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Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit?

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Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit?

Old 05-26-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
"The limited transit service available in most American cities means that demand will never materialize—not without some fundamental changes."

"To this day, in most parts of American cities, it is all but impossible to get anywhere on a Sunday at 8 p.m. by transit, and if you miss the bus you might be waiting an hour or more for the next one. Such a situation is virtually unheard of in most other developed countries, where even many small villages have a relatively regular bus."

"That’s the fundamental problem that makes transit useless for most people in most American cities. The key to great transit service is not about getting 100 percent of people to ride transit for 100 percent of trips. It’s about giving people a viable choice of getting around without needing to drive."


https://www.citylab.com/transportati...ced-it/572167/
The situation in the states is always the same story: buses don't run frequently on weekends because nobody uses them. Nobody use the buses on weekends therefore, they don't run frequently.

I've actually, gone to transit meetings, talked to the transit director, and helped to lobby for greater frequency. A year after the added buses running with 3-4 people on board they were cancelled.
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Old 05-26-19, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
"The limited transit service available in most American cities means that demand will never materializeónot without some fundamental changes."

"To this day, in most parts of American cities, it is all but impossible to get anywhere on a Sunday at 8 p.m. by transit, and if you miss the bus you might be waiting an hour or more for the next one. Such a situation is virtually unheard of in most other developed countries, where even many small villages have a relatively regular bus."

"Thatís the fundamental problem that makes transit useless for most people in most American cities. The key to great transit service is not about getting 100 percent of people to ride transit for 100 percent of trips. Itís about giving people a viable choice of getting around without needing to drive."


https://www.citylab.com/transportati...ced-it/572167/
City lab has tried to address the issue for some time. Good read if not as complete as we might like. This link can clarify some of the same issues. At least to those living in the land of multiple suburbs.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox...n-subway-buses
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Old 05-26-19, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
The situation in the states is always the same story: buses don't run frequently on weekends because nobody uses them. Nobody use the buses on weekends therefore, they don't run frequently.

I've actually, gone to transit meetings, talked to the transit director, and helped to lobby for greater frequency. A year after the added buses running with 3-4 people on board they were cancelled.
It's a chicken and egg problem, but if the negative feedback loop with public transit doesn't shift to a positive one, the environmental/climate negativity continues and worsens, as well as the social-economic ones that naturally happen when transportation and land-use norms automatically result in negative economic pressures against population growth.

Add to that the problem that whenever people do get motivated to enact change, the status quo police swoop in and start ridiculing them and calling them unrealistic, which encourages the general public to just keep going with the status quo despite not really being on board with it or believing in it as something sustainable for the long-term future.
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Old 05-30-19, 08:36 PM
  #54  
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I imagine America's disinterest in public transportation is probably complicated but here are my theories:

1) America has always had a strong individualist mentality and for a long time, the automobile was a symbol of freedom and self-determination. For many young Americans, owning a car was as much an existential symbol as it was a practical means of just getting places

2) Most American cities are too low-density. This is probably a chicken/egg thing. American cities are low density because the car allowed them to be low density and their low density makes cars a necessity to get around. Early modern urban designers saw the automobile as a sort of liberation of congestion and dirty high density industrial citiesówhile European thinkers like Le Corbusier et al would imagine vast automobile networks connecting towers in a garden, America actually had the land and wealth to make it happen. Even early American urban design (think Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonian grid and its rationalization of America, the land) was of a low-density sort.

3) With low density, it becomes too inefficient and costly to run a public transportation network. I grew up in a suburb without a driver's license and you'd have to walk 15 minutes to a bus stop where a bus comes every 30 minutes so you can go to the LRT station which would take another 20 minutes to take you downtown. It wasn't for lack of funding or will. The city was just too sprawled out and most people had a car anyway.

4) Most American cities have zoning/building codes that are heavily car-centric which doesn't help to ween people off the reliance of cars. When your cities and buildings are designed around cars, you kinda need a car even if you don't want one.

5) As some have pointed out here, there's little political will to fund public transportation. Even cities which desperately need it (New York comes to mind) frequently find itself with budget short falls and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. American infrastructure, ask anybody, Republicans, Democrats, anybody in between, and they will agree that it's a messóbut nobody can quite agree on how to fix it.

The sad thing is a lot of "cutting edge" thinkers, i.e. Google's Sidewalk Labs or Uber etc. imagine the future of mobility to be some sort of self-driving car service but really, the future of sustainable, affordable, and ergo equitable mobility is probably a bus.

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Old 05-30-19, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by mattscq View Post
I imagine America's disinterest in public transportation is probably complicated but here are my theories:

1) America has always had a strong individualist mentality and for a long time, the automobile was a symbol of freedom and self-determination. For many young Americans, owning a car was as much an existential symbol as it was a practical means of just getting places

2) Most American cities are too low-density. This is probably a chicken/egg thing. American cities are low density because the car allowed them to be low density and their low density makes cars a necessity to get around. Early modern urban designers saw the automobile as a sort of liberation of congestion and dirty high density industrial citiesówhile European thinkers like Le Corbusier et al would imagine vast automobile networks connecting towers in a garden, America actually had the land and wealth to make it happen. Even early American urban design (think Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonian grid and its rationalization of America, the land) was of a low-density sort.

3) With low density, it becomes too inefficient and costly to run a public transportation network. I grew up in a suburb without a driver's license and you'd have to walk 15 minutes to a bus stop where a bus comes every 30 minutes so you can go to the LRT station which would take another 20 minutes to take you downtown. It wasn't for lack of funding or will. The city was just too sprawled out and most people had a car anyway.

4) Most American cities have zoning/building codes that are heavily car-centric which doesn't help to ween people off the reliance of cars. When your cities and buildings are designed around cars, you kinda need a car even if you don't want one.

5) As some have pointed out here, there's little political will to fund public transportation. Even cities which desperately need it (New York comes to mind) frequently find itself with budget short falls and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. American infrastructure, ask anybody, Republicans, Democrats, anybody in between, and they will agree that it's a messóbut nobody can quite agree on how to fix it.

The sad thing is a lot of "cutting edge" thinkers, i.e. Google's Sidewalk Labs or Uber etc. imagine the future of mobility to be some sort of self-driving car service but really, the future of sustainable, affordable, and ergo equitable mobility is probably a bus.
If I might add Americans have a love of cars, and to most, the car is a symbol of success and wealth.

Most of our cities were built around an infrastructure dependent on the private vehicle; and unlike many cities in Europe and around the world, America is sparse relative to populations in Europe and its narrow roads built thousands of years ago.

But it goes even further than that. Nevertheless, you hit the nail on the head with the most prominent causes, and for lack of interest and support in public transit.
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Old 05-30-19, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
If I might add Americans have a love of cars, and to most, the car is a symbol of success and wealth.

Most of our cities were built around an infrastructure dependent on the private vehicle; and unlike many cities in Europe and around the world, America is sparse relative to populations in Europe and its narrow roads built thousands of years ago.

But it goes even further than that. Nevertheless, you hit the nail on the head with the most prominent causes, and for lack of interest and support in public transit.
Now this is pretty civil. Still with all of the reasons we stick in words like equitable transportation as if that is a real goal. In this country and culture or cultures it is just the most comfortable transportation. The bus comes when someone in an office decides it is best to come and leaves when someone in an office says it should leave. And that is how the drivers are trained and evaluated by supervisors that may be following them around. The mass transit mantra is, ďthere are reasons a bus can run late, but no excuse for one to run hot.Ē

Such limitations directed at the customer are not the only ones that fall on deaf ears. Often bus companies seem impotent to deal with customer complaints on issues like these. To be efficient the bus cannot seem to go from point A to point B it must stop at all 26 letters picking up and dropping off human cargo in the rain or hot sun maybe even snow or wind, blocks from where people are trying to get to.

And what do the cousins in cars get? A place for the coffee they got at the drive through. A sound system almost as good as the one at home. And yes at a cost. But a cost most have already budgeted for.

With 8 to 9 households having access to a vehicle 8 out of ten might see Personal vehicles as equatable.

But more than that there isnít a big difference between how we haul people in a bus and how we ship cattle or sheep. The driver isnít there as a monitor but simply to haul the cargo and get back to the yard.

I donít know what the solution is or if there is one. Updating buses more often, headsets like on airplanes. Assigned seats and individual controls for heat or cool might help. Maybe add a bus marshal who knows? But while it may be better than walking the bus leg of mass transit may need the most work to improve its image.

Just thinking here. My sister was a bus driver and is now retired. She doesnít ride the bus now at all. For at least one of the reasons I mentioned, not leaving when she is ready nor coming back when she wants.

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Old 05-31-19, 06:14 AM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
And what do the cousins in cars get? A place for the coffee they got at the drive through. A sound system almost as good as the one at home. And yes at a cost. But a cost most have already budgeted for.
If they budget for it, they also budget to be in debt. That means they are budgeting money they don't have (yet) and banking on making more money to pay that debt. That puts everyone under pressure to squeeze money out of others to pay off debts, which makes for bad social-economic relations.

If people actually limited themselves to what they could afford without going into debt, they would be free to negotiate work and business opportunities without subtle pressure and desperation that puts everyone involved at a higher level of drama/aggression.

Transit and other LCF transportation options provide the opportunity to live debt-free, or at least more debt-lite.
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Old 05-31-19, 06:38 AM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
My sister was a bus driver and is now retired. She doesn’t ride the bus now at all. For at least one of the reasons I mentioned, not leaving when she is ready nor coming back when she wants.
My ex-mother in law drove city buses for Metro in Houston.

When off duty, she never rode a bus. She drove her own car. In fact, she drove her car to the bus depot every work day to get her bus for the day.

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Old 05-31-19, 06:55 AM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
If they budget for it, they also budget to be in debt. That means they are budgeting money they don't have (yet) and banking on making more money to pay that debt. That puts everyone under pressure to squeeze money out of others to pay off debts, which makes for bad social-economic relations.

If people actually limited themselves to what they could afford without going into debt, they would be free to negotiate work and business opportunities without subtle pressure and desperation that puts everyone involved at a higher level of drama/aggression.

Transit and other LCF transportation options provide the opportunity to live debt-free, or at least more debt-lite.
No doubt, America is a debtor society. When young and just starting out, most people have to be that way.

The trick is to not wanting the latest and greatest as one's income increases. Buy an older model car with cash or put down a high percentage down-payment.

For example, buy a 10 year old Toyota Corolla for $4K and keep it at least 4 years, add in insurance, gas, repairs, maintenance, registration, etc. and it will cost about 40 to 50 cents per mile on a 10,000 mile year.

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Old 05-31-19, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
No doubt, America is a debtor society. When young and just starting out, most people have to be that way.

The trick is to not wanting the latest and greatest as one's income increases. Buy an older model car with cash or put down a high percentage down-payment.

For example, buy a 10 year old Toyota Corolla for $4K and keep it at least 4 years, add in insurance, gas, repairs, maintenance, registration, etc. and it will cost about 40 to 50 cents per mile on a 10,000 mile year.
All the costs of an economy get passed down in one way or another. For you to get a 10 year old car for $4K, someone else has to buy the car for $20K and lose $16K on it. How do they make that $16K? By charging high-enough prices to pay themselves well, and low-enough wages to their employees to afford their own wages.

Now consider all the paving costs to build and maintain multilane roads and highways for everyone to drive their cars on. It's easy to think, "hey, just tax the rich for those roads and create jobs for everyone who works to build them," except the 'rich' being taxed are corporations and investors who are recovering their tax-losses by charging everyone else more and paying them less.

So it would be better to spend less on vehicles and infrastructure overall; i.e. by using more efficient forms of transportation like transit and biking; and building less infrastructure by having narrower roads and less-sprawling grids with less parking and more trees/greenspace.

Everyone driving around in 10 year old cars at $4K isn't going to solve anything. Most people riding around in buses, walking, and riding bikes/scooters would, on the other hand, solve a lot. Reforming infrastructure and land-use, in turn, would solve even more.
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Old 05-31-19, 09:11 AM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
Everyone driving around in 10 year old cars at $4K isn't going to solve anything. Most people riding around in buses, walking, and riding bikes/scooters would, on the other hand, solve a lot. Reforming infrastructure and land-use, in turn, would solve even more.
The 10 year old car example was for the debt discussion. As long as new cars are being bought and sold, people will have access to used cars.

It will be hard to make everyone get rid of the current way of car transport here in the USA until the cost of ownership is much more prohibitive for the average person.

I'm not sure what year that will be, but I'm pretty sure I'll be dead.
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Old 05-31-19, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
The 10 year old car example was for the debt discussion. As long as new cars are being bought and sold, people will have access to used cars.

It will be hard to make everyone get rid of the current way of car transport here in the USA until the cost of ownership is much more prohibitive for the average person.

I'm not sure what year that will be, but I'm pretty sure I'll be dead.
It is and has been prohibitive for a long time, but lenders keep offering more credit so people can pay to sustain their unsustainable lifestyles/budgets.

People basically keep believing that having credit is the same thing as having money, and what's worse is that once creditors' have control over people, they can threaten to raise their interest rates or lower their credit limits if they DON"T buy a new car every so often.

So you may be right that people won't stop driving, but it is not because they can afford to keep driving but because they can't afford to stop. Or rather, it is because they sell their freedom to lenders.
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Old 05-31-19, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
The 10 year old car example was for the debt discussion. As long as new cars are being bought and sold, people will have access to used cars.

It will be hard to make everyone get rid of the current way of car transport here in the USA until the cost of ownership is much more prohibitive for the average person.

I'm not sure what year that will be, but I'm pretty sure I'll be dead.
No matter how hard it might be to plan on on how one budgets their money it doesnít address why mass transit is so dismissed by the general public in the us. Cities finance buses by spending millions on buses they have to tax people to get. Then they have to pay drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, managers, secretaries, custodians and even build large bus yards and office buildings for all the people to work at. With all that people still prefer cars that drive on the very same infrastructure cars do.

But the subject really isnít cars or living like all you can make is minimum wage. Is some cases like with one poster here living a low wage life is a choice. That doesnít make it better than having a job that makes budgeting easier. None of that solves why people have turned their back on mass transit. Ask the people that donít use the bus and see if some donít have the same or similar complaints as I listed.

Yes we tend to over spend. However it is the choice of the individual that matter on how they spend their money.

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Old 05-31-19, 11:50 AM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
No matter how hard it might be to plan on on how one budgets their money it doesnít address why mass transit is so dismissed by the general public in the us. Cities finance buses by spending millions on buses they have to tax people to get. Then they have to pay drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, managers, secretaries, custodians and even build large bus yards and office buildings for all the people to work at. With all that people still prefer cars that drive on the very same infrastructure cars do.
If I bought myself a car as payment for providing you with just enough transit service to get to work and back, so you could also buy a car; you could refuse and keep riding transit until the schedules and routes improve, or you could give up and give in to buying a car, which would waste more of your money, put you in debt, and eat into your ability to save in the long run; but many people choose to sacrifice the future for the present - and end up paying the price of doing so in the long run.

But the subject really isnít cars or living like all you can make is minimum wage. Is some cases like with one poster here living a low wage life is a choice. That doesnít make it better than having a job that makes budgeting easier. None of that solves why people have turned their back on mass transit. Ask the people that donít use the bus and see if some donít have the same or similar complaints as I listed.

Yes we tend to over spend. However it is the choice of the individual that matter on how they spend their money.
Not if they have creditors that insist they drive to get a higher paying job so they can pay more money to their creditors.
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Old 05-31-19, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
If I bought myself a car as payment for providing you with just enough transit service to get to work and back, so you could also buy a car; you could refuse and keep riding transit until the schedules and routes improve, or you could give up and give in to buying a car, which would waste more of your money, put you in debt, and eat into your ability to save in the long run; but many people choose to sacrifice the future for the present - and end up paying the price of doing so in the long run.



Not if they have creditors that insist they drive to get a higher paying job so they can pay more money to their creditors.

I still contend that has nothing to do with why we as a nation have backed off of buses. The more "if, and if and if," you add doesn't add credence to the argument. You or the government are buying anything for me or mass transit. You or the government are using either your money, for you, or in the governments case everyone else's money for the public. In the governments case to fund what the voters are willing to support so people in the government can keep their job. That also doesn't solve the concerns about mass transit. If the contention is mass transit buses are to give the poor a transportation option fine it still doesn't make buses fix the problems I indicated.


People finance their house or pay rent, it must be budgeted. Nothing new there. If people want a nicer house or apartment they know they have to pay more for it. Nothing new there. People have to decided what to spend their money on and work to find a way to do so. Some people work hard to make more money, a house keeper that takes on more customers comes to mind, or others keep looking for better jobs and work their way through the system of their company. There is even one car free person here that uses houses they have purchased and rent out to supplement their living choices. None of that has anything to do with why we as a nation see buses as less desirable. I even know of some that "choose" to live on close to minimum wage and then complain about not being able to afford to live like everyone else.

Complaining that life isn't fair doesn't solve the problems with mass transit.

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Old 05-31-19, 12:14 PM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
If they budget for it, they also budget to be in debt. That means they are budgeting money they don't have (yet) and banking on making more money to pay that debt. That puts everyone under pressure to squeeze money out of others to pay off debts, which makes for bad social-economic relations.

If people actually limited themselves to what they could afford without going into debt, they would be free to negotiate work and business opportunities without subtle pressure and desperation that puts everyone involved at a higher level of drama/aggression.

Transit and other LCF transportation options provide the opportunity to live debt-free, or at least more debt-lite.
The problem is, they would also limit themselves to advancement. Moving forward requires some risk, and the greater the risk, the greater the reward. That's just business.

Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
My ex-mother in law drove city buses for Metro in Houston.

When off duty, she never rode a bus. She drove her own car. In fact, she drove her car to the bus depot every work day to get her bus for the day.
Now you see that's one of the biggest problems in the transit system. If I were the director, periodic us of the system (particularly by those that design it) would be a mandate. If it doesn't work for you, how can you expect others like yourself to use it?
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Old 05-31-19, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
My ex-mother in law drove city buses for Metro in Houston.

When off duty, she never rode a bus. She drove her own car. In fact, she drove her car to the bus depot every work day to get her bus for the day.
My sister did the very same thing. The Bus company even offered free rides to drivers going to work. But the bus doesn't tend to run on time that early nor does it run as often for those that get off work late. Punching in late was a whole other problem.

But maybe the most telling thing is going into a main bus yard and sitting in the cafeteria to listen to how the drivers view their customers simply adds to why people feel the way they do about buses. I used to drive her to work now and then and had coffee with the drivers before work. Opened my eyes.
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Old 05-31-19, 12:53 PM
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When I first got out of the service there were recruiters for bus operator. One of their initial requirements for training was that you needed to have a car. They didn't want anybody depending on the bus to get to training because it was too unreliable. Go figure.
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Old 05-31-19, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
When I first got out of the service there were recruiters for bus operator. One of their initial requirements for training was that you needed to have a car. They didn't want anybody depending on the bus to get to training because it was too unreliable. Go figure.
Now the real problem has been identified. We live in a world or rather society with time frames that a bus can't accommodate much of the time. With lack of punctuality comes lack of interest. With lack of interest comes lack of investment. With lack of investment comes lack of service. With lack of service comes abandonment for other options.
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Old 05-31-19, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
My sister did the very same thing. The Bus company even offered free rides to drivers going to work. But the bus doesn't tend to run on time that early nor does it run as often for those that get off work late. Punching in late was a whole other problem.

But maybe the most telling thing is going into a main bus yard and sitting in the cafeteria to listen to how the drivers view their customers simply adds to why people feel the way they do about buses. I used to drive her to work now and then and had coffee with the drivers before work. Opened my eyes.
I've often thought that for training new drivers, they should have them all stand at the back of the bus and not hold on as an experienced driver takes them through a slalom course. Drivers need to get a feel for what riders experience. But if they're not riders themselves, then, yeah, transit riders are just a nuisance that they have to stop for.
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Old 05-31-19, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
I've often thought that for training new drivers, they should have them all stand at the back of the bus and not hold on as an experienced driver takes them through a slalom course. Drivers need to get a feel for what riders experience. But if they're not riders themselves, then, yeah, transit riders are just a nuisance that they have to stop for.
Having worked in the service industry for a great many years, I'm proud to say I never forgot my place. That said, I've been known to make a speech or two regarding the importance of the patron for any current service person that forgets who eventually pays their salary.
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Old 05-31-19, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
Having worked in the service industry for a great many years, I'm proud to say I never forgot my place. That said, I've been known to make a speech or two regarding the importance of the patron for any current service person that forgets who eventually pays their salary.
Yes this touches on the issue as well. The bus service needs to change to service the customer not the customer needs to change to make life easier for the bus. If the bus service cannot change or will not change then people will migrate to some service that they will, even if it costs to do so.
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Old 05-31-19, 02:52 PM
  #73  
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
When I first got out of the service there were recruiters for bus operator. One of their initial requirements for training was that you needed to have a car. They didn't want anybody depending on the bus to get to training because it was too unreliable. Go figure.
I think it is just one of those common word-of-mouth myths to tell people they have to drive a car to get a job because that keeps money circulating back through the car dealerships, insurance agents, and other investors in a local economy. Basically they're just saying you have to submit to taxation by the king before the king will give you a paying job.

You would think transit jobs would be beyond the reign of King Car, but of course local culture permeates through all workplaces, including transit companies.
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Old 05-31-19, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
When I first got out of the service there were recruiters for bus operator. One of their initial requirements for training was that you needed to have a car. They didn't want anybody depending on the bus to get to training because it was too unreliable. Go figure.

Unlike the other poster I believe you because having a car can be a requirement for many jobs. It isn't a word of mouth myth it is true. The local school district makes the same requirement for a custodian, maintenance worker and even a warehouse worker have to have access to a car. When some have asked why the answer was simple, the employee might be required to report to another site to fill in for vacations or emergencies. If the employee says they aren't prepared to do that then the answer is also just as simple. There are others left to interview. It was a posted job requirement. So no it isn't a myth it is a fact. And a bus cannot cover for that requirement.
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Old 06-01-19, 09:41 AM
  #75  
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
Unlike the other poster I believe you because having a car can be a requirement for many jobs. It isn't a word of mouth myth it is true. The local school district makes the same requirement for a custodian, maintenance worker and even a warehouse worker have to have access to a car. When some have asked why the answer was simple, the employee might be required to report to another site to fill in for vacations or emergencies. If the employee says they aren't prepared to do that then the answer is also just as simple. There are others left to interview. It was a posted job requirement. So no it isn't a myth it is a fact. And a bus cannot cover for that requirement.
It's funny how you talk about transportation freedom when it comes to people being free to choose to drive, but when it comes to driving as a job-requirement mandate, that doesn't seem to bother you one bit.

If some employer made LCF a requirement for the job, for instance because the employer wanted to make a positive sustainability impact, you and others like you would be crying about transportation freedom.
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