Friday, December 23, 2011

Inter-city buses for the "poor." Not so shabby anymore and better than HSR?

Let me pound this point as hard as I can.  Air flight is expensive.  Buses are cheap.  That fact alone already stratifies the traveling population economically.  High-speed rail will certainly be much more like flying than like riding buses. I strongly suspect that the economy has contributed to increased bus use, and when there's market demand, there will be business types to meet that demand.  Hence this article, below. 

We've said any times here that the most overlooked point about high-speed rail is the high costs of tickets.  Talk about economic stratification.  No one should pay one iota of attention to the various ticket prices being identified by the high-speed rail authority.

Even if they get the first train operating and selling tickets in ten years, and that's generous, they don't have a clue how much to charge for those tickets. So, they improvise what they believe will be convincing and desirable fares.  It's made out of thin air.

The rail authority is between a rock and a hard place.  If they make their fares too low, they can't claim that will generate surplus operating revenues.  It the tickets are priced appropriately, based on current market pricing, the game is over for them before it starts.  So, ticket cost projections float up and down like the stock market.  

I believe the CHSRA will devote a lot of time, energy and lobbying to lift the ban on operational subsidies, which will mean the difference between whether the trains can be operated or not.  Amtrak obtains huge government subsidies to back up their inadequate operating revenues.  Without the same for HSR, there's no point in even starting construction.

Be that as it may, those HSR tickets, which are the most expensive train tickets available world-wide, will be hugely expensive -- must be expensive -- in California. 

The point here is that HSR is definitively for the affluent, the well-to-do, the professional class with expense accounts.  Buses are for everybody else.

And that's reason #458 why I'm angry about this train project.  We already know about the growing gap between the rich and the poor.  Even Republicans are acknowledging this fact.  

So, what right does the government have to push a high-end, luxury, first-clas, premium, super expensive-to-build-and-operate train on us at enormous cost to everyone, in order that the rich have more travel choices?

Fastest growing mode of travel: long distance buses
Friday - 12/23/2011, 6:15am  ET

WASHINGTON -- There's something new to add to the list of things that are coming back in style: bus travel.

Carriers that pick-up and drop-off curbside -- such as BoltBus and Megabus -- boosted trips 32 percent in 2011, and intercity bus services were the sole major long-distance passenger mode that grew significantly, according to a newstudy released by researchers at DePaul University.

Curbside operators, which pick passengers up at a bus stop on the curb rather than at large bus stations, grew the fastest among all long distance travel modes, with the number of departures increasing and the number of passengers increasing, the report says.

Curbside long-distance bus operators first came on the scene in 2006, and while they have continued to gain popularity, they saw their greatest expansion this year.

Researchers say there are several factors at work, namely the poor economy and high gas prices mean more people are looking for less-expensive ways to travel. But also, more people are aware the service is available and many say they like the amenities, such as free Wi-Fi.

Also, bus companies have added additional routes, making travel to different locations easier. BoltBus now has a New Jersey hub in Newark and daily buses to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.

And at $1, passengers can't beat the price. Although, as more customers choose this mode of transportation, the prices are sure to rise soon.


WTOP's Bob Kur contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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