Page 2603 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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Flexibility and customization are hallmarks of our age of innovation. That should favor buses. Train routes are fixed; bus routes can change overnight. Buses can be tiny minivans or soaring crimson double-deckers. They can speed on a dedicated lane between far-flung stations, or stop at every street corner. Buses can be low-cost workhorses, but they can also be glass-encased wonders equipped with WiFi and flat screen TVs.

Unfortunately, the amiable adaptability of the bus has meant that ride quality is eaten away by penny pinchers who demand Spartan vehicles …

The article goes on:

Yet there’s another problem that transportation planners often overlook: Silver Line buses have no Wi-Fi or style within, and little design outside. Even buses need a little magic to them.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has sought to replace that city’s articulated buses (which look a bit like the Silver Line buses) with a modern version of the beloved double-decker Routemaster. A design competition attracted such brand-name talent as luxury carmaker Aston Martin and architect Norman Foster. Winning designs were passed along to bus makers. Wrightbus, a firm in Northern Ireland, produced the Routemaster of the future.

The new Routemasters coolly combine tradition with sleek design. They are electricity-powered double-deckers covered with curving glass and sport an open rear platform for hop-on, hop-off access during peak times. We can’t just copy that bus—it was designed for London, not Boston—but we can copy the process that produced the bus.

For better or worse, the obvious economic benefits of buses won’t win hearts and minds. We need tough medicine …

There is a lot of truth in that. But what we are being asked for from this government is more money to foster the need to keep Mr Rattenbury on the boat rather than coming up with transport solutions that match the city. This is a far-flung city. This is a city that currently has an excellent road network that is vastly underutilised for most of the day. But we are going to build another asset that has to be maintained along with the existing just to please Mr Rattenbury and Mr Corbell.

It is about time the government just said, “We’re so confident what we are doing is the right thing, we’ll take it to the next election.” They said they would do $30 million worth of design work. They did not talk about signing contracts. They did not talk about final costs. They did not talk about doing what they are proposing to do. Let us do the work. Let us find out if there is a route that works better than Gungahlin to Civic. Let us find out if we can improve the ACTION bus service, as has long been suggested by Mr Coe, to his credit, and make what we have already—an asset—even more productive than it is, thereby reducing the cost and the drain on the public purse.

We all know ACTION needs a huge amount of subsidisation. We all guess, because the government will not tell us, that capital metro will need equally as much

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