Judging by the way dollar vans and similar minibus manifestations work in other places I've been to, there are a couple of things to note here:
- They're not purely pickup/dropoff at the house. They're dropoff at the house, but to pick up you have to walk to the street where they're all usually running. And one end of it is a major pickup location; in the case of these vans, usually a subway station.
- Because they only drive off when full, they only make trips where one end of the route is a major pickup location, creating a hub-and-spoke network. Traveling between spokes is something that these vans do very poorly, because there aren't nearly as many people doing that.
- At said major pickup point, they will usually cause major traffic congestion as they weave in and out of traffic and around each other. Several cities in South America (e.g. Bogota) replaced minibus-only systems with BRT or more formalized public transport because of the benefits of reducing congestion.
A nearby city is hub of everything, doctor, shops, food, fashion, ration everything. 15-20 villages are between the next similar city. A single bus starts from City A, usually empty in morning, & picks along people on the way to City B. There,it turns around, & conductors start shouting City A & Villages names, along with dramatic words like Leaving Soon, Hurry Up, Almost Full, Lets Go, Run etc. But it will run only at either its designated time, or if full, whichever is earlier.
They call these "Grand" taxis. There are also "little" taxis you can take within the city and hire on an individual basis (i.e. you don't need to wait for them to fill up).
The main precious resource they are saving is parking at the park and ride centers. In Seattle the p&r sites fill up ever earlier, and inability to park when you get there means you face driving to seattle and paying a large amount of money.
There was no occupancy limit. The limit is however many people can squeeze into the thing. Bench seats were common, so lots of squeezing.
Prices were cheap beyond comparison. $0.05-$0.10 per person to get on any of the city lines, a marshrutka to a town 6 hours away might cost $2-5
At least before the internet was commonplace, there weren't any maps of marshrutka lines anywhere. People knew which lines went where or asked friends. Failing that you pull the first one you see over and ask.
Tbilisi roads are insane, marshrutka drivers were on a whole other level. Minivans are really not designed to be floored from every light and thrown into corners. There's a reason nobody cycled on the road there and motorbikes were just as rare: you really do not want to share the road with marshrutka drivers.
To my knowledge, there were zero regulations. Sometimes after flagging one down, you'd hear some really uncomfortable sounds coming from the brakes, or a tyre with visible ply, or a driver who's clearly tipsy, and decide not to risk it.
I wish they would expand their offerings, because I live and work at two major points of their routes (except that it's different routes) and if they closed the triangle, I'd be able to avoid using Uber or Lyft.
Oh, and add in the fact that for those of us who live in Jersey and cannot drive, options are limited overall.
Also the fact that decayed commuting services like that are considered vital for some commuters is a sign of how bad of a state NJ infrastructure is in. Those busses are a clear sign of corruption and a symptom of a much larger problem.
Often what appears to be hard is because it hits things that are hard for humans. Full 360 degree constant coverage isn't a problem, fast reaction times are easy (so if it's about quickly stopping/starting that should be easily better). Complex parts come from more "human" standards, if you can only come out of a junction easily by making eye contact with an oncoming car for example.
It's that kind of thing. If you drive like you would in some calmer and less congested city you'll never get anywhere. You often have to take your space because no one is going to give it to you. It's not just vehicles. If a car pauses at a crosswalk because someone has stepped into it, the rest of the crowd will smell hesitancy and just cross en masse against the light.
Plus lots of police manually directing traffic at intersections. Lots of partially blocked streets because of construction and delivery vehicles. Parts of the city are really nerve-wracking to drive in at busy times of the day.
I actually do think it's worse than Boston with respect to a previous comment although the layout is much more of a grid which makes things easier in some respects.
Computers are still learning how to deal with freeway driving, why do you think city driving isn't a harder problem?
> Complex parts come from more "human" standards, if you can only come out of a junction easily by making eye contact with an oncoming car for example.
If you want computers to drive alongside humans, this is still a valuable piece of information.
> If you want computers to drive alongside humans, this is still a valuable piece of information.
Valuable is different from required though.
It's not just the other humans, though that's a big part. There have been times when the condition and design of the streets and roads themselves have been challenging.
Well no wonder there's many unlicensed vans. They way the incentives are set up they may as well print "don't even bother" at the top of the license form in big bold letters.
With those kinds of costs in addition to the cost of running the van you'd be making pennies. Run unlicensed and on normal insurance (or better yet, read the statutes and figure out where the risk/reward sweet spot is) and you'd save a ton of money. If you don't have a lot of money or a legitimate business that needs protecting then it's a no brainier.
Edit: Down-voting me won't make running above the table any more financially attractive. If the insurance made financial sense the state wouldn't need to force them to get it or at the very least it would not be the owner's primary gripe. Most small businesses love to advertise their credentials and how insured they are. Every other business complains about labor cost and regulation. These guys are complaining about insurance. That should be a massive tip off that something is wrong.
This is exactly why Uber went the route of "we're just a tech company even the drivers are basically driving taxis". Having those drivers conform to the same rules would have made the fare just as expensive as a taxi fare.
They are taxis - they're a separate class of taxis from the yellow taxis, but they are considered taxis (and regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission).
So much of these costs are protectionist measures implemented by government to protect the interests of established businesses.
To borrow a turn of phrase from the gun rights camp, business licenses, if they exist at all, should be low-cost and shall-issue.
For example, medallions are obviously and pretty explicitly a protectionist measure. On the other hand requirements to display fares clearly and use an approved meter are there to help customers from being ripped off.
Imagine "home" restaurants, where people can just sell food from their own kitchen with the same kind of regulatory oversight your private kitchen gets. What's the recourse when you eventually get sick or worse? Who do you blame for allowing this? How do you get compensated?
There are good examples now where people argued against the value of regulation right up until they got burned (see the lack of regulation in crypto and how easily this was exploited with no recourse from the victims).
If insurance made financial sense to carry for the average or averagely unlucky operator the state wouldn't need to make it mandatory and drivers wouldn't grumble about it or at the very least it wouldn't be their primary gripe. They'd gripe about labor costs and labor laws like every other business does.
Insurance companies aren't typically run as charities.
> If insurance made financial sense to carry for the average or averagely unlucky operator the state wouldn't need to make it mandatory...
The state is worried about the damage they can potentially cause to others. Their employees, their customers, innocent pedestrians, buildings.
> They'd gripe about labor costs and labor laws like every other business does.
That seems unlikely, considering the drivers are largely independent contractors. They don't tend to complain about labor costs, as they call them "profits".
There's a reason it's required.
Edit: here is the article. They were found liable for $8M for paralyzing a passenger. A chicago company was liable for $26M in another case.
Practically and economically, yes, it makes sense. No wonder, indeed.
But I find it really sad that the government fails to simply enforce the insurance requirement. These vans are an important part of the transportation solution for many people and the government is failing to protect these riders. Regulation defiant buses are rewarded and regulation compliant buses are penalized.