way more awesome however and (like the blockchain tech) will take even more time for it to live up to the hype :D
*Terms and conditions apply.
World's First Entirely EU-Tax-Funded Public Transport Nation
Estonia gets quite significant subsidies, subventions, grants and whatever other aid from EU so they can afford such experiments.
Interestingly, EU officials are also happy because they see the impact as opposed to having money simply disappeared - which is not an exception. Only EU tax payers and donor countries might not be happy because they have to pay for this fun and for their own transportation too - but who asks them :(
I just wanted to say that without having significant financial support from EU Estonia would hardly be able to carry out such experiments with "free" services.