Page 2602 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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Let me say that again:

… buses are pretty much everywhere more cost-effective than urban trains.

We know the government’s own report says bus rapid transport gets a much better return than capital metro, but because they have made a decision to keep Mr Rattenbury in bed with the government they cannot afford to move away from it. That is the problem for the people of the ACT—this is about buying Mr Rattenbury’s vote, not delivering full and long-term transport priority for the people of the ACT.

The current transport economist of note in the world is a gentleman called Edward Glaeser who wrote a book called Triumph of the city: how our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier. What does Glaeser say about transport? He says nobody has actually done the buses properly:

There’s an old line that 40 years of transport economics at Harvard can be boiled down to four words: “Bus good, train bad.” So it shouldn’t be seen as being an intrinsic problem that you don’t have a train system. Buses are flexible. They’re cost effective. They in principle can be socially programmed … But we tend to see buses as the ugly stepchild of American transportation. That’s really unfortunate.

I think you could say the same in Australia. He goes on to say that he suggests:

… actually embracing a pro-bus agenda to make buses cool. Spend modest amounts upgrading the buses. You don’t necessarily put in streetcars, just paint your buses to make them look better, figure out how to put in a little more personnel so they feel more safe, figure out if you can do social programming—chat rooms in buses. Run trivia contests for the kids, just purely experimental, low-cost interventions that attempt to make the buses exciting. That’s a cheap public transport agenda that could potentially yield big returns …

He wrote in the Boston Globe:

Boston needs cooler buses.

Canberra needs cooler buses. He goes on:

For decades, economists like me—and other budget nerds—have argued that buses are vastly more cost-effective than trains. Yet trains cause hearts to flutter, while buses elicit groans.

Does it all come down to we just like the sound of a train rather than hard facts? Further:

For buses to take on more of this region’s transportation needs, they must please riders more and bean-counters less.

He goes on to say:

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