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Exactly. I've never understood why proponents of public transit don't say this more often. The more people that use public transit the fewer people who drive. Which means less traffic for everyone else still driving.

The onion was the only major newspaper to pick this one up.

"98% of US commuters favor public transportation for others"


I read about a study in the book Traffic[1] that seems to negate this view, for buses at least. The findings were as follows:

1. More people use buses along a certain stretch of road.

2. Said stretch of road sees less congestion. Bus riders save time!

3. Noticing that this road has less congestion, more drivers take this route.

4. Route becomes congested due to increased interest.

5. Buses take just as long as cars to get to destination.

6. Bus riders migrate back to cars due to lost advantage of bus.

7. Road is more congested than before.

Overall, Traffic is a fantastic read and really opened my eyes.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-About/dp/03072...

5 => 6 seems odd. The advantage of the bus is basically never that it gets you to your destination faster. Buses stop every couple blocks; they're not going to beat cars taking the same route and not stopping.

The advantage of the bus is 1) it's (hopefully) cheaper; 2) I can put the time to better purpose than staring at the road and listening to NPR; 3) I don't have to be frustrated by parking; 4) if I meander from where I started I don't have to make my way back there; 5) (addendum to 1) for my commute I can spend pre-tax money on it, making it cheaper still.

For me, I find 2 the most important, though sometimes 3 is substantial.

You're forgetting one of they key points of buses in dense places: Parking!

Here in DC I can out-drive the bus on any route in the city, but when you factor in 20+ dollars/day for parking downtown, or spending 30 minutes finding a street spot, the bus wins hands down.

Parking was number 3, though I'll admit I may have underplayed it.

Is this a case study, or a way something "could" go bad? Specifically 6. Bus riders migrate back to cars due to lost advantage of bus seems to encompass some assumptions that aren't necessarily true:

1) Bus riders have cars

In SF, many people don't own cars because the city isn't particularly car friendly. If buses get too slow, I can see some riders using alternate transportation, but I doubt very many would choose to use a car (and most probably don't have one to use).

Note: I don't live in SF, but was born, raises and continue to live an hour North. My primary mode of travel there is in a car, and it's not ever pleasant.

2) Bus riders ride buss primarily because it's quicker

What about being cheaper? What about convenience (it's a different type of convenience, but it's liberating to not have to worry your vehicle is safe and whether you've forgotten keys somewhere).

Think of a suburbs -> downtown commute situation. Houston comes to mind here.

I believe that was the study. I'll have to go look at the source to be sure, though.

Speaking of convenience factor, I can't wait for self-driving cars in this regard. I know it's a topic change, but widespread autonomous transport will clear up much of our traffic problems. Indeed, humans are the weak link when it comes to traffic. Not roads, signs, capacity, mass-transit, etc. but humans. We're just not capable of coordinating our behavior in traffic.

> Think of a suburbs -> downtown commute situation. Houston comes to mind here.

> I believe that was the study. I'll have to go look at the source to be sure, though.

That makes more sense, although I have to imagine some prioritization of public transit would alleviate this somewhat.

> Speaking of convenience factor, I can't wait for self-driving cars in this regard

Imagine self driving mixed with public transportation. Instead of large buses (or in addition to) we could have more, smaller vans, seating 6-10, depending. We could have multiple per prior bus serviced route if replacing a bus, and they could be more accurately dispatched base on load (having a bus service a route when there's few to no riders is a waste). Additionally, these could be used to add less commonly used, but still beneficial routes between farther points.

To really make it next gen, you could allow people to reserve seats online for a small fee, which would give useful information on route usage and upcoming demand, to allow reserve units to be dispatched accordingly.

If the cost of the drivers is removed, and the vehicle cost and repair can be brought down, a lot of really interesting things could be done with public transit.

I found the relevant section in my copy of Traffic:

  ...congestion pricing can help reverse a long-standing
  vicious cycle of traffic, one that removes the incentives
  to take public transportation. The more people who choose 
  to drive to work, the worse the traffic. This raises the
  time the buses must spend in traffic, which raises the
  cost for bus companies, who raise the fares for bus
  commuters -- who are being penalized despite their own
  efforts to reduce total traffic. As the bus becomes less
  of a good deal, more people defect to cars, making things
  worse for the bus riders, who have even less incentive to
  ride the bus. (p. 167)
The author cites congestion pricing as the solution, with money raised going to pay for buses.

And this brings us full-circle to the argument that those buses should be free for riders. If a city charged cars to drive during congested times and subsidized bus fares with that money, this might be a solution to ease up congestion.

When I was attending university, there was a big problem with parking. So they built lots of parking space, more or less they tripled the parking lots. Net effect: there was still the same problem with parking, but now there was also a bigger traffic problem. On the other hand, buses were less crowded :)

While it adds little but perhaps a smile for a few readers, relevant reading - http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-98-percent-of-us-com...

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