If US cities are built around cars, what can realistically be done to fix public transportation?
By - wt_anonymous
More frequent centralized bus routes.
In many cities the buses go all over the place and make 3-4 stops per mile. This makes them extremely slow and so only people who have no other choice use them. Further to have a bus hit each stop every 10-15 minutes you would need a massive amount of buses and drivers.
In my city to take a bus to the downtown, there is only a bus every hour and it takes 40 minutes by bus. By car the same route would take 20-25 minutes. So if you just missed the last bus your total trip time goes from 20-25 minutes by car to 100 minutes by bus. It's not worth the risk.
Change the routes to be more express, less stops but also more frequent. If everyone knows they can walk to the bus stop and only have to wait at most 10-15 minutes they become much more attractive.
2003? the company I worked for started a program that they would pay for the monthly bus pass if you would take the bus to work. (they were getting a tax break for promoting mass transit)
So I thought I would give it a shot.
I looked up the schedule only to find the only bus I could catch that would get me to work by 8 I had to catch at 6:00am. I normally woke up at 7:15 and left the house by 7:30 and made it to work in under 20 minutes usually.
So I got to the bus stop at 5:50 just to make sure and not miss the bus. Bus didn't show up until around 6:15. I sat on a wet bench in the cold for half an hour - longer than my drive to work.
I was twenty or thirty minutes late to work. It was over a two hour trip.
I got a ride home with a coworker and didn't fill out the app for the free bus pass
Yep, i've had similar experiences the times i have tried to use the bus in my area.
I just avoid completely now and even paid for a $25 uber a few times because the risk of being 1-1.5 hours late was not worth it to me.
Wait, you only need 15 minutes to get ready in the morning?
Ha! I tried to use a bus once. I asked the driver if they stopped at a particular location. He said yes. The location came and went. I rang the bell, repeatedly. He stopped about a mile from where I requested. I walked home and never took the bus again.
Changing the routes to be more express flips the problem. You get to downtown faster, but the people needing those other stops lose out and stop being able to ride. Adding additional buses which don't stop as frequently would create the alternative you desire but requires expansion of the entire system. Whether or not the city would expand that is another matter entirely.
As an example, a bus i took once had many stops within 200-300 yards of each other. Eliminating many of those stops does not remove access from the overwhelming majority of people, it just asks people to walk an extra 200-300 yards at most.
Are there some people for which that is an issue, yes. Are there probably many more people for which being late by 30 minutes is a major issue, almost certainly.
Politically i understand why this is an issue, but making bold changes always requires some gives and takes.
This also assumes that you need to go where the transit goes (a typical suburb to downtown commute). Neither Los Angeles or Seattle have those commuting patterns.
That too. There are cities which have developed express style trains into town via the suburbs which have alienated most of their inner city population. They also tend to fail to get people around town once getting them into town. Chicago is an example of this though I believe it has gotten better recently. It's a big decision to make, target your longer distance suburban commuters or your city population. Ideally you would do both at once, but it's doubtful you'd get that much funding.
Problem first and foremost is you need enough ridership to justify that. Problem with us cities is lack of population density, so you'll never have enough ridership even with optimal routes.
That is certainly true for many of the smaller cities and virtually all suburbs in the US. But there are middle tier and larger cities that could employ some of these techniques.
lets take LA metro. public transit will never work in LA because LA is literally over 34k square miles with 13M people at a whopping 388 persons/sq mile. adding more routes means less people ride per route, which in turn raises the cost per passenger. which is not ideal. so that only leaves people who must take public transit to take it.
Which is why i'd advocate cutting the number of route, but making them faster and only in the more dense parts of the city. While the average density is only 388/ sq mile. There are plenty of sub areas with much much higher density.
The bulk of the population does not live in the more dense parts of the city. They live in the suburbs.
...But don't the denser parts of the city by definition have more people living in them?
I think the point was that there are fewer dense areas. So the denser areas might only make up (making up a number to illustrate a point) 10% of the population, while 90% is spread out.
LA is very sprawly. Even most apartment buildings (at least where I lived in LA) are 2, maybe 3, stories. And while LA has a small downtown, it doesn't have the typical "suburb to downtown" commuting patterns. Everything is outer-point to outer-point
That makes absolutely 0 sense. If they lived in the suburbs, then the dense part of the city WOULDNT BE DENSE. It's dense because alot of people live there. Jesus christ lol
Nope. It's dense because that's where all of the tall buildings are located. The majority of the buildings in downtown LA are commercial - not residential. There's a fair number of hotels and apartment buildings mixed in. The buildings are packed pretty closely together, which is why it's dense, but most are occupied by workers or visitors and not residents. There are probably more homeless people living in downtown LA than apartment dwellers.
There are quite a few residential neighborhoods not far from downtown, but they are not as densely packed. They're also not quite suburbs. They're sort of in the middle between urban and suburban. But the LA metropolitan area is vast, and compared to most other cities with comparable populations, the downtown area is quite small. The city is spread out over a very large area, with the bulk of the population in the suburbs that comprise the sprawl. There's a long running joke that it's impossible to live in LA without a car because almost nothing is within walking distance, and public transportation is terrible.
Many years ago I lived in Gardena and worked in Torrance. My distance to work was about 4 miles. I didn't have a car. I had to walk two blocks to catch a bus 90 minutes before I had to be at work. That bus dropped me off about four blocks from where I worked. The actual trip, including the walking, took about 15 minutes, but as the bus was frequently late, and only scheduled every hour, I couldn't afford to wait for the next bus or I would often end up late for work. The bus was always less than half full, even during the morning and evening rush hours.
I also took a bus to the same job in Torrance from Hollywood. I still caught it about 90 minutes before I had to be at work, but the ride was more like 45 minutes in stop-and-go freeway traffic. By the time that bus reached my stop in Hollywood it was standing room only. Sometimes it was so packed that the driver didn't even bother to stop, which meant I had to wait for the next bus, and I was going to be late for work.
Hollywood is a five minute drive from downtown LA.
Bro, they are considered dense for a reason. You think those tall buildings are empty? You think offices and commercial areas don't have employees and customer/clients that need transportation? By your logic, people use public transportation from the suburbs to.....more suburbs? Of course not, they use it to get to work and to downtown areas. Come on. That's idiotic
Sure they can keep building train lines and increase density near train stations. People who value transit over having a yard for their dog to shit in will move to those areas. It will never serve everyone but it can serve a lot of people.
Well you could also levy heavier taxes on people who drive over x amount of miles per year to encourage more public transit use at the same time as increasing public transit options.
That would just hurt the working class most. These are people that typically can't afford to live close to where they work. Taxing their longer commutes would only make lives more difficult.
That's what the public transit is for though? If you live close to where you work you probably shouldn't be driving anyways. If you live like an hour or more away from where you work public transit is the cheapest and easiest way for you to get to work, assuming it's provided.
An hour driving is two by public transit. It wouldn't work.
Yeah, when you don't have robust and efficient public transit, like we have now, you're ignoring an entire other side to my argument. I'm saying at the same time we expand public transit methods to make them faster and more efficient we should be taxing heavy drivers(which isn't everyone so it doesn't really "hurt" those who live relatively close to their jobs) to encourage more use of public transit and bring down emissions. If anything it really hurts richer people more, because rich people usually live further away from work because they can afford it and living in a city is usually not rich people territory, it can be sure, but for the most part it's poor people in apartments and richer people commuting from suburbs.
This all this does is hurt the working middle class. The richer people aren't going to be fazed.
Its not supposed to "hurt" anyone, the richer people will pay more taxes the poorer people will be encouraged to use the (hopefully) newly improved and expanded public transit.
but it does. because your encouraging them to use it, makes it more expensive to not use it. that's an economic penalty, because time costs money too.
Again, everyone is ignoring the other half of my argument, all of this talking of tax is based on an assumption that we're expanding public transit so that it isn't slow or inefficient. There are plenty of other countries in the world with robust transit systems and populations full of people who may never own a car or if they do they rarely drive it.
The whole problem with public transit in the usa is that it sucks so badly, because people are too spread out, that no one who has a choice will choose to use it. So if you dont expand it, how will you get people to use it?
It works in maybe 2 places in the usa. New York and Chicago subways but only in the downtown metro areas. In every other city, it's not dense enough.
Other countries have way more density.
I'm a bit confused, isn't LA 8,304.22/sq mi? That said, for comparison's sake, Greater London (i.e. the whole metropolitan area) has a density of 14,690/sq mi
That's la proper. Not the metro area which includes all the suburbs. Theres not much demand for public transit only within la proper.
Yep. A major problem with urban sprawl is it’s too big for a functioning public transit system unless you’re willing to invest top dollar in multiple, interconnected lines.
Where I live they have one, centralized bus route that goes 30 miles into the city but it covers less than 25% of the population. A problem with urban sprawl isn’t just low density, it’s uniformly distributed. Even though there’s negligible difference in population between where the high/low peaks are, what would commonly be statistically insignificant can be the difference between having a functional bus stop and having to walk four miles to it.
Well, that's the wrong way of thinking. If you have good transit, you'll induce demand. See Toronto's TTC for example, the suburban routes are still very high ridership
Toronto's population density. 10k per sq mile. The most densely populated city in Canada.
Basically we're arguing the chicken vs the egg. What comes first good transit or increased demand for transit?
US Politics shows that people won't spend money on things that they dont need RIGHT NOW. So you have to create demand first.
Public transit only works because it becomes faster and more convenient than driving. With large spread out cities and parking everywhere, that's not going to happen.
I made the distinction about suburban routes - the city proper of Toronto contains a lot of sprawling suburbs with strip malls, parking lots, and single-family housing, yet on those suburban arterials there's 10 minute or better service (usually less than 5 during rush hour) with high ridership.
You need to throw "cheaper" in there for the triangle. Hopefully we can get two of them.
Density is a huge factor. Commute has become such a big deal in the states to the point you have neighborhoods and apartments away from places of work. It's like it is two separate entities. Because of this, people prefer using their cars because work is usually at the very least a few miles away to 70-80 miles away.
It’s a pickle because you need clean, comfortable, and consistent service to convince people to ride but you need people to ride to afford the ability to provide clean, comfortable service.
What if it is a service You provide, regardless of usage.
I see handicap restrooms and entrance everywhere but there are not that many people who utilize it.
Why can’t laws and politicians come on in support of that?
I know the basic answer will boil right down to money though.
I was chatting with my coworkers at work and I realized my 2 hour morning commute by bus took them less then 20 mins, and they lived further away. Its kind of messed up
Maybe add more routes and reduce the stops? So people can get anywhere but don’t compromise time
There is a mix between a bad bus system and a society who is against walking, bus routes in us looks like it's designed by somebody who prefers to be late than to walk a mile
It's accessibility as well, many people that do take public transit are disabled, be it visible or not, or elderly so going a mile for a bus stop when walking is painful or being in a wheel chair, in not always optimal weather is a reason there is so many stops
Metro Detroit is built on a rigid grid system with mile roads going east and west and named arterial roads going north and south all of which are spaced almost exactly a mile apart in most areas. We also have something called a “Michigan Left” (instead of a left you either go straight, make a u-turn and make a right, or make a right then u-turn and go straight) on many intersections of these roads. So this means there are wide medians separating the two directions of traffic with turnarounds every few hundred feet. There’s no reason we couldn’t build a light rail system connecting the city to many of the busier suburbs along these medians. Well, the reason is politics and $$.
Everybody always complains about "politics and money" yet fail to understand the lack of real interest. Just because a loud minority wants it doesn't mean the majority is going to use it.
The issue I have is that the vocal disinterest is because the more affluent don’t want “riffraff” from Detroit to have access to their precious suburban oasis. Every single time it gets brought up this is a main talking point, along with the usual “I don’t want to pay for something I’m not going to use” mindset.
Which is wild as a native Michigander living in DC. The metro here services all kinds and honestly, no one cares as long as you don't piss on the train. We normally have some homeless folks on there with the executives and business folk and we also get every tour or protest group that comes to DC. Parking being $200 a month on the low end will do that.
If the oil runs out, or just gets too expensive, you might not have a choice.
Issue is there is enough oil to fry the planet before it runs out.
Good public infrastructure needs to be well-connected, relatively cheap, and easy to use; obviously this is a huge investment so a lot of people see it as unrealistic and unachievable so public interest is often low. However, if people could see that it is possible there would likely be a much higher public interest, but it can’t be possible until the interest is higher. It’s a stalemate.
Oftentimes the only form of public transport in a medium-large city is busing. It’s hard to know how well-connected the lines are, how frequently buses come by stations, how clean the buses are themselves, etc. Plus, buses get stuck in traffic just like regular cars if there aren’t any dedicated bus lanes. If this is supposed to be public transportation, why wouldn’t people just use personal vehicles. I mean, they’re oftentimes “good enough” and they only need to be slightly better than the alternatives (walking, biking, buses if they are even in the city).
Build higher density housing. Without over 10k-20k+ population per square mile, public transit will be underutilized and just for the poor, which leads to less funding and taking forever to get anywhere.
This also enables walking in general which is both cheaper and better for the environment.
yeah, but it'll never happen. americans want their big single story houses and huge yards with pools. not a high rise condo that you can't even open the window in.
esp now with covid, what's happening is that people are literally being kept "prisoner" inside their homes. ie china, malaysia, japan, etc basically any country that has high density housing. the government is mandating their building security keep everyone inside without prior approval. ie only one member of the household can shop for groceries, and only certain days of the week.
I think it's slowly changing, even CA recently passed SB9 and SB10 which while not massive changes will help and signal a more flexible view of housing.
As someone who's lived just shy of in the woods their whole life the idea of being stuffed into a building life tuna in a can and not being able to feel the grass or climb a tree on my own property genuinely terrifies me.
I grew up in a pretty open (not quite rural) area. It's not nearly as bad as they're making it out to be, in my opinion. It just means things like a yard get replaced with say, a public park.
You lose some privacy, but it's not nearly tuna-in-a-can as you might expect at first thought. It mostly means you end up spending more time in public places instead of your own property, though.
Honestly, that was the biggest thing for me. The buildings and stuff is fine-it's having people nearby at all times when you're walking on a sidewalk, and being "on guard" was a bit exhausting.
> It just means things like a yard get replaced with say, a public park.
That forbids alcoholic beverages, music, laying down, and is closed at dusk and for any arbitrary reason at any time.
I doubt you want me to urinate out in public as opposed to my own backyard.
And before you say anything you can take that right from my cold dead hands.
I dunno what parks you've been too, but I've laid down in plenty of parks
That does sound tiring. Especially coming from a background where I know or have seen on several occasions, just about everyone in a five mile radius of my town.
Nobody is forcing you to live anywhere. What we're advocating is if you wanted to build tin cans on your property, you should have that right.
Small condos, tiny houses, other dense housing.
Ah I'd never heard the term before. Thank you.
Same, but sometimes desert and sometimes woods.
I lived in an urban area for a short time in my life and I felt so disconnected to the world.
I couldn't hear the birds.
I didn't see many rabbits, racoons, skunks, etc.
I would constantly hear traffic. My circadian rhythms fell out of synch with the light/dark and became tuned into noise.
People became an object of infuriation. I finally understood why drivers tailgate so badly with little regard for the life of those in front of them (not only a city problem, I know). .
It was absolutely soul crushing for me.
My body might be able to survive such a place but my spirit could not.
No one is forcing you to live anywhere you don't want or develop your land in ways you do not, so i'm not sure what's there to be scared of.
Hrm? Oh it was the idea of living like that. In a high rise tons of people. Or like as the Convo said everyone basically locked inside only allowed out at certain times, that nearly set of a panic attack. I live in suuuuuper rural Ohio. My town was legally a village until only a couple years ago. So COVID never really came here. There was never a lockdown of any sort. And the only people I know who got it are from far out of town. Life here. Hasn't changed much. I hope it doesn't. I like it quiet. Where the loudest sound is crickets and trees.
Theres no guarantee that anyone will stop building single family housing. Housing developers do what's profitable. Right now most of usa has a ton of cheap land. It's a lot cheaper to build 500 single family houses than it is to build one skyscraper with 500 units. The cost goes up exponentially once you build vertically.
If you only had to supply one building with 100 units with water, electric, gas, internet/phone, parking, and road infrastructure, we’d save so much compared to supplying 100 single family homes with the same amenities. Cities should be incentivizing this style of living as it’s more profitable in the long run. The allure of single family units is the cheap/subsidized infrastructure supplied by developers plus the increased tax revenue from the land usage and new homes. However, repairing the sprawling infrastructure is super expensive and falls squarely on the municipality this time which eats up an exorbitant amount of tax dollars. This isn’t even mentioning how high occupancy units are oftentimes explicitly banned or highly limited because of residential zoning strongly or totally favoring single family units due to NIMBYs or the aforementioned financial incentive.
Yeah, it’s easier and cheaper to build on land 30 minutes away from the city center. But it’s expensive to maintain the 10-20 miles of road connecting the suburb to the city along with the miles of electrical, water, gas, and phone lines. Plus, a large amount of urban land needs to be dedicated solely to parking if sprawl is encouraged because people need to drive in order to travel the 10+ miles to get to the city. Think of all of the land being wasted with flat asphalt that never reaches full occupancy and is largely wasted outside of peak times.
The thing is..... the owners of the single family end up paying the costs of the road and utility development, buildout, and maintenance through special tax assessments ie mello-roos. So the land developer cares none. And it's more jobs for the utility company and city.
In some cases, sure. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the tax payer along with utility companies and the city but there’s many cities which don’t assess for enough taxes because raising property taxes is unpopular yet necessary if they (the city) don’t begin to budget for repairs decades down the line once they are initially built.
In some cases the infrastructure gets repaired—sure—but in a lot of cases it remains in disrepair as cities prioritize new developments versus repairing old ones where people already live. Regardless, the tax hike or higher taxes in general are quite unpopular (I mean, who likes paying extra property tax?)
> Right now most of usa has a ton of cheap land
This is true, but the reason there's a housing crisis right now is that demand for being in cities because of jobs is extremely high.
That means denser housing tends to be more profitable (in cities, where it's needed). It may not be a skyscraper, but even duplexes and other basic stuff represent a *big* step forward over single family homes.
It's only a first step, but it's a big, important one.
Plenty of people want it. Don't assume popularity when most people are forced to take the "Giant unmaintainable expensive-to-maintain house with massive underutilized yard and no services within walking distance" option.
There's a reason homes in real cities that haven't been run down cost so much to rent or buy despite being smaller than their suburban alternatives. And there's not really any good reason to assume a normal American's preferences would be any different from a normal, for the sake of argument, British person's.
Never? Plenty of people live like that
Well, that assumes mixed zoning which is another American problem. They zone residential and commercial away from each other
Uhh. I live in Finland and my city has mostly less than 5000 people/km^(2) and we have perfectly functional bus system reaching every bit of the city and the surrounding cities.
Mostly less than 5000 people per square kilometer? That's very dense!
Well... that is only the city, like city proper, the whole munincipality averages 800people/km2. You can google Turku, Finland if you like.
I'm just saying, my metropolitan area, Cincinnati, averages 172/km2. The density of the city proper is only 1500/km2. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it's pretty likely that European cities in general have a greater population density than American cities...
Quick googling of Cincinnati would make me agree. If you look at Turku, it is way differently built. Even though Turku is only 180k people total, in the whole municipality.
Like this is the density map per square kilometre: [https://i.imgur.com/YL7zPWz.png](https://i.imgur.com/YL7zPWz.png) Also don't be fooled, the red blob is not one city, it is actually 4 municipalities which have basically grown in to one.
Yeah, it's a lot denser. Plus the Cincinnati metro area is over 12000km2 and Turku is just over 300.
They really aren't comparable.
Also my whole city and the sururbs have been like... actually designed with intention of having public transportation and class mixing. Like every area has owned homes, rental homes, and public rental homes mixed together. We don't have poor people and rich people areas.
Whereas our cities typically weren't designed. Just individuals buying land and building houses on it, mostly.
It's almost like American and European cities have key differences that make it impossible to apply European transportation solutions to American cities...
Well... Here is the thing. They don't need to be "European solutions" you could, if you wanted to, create your own versions and solutions for public transportation. Now it would appear that US in general doesn't care or want a solution. They'd rather keep going as they are or whine that they need a solution while not going for it.
Now my city's public transportation formed back when not everyone had cars, we had horse carriages for cargo around about till start of 70's. It came about since the industrial areas, mainly shipyard had to be along the river for obvious reasons. So people had to get to the river. So we had trams and other transportation to service that important hub of economic activity.
Which is how it used to be in USA before the car became a thing.
That's like 15k per square mile.
In the city yes. The whole municipality averages 800/km2
Some streets in the city center can be just for buses. It would reduce traffic and increase the efficiency of the buses. NYC does it.
But what about us brain dead slobs?
You'll be given cushy jobs
Most cities of any size, including suburban cities, have a bus system. Usually the main problem with it is scheduling - buses that only run once an hour and stop running too early in the evening. If they ran more frequently and more of the day, they'd be a lot more convenient. (San Antonio had the best I've seen when I was there - buses running every 10-20 minutes with express buses to the far sides of town and a few hours later than most other cities.)
But the bigger problem is intercity transport. *So many* people go to nearby cities/towns, especially commuters. And aside from driving their only options would be a Greyhound or airline (which would likely require going to from an airport in another town anyway). However, most towns have rail lines running through or near them. Just no passenger trains. If we had inter-city passenger trains, that would make a massive difference. Especially if combined with better bus (or other intracity) transit schedules within the cities.
Without that, people have to drive to/from the city anyway, so they're usually going to drive around when they're in it. People don't like leaving their car at the edge of the city and taking public transit in town. Especially if they have to carry a bunch of stuff.
So, inter-city passenger rail and better intracity transit schedules.
You hit the nail on the head with inter-city rail. Amtrak is in charge of all inter-city rail development though. They are still massively underfunded and rely on outdated rail lines which slow down the trains so much they can take twice as long as a car. Even with the new infrastructure bill that just passed, they are adding a bunch of lines which will all be significantly slower than traveling by car, defeating the entire purpose.
So true. My parents didn’t want to fly and I didn’t want them to drive. I suggested Amtrak. It was delayed by four hours and due to flooding, their return trip was delayed by weeks. I ended up having to rent a car and drive them back. I hate to say certain things need privatized but there is no incentive for Amtrak to improve.
I've written extensively on Amtrak during my time in undergrad and grad school. They are more a victim than anything else if I'm honest. The major rail lines pulled out of the passenger sector all together on the 1950's leaving the USA without any inter-city passenger rail at all. Amtrak was formed very quickly to prevent the system from complete collapse and from day 1 were already operating with severely outdated trains and tracks and that was in the early 70's. Thanks to continued lobbying from the multiple facets of the auto industry, they have never gotten the funding needed to buy out tracks, replace them, redesign them for high speed rail, and then place modern trains on them. That project, and it's cost, is way to big for any private company. What you would end up with is dozens if not hundreds of private companies holding monopolies on a couple lines a piece. They also would only develop in existing high traffic areas neglecting areas that would benefit from rail but don't have existing ridership. That kind of development takes time without capital return which doesn't work in the private sector. Capitalism is traditionally short sighted which is why for example the highway systems are publicly planned but they subcontract to build them to boost economic growth. Amtrak has a lot of issues, and I think they have failed in some of their planning and focus, however they really lack the funding just to fix what they've got let alone develop nationwide high speed rail.
I definitely don’t disagree that they have been handed a very short straw. This is where private ownership may be more useful- the government could sell a line (say the Northeast corridor) to a private company to run. The company would be motivated to create and keep happy customers. The government could sell a line between New York and Chicago to another company. With government oversight, these lines could potentially be very profitable for a private company.
Even with funding, there isn’t a lot of incentive for the federal government to have happy customers. I see a private company having more reason/motivation to provide good service.
Do this with a few popular lines and then expand out to smaller cities (Chicago to St Louis then to Memphis, etc). Other companies can bid or if the private company has a good record, reward them with further rail lines.
It’s a pipe dream, I know.
I used to commute to a city 40 miles away by train, I still had to drive 5 miles to the nearest train station and it took over twice as long as just making the whole trip by car. I was right on the verge of saying fuck it and paying the $30/day parking in the city when Covid happened.
Zoning changes. If the city let's in more high density areas then more local services show up. This means that it can become walkable.
Zoning is a major issue. In a lot of places in the U.S., walkable neighborhoods are literally illegal to build due to extremely restrictive zoning requirements.
Your streets, ALL of them, are easily wide enough to support cablecars and you‘d still have 2 lanes each way.
That is not true in many of the older Eastern US cities. Those whose origins date from the early 1600's have rather narrow streets and grew organically. Thus, unless they've had a "great fire" anytime in the last 150 years, they're going to need a LOT of reworking
Check out some European cities for comparison. The issue with building for cars is that you need A LOT more space than if you don't. You don't have to ignore cars, just don't prioritize them over bikes, or walking.
You may be able to improve suburban areas but i doubt you can actually do much that will change it. I'd focus on the new projects. Improvements include:
Less parking space, no stroads, a clear center around which the houses are built, no extreme disconnection between housing and shopping. More smaller stores instead of one giant mall. Everything should be walkable and easily reachable with bikes.
Best examples for me are European villages. They're rural so you can have it quiet like in suburban areas in the US but you can reach everything you need with a bike or by walking a few minutes. There's mostly one road the leads to another road which you can use if you want to go to a bigger mall or city by driving with your car.
If you build like this it'll also be easier to improve public transport or things like bike sharing services etc.
I like it in the city but if I had to choose between a village in Europe (Germany in my case) or suburbs in the US I'd fight like hell to love in a village.
For cities it's pretty much the same.
A Subway system is great, in Hamburg e.g. you get around super fast with it, a new one arrives 24/7 pretty much every 5 minutes and it doesn't interfere with any other traffic because it's underground. There's tons of E-Scooter services you can use on Bike Lanes that are basically everywhere instead of cars.
And in comparison Hamburg is still very mich built for cars but it's getting better.
The most important part imo is that you focus on a few main roads that lead in and out of the city that are just for cars. The rest has to be but so that cars aren't the only participant.
Always have bike lanes and decent walking possibilities. Have a few parking spaces that are underground or have various floors so you don't spread out everything across giant parking lots.
For a good comparison check "Not just Bikes" on YT it's really interesting. I'd recommend his video about Houston e.g.
Busses. Subways where applicable, destruction of the suburbs on general principle. real talk the only area where mass transit is even slightly difficult to implement is going to be the suburbs. Small country towns only really need a single rail line running to the nearest major city. Transit isn't a problem for those areas they just need a better way to get in and out of the city. Pretty much any major city is dense enough to implement a mass transits system in the form of highspeed rail. Really its just the suburbs that pose any real problem, but the suburbs sort of suck. There needs to be a push to restructure the suburbs just more generally.
I think like scooters or one seater cars, personal and or public, that wait at stops to jump on the "bus", and maybe then a train car. Logistics apps figure out the individual routes, so wait times and traffic are reduced
Busses use the same roads as cars
Issue is most bus routes are setup to have way too many stops making them infrequent and slow.
By me bus could easily take 2-5 times as long as by car. It's an easy choice in that world.
This could be improved if your bus system included more buses or more routes (or both). The problem is that there is low demand for buses because the service is already under-funded and poorly ran but it’s under-funded and poorly ran because there’s low demand.
Because there's no other roads for them to use. But a city designed to be transited via bus will have a different road structure than one designed to be transited via car. Buses don't like narrow winding roads ending in cul-de-sacs very much, for example.
Yes but in the US cities are designed for cars. Roads are only a part of the equation.
Let's suppose there's a bus on every major road (that is, roads that connect the various suburbs etc) going every ten minutes in your AnyTown USA type collection of suburbs and strip malls. You want to go to a restaurant that's literally fifteen minutes minutes drive away. You're going to:
1. Have to walk to the bus stop, that's probably a mile from your home, assuming one or two bus stops per suburban development. So 20 minutes walk. This is because the density of your development is likely to be poor, so it makes zero economic sense to have buses within 5 minutes of your home as is standard in most European cities.
2. Wait 5-10 minutes. (Can't be helped, it's a bus)
3. Sit on the bus until it gets to the destination. Which will be slower than using the car because it's stopping every half mile or so.
4. Possibly get on another bus (waiting up to ten minutes) because the nearest major road to your home isn't the one the restaurant is on.
5. Again sit on the bus until the restaurant.
6. Possibly get on a third bus, because again, the layout of your municipal-development is optimized for cars and point to point transportation. Again waiting up to 5-10 minutes.
7. Repeat, etc, until you get there.
Then there's a walk from the bus stop to the restaurant that'll hopefully be less than a half mile.
You'll be lucky if the entire trip takes less than an hour. It'll probably take an hour and a half or more.
In most countries (1) there are probably a bunch of restaurants within walking distance you'd consider first, and (2) if you did catch a bus, all buses go to the center of town where most of the commerce is happening, and even if the restaurants not at the center of town, you can get on at most one bus at the center and go on, making your trip require a grand total of two buses at worst.
That's why it's more than simply "has roads" needed for transit to be economic. (To me it's also a personal freedom issue: why on Earth would you build living areas, exclusively build them, banning all other forms of development, that require the use of an expensive vehicle to live in, where you can't even use your own feet?)
That is a massive question. The reason US cities are centered around cars is more complex of an issue than you may think. The construction of the interstate highway system opened up suburbanization which changed where we live. Then followed businesses changing where we go to work and shop. Everything else flooded in soon after. We fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. It's possible to change it back, at least partially. The key is fast, efficient, frequent public transport which gets you close enough to where you want to go. Most of the developed world uses trains for major thoroughfares with other forms of transport such as buses taking up the micro part of transport. The US lacks rail development in the majority of it's cities and leans heavily on bus systems which are already strained and depleted due to staffing shortages which are due to the low pay and horrible hours the job demands. There needs to be a concerted effort to develop light rail systems alongside current bus systems in order to create a desirable transport system which draws riders. This in turn can make inner-city neighborhoods more desirable and lead to the redevelopment and rejuvenation of inner city and downtown areas. Another aspect is designing communities which are at least partially self sufficient providing basic goods and services within walking distance of residents cutting down on the need to travel. Overall, the problem surrounding transportation ties directly into social issues, equity, sustainability, and the way we fundamentally live. There's a reason public transport is so bad in the US; it's no accident that it gets very little funding. The auto industry, construction industry, and fossil fuel industry stand to lose money. They have actively subverted transportation development since the 1960's. That's where the work really needs to start. Once you get over that hurdle the solutions open up.
> The key is fast, efficient, frequent public transport which gets you close enough to where you want to go.
I'd argue that a more significant key is making sure that "where you want to go" isn't halfway across town.
Very true, but that kind of planned development takes a long time. Obviously it would be ideal, as I pointed out at the end designing individual communities in such a way is a start.
It wouldn't take _that_ long. The biggest obstacle is that massive plots of land get zoned as exclusively residential, or even exclusively for single-family homes, so that it's illegal to build even a small corner store anywhere near where people actually live.
Yep, as with all development, it's less about the development and more about the politics that takes time. California just took a small step in the right direction in regards to effectively removing low density residential zoning. It took a long time to do that though.
Increasing density. Public transit makes no sense in low density areas.
Public transit overhaul is unlikely to see any serious success until there's a substantial public shift on the matter.
Literally trillions upon trillions of dollars have been spent building out the suburbs. That's not going to go away any time soon.
People forget that the United States is huuuuge. There is room enough for billions of people to live here. We'd even be able to feed all of them.
Building reliable (nuclear) electric systems and self driving shared cars will eventually go a long ways to reducing our environmental footprint. That will happen far sooner than making people go to urban centers who don't want to go.
It is simply not economically nor environmentally sustainable for everyone to have their own transportation, electric or not. This problem is getting worse economically as younger generations are struggling to afford basic rent let alone a car on top. This doesn't even consider the impact that mental health issues have had, with severe anxiety leaving people incapable of driving. Considering that ~70% of people under 30 in the USA suffer from some form of anxiety or depression, that problem stands to get worse. The solution? Reliable, efficient, and frequent mass transit. It may surprise you that just as city centers were abandoned for suburbs in the span of 25-30 years, the same can happen again in reverse. The other part you mentioned, about spreading out even more because we have the space. It's not that simple. People still need to get to work in a timely fashion. For example, in Silicon Valley Apple and Google are struggling with one major issue. Their newer employees can't afford the astronomical house prices so they have to live quite some distance away. Couple this with public transit and the gridlocked roads slow things even further. It takes them over an hour to get to work now. That is why Google, Apple, and several other Silicon Valley firms are looking into privately developing a high speed rail system instead.
Personal travel in cars needs to be slower and less convenient than public transport to “fix” the problem. Buses are a great solution but if a bus is getting stuck in traffic alongside a car, why would I take the bus when I can get in my car and get to my destination in the same amount of time if not faster? However, if I know that the train/subway/buses/monorail or even using a bike are faster easier than getting in my car to get around then I’ll be incentivized to leave my car at home. I think this could be achieved by replacing existing infrastructure when it comes time to repair the roads. Decreasing single vehicle lanes and expanding high-occupancy vehicle lanes, adding in bicycle paths that are safe and removed from general traffic, adding in dedicated pedestrian avenues or streets that severely limit or ban through car traffic, building subways/trains or expanding existing infrastructure to make it more interconnected. All potential solutions.
I’m no civil engineer though so I can’t speak on specifics or viability. I do know a lot of cities have had success with some or even all of these in countries outside the US.
Do a 10-hour shift, tack a 2 hour bus ride or a 20-mile bike ride on each end, then ask if you want to make cars **less** convenient than that. Adding 3 hours or making already-exhausted folks do more physical work is no solution.
First revamp the entirety of US society to totally alter the way we work, then we can try. Otherwise, you're basically telling the working class that your dislike of cars is more important than their wellbeing.
I agree; the current alternative transport is dogshit. I’m arguing that alternative transport cannot replace private vehicles UNLESS it is more convenient than a car. I don’t think we should maintain current public infrastructure and drastically reduce the effectiveness of cars. Rather, we need to make public transport good enough to actually compete with private transport in order for it to become a viable alternative. We need to incentivize usage of public transport by increasing bus routes/number of buses, constructing dedicated bus lanes, or creating tax incentives/breaks for utilizing public transport; otherwise, there’s no incentive to improve the existing infrastructure or to replace the car-centric infrastructure that already exists.
I wasn't sure which way you were going with that. Thanks for clarifying.
My take is that there are many people working jobs with hours that don't jibe with any bus schedule, and often are not within a mile of any bus routes. And that doesn't count personal travel like shopping where you might pick up more than you can feasibly take on a bus because you don't have time to shop during the week. Or maybe going somewhere that's not right on a main drag.
That means that it's going to be extremely difficult to make a solution that is actually viable for anyone other than able-bodied 9-5ers, and will still require some degree of individual transport that can carry more than a bicycle. And I mention "able-bodied" because while many may be able to stand at a bus stop that had the seating removed as an anti-homeless measure, many others who still have jobs and shipping needs cannot.
Of course, some places are better than others for that. Even 25 years ago, San Diego was pretty decent in that regard. I had to pedal hard to beat the transit system there to anywhere I needed to go. And given that my average speed on a bike then was comparable to my (traffic-adjusted) average speed in a car now, I'd say that SD was doing things right decades ago. Things that many other places aren't doing even now.
I don’t think we should abolish car transport but I do think it should be de-incentivized. You’re completely right that there are reasons to use a car that are beneficial such as large shopping trips or disability reasons. We use cars for EVERYTHING in the US when there’s plenty of trips that could be completed without it. Granted, the current bus structure in many cities is unreliable in that there’s infrequent routes that don’t jive with everyone’s schedule. But if we could increase ridership and decrease personal car usage we could make routes more frequent and widespread :)
It's the need for independence. You won't get rid of that in *this* society. I could go on about that, but it'd get ranty. Suffice it to say that I think that any attempt to do so here would cause a spike in sales of F-350s because that's the sort of people we have here.
Any thoughts about making public transit more appealing than private vehicles need to take our taste in cars into account. Why do we use mid-sized SUVs for the same thing other places around the world would use a VW Golf for? Why do we insist on large sedans when most of us rarely even carry more than one passenger? Why do we not have a US equivalent of Kei cars?
Those are the sorts of questions we need to think about before we can tackle making public transit more appealing.
I definitely agree with your assessment of American culture regarding independence. I just think (hope) there’s enough sensible people where it shouldn’t matter if people want to maintain their massive cars and trucks. I think even a 20% reduction in car traffic would be impactful. Alas, maybe I’m just being too optimistic about the situation. Americans are stubborn. I don’t really know of a potential solution to this problem and I think solving this seems a bit more daunting than implementing some public transport. Again, I might just be misunderstanding the situation and what is necessary to address the issues.
Oh well ¯\\\_(ツ)_/¯
>I think solving this seems a bit more daunting than implementing some public transport.
I'm too Gen X to be optimistic, but not so cynical as to think there isn't a solution. It's simply a problem that is harder to solve than just throwing buses at it.
> Do a 10-hour shift, tack a 2 hour bus ride or a 20-mile bike ride on each end, then ask if you want to make cars less convenient than that.
This isn't a zero-sum system, though. Making public transit more effective than driving can actually make driving _better_ by reducing traffic; a full bus represents dozens of cars that _aren't_ on the road. Meanwhile, adding more lanes typically makes traffic worse in the long run, due to induced demand.
Even when buses move between stops at faster-than-car speeds in dedicated lanes as they do in Seattle, they make many stops. There's **no** traffic in their lanes to stop them. None. Places without dedicated bus lanes may benefit from adding them to enjoy the benefits we got, but places that already have them will actually get worse as there's more time at each stop.
And when your commute is 15+ miles as it is for many Americans, we're talking adding multiple "express lines" on top of the other routes to turn that 90-minute bus ride into a 60-minute one that people might consider riding. Of course, due to the same number of people with different demands, odds are that only the biggest routes will be full enough for each bus to replace even a single dozen cars.
Also, think about current events and ask yourself if a full bus is wise. Sure, a few million deaths would reduce traffic, but would it be worthwhile? Take that "each full bus replaces dozens of cars" down by a factor of at least 4.
To reduce demand, we need to either work from home or live at work. Notice when traffic is at it's peak? Alternatively, we could all standardize and synchronize schedules in ways that may disrupt our lives but would reduce traffic. For instance, the roads are underutilized at 3am, so why not have more people work nights? Much less infrastructure change needed than buying millions of new buses.
For one faster trains would help a lot, but also fleets of automated taxis
The Simpsons and New York City prove the same thing: Monorail / Subways. The problem is that cities don't want to pay to put a subway system in because they're too busy pocketing the hard-earned god almighty tax dollar.
What's to fix? You want to live in a city, go for it.
That's not really related to the question. Cities don't have great public transport.
Hyperloops I guess
I don’t think that’s very realistic for another 30 years.
The technology for self driving cars is more of a slow evolution than something we adopt overnight.
Right now most new cars have lane and parking assists nowadays, but you’re not going to see full automation on budget models for a few decades. Hell while Tesla autopilot is a huge step in the right direction, it’s still not perfect enough, especially in snow and other conditions.
The other issue is legislation. Laws are generally 20 years outdated, especially when it comes to tech. It will probably be 20 years after the technology is perfected before lawmakers trust self driving cars without a driver behind the wheel.
That’s ok, we already have fully self driving vehicles. They’re called trains and they have a much higher capacity than cars. Self driving cars will still unlikely fully replace mass transit since anywhere there’s a crowd of people all meeting at the same time will still cause insane amounts of traffic despite the advances in technology.
Eh, this won’t be a national or even state effort in many cases.
However, the trend is for cities to adopt policies to improve transit, walkability and density, not the other way around.
Like several cities have already banned parking minimums and have adopted complete street plans (like Buffalo) with many more likely to do so in the next decade.
Other cities like Austin are spending billions to beef up public transportation.
So funny enough, likely American cities will be waaaay more pedestrian and transit friendly just in time for self driving cars are becoming ubiquitous.
Personally I think transit and self driving cars augment each other, not compete against each other.
I think it would be nice if we had 50cc motorcycles so poor people, high school students and college students could realistically buy their own vehicles
blockhave to make the inconvenience of public transportation > convenience of a car for ppl like me.
If they're built around cars, you can't really fix the problem. That is the root of the problem.
You can do things to greatly alleviate it like denser housing, proper transportation funding/infrastructure, though (and most of the other comments have gone into how to do that). Especially if public transportation is considered the first priority, that would go a long way. Even if the city is built around cars, there's a big difference in a city that prioritizes public transportation, and one that puts cars first
But honestly they're fundamentally going to be second-best solutions.
Trams. A lot of American cities where originally build with trams in mind, but after the automobile became popular they where mostly removed in favour of busses, which where later shut down too. Nowadays the housing policy's have changed, and the construction of the interstate highway system destroyed a lot of these mid- density districts. But judging by the popularity of the few Remaining tram oriented naiborhoods and the demand for housing it would probably be possible to bring them back, if zoning laws would be changed.
Hire European or Japanese city planners to redesign American cities.
Make it much faster than driving (door to door), less expensive than driving, new, clean, modern, uncrowded, with no homeless, perverts, smelly or crazy people. Otherwise, I’m going to happily drive my new car and leave you losers on the bus to fend for yourselves in disgusting conditions.
Check out the youtube channel "[Not Just Bikes](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4kmDxcfR48&list=UU0intLFzLaudFG-xAvUEO-A&index=57)."
Each video is bite-sized and covers some small aspect of what most cities do wrong. His series on "[strong towns](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_SXXTBypIg&list=PLJp5q-R0lZ0_FCUbeVWK6OGLN69ehUTVa&index=1)" is especially interesting if you're American as it's entirely focused on North American suburb design, and how fixing suburbs can fix cities.
Get rid of parking minimums, tax surface parking lots, require parking garages to be mixed use (first floor retain, apartments/offices above parking).
You also need more transit lines with higher frequency with large park and rides near highways in the near suburbs.
Honestly, we’ll probably will never get rid of suburban sprawl. Towns have too much power and rarely do they vote to density.
However, we can densify cities and create cities where people park at the outskirts and take public transportation into the city.
For cities like San Francisco, there needs to be more satellite cities that act as secondary employment centers and offer most of the amenities of the main city. Just need to improve regional transit and commuter rail lines. This greatly reduces the pressure on housing and space on the main city while not making feel as deprived for not living there.
Link in the traffic light system with bus locations so that they get green lights https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_priority_signal
Adam Ruins Everything goes over potential solutions in an episode, including rebuilding areas of cities, adding safer bike lanes, and I think bringing back electric trollies
Stop building cities around cars.
There was a massive movement in the 1950s and 1960s to cripple cities and only create new development in the form of car-only suburbs. You want to fix that you do the reverse - well, maybe not cripple suburbs, if people really want to live there - but rebuild cities with high density cores, mixed usage development, etc.
The available evidence is that it'd be massively profitable. The only major obstacles are NIMBYs and the various lobbies that got us into this mess in the first place.
Cities are not built around cars, suburbs are and in that I would include smaller towns where the density isn't enough to justify convenient, reliable bus service. People that complain about cities being built around cars should really replace the word 'cars' with passenger vehicles, which includes buses.
Make busses electric, more stops around large cities and make them cheaper price range should be 1-5 bucks for in city
Dedicated bus lanes are a really big one. When busses can get stuck in traffic and therefore can't be faster than driving, they'll only be used by people who have no other option (_e.g._, the poor, disabled, or elderly).
Because most us cities are not built around cars. The largest cities in centralized locations of states were built as wagon hubs.
Look at San Antonio as a map, you have road ways branching out at every major compass point (n s e w) and the halves (nw sw ne se). Most cities that surround those hubs will only have a major road running in its direction of travel, ie new Braunfels has i35 running north and south until you reach Austin. Surrounding those settlements are farm lands with roads to take you to the major road.
Very few cities were designed around public transportation but some examples would be new York or San Francisco that are laid out on a grid rather than the afore mentioned San Antonio that has two major loops around the city to help get you to the quarter you need to be in.
I'm not including everything, obviously, and I don't claim to know it all either. But I do know that each planning design has plus and minus, like in San Antonio it's hard to find a direct route when traveling across the city, while in New York it's easier but because of the grid planning there's a ton more traffic when driving. And underground systems are not cost effective in a lot of places due to the geology of the region.
More bus or trains. More connection between mega cities, urban, suburban and industrial areas. Make it in a way that people will have a choice in their head “Do I want to drive today or take the train to work?”
Right now the incentives for using public transportation simply is not there.
Train transit systems. It has been effective in georgia and is probably one of the best things in the south
Car pool. Everything is solved if you all car pool!!! Traffic could be eliminated entirely if every car consisted of 1.2 or 1.3 passengers.
Other than that, self driving cars you can subscribe to would also solve this. Imagine pulling up an app, saying where you're going, and a car picks you up (and other passengers) and drops you off.
These can also solve parking issues. Reducing the need for massive lots to park so many cars.
outside of actually making public transit better, there are also some macro-effects that can/will dramatically shift things.
The move to remote work, online shopping/delivery can greatly reduce the need for individuals to drive everyday, which inherently also improves transit and can make other things like rideshare/public transit/etc nicer with less traffic.
Driverless cars will eventually make robo-taxis and automated busses a thing, which drives down cost which means you can run more routes and such. Eventually full traffic automation and coordination will make traffic very low and can route people to their desired destination rather than just mainline routes.
The push for higher-density living makes the last-mile problem much easier. Its very hard to do good public transit in low-density areas because you simply cant get people close enough to their destination to make it acceptable. if areas are much more sense, walking the last bit suddenly becomes workable.
Transport Tubes from Futurama
Well my city is growing like crazy and the new parts of town have special lanes for busses and even some routes/bridges you can't take using a car, bus only. For example in my suburb, I have to go around all the houses minor streets to get to a main street and literally go around the the mall on the back side because there is no road/exit on the back. However, they built a bridge that goes from a side road, in between an alley and into the mall in the back, only busses around and saves time instead of going around the while neighborhood. Using the bus still sucks but I can see what the suburbia planning was going for
Just have a fleet of self-driving cars and make all personal cars self-driving. Adding busses or light rail etc is not realistic.
I know this isn’t really the question, but we should have cheaper vehicles available in the US. Maybe like if we had $1000 motorcycles/motor scooters, The car centric infrastructure wouldn’t be so hard on the poor
Fix zoning and make car users and single-family home residents pay the full cost of their externalities. No more free or subsidized parking, no more minimum parking requirements, no more single-family units within city limits. No more subsidizing cars, charge annual road tax based on actual mileage driven instead of a flat rate to recover costs of maintaining roads, increase fuel tax to cover full environmental impact from drilling to refining to distribution. Charge for city services based on a cost-recovery basis so it makes more economical sense to live in a multi-unit home (rubbish trucks stop once regardless if it's a building with 30 families or a house with just one family). Make people pay the real price of what things cost and they might change their behaviour based on economic incentives.
Abandon public transportation in favor of small, cheap, autonomous electric cars.
Also abandon: high density housing.
Put it underground. Not just because of cars, but also property rights. We need a low-cost tunneling technology.
Sadly, not feasible in all areas. SOme places just aren't suitable for digging.
Even if the geology allows, tunnels are massive undertakings. And if Seattle and Boston are any indication, there's no chance of being close to on-schedule or anywhere near the initially planned budget.
Vehchile that move in that lane sonky , is that big vehicle, ambulances etc can be separated for a faster with drawl
Stop building car parks, and raise the cost of the ones you have already.
Build more densely where people want to work. Create the demand for public transport.
Destroy the city and build it right
Last time we did that we removed the walkability and added a shit ton of parking
Public transport is irrelevant in a country where a 4 hours drive leaves you in the same state.