The appeal of the steel wheel.

355,000 google hits for ‘I hate buses’.

294,000 google hits for I hate trains’.

but

214,000 google hits for ‘I love buses’.

849,000 google hits for ‘I love trains’.

Clearly trains are the George Clooney of Public Transport.


Buses are more of a Steve Buscemi.

Here’s a sample of quotes about buses:

1. “The bus takes too damn long too damn inconsistent.”
2. “Buses, are susceptible to every pothole and height irregularity in the pavement.”
3. “You’ll notice that development will follow a train station, but rarely a bus stop. Rails don’t pick up and move any time soon.”
4. “An internal-combustion engine is constantly engaged in hammering itself to death and buses tend to vibrate themselves into a sort of metallurgical dishevelment. Interior fittings–window frames, handrails, floor coverings, seats–tend to work loose and make the interior look frowzy and uncared-for. By age 12 the bus is a piece of junk and has to be retired.”

Here’s a sample of quotes about trains:

1. “Commuter trains, OTOH, are sophisticted and urban. Very chic.”
2. “The train is a very laid-back mode of transportation. While the time it takes to travel by train is far longer than to go by plane, it is a good opportunity to put on headphones and unwind, to read (which should be avoided by those who have a problem with motion sickness), to converse with fellow travelers, or to just kick back and enjoy the view.”
3. “Rail wins the contest for being the quickest, most comfortable, and highest capacity carrying public transit mode.”
4. “Viewing an ever-changing landscape from the comfort of your seat is surely the finest way to travel, to Europe and beyond. When you take the train, your journey becomes an important and delightful part of your holiday experience. You are free – to converse with your companion or new friends, to absorb yourself in a book, or simply let your mind wander.”

How can two travelling boxes, both full of seats, one with rubber wheels, one with steel, make people so angry, or so happy?

It’s probably because buses get sent to do the job that should be done by welfare cheques – going down poky backstreets providing some sort of horror-movie quality service to the elderly, poor and infirm. Meanhwile, rail tries to do the job of freeways, rapidly moving the smiling, shiny-faced masses from their leafy suburban domiciles to their central corporate edifices.

Can we bridge the divide here? I doubt it. Try, and you’ll end up with this fugly monster
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/05/half-bus-half-t/

Thoughts, esteemed readers?  Please share them below…

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thomasthethinkengine

Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

2 thoughts on “The appeal of the steel wheel.”

  1. I’ve recently started taking the bus to work when its raining and I can’t ride. In Melbourne buses are great cause everyone else is on the trams, so you almost always get a seat in peak hour. The bus comes frequently and goes where I want to go. The people on the bus are happy because they got a seat too, not like those cranky tram people who are embittered from the fear they may be interrogated by an inspector at any time. The big problem is there’s only a bus lane half the way there. They need to do some more painting on the road. And it still takes longer than riding my bike.

    Like

  2. I hope you don’t mind me necro’ing such an old post.

    I’d just like to point out that shortly before your post in 2008 a “BRT” system opened in Auckland, NZ. Running adjacent to a highway into the transit-phobic Northern Suburbs it includes a fast, bus-only (not T lane, not heavy vehicles, just buses and emergency response) road and smart stations with off bus ticketing.

    Needless to say it was very successful, and now matches the motorway over the bridge during rush hour in terms of people movement.

    I think speed really matters, the bus is faster than the motorway – and it doesn’t get stuck in stations (because people pay their fare before getting on). Combined with nice stations this seems to make the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

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