Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rail transit and what is physically possible

I have written posts in the past that reflect my admiration for John Kain's work in transportation economics.  He is known, among other things, for training legions of students: "bus good, trains bad."

In general, buses are cheaper and much more flexible to operate than trains.  But a visit to Bangalore made me wonder if it can really thrive as a city without a metro system (which it is currently in the process of building).  Bangalore is very dense and the streets are, for the most part, very narrow.  Congestion is already terrible, and is composed mostly of auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, and scooters. The city already has many buses, that move dreadfully slowly.  To get from the airport into the business district, a distance of 40 kilometers, takes a minimum of 90 minutes.

People who know these things better than I have told me metro systems are never cost effective.  In this particular case, however, I can't help but wonder.


Matthew said...

Never cost-effective compared to what? If you already have adequate roadways, running buses is probably the most cost-effective. Certainly it is the cheapest, which of course is not necessarily the same.

But if you don't have roads that buses can run on at a reasonable speed, it seems less obvious.

Unknown said...

From my experience living in Portland, OR and Bordeaux, France, I am convinced that light rail is an essential backbone of an efficient urban transport system. both cities have excellent light rail systems.
But I am pleasantly surprised to find from my recent Bordeaux experience that well planned bus systems are at least a necessary adjunct, and perhaps could even handle the whole job.
The previous operator, Veolia installed the three new tram lines, but did little or nothing to upgrade the bus system. In 2009, the metro district awarded the contract to Veolia's competitor, Keolis , which reorganized the bus lines. They used information created by the ticketing system to trace 13 new priority line designed to take people where they want to go. The buses are long double units powered by natural gas and running in priority lanes whenever possible. These buses run every ten minutes and respect their schedules. This frequency and regularity of service is essential for the success of a bus service. We now find that we can reach many destinations faster by bus than we can by tram, and much faster than motorists, who still stall for hoursin the city's narrow streets.

In this respect, I think Bordeaux has done a better job than Portland, which has a much better street and road system. Whichever way you do it, you've got to put the necessary resources into it to make it work.

fuzzidapears said...

This regularity and regularity of assistance is important for the achievements of a bus assistance.

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