What a bus rider wants

<p style="text-indent: 0.25in; line-height: 200%" class="ecxMsoNormal"> <span>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. <span> </span>As I type, it occurs to me to ask myself: what are the interests of the long-distance bus rider?<span>  </span>Are they the same as users of other forms of public transit, or closer to those of drivers and truckers?<span>  </span>My short answer to these questions is: a little of both.</span> </p>

Read Time: 3 minutes

June 22, 2010, 8:01 PM PDT

By Michael Lewyn @mlewyn


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.

First
of all, a bus rider needs good roads: smooth roads that enable him/her
to read
or type without being jolted by stomach-churning bumps.  In
this respect, a bus rider is like a
motorist: motorists also value good roads rather than pothole-filled
obstacle
courses.

And certainly a  bus
rider places some value on lack of
congestion, though probably less than a motorist. In a bus, I don't
expect a
total free flow of traffic, but I do mind congestion sufficiently severe
to
create enormous delays.  Although all bus riders
value on-time performance, I think this is probably somewhat more true
for
long-distance bus riders than for riders of municipal buses, since the
former
group is more likely to be stuck on interstate highways where there is
no escape
from congestion. (By contrast, if a bus on a downtown street is moving
too
slowly for your taste, you might be able to get off the bus and start walking to
your
destination).*

But in other respects, long-distance
bus riders and municipal bus riders are like pedestrians and users of
rail
transit.   For example, even intercity bus riders value public transit, so that once
they
get in their destination city they can reach a wide variety of destinations within the city.
 

And ideally, the bus station should be in a walkable area well served by public transit.  When I ride a long-distance
bus, I want my bus station to be in a busy neighbourhood where I can
walk to
something interesting if I have some spare time.  For
example, Toronto's bus station is quite centrally
located, which means I can walk to an enormous variety of destinations.

But in other cities, this is not the case.  For example, I was recently
on a bus that stopped at the South Bend, Indiana, airport, which
appeared to be near absolutely nothing.  (After checking walkscore.com, I
found that its Walkscore was 11).  When I visited Chattanooga some years ago, I noticed that its bus station (also near the airport) is a few blocks away from not only the nearest city bus, but even the nearest sidewalk.

Other bus stations are in truly
scary neighborhoods; St. Louis's bus station appeared to be in one of
the city's large stock of deserted areas.   In my experience, this is a
"smart growth vs. sprawl" issue: the most transit and
pedestrian-oriented cities tend to have bus stations closer to downtown,
while declining or sprawling cities tend to have bus stations in less
impressive places. **

 

*Depending
on how
able-bodied you are, the degree of hurry you are in, and numerous other
variables.

**However, there are plenty of exceptions to this
generalization.  For example, Jacksonville's bus station is pretty close to the heart of downtown.


Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, in Long Island. His scholarship can be found at http://works.bepress.com/lewyn.

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