Daily Archives: November 23, 2010

Public Transit Thoughts

(Photograph Source)

One of the most interesting courses I took in my undergraduate career was Urban Transportation Systems.  This course studied how public transportation evolved in a city, and different components and tools in each type of transportation system.  Even though this course was mainly a technical elective, I found the psychology behind the course equally as compelling, if not more so.

As you may realized from my previous post on the cost of car ownership, I am biased towards using public transportation in urban areas.  The following are some interesting points that I encounter in my everyday life.

Over-Estimating Travel Time:

One of our first exercises was to take the local pubic transportation in our city from point A to point B.  There was no time interval; however, we needed to have at least one connection in our trip.  Before we took the trip, we were to estimate how long out trip length would be, and compare it to our actual travel time.

People who did not regularly take public transportation over-estimated their travel time by 2 or 3 times as long!  You can see how this becomes a bad cycle.  People who don’t regularly take transit think it will take too long to get to their destination, so they don’t use it.

For my example, I took the bus from my university dorm room to get to uptown for groceries.  I checked the bus times, and waited for my first bus.  When I got to my transfer point, there second bus was waiting there, and I had no wait time for the second bus.  I was at the grocery store in 15 minutes and I had guessed it would take me 35 – 45 minutes.

One of the things I discovered about taking transit in my University City was that buses would often wait for each other at main intersections.  Since routes would only run every 30 – 45 minutes, off peak, simply working out the schedules of major routes so that they only need to wait a little bit for each other goes a long way in optimizing the transit system and making it more enjoyable for those of us who used it. 🙂

Plan Ahead

Some cities even have a system where you can call or text a certain stop number to find when the next bus will arrive.  Some cities also have estimated wait times posted via an information board at certain stops.  I think every major city has a transportation website where you can find bus/train schedules.  Some websites even allows you to type in your location and destination, and proposes various routes to you.

Schedules are very useful if you’re not in the downtown core.  It takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth it.  Always buffer in some extra time just in case your bus/train gets there a little early.

If you a regular user of public transit, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  And for those of us who don’t use public transit, try this exercise and share your results.



Filed under Finance, Public Transit