Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why people don't use rapid transit

My Morgan is 44-years-old and still going strong.
Yesterday I took my Morgan, a 44 year old automobile, to the mechanic for its annual physical. Note my car's age: 44 years. Clearly, cars can last. Cars do not have to have to have such short lives, but that is a topic for another blog.

It took me about twenty minutes to drive from my home in suburban Byron to the mechanic's in East London, Ontario. Getting home by bus was another matter. I had to walk about three blocks to the Dundas Street bus stop, take two buses transferring downtown after a short wait, and finally I had to walk about three blocks home. The bus trip took three times the time of the car trip.

My VW Jetta TDI only burns 8.4-cents of diesel per km.
My Morgan is not cheap to drive. It burns premium gasoline. On the other hand, my Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a technically up-to-date car burning diesel fuel. It covers a km for 8.4-cents in fuel costs. A trip to the mechanic costs about a dollar. I can drive to the mechanic and return home for about a third of what it costs to take the bus, plus I'd save an hour and twenty minutes by driving.

Now, let's admit there are lots of hidden costs when it comes to driving. The biggest hidden cost is depreciation. Buy a new car and it immediately begin leaking value. Something in the neighbourhood of half the value of the car will be gone in the first four years.

Then there's the cost of the oil changes, tires, scheduled maintenance, repairs and insurance. I'm sure I could add more but you get the picture. Still, take out the depreciation and my Jetta has cost only 31-cents to drive per km up to this point --- ant that is despite being hit with some big costs since its purchase. For instance, I had to buy a set of four winter tires complete with wheel covers. I kissed more than a thousand dollars good-bye.

There were two riders on this bus: Two!
Cars may be expensive but once you've bought one, the daily costs can be quite reasonable. The big budget killer is depreciation and for car owners, the depreciation metre doesn't stop when they take the bus. This makes getting car owners our of their cars just that much harder.

With more than an hour spent traveling home by bus, I had lots of time to consider the question: "Why don't Londoners use the bus more?" I looked around the bus taking me to Byron. I checked my watch, it was not quite 9:00 a.m. At no point were there more than 14 passengers on the bus and at times there were as few as two.

What a mess. The dirt is so thick, I could write, "Clean me!"
The first bus I boarded had more passengers but it also had a lot more dirt. No, let's call it filth. The bus was stained with spilled drinks, chewing gum was stuck to the seats, and none of this seemed recent. I could write my name in the thick coating of dust.

This brought back a winter memory of boarding an LTC bus and finding some seats contained puddles of melting slush. Some passengers liked to sit with their wet boots propped up on an empty seat.

Boorish riders are bad for the bus business.

As a young boy, I recall going shopping downtown or heading off to the doctor's office and taking the bus with my mom. As I recall, buses carried more people in the early '50s. Car ownership had not yet ballooned. Without a car, people got around by bus. The buses from my youth were a lot cleaner than the buses I've encountered in London.

And what has happened to the advertising once found above the seats? Today buses often sport large ads on their exteriors but I gather interior advertising is dying. Did it get too expensive? Did it price itself out of the market?

Where are the ads?
The London Transit Commission has unveiled its Transportation Master Plan. It sounds good on paper. The art is attractive. But I wonder how it will all play out in reality. I recall their much ballyhooed natural gas powered buses. They came and went quite quickly it seemed.

I found a post entitled "Why people don't take rapid transit." It's worth reading and considering. I like public transportation but they've got to make some changes if they are going to coax me out of my car.

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