The uncertainty of buses

A lot of the issues with regular bus systems can be explained as uncertainty:

You don’t know which route you should take, where to find that bus route, when the next bus is supposed to arrive, how early or late it will actually arrive, and where to get off. The only thing that is generally certain is that you’d prefer not to deal with the uncertainty.


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5 responses to “The uncertainty of buses”

  1. Ruth says :

    Hi again,

    Complexity is an issue when you’re a visitor in a new place for a short time and are not used to taking public transit.

    For people who live in a city and want to take transit on a regular basis, complexity is a very minor hurdle. What’s important in that case is convenience – especially not having to walk too far and not having to make a lot of transfers.

    Imagine that you decide to dump your car and start taking transit to work. Do you mind that you have to go online and find the best route, or do you mind that every single day you have to walk a long way and transfer several times? Obviously the latter.

    In terms of transit planning, the goal is to have less cars, and creating a system where people drive to the transit stop is not very environmental.

    Re your comments in another post about taking buses while traveling, my advice is: get over your anti-bus thing and do it! I travel a lot and I always find buses and streetcars more fun than subways because you can see out the window. I’ve taken buses all over the world. Even in Egypt I didn’t find it too difficult to figure out where the city buses were going. In NYC the bus system is way easier than the subway system because the subway system skips some stops and doesn’t open the doors of some cars and stuff like that (although in NY I generally take the subway for long distances and the bus for shorter hops).

  2. mdruker says :

    Thanks for your comments.

    “For people who live in a city and want to take transit on a regular basis, complexity is a very minor hurdle.”

    It takes either dedication or necessity to deal with the uncertainty and complexity of buses. Contrary to your assumption, this applies equally well to residents. Good, simple transit attracts those who are not dedicated transit riders, which in turn improves transit and city life for everyone.

    I do not follow a very strict schedule. Before leaving home for work, one option is to check the bus schedule, and do something at home until the time to leave, and then go wait for the bus. If this works out right, I can get from home to work in just over 10 minutes. But the bus could be early, so I need to get there several minutes ahead of time. Sometimes the bus is rather late, or maybe arrived before I did. The next bus is in 30 minutes. By heading to the bus stop, I surrender control of my schedule to the luck of the buses. I find that I much prefer the 30 minute walk that I have full control over. Or driving, of course, but this is a choice I deliberately repress.

    That’s for getting from home to work. But what if I want to get to anywhere else at all? Unless it’s on one of the maybe three routes I know well, it’s not easy to figure out. Plus, I’d have to conjure up a schedule, and then do this all over again if my subsequent trip is not precisely the reverse. If I have to look at schedules and online route planners just to figure out how to get to a store, I will rethink my desire of doing so in the first place.

    If transit trip planning cannot be spontaneous, people make fewer trips.

  3. Beige says :

    Where I live, the route maps are sort of schematic sketches that aren’t really so useful for planning. Which road is this exactly? Where is this, I need another, real map, just to get my bearings. It goes in a loop around the hospital, is that clockwise or counterclockwise (meaning, which side of the road do I stand on to go eastbound?)? Don’t know. Can’t tell. Does it do that loop at night or not? Don’t know, can’t tell. Have to ride the route experimentally to find out.

  4. PeterM says :

    Been going through your archieves, I figured this was a good place to share my expereience with busses.

    Growing up, I took the city bus to highschool in Oshawa. A 15 minuite walk to the bus stop, combined with a ~20 minuite wait for the bus, in Canadian Winters. It was only a 50 minuite or so walk to my highschool, and the transit wasn’t cheap.

    Working after university, living in KW, I had a job in eastern kitchiner, and an appartment by the university. There was a flexible bus route within 5 minuites of my appartment, and 10 minuites of my work after only one transfer. Sure, the busses didn’t take direct routes, but counting walking time, and driving time, they only took maybe 45 minuites.

    The problem? Busses don’t run on time. The first bus was +-15 minuites. Most days it was +-5, but once a month, it would be out by 15 minuites. What does this mean? Well, it means that the bus that would normally get me to my stop with 8 minuites to spare is no good, I need to take the bus that runs a half hour earlier. I also needed to ensure that I could make the transfer for that early bus, which would be missed once every few weeks. I can’t show up to wait for the first bus 5 minuites before it’s due, I need to make sure I show up 20 minuites early so I can’t miss it. To use the busses to get to work every day on time, I needed to jam over an hour of ‘wiggle room’ onto my trip into work.

    Because I couldn’t trust the busses to to pick me up, or drop me off within 7 or 8 minuites of the schedule, my trip was extended from what was a 20 minuite car drive, to a two hour transit trip inbound, and 1 hour going home. If you want to talk about why people don’t take the bus to work, it has alot to do with the fact that for even medium sized trips it can add hours to your daily commute. The Iexpress was atleast useful because while it was a 20 minuite walk from my place, I could trust the danm thing to get me to where I needed to go, and make the transfers I needed, most of the time.

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