California Bus Association

The Antiplanner spent the last couple of days at the annual meeting of the California Bus Association, which left me unable to post as I was too cheap to pay the hotel $9.95 per day for Internet access even though the nice people at the Bus Association would probably have covered the cost. In any case, I learned a lot at the meeting that I’ll probably comment on in future posts.

I’ve never been to a bus association convention before, but my impression was of a thriving, growing industry. Hundreds of different companies offer scheduled and charter bus services; there are quite a few different manufacturers; and new buses feature intriguing technologies including adaptive cruise control, vehicle stability control, and on-board fire detection and suppression. Moreover, the market is rapidly shifting in an endless series of buy-outs and mergers. It felt more like Silicon Valley than a nearly-100-year-old industry that had been in decline from before 1980 to some time in the last decade.

Yet, as someone pointed out, when most people think “bus” they still think Greyhound (or, more likely, city transit buses). So people were talking about raising $3 million for a national marketing campaign to make people think about buses both for individual and group travel.

The campaign would help politically too. The Antiplanner calls intercity buses the forgotten mode because they are largely ignored when people inside the beltway offer billions in subsidies to Amtrak, high-speed rail, and so-called essential air service. Per passenger mile subsidies to Amtrak are at least 100 times as great as subsidies to buses.

The bus industry would like “parity,” meaning either that it gets subsidies just as great as Amtrak or Amtrak subsidies are ended. Of course, the Antiplanner prefers the latter solution, which would greatly accelerate the renaissance of the bus.

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44 thoughts on “California Bus Association

  1. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    The bus industry would like “parity,” meaning either that it gets subsidies just as great as Amtrak or Amtrak subsidies are ended. Of course, the Antiplanner prefers the latter solution, which would greatly accelerate the renaissance of the bus.

    The bus folks could purchase a lot of new buses if they got the generous taxpayer-funded capital subsidies that Amtrak enjoys.

    Regardless of the merits of bus subsidies, remind me again why federal taxpayers have to give Amtrak capital and operating subsidies?

  2. msetty

    I have absolutely no problem with intercity bus subsidies, IF they’re part of a plan to provide integrated intercity transit under a national strategy, e.g., taking nationwide the transit network planning philosophy I outline in my Beyond High Speed Rail: California Networked Transit paper available at http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/whitepapers/CaliforniaNetworkedTransit.pdf. I suspect a lot of routes, bus and rail, would provide operating surpluses but not enough to pay all the capital and long-term replacement costs–gee, just like the vast majority of rural interstates.

    Oh, and if those subsidized under such a scheme would stop whining about intercity rail passenger subsidies.

  3. msetty

    Oh, and why the Amtrak subsidies? REPARATIONS for 90 years of auto subsidies, which are now structural, e.g., built into EVERYTHING we do, starting with hundreds of billions per year paid out by the private sector for parking, for only the most expensive example. In that case, gummit’ subsidies to driving have been the “tail that wags the dog.”

    Again so you don’t misunderstand me: REPARATIONS! REPARATIONS!

  4. MJ

    Again so you don’t misunderstand me: REPARATIONS! REPARATIONS!

    Don’t you actually have to have a victim in order to claim reparations? People can claim reparations. Modes cannot.

  5. Sandy Teal

    I would be interested in reading AntiPlanner posts on the business model of the intercity bus companies, especially on how they can turn a profit on 6 hour bus rides that cost the passengers less than two gallons of gas.

  6. Craigh

    “auto subsidies, which are now structural, e.g., built into EVERYTHING we do, starting with hundreds of billions per year paid out by the private sector for parking”

    If it’s the private sector paying those hundreds of billions, then how does that qualify as a subsidy? And how does that translate into a justification for public subsidies to AMTRAK?

  7. sprawl

    Without parking many businesses would not attract enough customers.
    It would be hard to imagine a Home Depot with no parking and expect it to survive.

    Businesses provide parking, because it brings in money to the business. Most businesses that I work with, all want to know how much parking they will have for customers and their employees. Before they lease or rent a place of business.

    parking = customers and profits
    It is that simple

    Oh sure, you can come up with a few exceptions.

  8. msetty

    Interesting how comments here never address the points I made in the paper. Oh well…

    My point about reparations is to repair the imbalance between travel modes that government overspending on automobiles and highways essentially destroyed all the alternatives, harming the public and the economy in the process.

    Now we have an auto/highway infrastructure that is vastly overextended and increasingly impossible to properly maintain, as explained eloquently at http://www.strongtowns.org/growth-facts/. In contrast, the freight railroad (though not the passenger) network has never been economically healthier, but I digress (a lot of factors, mainly geography, the trucking industry’s inability to obtain the number of qualified drivers, and the nature of much of their cargo, explain this).

    Part of this over-extension of the road system is the fact that, under the current system, merchants have no choice but to provide excessive private parking, since alternatives to driving are almost nonexistent in most parts of the U.S. No matter how much one tries–and some people commenting here sure try–to wave their hands and deny that the structural parking subsidies are “subsidies,” households and businesses still spend hundreds of billions annually subsidizing “free” parking.

    If ALL the costs of driving had to be paid each time people got into a vehicle, there would be 40%-50% less VMT. Of course, had we not all but destroyed alternatives or made bicycling so dangerous in most places, most of those options might still exist on the scale we now need. Instead we have absurd situations where spending on gasoline alone accounts for around 9%-10% of personal income, and up to 19% in places like Montana (see http://energytrap.org/content/what-energy-trap.

    In my view, restoring rail passenger service in corridors where it makes economic sense is part of the overall solution, e.g., with reasonably high travel volumes or in cases where very long distance trips are made. That is, from places with horrible or overpriced air service, which is most of the rural U.S. and most places under 500,000–less than 5% of long distance train travel is end point to end point, and 95% is travel from in-between points. But such investments would be partly wasted if coordinated connections with other inter-regional, regional, and local ground transit services aren’t also made easy and functional, as I recommend in my California paper.

  9. C. P. Zilliacus

    Dan wrote:

    The conf should be offering free wi-fi to the attendees. I’m sure they’d appreciate the suggestion, Randal.

    At least in the East, Megabus and some of its competitors were offering on-bus WiFi to customers long before Amtrak figured out how to do it.

  10. the highwayman

    sprawl said:
    Without parking many businesses would not attract enough customers.
    It would be hard to imagine a Home Depot with no parking and expect it to survive.

    Businesses provide parking, because it brings in money to the business. Most businesses that I work with, all want to know how much parking they will have for customers and their employees. Before they lease or rent a place of business.

    parking = customers and profits
    It is that simple

    Oh sure, you can come up with a few exceptions.

    THWM: Though parking is also a product of zoning laws & most retail parking lots are rarely ever full.

  11. Andrew

    msetty:

    My town recently “had” to spend $1 million plus to provide more parking for business. We are a 1 square mile town of about 5,000, so it isn’t as if we need it for ourselves – most of us walk to where we need to go in town, and all the school kids walk.

    Needless to say, we are paying for this through an increased property tax assessment, because the daily parking fee could never come close to recapturing the capital sunk into land expenditure, lost taxes from several business shut down to knock down their buildings to make the new lot, and capital construction. We “needed” the lot because the state took away our on street parking on the main road to use as a second pair of lanes so that the hordes who moved way out of the city to the middle of nowhere could still get to their jobs.

    Of course according to Randall this isn’t a real subsidy since roads are there no matter what, but multiply it by 60,000 similar examples around the country and you get and idea of what people striving for balanced transporation options are up against.

  12. Andrew

    CPZ:

    Amtrak gets a subsidy for capital and operations because it is in the Public Interest for rail transportation to exist. It is called “The Public Convenience and Necessity”.

    Buses get similar subsidies. They get free roads built for them, and they get discount tax and toll schemes for operating on them and free terminals at public transit centers and curbside, to say nothing of the vast feeder network of public transit buses to funnel passengers to their terminals, and the subsidy of school bus, airport shuttle bus, and transit bus companies providing a huge pool of trained mechanics and drivers, and the ready made built in industry demand for buses and parts created by the school bus, airport bus, and transit bus industries.

    Surely this isjust an act on your part though, because you seem too intelligent to ask such a clueless question.

  13. Andrew

    CPZ, Randall, and others:

    The day that your property taxes pay for the maintenance, operation, signalling, policing and construction of 99% of the track miles of the American railROAD network, like they pay for 99% of the highway road miles in the road network, is the day I’ll take seriously the complaints about operating subsidies to Amtrak or pubic transit.

    Just like you guys feel “roads are there no matter what” we feel that passenger rail lines that have been in operation for 80, 120, or 160 years so that they are a part of the fabric of life of communities should also “be there no matter what”.

  14. Andrew

    Randall:

    I’m publicly challenging you to come to the combined AREMA/REMSA/RSSI convention in Indianapolis in two years and give your impression of the rail industry like you hae done for buses.

    You apparently couldn’t be bothered to go to our show in Minneapolis this year, but perhaps if you have two years lead time to figure it out, you can hit Indy in September 2013.

  15. sprawl

    msetty:

    No matter how much one tries–and some people commenting here sure try–to wave their hands and deny that the structural parking subsidies are “subsidies,” households and businesses still spend hundreds of billions annually subsidizing “free” parking

    —————

    Parking pays the bills by attracting customers with easy access to a business selling a service or product. It saves time for the customers that don’t have to hunt for parking. It is no different than spending on advertizing to attract customers.

  16. Dan

    With the /sf cost of land downtown or in many office developments that go up (Bellevue, f’r instance), developers can make much more money /sf going up with a building. Surface parking doesn’t come close to a desirable building to a developer. And building a parking structure is a capital cost that few want, so taxpayers bear that burden so developers can make their target margin. That’s how it works in many, many areas, esp downtown.

    [/basic RE Econ]

    DS

  17. msetty

    Sprawl sayeth:

    Parking pays the bills by attracting customers with easy access to a business selling a service or product. It saves time for the customers that don’t have to hunt for parking. It is no different than spending on advertizing to attract customers.

    You’re making my point for me. Parking is NOT cheap, even at WalMart. It certainly isn’t “free.” The costs to business of accommodating access by automobile–the ONLY way except in a very small handful of U.S. cities–is simply added to the cost of EVERY OTHER product or service in the U.S. EXCEPT the act of driving.

    Actually, parking IS different than advertising. Advertising only produces aesthetic pollution, while excessive driving causes a wide variety of physical pollution and other problems. I’m increasingly tired of half-baked arguments that claim the excessively high levels of automobility are almost purely a result of markets, e.g., like Sprawl’s lame excuses.

    Again, thanks for reinforcing my point.

  18. Andrew

    sprawl:

    Parking and customers cannot pay the bills when I the local taxpayer am forced to pay for it myself through my property tax assessment. No one in town lives more than five blocks from this parking lot for out of towners, but we all pay for it and theyget it for free.

  19. Dan

    Parking is NOT cheap, even at WalMart. …[it] is simply added to the cost of EVERY OTHER product or service in the U.S. EXCEPT the act of driving…Actually, parking IS different than advertising. Advertising only produces aesthetic pollution, while excessive driving causes a wide variety of physical pollution and other problems. I’m increasingly tired of half-baked arguments…

    Interestingly, around here the bigbox knows it is only going to be there for 10-15 years and move on, so they don’t even do a half-baked job in their parking lots to move peds or cover the impervious with some decent leaf area index. So we pay worsening surface water quality as well, also increased urban heat island effects, and worsening AQ effects from bare, ugly parking lots in this way also. In addition to what we outlined just upthread.

    The most basic stuff.

    DS

  20. sprawl

    I don’t recall ever stating that I supported the tax payers paying for parking structures or lots.

    I work in a area, that the businesses demand parking or they will not rent or lease a space without parking for their customers and employees.

    They know parking = customers and good employees

  21. sprawl

    I think your vision of your perfect world without cars, is clouding how businesses think when they look for a location to do business.

    For some strange reason they feel they need customers to pay for the risk they are putting on the line, to open or move their business.

    Most of the time they are risking everything they have and they can’t afford to lose that. For your view of a world without parking or cars.

    People choose cars because they are fast and people friendly.

  22. metrosucks

    Sprawl, you are talking to the wall (actually, the wall would be more receptive). I always find it hilarious to hear all the anti-car arguments. Don’t they realize that their frenzied rail dreams are paid for by auto drivers, and getting rid of auto drivers won’t just mean no economy, it also means no rail. But oh well, what’s the point of arguing with people like highwayman or msetty?

  23. the highwayman

    metrosucks; Don’t they realize that their frenzied rail dreams are paid for by auto drivers, and getting rid of auto drivers won’t just mean no economy, it also means no rail.

    THWM: There are also plenty of suburban train stations have parking lots too.

    For that matter in the past 24 hours I have rode a bus, rode a subway, rode a suburban train & driven a car.

    Though I also realize metrosusks you’re a crooked asshole!

    BTW, just remember that “free ample parking”, isn’t actually free.

  24. Andrew

    sparwl and metrosucks:

    We are not “anti-car”. We are pro-rail. We are also pro-car.

    We are not in objection to subsidies for autos, and we do not feel pointing out subsidies to autos, buses, planes, and trucks is being “anti” those modes. We are in favor of a level playing field for all modes, and providing all modes in an approrpiate manner to meet the transportation and economic needs of the American people in a sustainable. manner.

    We do not expect people to take trolleys to the grocery store or to forego flying coast to coast in favor of a three day train trip. We do expect that there should be a commuter train to dense downtowns, that big cities should have subways, and that there should be trains providing an alternative in dense corridors to congested airports and highways.

    We belive there should be trains connecting large and small towns across America, a market which accounts for much of American travel, but which has been totally abandoned by airlines and bus operators operating onfreegovernment infrastructure.

    We belive there should generally be an alternative available to the auto for those who do not want to drive and for reasons of general human safety.

    We belive the inherent danger of the auto – the direct cause of death for over 1 of every 100 Americans needs to be faced and the constant slaughter of 30,000 to 40,000 Americans every year on the roads is unacceptable and its casual acceptance as an inescapable fact of motorized transport disgusting.

  25. sprawl

    Andrew
    I have no idea who the “we” is that you refer to, are you the leader of a group that you are the spokesperson for?

    People choose cars because they are fast and take then to where they want to go, when they want to be there, carrying the people and things they want and need when they get to there destination.

    Freedom and choice can be scary whey they don’t agree with you.

  26. Sandy Teal

    It is an interesting and original idea that cars should be replaced by rail for safety reasons.

    But isn’t all long distance travel by interstate highway, rail, or air, a lot safer per mile than intra-city travel. Intersections, pedestrians and two-way streets are the dangerous part of transportation — the last few miles. It is hard to see how rail is going to fix that.

  27. Dan

    Freedom and choice can be scary whey they don’t agree with you.

    Scurrilous implications aside, isn’t it cute how they spin ‘auto-dependent’ into “freedom and choice”, and their minions parrot it endlessly?

    DS

  28. sprawl

    My daughter was using transit to get to collage last week and missed a connection and it took her 2 extra hours (on her usual hour and half trip) To get there by way of the bus, light rail and a collage shuttle.

    The auto dependent trip would have taken about 30 to 40 minutes in traffic over the transit dependent trip.

    People choose cars because they are a better choice for the individual. My daughter is learning that now.

  29. Dan

    I’m glad your daughter had a choice. If she was unable to travel by auto, she would have had the bus. THAT’s freedom. It’s not sozhulist to want freedom and choice, despite scurrilous insinuations upthread.

    DS

  30. metrosucks

    Shut up planner, and go stick that “scurrilous” up you know what. You think you’re so clever, using those bogus half-dozen words you learned in kindergarten, thinking people are impressed. A “choice” that wastes 2 hours of valuable time is no choice at all. Which is why unless they live in Manhattan (which not everyone wants to do, clearly, unlike the delusional planners who think everyone needs to live in a skyscraper), transit is the choice of the poor and others whose time is not valuable.

  31. Andrew

    metrosucks:

    Many well of people choose rail transit in many places besides Manhattan.

    Snady Teal:

    Rail gets rid of even the last few miles when destinations for jobs, sports, entertainment, restaurants, and shopping are concentrated in a central city which is accessible by rail lines radiating out from there and the rail lines have stops that are accessible from the adjoining neighborhoods so that riders can walk to the station. That such a basic and elementary concept is foreign to you and doesn’t even occur to you shows how backwards our country is with respect to providing travel options.

    sprawl:

    We is myself, msetty, and others here of likemind.

    We are actually the ones promoting choices. We support being able to drive safely and free of congestion or being able to choose alternate means of transportation including rail, buses, trolleys, ferryboats, and airplanes, and having these choices widely available where needed. We are very much in favor of cars and gasoline and people’s being able to own and use them in a widespread and easily available manner. We all own and use cars here. We also support the same access to rail.

    The people who are scared are clearly those like yourself who want the people dependent upon only one choice – the car – for every trip that might be made, and oppose the provision of any other choice.

    Given that a single car costs $8000 per year to own and operate, with an up front purchase of $20,000 or more, and that vehicles capable of hauling modest sized families of five or six people are $25,000 to $35,000 up front, its clear that many people cannot afford this choice, and that it is wrong to demand as the price of mobility that the average family pay nearly 20% of their disposable income to the auto and oil and insurance industries. Americans need alternatives to this lifetime stream of tribute.

  32. metrosucks

    The people who are scared are clearly those like yourself who want the people dependent upon only one choice – the car – for every trip that might be made, and oppose the provision of any other choice.

    Stop being a lying coward, and admit it. What you really want: for regular taxpayers, most of whom would never step foot on a train in their life, to subsidize your selfish desire to run on steel wheels and rail. This has nothing to do with wanting “choices” for other people. There are plenty of choices, including buses and planes, neither of whom are subsidized even a fraction of the amount rail is. This is about you wanting to be able to set your fat ass in a heavily taxpayer subsidized rail car and chuckling in delight at the stupidity of the same taxpayers who are paying most of the cost of your ride.

  33. Sandy Teal

    To “Andrew” – You need to move to North Korea where you might be able to impose your view on how everyone should live, work and play. Very few people live in your fantasy world where they travel only by rail to get to the middle of the city-state to work, shop and play. Very, very few. And those that do, they dream about being one of those that do not have to.

    Is that basic and elementary enough for you?

  34. sprawl

    I was a full time bike commuter in my younger years (18 to early 20′s after I moved out on my own) and a slave to the transit schedule. I have lived the life and do not wish to go back to that lifestyle.

    I think my daughter is sold on getting a car now. It only took about 3 weeks of transit use for her to decide.

    Freedom and choice, often lead most people to a car.

  35. metrosucks

    You guys make my argument for me. Those who are dependent on transit often dislike & resent it. It wastes their time. As for those who live in Manhattan and like it, good for them! But the rest of us don’t want to live like that. Most of us want the suburban or rural home and space for a lawn and the dog. And there’s nothing wrong with that, no matter what Al Gore or the Sierra Club says.

  36. Dan

    You need to move to North Korea where you might be able to impose your view on how everyone should live,

    Al Gore or the Sierra Club says.

    Stop being a lying coward

    Shut up planner, and go stick that “scurrilous” up you know what

    Its sooooo cute how that’s the best they can do, innit?

    DS

  37. metrosucks

    The great thing about all this is that we just have to be patient. When the government runs out of money to throw at wasteful bs and has to clamp down on spending, we’ll be laughing at Dan when he gets laid off and bleats words like “innit” and “scurrilous” on his cute little website (which doesn’t tell the public that he’s a major asshole, btw).

  38. Sandy Teal

    Now planners are using racist mocking of minority language patterns? That is what passes for debate among planners? No wonder planners invented the ghettos and public housing projects.

  39. the highwayman

    metrosucks said:
    The great thing about all this is that we just have to be patient. When the government runs out of money to throw at wasteful bs and has to clamp down on spending, we’ll be laughing at Dan when he gets laid off and bleats words like “innit” and “scurrilous” on his cute little website (which doesn’t tell the public that he’s a major asshole, btw).

    THWM: Well metrosucks you can kiss your super highways good bye too when your big government buddies run out of money!

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