Interesting article about current thinking (?) on transit

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/0...spending-cities.html

This is typical of what we see about transit in this country, where people seem to look for something, anything, that is better, and often the claims of the alternatives turn out to be, shall we say, less than true. In the 1940's and 50's they ripped out trolley systems and put in buses, claiming that would allow traffic to 'flow better'. When the private car exploded post world war II, people championed it as bringing freedom, that it would allow people to work and live where they wanted..and they ended up with in most places a lot of traffic jams. The answer to that was build more roads, but when they built more roads, they ended up with more traffic jams.

The driverless car is the next great hope of those who hate transit it seems. The argument that "we shouldn't spend money on transit because it will soon be obsolete" kind of reminds me when Ralph Kramden on the Honeymooners said he wasn't buying a tv because it was going to be made obsolete when 3D tv came along.....it is like saying you won't buy a new computer because a faster one will come along in a year or so. 

More importantly, it is betting that the problems with traffic in cities is caused by poor driving by humans, that if we just had cars driven by AI that does things 'right', that chooses the best route through the all points shortest cost algorithms and the like, it will be more efficient. The problem is that that is overselling how much can be wrung out of roads, especially in city areas, and the roads have an absolute limit to how much they can process, and it is much less than transit can move. Not to mention all the other things that choke traffic, trucks delivering things, construction, bade weather, you name it. 

I really found amusing the idea that driverless cars could be run by private operators at a price that matches the cost of transit, that one really had me chuckling. They argued that without the cost of the driver it would be cheap to run these cars (sound familiar? Anyone remember the claim that nuclear power was so efficient and cheap that power would be practically free?). Course that leaves out the cost of the vehicles, maintenance, wear and tear, accidents, cost of power/fuel...not to mention that a private operator is not going to run these at cost, which still likely would be much higher than a transit fare, especially since driverless cars will carry relatively few passengers, and will want to make a good profit.

To be honest, this sounds more like GM either buying trolley car lines and shutting them down to replace them with (GM) buses, or convincing idiots like LaGuardia in NYC that buses were the 'wave of the future". In this case silicon valley types looking to make a quick buck on their 'miracle' technology, and not caring, like GM, what the cost is down the road. 

That doesn't mean that driverless cars might not work in some cases or work as a complement to transit, it could. But when you are talking relatively densely populated areas the car, whether driverless or good old homo sapien driving it, just can't do what mass transit does, and promoting the driverless car as the 'ultimate' is likely to have the same problem we have with cars today, that we end up with a traffic jam, where the increase in efficiency falls magnitudes short of moving enough people to avoid them. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

Original Post

A city like New York would never be able to switch to driver-less cars instead of buses and trains, the density of folks per square foot would be too low. If you took a full subway car, how many feet of automobiles would it take to hold all those folks at one person per car?

CharlieS posted:

A city like New York would never be able to switch to driver-less cars instead of buses and trains, the density of folks per square foot would be too low. If you took a full subway car, how many feet of automobiles would it take to hold all those folks at one person per car?

Agreed, I think that would be true in any densely populated city, the whole idea of driverless cars using subway tunnels and transit right of way makes no sense. I am not even sure they would help the situation in places like Atlanta and Houston and Phoenix that have such problems with congestion, driverless cars might be able to operate more efficiently but roads still have their limits.  Sadly more than a few see mass transit as a 'loss of freedom' or the like, then complain and moan having to drive in traffic, they complain about the cost of mass transit but ignore the cost of roads and bridges, because to a large extent it is hidden from them. 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

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AdriaticStuart


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