Why buses represent democracy in action

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Not enough emphasis has been placed in our urban planning on dedicated bus-lanes and on streets that would be shared among buses, bicycles and pedestrians. This video is a ‘must watch’ for all our politicians, mayors, city councillors and planners.

Visionary Bogata mayor Enrique Peñalosa tells us:

If more money is invested in highways, of course there is less money for housing, for schools, for hospitals, and also there is a conflict for space. There is a conflict for space between those with cars and those without them.

He then urges us to think about about equality in mobility planning:

I would propose two kinds which both have much to do with cities.

The first one is equality of quality of life, especially for children, that all children should have, beyond the obvious health and education, access to green spaces, to sports facilities, to swimming pools, to music lessons.

And the second kind of equality is one which we could call “democratic equality.” The first article in every constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law. That is not just poetry. It’s a very powerful principle. For example, if that is true, a bus with 80 passengers has a right to 80 times more road space than a car with one.

There’s a fundamental democratic principle here that should be applied to transport, he says:

In fact, when I became mayor, applying that democratic principle that public good prevails over private interest, that a bus with 100 people has a right to 100 times more road space than a car, we implemented a mass transit system based on buses in exclusive lanes. We called it TransMilenio, in order to make buses sexier. And one thing is that it is also a very beautiful democratic symbol, because as buses zoom by, expensive cars stuck in traffic, it clearly is almost a picture of democracy at work.

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Penalosa also speaks of a conflict between pedestrians and cars:

There is a really enormous conflict, when we are talking about developing country cities, between pedestrians and cars. Here, what you see is a picture that shows insufficient democracy. What this shows is that people who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in cars are first-class citizens. In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.

He makes two key proposals:

Hundreds of kilometers of greenways criss-crossing cities in all directions. Children will walk out of homes into safe spaces. They could go for dozens of kilometers safely without any risk in wonderful greenways, sort of bicycle highways, and I would invite you to imagine the following: a city in which every other street would be a street only for pedestrians and bicycles. In new cities which are going to be built, this would not be particularly difficult. When I was mayor of Bogotá, in only three years, we were able to create 70 kilometers, in one of the most dense cities in the world, of these bicycle highways. And this changes the way people live, move, enjoy the city…

And the second ingredient, which would solve mobility, that very difficult challenge in developing countries, in a very low-cost and simple way, would be to have hundreds of kilometers of streets only for buses, buses and bicycles and pedestrians. This would be, again, a very low-cost solution if implemented from the start, low cost, pleasant transit with natural sunlight.

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Instead, we seem still stuck in the old mindset – even in our transport masterplans – of catering for cars or thinking of expensive modes of transport instead of other more democratic or cost-effective alternatives.

Why does this happen? Prof Eric Britton offers an insight into the possible characteristics of those responsible for these choices. See his World Streets Birdwatchers Guide To Dangerous Political Predators.

Something is wrong when our buses are mainly used by migrant workers, Malaysian low-income workers and senior citizens. And so the full potential of buses has not yet been tapped.

As Penalosa famously says, “An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

For a start, share with us how you think our bus services can be improved? What will make you ditch your cars in favour of buses?

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22 COMMENTS

  1. China has now developed segmented buses it calls a railess train. Star had a photo of it a couple of days ago. Germany first developed this about 10 years ago. The fact that it has not become common should tell us something. Remember what happened to double-decker buses. People want transport by simple means. Don’t be fooled by propaganda.

  2. Taiwan’s ‘forest bus’ charms passengers
    https://sg.yahoo.com/news/taiwans-forest-bus-charms-passengers-103600614.html

    With moss-covered seats and an explosion of lush plants and flowers throughout its interior the “forest bus” offers a fragrant leafy ride for passengers used to crammed public transport in Taiwan’s capital.

    The ordinary single-deck city bus has been converted into a travelling green house decorated with orchids, ginger lilies and a variety of ferns is running on a special route through Taipei, with stops including an art museum, a popular temple and a night market.

    Florist Alfie Lin, who created the temporary installation, said he wanted to bring a touch of nature to commuters’ busy routines.

    “I hope the public will feel that it’s a beautiful and interesting experience,” he told AFP.

    “They can smell the scent of summer on the bus and see the vibrant green plants to feel messages from nature.”

    Reactions have been enthusiastic, with passengers queueing to board and expressing hopes that it will become a permanent attraction in Taipei.

    For now the toll-free bus is running on a week-long trial, ending Sunday, and takes around 20 passengers.

    “I feel happy and relaxed on the bus smelling the flowers and plants. I hope it can become a regular service on a double-decker. It would become something special to Taipei,” said housewife Celine Wei.

    Museum employee Larry Huang is also a big fan of the bus and has been on it three days in a row.

    “There is no rushing on and off like a regular bus. We chat and take photos for each other. I feel like I’m at a party with friends,” he said.

    • Dont install air conditioning or turn it off and open the windows and doors like days of GI blues elvis the pervis. Nothing new but like in pre 1970s. Bark it to Rapid and don’t use it when one drive

  3. Schwarzenegger says you can have four Hummers and still save planet
    https://sg.yahoo.com/news/schwarzenegger-says-four-hummers-still-save-planet-025555178.html

    Arnold Schwarzenegger has four Hummers (Hercules of 4WDs) and likes nothing better than getting up at 5am to ride his Harley Davidson to the beach for breakfast.

    Yet “The Terminator” star insists that should not stop him being an environmental evangelist.

    “Saving the planet is also about technology,” the former California governor told AFP, putting his foot on a chair and wagging a skull-ringed finger to make his point.

    Three of his Hummers run on hydrogen, vegetable oil and bio-diesel and he’s hoping to put an electric engine into the fourth.

    “You know one day soon we are going to have hydrogen-fuelled planes. We can get rid of this dirty diesel tomorrow.

  4. Bank Negara has just updated the Financial Consumer Alert list. The list consists of companies and websites which are neither authorised nor approved under the relevant laws and regulations administered by BNM.

    The latest list consists of 302 companies. The following companies were added to the list:

    – MBI International Sdn Bhd
    – M Face International Sdn Bhd

    The list will be updated regularly for public’s reference. Get the list handy on your smart phones using MyBNM mobile app.

    Learn more about BNM mobile apps at the following link: http://www.bnm.gov.my/index.php?lang=en&ch=en_mobileapps

    • Is there political clout-support for these … companies swimming in our midst?

      I hope Bank Negara is brave (or need more than bravery) to corner these … (and) rid of them once & for all. Educating the public … takes time but time is not with us.

      You sure know (they) can swim into loop-holes & escape from the laws & regulations.

      MACC & CCID should not wait too long for the coming GE to be over b4 taking action.

  5. The uncontrollable exploded cars population on the island not just health hazard but a safety concern. When they are not on the move, they are simply parked causing inconvenience to pedestrians. When they are on the move, be careful the reckless driven cars can knock you down while you are sipping kopi o by the roadsides!

  6. Travelling to some is about bin-chui.
    Public bus is on the lower scale of bin-chui compared to cars or limousines.
    So to maintain that social bin-chui, some are desperate to get rich asap.
    Their minds are fixated on the blame-game against GST, eradication of subsidies, Ringgit low values, low bank FD interest rates, rise in costs of living, etc. to justify going for money-games despite the risks.

    Whether you are rich or poor, the brain functions on the track of recklessness – Greed.

    Why the rich and the poor still fall for scams
    Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/05/20/why-the-rich-to-the-poor-still-fall-for-scams/#SMfjl7dUzMs4fCei.99

    • Public stage bus is not enough, comes the express bus. No enough private cars. Even not enough, 4wds lagi best. 4wds is not the solution to enjoy green environment. What a deep greed. We forget what boy scouts used to hike and live with the green

  7. At some point, we have to move to cleaner buses, but that is not urgent. It is heartening to see that Anil too has shifted from the more exotic transport solutions.

    The impact of the promotion of and concessions for private cars, petroleum and highways include these:
    (a) ill health – too many aspects to list here
    (b) climate change
    (c) diversion of public funds for roads, flyovers, traffic policemen,,etc.
    (d) escalating real estate costs due to scams called development – urban sprawl
    (e) business losses due to accidents and delays
    (f) contribution to the deterioration of democracy through fascism – the deep state financed by and serving plutocrats
    (g) waste of time in travel, stress, fear (of bigger vehicles), etc.
    (h) waste of personal earnings.

    Our tuans may now want to fly to South America for an “in-depth study” of the matter, but nothing is likely to change because of the “dedak”. All the moves so far – bicycle paths, buses, temporary tax cut for electric cars, etc. are token me-too propaganda. About 50% of the value of petroleum comes from petrol which only small engines including cars can utilise; larger engines need diesel. Hence the various tricks to keep petrol-based private cars going.

  8. I live in Petaling Jaya, and for the last two years or so, I have increasingly ditched my car in favour of public transport, including buses.

    Reasons:

    1. Ever worsening traffic jams, so bad that in some places during the evening rush hour, I typically walk much faster than the nose-to-tail traffic along the roads.

    Compounding the problem are the mega-kiasu drivers who break laws and common decency practices squeezing and barging through, never mind that their selfish antics cause exponentially more chaos in their wakes..

    2. Parking problems at destinations – finding parking spots, and then paying the often cut-throat charges.

    3. Better buses and LRT-MRT options now available. Fortunately for me, there have been more and better options available lately. Downside: the fares have also gone up too much; the pain is especially bad on the lower income earners already suffering due to GST, dropping Ringgit and agonising inflation.

    Not to forget, both buses and the LRT/MRT are now air-conditioned, something which perhaps only older generations which had to contend with hot, open-window [and leaky when it rains] buses can truly appreciate.

    Properly run bus-lanes and disciplinary action on bus drivers who cut out portions of their routes will greatly improve matters.

    4. Grab and Uber options – In a pinch, these offer backup options when the buses and LRT/MRT do not meet requirements. Hence the car is much less crucial.

    Net result – I spend less than RM100 on petrol a month [I often forget when I last bought fuel…], and even my trusty bicycle has seen far less usage…

  9. For buses as a transport solution for the masses, 3 basic (fundamental) characteristics must be applied:
    Punctuality, Affordability, Accessibility.

    10-15 minutes (at most) waiting for the next bus
    50 cents for first 10km trip, Rm30.00 Travel Card (fixed on monthly basis)
    Bus stops within walking distance (no more than 100 metres) to housing areas, shopping + commercial buildings, recreational spots, bus transit centres. OKU friendly, a must.

    Add to the 3 basics is Tracking. Using apps-based technology, people will find it more convenient & assured when to take a bus or the next coming bus.

    For those on dual-mode travelling i.e. bus + bicycle, buses retrofited to accommodate bicycles (full size or foldable) will be their favoured choice of travel.

    • Everyone knows but you still do NOT know bus licencing is from your gilakan federal gomen. Go and shout at snother niao kong in PJ to add more buses and extend the services. Further roads have to improve but you always complain mppp dusturbs the roadside trees when mppp follow your nike slogan. Without road improvements and reduce your favourite roadside hawker tell us how buses can come at frequent equally interval?

    • KCatch 22 situation. More need to switch to public transportation without the bin chui of riding own cars, for economies of scale that help to improve punctuality (less jam or obstruction on roads), affordability (more mass usage better margin allowing cheaper fares) and accessibility (mini transit shuttle bus or til til go to inner neighborhood to bring passengers to main roads).

      Having said those, many have live in comfort zone for too long to use public transport. Excuses abundant no wonder we are seeing obesity on the rise.

  10. Public access roads priority in Msia, especially in Penang :
    1) Cars
    2) motor cycles
    3) buses
    4) walking pedestrians / bicyclists

    Pedestrians have little protection from reckless drivers or road bullies.

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