18 November 2010
The end of the M4 bus lane
Brian Micklethwait

The new British Coalition Government is scrapping the M4 bus lane from London to Heathrow:

“Scrapping the M4 bus lane is symbolic of this Government’s decision to end the war on the motorist,” the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said yesterday. “It ends the injustice suffered by thousands of drivers who sit in traffic next to an empty lane day in, day out.”

But not everyone is pleased to see the bus lane disappear. Taxi drivers now face being stuck in the same queues as other motorists, ...

In a total transport free market, there would be no “wars” against this or that form of transport, merely rational economic calculation.  If taxis paid enough for their own lane, they’d get it.  If buses assembled enough poor people to outbid richer own-car-users, ditto.

Meanwhile, all there is is politics.

27 October 2010
Roller bus!
Brian Micklethwait

Without doubt the strangest transport related picture I’ve taken in London in recent months was this:


That’s a rather ancient Rolls Royce, not a bus!

Later, I took a closer look at what it says on the door there:


And all was revealed.  Here‘s the website.  Recommended to all who like ladies in stockings and suspenders.

Is there a serious point to this?  Any serious point?  Well, perhaps that “transport” doesn’t just mean enterprises that are devoted wholly to transport, but also enterprises whose main focus is something completely other than transport, but who nevertheless get involved in transport, as part of the process of creating a satisfactory package-product for their customers.

Or maybe: that vehicles are increasingly being used to advertise such mostly-not-transport enterprises.  There’s nothing like a seriously weird vehicle meandering around its native city, with a big sign on it that makes little immediate sense but which sticks in the mind (while also making sure to include mention of a www dot something), to get people talking, and googling, and even blogging.

In this connection, I don’t think that me being able to photo this weird contraption is incidental either.  Cameras are not just things to snap pretty and artistic scenes with.  They are machines for taking notes, quickly, in a way that wouldn’t work nearly so well with pens and notebooks.  Moving vehicles, by their nature, are come and gone quickly.  Typically there isn’t time to read what they say on them, let alone identify the salient bits and write them down.  But there is time to photo them, and read about it all later.  It’s not just the internet.  The internet combined with cheap cameras, especially cameras in phones of course, have also helped to change how advertising works, and in particular how adverts work which are on the sides of lorries or vans or cars.

20 December 2008
New London buses
Rob Fisher

The other day I wanted to get on a bus but it stood uselessly at traffic lights and I could not get on.  So I am pleased to see that the new London buses are a hop-on-hop-off design, like the Routemaster.  Well done, Boris!

23 July 2008
“Everything I learnt just got better and better if you like train wrecks”
Patrick Crozier

I’ve been listening to this podcast in which Russ Roberts of Café Hayek talks to Mike Munger about mass transit in Santiago, Chile.  It seems that they had a perfectly good1 private system which got nationalised.  Result: huge losses, longer commutes, higher car use, oh, and the odd riot.

But do they want to go back to the old system, you know the one that worked?  Hell no.

As Munger observes:

A public mass transportation system is the fiction that each of us can ride at the expense of all of us.

By the way, in case you think the guy is making it all up here is a report from the International Herald Tribune and here is what a Santiagan commenter had to say:

I am from Santiago, and it is very hard to understate the mess caused by the change in the public transportation system.

Santiago is a city where most of its population use public transportation (including myself) and the significant decrease in its quality caused inmense suffering. People who were used to wait for 10 minutes or less for a bus that would take them accross town in 45 minutes need to wait for over 30 minutes now, having to switch buses (sometimes more than once and at stops that could be several blocks away) and doubling or tripling their travel time. This causes havoc with family and “down” time.

Many areas of the city are not not served (or underserved) by the new buses and the ministry of transport has had to draw new routes with astonishing frequency.

And a system that was self-financed and produced profits for the operators, has caused the government to give huge subsidies and cause losses to the new bus companies. This is a terrible loss of wealth, in financial terms and withr espect to the time lost by passengers, in a country that already had a pretty good system.

This is all due to planners belief that thier intelligence was better than the wisdom of hundreds of bus companies.

At least, this has discredited central planning in Chile for the foreseeable time.

1.  Well, there was a slight problem with buses racing one another and mowing down pedestrians.

01 March 2008
Bus wi-fi
Brian Micklethwait

You can now connect your idiot toy to the internet in a South Wales bus.  There’s a great picture there at Idiot Toys of the back of the bus which explains everything, and it includes a link to this website, where you can learn more.  Good news for me.  If I’m in South Wales.  In a bus.

30 October 2007
User-controlled Transitions lenses – on a bus
Brian Micklethwait

One of the technological developments that Patrick and I talked about in this conversation was how much better and stronger glass has been getting lately.  Window pains have gone from flat transparencies that shatter into fragments if you so much as nudge them to giant hi-tech heat and light control systems that you can drop a car on without damage to anything but the car.

Soon, it would appear, we will be able to alter these membranes (membrains?) for ourselves, at any rate when travelling by bus:

Think user-controlled Transitions lenses, but for automobiles.  Got it? If so, then you’ve got a pretty decent idea of what makes Hino Motor’s concept motorcoach - which was being shown off at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show - unique. Developed by Research Frontiers, the SPD-Smart technology covering those expansive panels there on your right “allows vehicle occupants to instantly, precisely and uniformly control the amount of sunlight, glare and heat passing through the windows, sunroofs and other glazings.” Additionally, it blocks over 99-percent of harmful UV radiation and can be darkened or lightened with the press of a button. ...

Cool.  Literally, if cool is what you want.

21 July 2007
How public transport fails
Rob Fisher

Yesterday I observed an interesting public transport failure mode.  Floods had closed many tube stations, so people took to the buses.  The buses filled up.  People making journeys that would otherwise have been unaffected by the tube station closures were left stranded as the full buses drove past their stops.

This situation should be a good business opportunity, but with all public transport in London provided by the same organisation, I doubt the incentives are strong for extra bus services to be laid on.  No doubt taxi drivers did very well.

14 April 2007
Transport for cats
Brian Micklethwait

Apparently feral cats often get themselves into severe problems by creeping inside recently active and therefore warm motor vehicle engines.  So, when the vehicle start up again, trouble.  Often they die.  Pierrepoint, however, was rescued.

Macavity is far more on top of things.

The feline, which has a purple collar, gets onto the busy Walsall to Wolverhampton bus at the same stop most mornings - he then jumps off at the next stop 400m down the road, near a fish and chip shop.

He is no trouble:

Passenger, Paul Brennan, 19, who catches the 331 to work, said: “I first noticed the cat a few weeks ago. At first I thought it had been accompanied by its owner but after the first stop it became quite clear he was on his own.

“He sat at the front of the bus, waited patiently for the next stop and then got off. It was quite strange at first but now it just seems normal. I suppose he is the perfect passenger really - he sits quietly, minds his own business and then gets off.”

Perfect passenger then, apart from the fact that he presumably doesn’t pay.

11 April 2007
Dale does transport
Brian Micklethwait

Iain Dale doesn’t specialise in transport issues, but there have been a couple of postings there recently on transport themes.  On Monday there was a big chunk of Simon Hoggart, writing about the interruptions that train passengers (sorry: “customers” (I hate that)) are subjected to.

I settle in the quiet coach. Except it isn’t.

And, today, there is this coach, of the road sort, which says this on its side:


I don’t know why it says this.  Judging by the EUro stars to the right of that, it’s either a very pro EU message or very anti.  I imagine it’s the usual thing of Germans sounding scarier than they really are.  Usually.

23 March 2007
Comfy bus watch - Google are ferrying a quarter of their staff to work on buses equipped with leather seats and wifi  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)Buses
13 December 2006
Bus baloney
Patrick Crozier

“A lie is half way around the world before the truth can even gets its boots on.”  I was put in mind of this saying by this Times report.

Private bus operators will be stripped of their powers to set fares, frequencies and timetables, under proposals aimed at reversing 20 years of decline.

This isn’t an out and out lie it just fails to mention that decline didn’t set in in the 1980s.  If anything bus liberalisation arrested the rate of decline.

Mind you it does manage to mention how much is lost on London buses every year: £480m, in case you were wondering.

06 December 2006
Bad ideas in advertising #3,091,332
Patrick Crozier

So you’ve got this government agency.  And this government agency is trying to flog milk.  So, it puts up some ads at bus stops.  And then it thinks (if “thinks” is the right word): “What if we could entice the people standing at the bus stop to buy some milk with a smell?” So, they decide to try the smell of cookies

Only a 16-year old schoolgirl can spot the flaw:

“It’s going to smell like cookies and bums,”

(Hat-tip: LFTTR)