Public transport is for other people…

I loathe public transport. The only redeeming feature of it is loads of other people take it…and aren’t on my roads or in my way.

Politicians love to push people on to public transport…but it seems more and more are ignoring their pleas, especially millennials.

More than a quarter of U.S. government spending on surface transportation goes to mass transit, and yet mass transit accounts for less than 2 percent of total trips taken nationwide. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marc Scribner attributes this eye-popping mismatch to a persistent “falsehood peddled by the transit lobby:” If you build it, they will come.

A stunning chart put together by the University of South Florida’s Steve Polzin illustrates how transit supply has failed to create its own demand.

The blue line represents transit ridership; the red line shows the expansion of the country’s mass transit infrastructure going back to 1970. Their divergence is a “report card on productivity that mom and dad would hardly be proud of,” Polzin writes. It’s also a statistical representation of a sad yet all-too-familiar scene in American cities: empty light rail trains chugging along main streets in deserted downtowns.  

As Polzin notes, data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the National Transit Data Program show that transit ridership in the U.S. has been declining recently. Yet advocates hold out hope that millennials will deliver on the mass transit renaissance they’ve been claiming is right around the corner since the 1970s.

It’s not going to happen. As Reason Foundation’s Director of Transportation Policy Bob Poole noted recently, J.D. Power’s and report that car buying is surging among millennials. This data contradict a 2014 paper from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) claiming young people were no longer attracted to automobiles and therefore the U.S. should divert even more money to transit.

Most people will agree that public transport is a good idea…for other people to use. But the facts are that public transport is neither convenient nor cheap. It is far more effective to drive yourself than sit with hordes of sweaty, smelly other people.

Bring on autonomous cars…


– Reason


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  • waldopepper

    yes, what is it with social justice warriors. always wanting to tell others what to do or fix other people. never themselves.

    • Kevin

      The first thing I do when I meet a zealous public transport advocate is ask “So, do you take the bus?”

      • OneTrack

        Or a Green – just ask them “What is the colour of your solar cells”.

        • biscuit barrel

          Do you turn your back on all our countries ‘socialist systems’ like the fibre broadband ‘free install’, which means government pays for it.
          Or your Mums pills, paid for by Pharmac, do you flush them down toilet saying they are an abomination as its nanny state keeping you dependent.

          • johcar

            The government doesn’t pay for anything. Our taxes do.

          • Nige.

            You can’t tar every act of helping as socialism.

          • biscuit barrel

            We have a socialised medicine system, it is what it is.
            Sauce for goose , sauce for gander

          • Nige.


            “Do you turn your back on all our countries ‘socialist systems’ like the fibre broadband ‘free install’, which means government pays for it.”

  • Rebecca

    Agree re autonomous cars! I had an ‘opportunity’ to drive from Manurewa to downtown Auckland last Friday and counted 11 vehicles tootling along at around 80kph in the middle or outside lane. The displacement caused by this inconsiderate behavior extended back at least 100 metres in all three lanes, affecting hundreds of other drivers. The trip was punctuated by sloshy slowdowns to get past the bottlenecks.

    I reflected that a self-driving vehicle either would attain the speed limit or would honor the Road Code and join a procession in the left lane, narrowing the freeway to two lanes rather than a big messy braking/maneuvering exercise to undertake the slowcoach if the outside lane also is clogged. Meantime, perhaps the Police might start enforcing the law to prevent inconsiderate slowcoaches blocking what’s meant to be a 3-lane highway.

  • cows4me

    I use to love PT . Worked in the outer suburbs Sydney when younger, always plenty of hot young sheilas on the train, ah the good old days.

    • biscuit barrel

      Thats what the numbers miss. They ‘all trips’ when public transport hardly matters.
      But change that to going to work trips and you have a different story, and then change it to big cities only.
      The reason for public transport is that large cities dont have enough room for the cars if everyone used private transport.
      The idea of driverless cars is just a snakeoil solution, they might reduce accident rate but wont increase the road capacity.
      Tell me how your ‘autonmous car’ will know the 5 cars on the motorway that are closest to me, are in front behind to one side of me.
      Or even when the traffic is slowed to crawl both sides, how will we know the car on the otherside of the barrier doesnt matter.

      • johcar

        My Subaru Forester is not far off that right now. It can slow down (while on cruise control) when it detects a slower moving vehicle in front of me and will maintain one of three safe distances I can select. When the slower vehicle moves out of my way (or if I change lanes to a clear one), my car will accelerate to the preset cruising speed.

        Autonomous cars will be able to safely travel closer to the next vehicle than a manned vehicle, because they will all be linked to the cloud and be ‘aware’ of problems coming up and traffic conditions around them, and be able to slow down as one. Therefore they will take up less room on the motorways, allowing for a higher volume of vehicles overall…

        • biscuit barrel

          have you read the Subaru owners manual for cruise control
          This is what it says

          Do not use the cruise control under any of the following conditions. This may cause loss of vehicle control:

          . driving up or down a steep grade
          . driving on slippery or winding roads
          . driving in heavy traffic

          • johcar

            Because the US is a huge market for Subaru and Americans tend to be litigious.

            That is why there are warning messages on plastics bags stating “This bag is not a toy”. Doh!

            I take all those warning messages with a grain of salt and use common sense. The car is always under my control – it just makes it a more relaxing drive to use the technological toys I have bought and paid for…

      • Keyser Soze

        You’re very much mistaken that autonomous vehilces won’t increase the capacity of existing roads. Vehicle to vehicle (v2v) communication will allow safer travel at higher speeds at a closer travelling distance thus increasing the number of vehicles using . Vehicle routes could be optimised depending on the intended routes of all other vehicles in the system thereby reducing overal trips times. A ‘public’ capsule trip option could allow your pod to stop along the way and do pickups/dropoffs of other users on your route – at a reduced cost/trip. I imagine that the fully autonomous system that will exist in 50 years time (about the same time when the CRT white elephant billions will be paid off) there will be no need for traffic signals – v2v will have developed to the point where pods speed are controlled to allow them to drive through intersections in waves simply avoiding and threading through opposing traffic without stopping. I could go on but have you no imagination?

        • biscuit barrel

          And how does this v2v going to happen, whats the bandwidth, whats the frequency channels they are going to use. How do know that v2v isnt a hacker and can be trusted.
          They have got a ‘truck convoy’ trial system going which makes sense as they have a slipstreaming benefit as well.

          Do we have planes travelling closer in the sky ? Yet they have all these comms fitted, biggest use- onboard movies and email

          • Keyser Soze

            Nice straw man argument, one minute you’re questioning how they’re going to do it before acknowledging they’re already doing it with trucks in Sweden (and soon to be cars in London) I presume you fly, do you care how ILS works? You drive a car with airbags, ABS… do you care how they work rather than they do work? Do we need planes travelling closer in the sky? Not yet.

            Google’s first generation autonomous vehicles are fully independent – they do not drive via GPS or make decisions based on any external data that their own sensors don’t self generate. The first incarnations don’t rely on any physical features, such as road markings or external electronic info. Their ‘drive system’ is physically independent from their access to the ‘cloud’ to minimise opportunities for hackers.

          • biscuit barrel

            At least you have some idea about this stuff, unlike those who toss in ‘cloud’ as though its a magic sauce.
            However you are incorrect about google cars not using GPS, as they do need to know where they are and where to go ( take the 3rd exit…)
            The rest is as you describe, scanners create a computer image of all that surround the vehicle and they classify each item and decide what to do.
            While schools of some fish ( sardines) and some flocks of birds (starlings) can act as a single entity, most dont as they are too large and cant u maneuver as quickly, cars are included here.

            Truck ‘platooning’ is only because the vehicles are matched in capability, and being close together creates fuel savings, there has been a simpler system around for some time where they can have from 10 -30 units linked together, its called a train.

          • Keyser Soze

            Clearly the cars use GPS to navigate but that is different from using GPS to ‘drive’.
            The trucks have the same capability in the same way autonomous passenger vehicles will and yet you accept the value of truck platooning but don’t recognise the same mechanism can increase the capacity/safety of a road for passenger vehicles? I suspect you’re just being argumentative. Happy to debate the social constraints of whether people will choose autonomous vehicles over their own but you’re in lala land if you truely believe 19th century tech is the answer to today’s problems.

          • biscuit barrel

            100 years ago steam and electric cars were quite popular but obviously dropped off, only recent have electric cars came back. Who could have guessed thats the way it would turn out,
            And using GPS to ‘drive’ Rolls Royce does it with a model.

            “Alive with the latest technologies, including the satellite-aided transmission that predicts the road ahead” – downshifts apparently for hills ahead

            Like i said trucks can be built to higher quality and maintenence, would you platoon with a car of dubious maintenance. Plus they work best with long distance not in packed inner city driving- that lady who runs for dog suddenly

    • Dave

      I think you have cracked it C4M, Auckland Transport have missed the ideal marketing opportunity. Perhaps WO needs to come up with a new marketing slogan for Auckland trains, to attract the young males. Could even be a meme comp here

      “Aucklands trains, the fastest way to getting shunted round Auckland”
      “Auckland Trains, the best pick up carriage in Auckland”

      • Oh Please

        They could use Penny Bright as the poster girl…

      • biscuit barrel

        Winners are grinners
        20% patronage jump with intro of new electric trains

        • MrHippo

          What was the per passenger km subsidy that was required? What was the average journey length? Was it $0.50 for an average journey of 16km one way so an assumed subsidy of $16 per return trip? Ahh spending other peoples money…

    • Keyser Soze

      I like it… AT could contract out train conductor jobs to Steve Crow?

  • Gravedodger

    Didn’t some intrepid soul report that a certain P D Brown once took a train from his Leafy to DT Auckland with the council provided car and driver following to move the now rotting meat to his office at journeys end.

    • OneTrack

      Len only rides the train when there is a Herald photographer present. Otherwise it’s just for the peons, not the elites like him.

  • JustAnotherLurker

    PT is a fabulous system in London esp north of the Thames where the bulk of the Tube lines run, but it needs high population density. Auckland’s geography means PT will never work and will always require huge subsidies. Even London’s well used system only generates 40% of revenue from fares and still relies on public funding (23%)

  • Jman

    It’s ridiculous to think young people wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about cars as older generations. Cars today are cheaper, more reliable, easier to drive and more comfortable than ever.

  • Oh Please

    Public transport just doesn’t do what I want. If you are going from A to B at a particular time and don’t care if you are late, that is fine. But if you need to get from one place to another, via a third, while carrying items then it is no good. It would be impossible to do my job on public transport because of the locations I have to get to and the equipment I need to do it. It is also useless if you need to do those unusual things like dropping kids off at activities or shopping. If I take my kids swimming it takes me 10 minutes by car (which has increased by 3 minutes due to the 27 speed bumps in the way) but at least 30 minutes by bus – if it arrives at the expected time and doesn’t fly past the stop in order to keep to the timetable.
    Public transport is 20th century – it doesn’t fit in with now. No wonder the union-funded socialists love it.

  • Charlie

    Waste of money, went for ride round one route a few days ago for the first time in my town. Total passengers for the whole trip = 4, paying = 2 (gold card). Most of the big fattys that I see at bus stops would be better off walking rather than spending about 2 miutes bussing.

  • Cadwallader

    It is interesting, at least to me, that the left’s ongoing references to public transport mean trains/buses. This suggests to me that public transport refers to the transportation of the oppressed proletariat rather than its wider meaning which would include aircraft and ferries.Air NZ is as a legitimate part of public transport as any municipal bus company. Why is it not therefore championed by the left amidst demands for lower fares and subsidies?

  • SlightlyStrange

    It seems different here. I know I read a report recently that indicated in some of our cities, younger people are not bothering to get a licence, instead opting to walk, cycle or use public transport.
    I suspect those cities are Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin (rather than Auckland), where a reasonable PT infrastructure exists (although I’m not sure how “reasonable” the SI ones are now, having not used them in a while).

  • Old Dig

    Self drive cars are great……. for other people to use.
    I like driving.