A couple of weeks ago, I was on a bus in Chicago and noticed something that I had not noticed before- that how you paid to get on the bus affected how long you took to get on the bus. People who flashed monthly passes boarded in a few seconds. People who put in dollar bills got on a lot more slowly, as they fumbled for the right number of bills. People who had to pay change took longer still.
So to speed buses’ on-time performance (pun intended) transit agencies should encourage the former and discourage the latter.
As I began to type this, I was on a Greyhound bus somewhere in southern Ontario, on the first leg of my return from Toronto (where I have spent the past year getting an extra degree) to the United States. As I type, it occurs to me to ask myself: what are the interests of the long-distance bus rider? Are they the same as users of other forms of public transit, or closer to those of drivers and truckers? My short answer to these questions is: a little of both.
One reason why buses are less popular than trains is buses' lack of "legibility": the ability of an occasional passenger to figure out how to get somewhere by bus. While subway or light rail passengers can look at a system map (which is usually present on a station wall) and figure out that a train to destination X shall arrive at their station reasonably soon, bus passengers typically have to invest time in getting schedules, and then pray that the schedule has not changed.