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  #1  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:07 PM
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Default Let's talk about: Public Transportation

So, I spent an hour and a half on BART getting to work today. Generally, it takes 25 minutes. I was kind of pissed. It was not a good morning. Ugh.

I know it isn't their fault, but the more I've been traveling, the more I'm realizing I'm much more impressed with a city depending on how good their public transportation is. While it's nice to be able to BART to San Francisco from other cities in the area, it seems (to me) that a lot of other subways and trains all over run more frequently, are less expensive, and go more places than MUNI does (er, I'm only talking about trians here. As far as buses go, I'm much less familiar with how comparable SF is to the rest of the world, but I'd like to hear about that, too.) Chicago, for example, was pretty good about this, as was Boston. LA, on the other hand, is far, far worse than any other major city I've ever seen.

So: what city has the best public transportation? The worst? Is Japan really as good as they say? Etc. etc.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:09 PM
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Argentina's got it pretty bad.

On-topic: Ottawa's is pretty meh. Having to wait at times half-an-hour just to find a bus empty enough to board gets old pretty quickly. (By the way, are we including busing in this?)
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:10 PM
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Denver/Boulder was awesome, they claimed to have won some sort of awards and I'd believe it.

Bend just started a bus system a year agoand supposedly most of the buses have already broken down. And none of the routes go anywhere near where I work or live so it doesn't help much.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:13 PM
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Gotta watch out for those crazy people who like rip people's heads off.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:16 PM
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Charlotte has a pretty good one now that they have the light rail up and running. The busses were perfectly fine before but the light rail is many times better.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:16 PM
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You don't want to get on SEPTA, what we have in Philly. Aside from the name just sounding filthy, their slogan is "We're Getting There".

Yeah.
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  #7  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PapillonReel View Post
(By the way, are we including busing in this?)
Sure, why not? I don't care for buses, but sometimes they're the only option. (By the way, getting to Santa Cruz from the Bay Area by public transport is awful. I used to have to do it a lot, and it was always a painful experience.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Violentvixen View Post
Denver/Boulder was awesome, they claimed to have won some sort of awards and I'd believe it.
I've actually heard that too, but haven't experienced it myself. What makes it so good?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
You don't want to get on SEPTA, what we have in Philly. Aside from the name just sounding filthy, their slogan is "We're Getting There".

Yeah.
What makes it so bad?
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  #8  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:23 PM
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San Francisco's botched abomination of a transit tangle (BART/MUNI/Caltrain/etc.) is terrible and unreliable, but still better than nearly any other city in the U.S. I've survived five years here without driving and never regretted it.

Tokyo's system (despite being run by far more agencies than SF's mess!) really is amazing. It's quite impressive what you can do in a culture whose members have been programmed to be precise and robotic at a genetic level.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:31 PM
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I've never had an issue with Portland's system. It's even free within a certain area!
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:33 PM
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Since the dawn of the Ken era, Public Transport has been a really cheap, reliable and widespread service in London. It started declining when Boris thought it'd be a great idea to take buses off the streets.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:35 PM
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Review of Kansas City Public Transportation: LOL

In other words, its a number of bus lines for either side of the state line, rarely crossing the river, with very few stops. Most of the stops are near extremely poor neighborhoods (with the occasional stop at major shopping districts), so the average person will rarely see a bus, much less ride one. There has been talk of a KCK<=>KCMO light rail system being built for decades, but no one wants to fund such a thing.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:40 PM
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For all its faults, I loved New York's subway system. Twenty-four hour operation on all of this. Even when heading back uptown at 1 AM, it wasn't that unusual to run out of seats because so many people were still traveling.
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  #13  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:40 PM
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I think there is a bus somewhere around here. Just the one, though.
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  #14  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:43 PM
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tokyo tokyo tokyo tokyo tokyo tokyo tokyo.

That is all.
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  #15  
Old 09-09-2008, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Awesome View Post
I've never had an issue with Portland's system. It's even free within a certain area!
Which, let it be said, has actually grown over the years.

There used to be a "fareless square" for the light rail that covered the downtown blocks, and it's steadily stretched east; basically people would get on at a stop or two before fareless started (a large mall called Lloyd Center), and there'd be no ticket people around anyway on those two stops. So rather than be douchebags about it, city just said, "You know what? You're right. Have the couple extra stops."

Buses are still iffy, though, but I've been exposed to Japan's system and everywhere else, in the world, is barbaric in comparison.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:51 PM
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Yeah, I've always liked New York's better than London's - mainly because it's just easier to swap trains in New York than in London, when even outside rush hour it sometimes feels like you're walking ten minutes to get from train to train.

Toronto's, for all of the lack of funding and high prices, does a good job but could be doing a MUCH BETTER job. It's spectacular if you live / work near a subway line, much less so otherwise.
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  #17  
Old 09-09-2008, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calorie Mate View Post
What makes it so bad?
Where to begin? How about the staff - SEPTA employees are infamous for being rude, surly, unhelpful and in a few cases physically violent towards passengers. They routinely run down pedestrians and cyclists, but due to the overall bad attitude of Philly natives, I'd say they deserve each other in that respect.

There are four main rail lines that operate in a cross shape through the center of the city. This sucks because to get to the majority of the city you have to rely on the highly unreliable buses, which are always late and crowded. Compare SEPTA's rail system to Boston's MBTA, which is what I was coming from. Most of the stops on SEPTA are via regional rail, which costs many times more again to use on top of SEPTA's fare.

The underground stops are almost uniformly filthy, garbage-strewn overheated dungeons with hugely disproportionate crime rates, considering the police presence in them. Many underground stations are huge hobo camps/toilets at night. The posted schedule system in most stations consists of paper schedules duct-taped to the wall.

The vehicles themselves are constantly breaking down or getting into accidents - when I was living in West Philly and relied on the trolleys to get to and from Center City, I pretty much took it as a given that the chances of getting a direct ride, without having to transfer or detour due to shutdowns was 50/50. And depending on the operators working at the time of those shutdowns, the transfer isn't free.

So you're paying a really high fare for run-down, unreliable transportation (unless you live on one of the two major crosstown rail lines) with some of the most despicable customer "service" I've ever encountered.

Anecdote: one time I was running to catch a bus to work. It pulled away from the stop just as I was reaching for the door, but then stopped immediately at that intersection's red light. I knocked on the door to get the driver to open, and showed him my token through the window. He turned his head slightly to look at me, with a huge shit-eating grin shaking his head "no". So he pulled away specifically to make me miss the bus, then refused to let me on when he'd driven about three feet. So I did what any normal person in Philly would do: I kicked in the window on the bus door and walked five blocks to the subway.
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Old 09-09-2008, 02:21 PM
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The best part of getting a car was no longer having to ride in the same bus as any number of putrid day-laborers.

As for trains, I've only taken them once, and it was across the Peruvian countryside. I'm not sure that counts.
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  #19  
Old 09-09-2008, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parish View Post
San Francisco's botched abomination of a transit tangle (BART/MUNI/Caltrain/etc.) is terrible and unreliable, but still better than nearly any other city in the U.S. I've survived five years here without driving and never regretted it.
I got rid of my car when I left for college back in '03, so yes, it's been almost exactly 5 years since I last had a car. Not having one really is pretty great, which is why public transportation would be a huge concern for me if I ever moved.


Quote:
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horrors
Good lord, that sounds awful. You should move!
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  #20  
Old 09-09-2008, 04:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
You don't want to get on SEPTA, what we have in Philly. Aside from the name just sounding filthy, their slogan is "We're Getting There".
SEPTA is bad because it has been so poorly run and such a money-losing venture for so long that there is no good way to salvage it. I mean, if it got a serious modernization it would be a lot more worthwhile and that would probably end up saving money in the long term and not requiring ridiculously expensive fares. But it won't. And it's just horribly mismanaged - like instead of posting signs on the machines saying they won't accept the new $5 bills, they took down all the machines and forced people to buy fares from ticket agents - who only operate between 9 and 5 and only at a few locations.

SEPTA rant over, the fact that NYC public transit is 24 hours makes it great in my book. Yeah, it's hard to get from some places to others and could be laid out for better efficiency, and getting to the airport can be a pain, but I'll take it over any other (US) city I've been in.
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  #21  
Old 09-09-2008, 04:58 PM
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Is there a website that, like, rates these kinds of things? If not, uh: dibs, guys. For serious.
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  #22  
Old 09-09-2008, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Hedgehog View Post
And it's just horribly mismanaged - like instead of posting signs on the machines saying they won't accept the new $5 bills, they took down all the machines and forced people to buy fares from ticket agents - who only operate between 9 and 5 and only at a few locations.
Thank you. Combine a mindset that's equal parts thoroughly corrupt and insanely short-term/bottom-line focused, not to mention the Philadelphia work ethic (ie. nonexistent) hamstring the service at pretty much every opportunity. Even the site that exists to complain about it can't stay in operation!

I'd move back to Boston if it weren't prohibitively expensive - it's tough to live there if you aren't rich or being subsidized by your school.

Edit: read this, this, this

Last edited by Wolfgang; 09-09-2008 at 05:13 PM.
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  #23  
Old 09-09-2008, 05:24 PM
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Tokyo has the best public transportation system. Trains are clean, almost always on time, etc. There's the little matter of people leaping in front of the trains, but a jumper only shuts down my line every few months or so. And the Japanese staff are remarkably efficient when it comes to removing body parts, hosing off the front, etc.

Of course, you have to strike a bargain everytime you ride:

Do you wanna take the express and be smashed into some wall, barely able to breathe, but get there twice as fast?

Or do you wanna take the local, where you may get a seat, but you'll have to wait a lot longer?

I choose the local. Every single time.

Original hometown was Minneapolis, and all they have is the Hiawatha Line. Comfortable, clean and convenient if you happen to live within a twenty mile radius of the Mall of America and you want to go into Minneapolis or the airport. That's all it's good for though. Maybe someday they'll get around to "Phase 2" someday and lay down some track along University Avenue and into St. Paul, but I'm not holding my breath.
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Old 09-09-2008, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by `Hrist View Post
Original hometown was Minneapolis, and all they have is the Hiawatha Line. Comfortable, clean and convenient if you happen to live within a twenty mile radius of the Mall of America and you want to go into Minneapolis or the airport. That's all it's good for though. Maybe someday they'll get around to "Phase 2" someday and lay down some track along University Avenue and into St. Paul, but I'm not holding my breath.
Seriously. I've never actually ridden the light rail, and I've lived here since it was built.

The bus system is functional, though not optimal.
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Old 09-09-2008, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Calorie Mate View Post
Sure, why not? I don't care for buses, but sometimes they're the only option. (By the way, getting to Santa Cruz from the Bay Area by public transport is awful. I used to have to do it a lot, and it was always a painful experience.)
Both times I went up to the Bay Area from Santa Cruz I ended up trapped in San Jose all night. The first wasn't so bad, because I was at a con and could just stay in the hotel. The second I was stuck at a bus stop all night. It really sucked.
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  #26  
Old 09-09-2008, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calorie Mate View Post
I've actually heard that too, but haven't experienced it myself. What makes it so good?
Things that spring to mind are that you really could get anywhere (they even had a bus to the local ski resort!), everything was super-well maintained and buses were always on time and ran until late hours and started early. Also, passes were free for students at the university, which was a really smart move as it probably eliminated half the town's traffic.

I didn't go around Denver too often but I certainly had good experiences going there from Boulder.

Also! The workers went on strike while I was there but were still nice enough to provide limited bus service so the public wouldn't be stranded.
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  #27  
Old 09-09-2008, 06:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
You don't want to get on SEPTA, what we have in Philly. Aside from the name just sounding filthy, their slogan is "We're Getting There".

Yeah.
When they're not on strike, they're threatening to go on strike.
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  #28  
Old 09-09-2008, 07:05 PM
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I had relatively good luck with SEPTA when I'd take the trolley to work (from Upper Darby to Springfield), although I never trusted the bus that stopped right in front of my apartment. I once stood outside waiting for the bus for like 15-20 minutes past the scheduled time, then ran upstairs to call Toys R Us to tell my coworker I'd be late, and I think I either saw the bus pull up while I was upstairs, or as I was walking to 69th street station to catch the bus I had to transfer to anyway. Either way it wasn't fun. I have a distrust for buses anyway, I like things on rails.

But yeah, as a whole SEPTA is a pretty horrifying experience, and one of the priciest in the country to boot. I remember when I got on the bus in San Francisco 7 years ago how amazed I was that the fare included 2 transfers. 2 transfers!! For less than it cost in Philly (2 bucks cash, 1.30 for tokens, plus like 60 cents per transfer), in nicer buses.

(Sometimes I wonder why I love Philly as much as I do, but at least I know I'm not alone. My best friend who lives in Philly was saying "Yeah, the city government is completely corrupt, and the murder rate is horrible, but hey, that's just the way it is. And we love it anyway.")
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Old 09-09-2008, 09:17 PM
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I'll take light rail pretty much without hesitation but really not want to ever take a bus in a city. I guess buses ran by universities tend to be really nice for the most part, though.

Bus stigmas, I guess.
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Old 09-09-2008, 09:23 PM
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I don't have a car and get around LA just fine on the buses. Course, I'm in college so I don't have to leave campus much, though my room mate takes the bus to work a lot of the time. Unfortunately, the light rail they're currently constructing across the street is going to be completed two months after I graduate. Tarnation.
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