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Preaching to the choir – converting people to use public transport

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BusPublic Transport

Back in 1990’s driving was a pleasure on American Roads.   Many evenings were spent going on a long drive enjoying the pleasure of driving the car on smooth and light traffic highways.  People used to drive 50 miles every night just to put a child to sleep.  Gas was cheap, traffic was less and people enjoyed driving.  In those days, in order to convert people to public transport, you would have to use a crowbar to get people out their car. 

Fast forward to 2000s, the gas prices went off the roof, traffic has increased many folds and going for a ‘long drive’ has a different meaning.  People spend hours and hours sitting in traffic, frustrated and stressed, but, refuse to take public transport.  Given present day conditions, you would think people would jump to public transport in a heartbeat.  But, percentage wise, there is a little change in travel behaviour and people continue to drive their car. 

There is something wrong with this picture.  We are missing something here.  Why would people reject a low cost, less stressful, less time consuming alternative?.   When I asked this question to an American friend, he said ‘oh really? There is such an alternative? Tell me what it is and I will use it.  Just remember that it should reduce my commute time, reduce my cost and should have hassle free connectivity from home to office and office to home”. 

I took up the challenge to give him the alternatives and researched every option available.  Within few of days, I was ready with the couple of options but, it was impossible to satisfy all his conditions or at least two of them.  I realized that, there is no such thing available.  If I reduce his cost and time, hassle increases drastically.  If I reduce his time and hassle, cost goes off the chart.  I gave up.  I did not have the heart to tell him the best alternate I had found:

·         Walk to the bus stop about 0.5 miles (there is no footpath so walk on the road but, watch out for speeding cars).

·         Take the bus A12 to train station (it is little slow as it is a shuttle and need to pickup people at 10 stops along the way). 

·         Take the train B12 going towards airport and get down at downtown (This train is coming from north point so you may not get seat so be prepare to stand for 40 minutes). 

·         Walk just 4 blocks and you are at your office.

Instead, I told him to enjoy his car ride. 

People now drive or ride a bike out of necessity not pleasure.  It is true for Bangalore also.  Do you think the guys riding a bike enjoying themselves in fumes and dust? No.  They are frustrated, stressed and suffering.   You cannot take them on a guilt trip (environmental issue) to convert them to shun their car or bike.  You need to provide them with an alternative which is better than what they have now (in terms of time, money and hassle) and see how many people will convert.  It would be like preaching to the choir.



Vasanth's picture

Point is those who have should use it

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 I agree if there is no alternative, then it is inevitable to use Private Transport. But, those who have PT should start using it.

n's picture

Not necessarily true in

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Not necessarily true in Indian cities. The amount of work needed to convert a user from an extremely convenient mode like car to PT is daunting. Add to that the fact that the average American is very independent and highly individualistic, the not-trivial contribution from car manufacturers (most ads on TV are for cars/trucks/SUVs) and relatively cheaper and abundantly available petrol/diesel and you have a recipe for shunning PT. Even in the US, metros / PT run successfully in the bigger cities (eg: very limited cars but crowded metro in DC).
Cut to Indian cities and the situation is probably the same for majority of car users (much smaller percentage of total travelers). BUT, the population is heterogeneous; all bus users, bicycle users, walkers, maybe 50% of the 2-wheelers, homemakers with no convenient means to go afternoon shopping, students - all of these are almost a given for reliable and fairly convenient PT (read metro). Best example is Delhi metro - much higher ridership than anticipated. People in Indian cities already walk a whole lot more and undergo much higher inconvenience (zig-zagging, narrow roads, subject to pollution on an open 2 wheeler are much worse than waiting in air-conditioned, automatic-geared car) than people in most US cities. So, any PT that even fractionally reduces stress and increases convenience will be well-used. By default, cost to the user won't be high in Indian cities. If a survey is done (or has been done), reliability, frequency, convenience and cost would probably be the priorities in that order.

Naveen's picture

PT - Room for all here

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Delhi metro - much higher ridership than anticipated - 

I don't think this is accurate - the system is still to reach projected ridership levels, though usage has been increasing recently.

Whilst many of Bangalore's comfortable AC volvo buses are seen running full despite the higher costs, I noticed that almost all such buses in Chennai had very few passengers, including the few that start from Chennai central station. AC volvos are better patronized in Bangalore, but this is because of severe traffic congestion & inconveniences with private vehicles, & possibly due to very large spread of IT firms - ones using buses are actaully "overflows" from private modes, in the absence of other alternatives. This trend will most likely continue even after the Metro begins operating.

psaram42's picture

Murphy's Law is an important design criterion

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 IMHO Preaching to the choir – converting people to use public transport sounds a bit philosophical. Though I would like to be philosophical too, being on the other side of the government in charge of the city, the problem we are discussing is a technical one. Religious conversions are altogether a different issue. 

The Murphy’s Law states something like this:- 

Murphy's law is an adage in Western culture that broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance. "If there's more than one possible outcome of a job or task, and one of those outcomes will result in disaster or an undesirable consequence, then somebody will do it that way." It is most often cited as "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" (or, alternately, "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way" or, "Anything that can go wrong, will," or even, "If anything can go wrong, it will, and usually at the most inopportune moment"). The saying is sometimes referred to as Sod's law or Finagle's law which can also be rendered as "Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment". 

Instead of preaching, available city design methodologies need to be investigated. Having abandoned the satellite townships concept in favor of BBMP is a costly blunder. Thanks to the JDS government, that was responsible for the formation of BBMP. comment guidelines

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