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There are a couple of places in the US where there is enough population density to make mass transit work. Unfortunately no one wants to spend the money to improve it. Train and bus travel is painfully slow. Commuter rail travel, for example, averages about 30-40 mph, at best. If that doubled, people could commute from "great distances", or simply live 40 miles from a major city and have a 30 minute commute. Is the problem really that hard to solve?

We need to both change the way we think about what "mass transit" is and spend more $$$ advertising it.

I live in a rural area about 40 miles from Minneapolis, the largest city around here, pop. about 400k. Normally it would take me well over an hour to get there during rush hour, but I recently discovered that there is a bus that can do it in 22 minutes if the schedule is to be believed. The buses can drive on the shoulder, and of course, use the HOV lanes to get there faster than we can.

I found this out purely by accident because it's really not well publicized. I had to go to Mpls and didn't want to deal with parking, so I looked into the bus route and was astounded that it could do the trip from bus depot to downtown in 20 minutes. The bus stop itself is about 15 minutes from my house, so I could be downtown in less than 40 minutes. I can't believe Metro Transit isn't screaming this from the rooftops!

Of course, life being what it is I made it to the bus stop late, missed the last bus in and had to deal with the 1.5 hour drive into the city anyway :-(

"missed the last bus in"

This is the problem with small cities' public transit systems. Temporal flexibility is limited compared to driving one's self to work. Need to stay late? You'll be staying all night, or your spouse must come pick you up.

Other issues (observed as a lifelong Clevelander):

1. The elapsed time savings of using public transit is often quite negative (compared to a city like NYC where it probably is often more time-efficient to take the train).

2. Parking costs are relatively low, so there's no tax on bringing your car with you to work. And, you almost never pay for parking at home.

3. You can't live easily without a car, so the potential savings of public transit is reduced to less usage of your current vehicle. You still have to own one, pay for insurance, etc.

4. Density is so low that your first/last mile issues may literally be that far.

All of this creates a death spiral for these public transit systems: Ridership is low, so vehicle frequency is low. This creates higher costs of public transit for people who have more money than time (how much could you have earned while waiting for the bus?), so these systems end-up serving only those with more time than money. This creates a stigma around using public transit which further reduces ridership. Add in white flight and the fear that extending public transit to the "nice areas" will allow "those people" to invade, and it's hard to imagine how public transit could ever work.

Where in Cleveland do you live?

The RTA is very good for getting downtown or to University Circle (and possible Ohio City). Unfortunately the jobs have all moved to around 271/480. I did the 48->7 reverse commuting from Shaker Sq. to Highland Heights when my car was in the shop last year. Let me tell you, that sucked. Nearly an hour and half vs. 30 min driving. And there's only 1 bus the entire day that took the special route I needed.

I live in Hudson, so public transit will never help me much. I used to live in University Heights, a suburb which grew up after the RTA lines were laid out. Ironically, I have been working in Chicago during the week for the past few months and have been getting by a combination of public transit and taxis. $150/mo parking in the condo complex where I am renting coupled with $20/day-ish downtown parking makes a $8 taxi ride a bargain (not to mention the $2.25 bus fare). It also helps that iGoCars (a non-profit zip car competitor) has stationed a car right outside my building.

I must be misunderstanding something. A bus that covers 40 miles in 22 minutes would be doing 109 MPH the whole way, even on the shoulder.

I live around 40 miles outside the city. The bus station is approx. 20 miles from the city. Since it doesn't have to stop (the HOV lanes around here are usually open) 22 minutes is reasonable.

Wouldn't seeing a bus drive on the shoulder or fly by you in the HOV lane be a kind of advertisement? I never see buses do that where I live.

I rarely drive into the city and never do so at rush hour, so I've never really noticed what the buses do.

I'm sure I'll get downvoted, but this is funny and worth commenting on. Nice.

I commuted 27 miles (straight line) via commuter rail and it took me 1.5 hours each way. Rent was free (I lived at my parents) but it was tough. I was surprised by how long it took, and by the number of service interruptions that made the trip even longer!

I am now happily working 1.2 miles from home.

I live 1.4 miles from home, and walking to and from work is one of the best choices I ever made for my physical and mental well-being. If you don't walk to work and can, I highly recommend trying it.

You should move closer to home.


Including stop-lights it takes me 20 minutes to walk a mile. I too live about 1.4 miles from work, but I don't have a spare hour each day for walking.

I plan on fixing up my bike over the winter. I walked this morning and it does take a while. It also feels rather dangerous given all the construction going on around here.

It's false that "no one wants to spend the money to improve it", as proven by the voting for recent ballot initiatives to fund high-speed rail and BART expansions in California, to cite just one example.

A LOT of people would MUCH rather have large amounts of public dollars spent to improve transit than to, for instance, fund wars, bail out bankers, etc.

According to Wikipedia, BART is currently 104 miles of rail. That's probably less than half of the NYC subway. While the expansion is great, I think I'm talking about being even more ambitious.


The HSR is CA was funded in 2008. It looks like the first leg through Fresno might happen in a year or two. China went from no subway to the biggest subway system in the world in 15 years. They have 5000 miles of HSR. We have zero.

If you really want to get people off the highways, mass transit needs to be made more convenient, not the lesser of two undesirable choices.

And just for another comparison: The MVV (Munich Transport and Tariff Association / Muenchner Verkehrsverbund) serves 2.6 million people (Munich and the greater Munich Area). The S-Bahn (commuter trains) lines are 442 km, the subway lines 103 km and the tramway is 75 km. There is also the bus with 457 km on 66 lines in the city. (I've ignored buses for the outer regions and the option to use trains to reach the city from suburbs).

Compared to a neighbouring city:

Prague: 1,2 million passengers using 60 km of subway, 550 km of tramway and 1815 km of 150 lines buses.

Too many buses, obviously.

rail is a chicken-egg problem.

why would i take the train for longer distances if my destination will not have buses/subway? i will need my car there anyway, so i might just skip the train and drive.

See the construction plans for a high-speed train from staten island to manhattan (nyc). It should make going from SI -> Manhattan take about 20-30 mintues saving an average commuter about 20-40 minutes per ride. Gets a ton of cars off the road, thus making the other commutes faster, less cost, etc. Commuting in NYC is quite problematic.

it does not matter. well, i don't know NYC. let me talk about west coast. SF is fine for buses/subway. But if i live in SF, and need to go to LA, even if bart install the fastest train there is, it's of no use to me, as i can't even get a taxi in a decent manner in LA. i will have to take my car, or rent one there. or at least commute with some friend.

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