Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Transportation Smackdown

I've been traveling a lot and experiencing a number of different public transit systems. Each one has its pros and cons ... for example the New York subway is
  1. Open 24 hours
  2. Is super cheap (P.S. New Yorkers, stop complaining about subway fares. $2.25 is a ridiculously cheap price to go anywhere in the city.)
  3. Nice and roomy (especially compared to the London Tube)
On the other hand, it is also
  1. Kinda dirty
  2. Difficult to get across town
  3. Doesn't properly service the East Side
  4. Still hasn't moved on to smart cards (Though you could also say that is a 'pro' since you know, people argue that London's smart Oyster cards are yet another way of the police monitoring our actions. To which I say, yes, but they are just SO DARN CONVENIENT!)
Anyway, I was thinking of doing a series of posts on transportation systems and then we could all vote for the best one. So I'm asking you all for your input. What are the transport systems you love? Which ones would you include in the Transport Smackdown?


hgg said...

any Swiss public transport

ruchi said...

Interesting. That I have never experienced.

Rosa said...

Minneapolis bus/light rail system:

*excellent for getting to anywhere from downtown
*terrible for going east-west across a metro that is mostly east-west
*doesn't run from 1-5 am
*UNHEATED SHELTERS - good lord, it's -20 for a week or so every winter. Give us enclosed shelters!
*Very, very user friendly - online and phone help trip planning, "buddy ride" programs for new people, bus drivers who will tell you how to get places and wake you up if you fall asleep before your stop.
*terible signage. As in, signs say "BUS STOP" but don't list the route, and various places you get off the light rail there is no guidance as to how to get to nearby important things, like the buses or the bike greenway or the closes major street.

Ruchi, did you notice stroller rules at all? A couple years ago our transit made this ridiculous "safety" rule that you have to take the baby out of the stroller and carry stroller & baby on the bus, which makes it really difficult to take kids grocery shopping on the bus here.

ruchi said...

Oh, thanks Rosa. Accessibility is a very important thing to highlight in the transport smackdown. I love the tube, but don't try to take it with a stroller or wheelchair. I'll be sure to include that in my profiles.

Katy said...

As a person who lives in Houston (a large metropalitin city with an extremely disfuctional public transpertation system) I am would be really interested in reading your thoughts on systems that work. People here are extremely anti-public transit which is just annoying.

Rosa said...

Minneapolis/St Paul has great wheelchair accessibility, they just hate strollers.

And I forgot to mention, almost all the buses have bike racks on the front and all the trains have bike areas.

heidi said...

The German bus system! And local train system! And longer distance system! Oh, BART does a great job of connecting the SF Bay hot spots, I'd donate kidneys to get something like that ANYWHERE in Texas. Siiigh.

Seriously, El Paso, Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Houston area (a grid of its own...), Beaumont, Corpus, Brownsville to Del Rio...

Unknown said...

The German system rules! You can get on and off almost every form of transport with the kids in the stroller and there are special places for strollers or wheelchairs. The buses and trains are mostly punctual! And in Düsseldorf if you have a subscription ticket and the train or bus is more thank 20 minutes late they will reimburse your taxi fare (up to €10 or €20 i think).

I could go on and on...

Systems that aren't so good - Sydney, Australia. Getting worse all the time. Old buses with steps, not punctual, trains are always late and not often enough, the network doesn't really cover the city properly, you have to take the kids out of the stroller when you get on the bus (that's the official rule but not always enforced). Expensive. I could go on and on.

Beijing - actually a pretty good system, at least it's very cheap. But it's such a huge city and the traffic is really bad so buses are everywhere - normally stuck in traffic! But they are constantly extending the metro system which seems to work really well. Not ideal for taking small children on as there are often not escalators or lifts, but I try to avoid downtown with my kids anyway. Up in the 'burbs where I live we bike everywhere anyway. By the time the subway reaches us up here my kids will be old enough that I am prepared to go downtown with them occasionally.

Those are my most recent experiences. Düsseldorf is great, Beijing is trying and Sydney is getting worse. Makes me pretty sad and reluctant to return to my hometown.

Stephanie said...

Rosa: There are heated shelters... at least in St. Paul. But I'm sure they're in Minneapolis too. It just depends if you're at a busier stop or not.

$2.25 is cheap? I thought $1.50 for a day pass in Austin, TX for the bus was cheap. $2.25 is pretty fair.

Minneapolis/St. Paul is $1.75 regular, $2.25 rush hour.

But I am another one that loves the German (and Austrian) systems. Every town has buses *and* night buses, if not subways and trams too. And lots of people ride for free by just getting on without paying. Also, one thing I've noticed is that in Germany and Austria 15 minutes between buses or subway is a loooong wait, usually reserved for Sundays. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, 15 minutes is considered a "quick" bus. SO FRUSTRATING!

Kelly S. said...

As someone who lived in NY for 5 yrs and now lives in DC. I think monthly passes are just as good as smarttrip cards really. And I much preferred the flat fee to this whole the further you go, the more you pay crap they have down here. And not being open 24hrs a day...kinda lame.