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Why doesn't the US have bus deregulation?

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radamfi

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America is famously a right-wing country. So why aren't buses deregulated there?
 
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A0wen

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America is famously a right-wing country. So why aren't buses deregulated there?

I don't think America is "famously right wing" except in the eyes of left leaning Europeans who try to model America on Europe and only look at things through a black and white left vs right prism.

There is arguably far more civic pride and civic responsibility in the US, more so than the UK and probably most of Europe. There is an innate mistrust of central government and the states and districts have alot of power and are very close to their electors.
 

radamfi

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I don't think America is "famously right wing" except in the eyes of left leaning Europeans who try to model America on Europe and only look at things through a black and white left vs right prism.

There is arguably far more civic pride and civic responsibility in the US, more so than the UK and probably most of Europe. There is an innate mistrust of central government and the states and districts have alot of power and are very close to their electors.

There is clearly a preference for private run services in the US, especially healthcare. The NHS is dismissed as "socialised medicine" by most Americans.

How does civil pride imply lack of bus deregulation? If they believe in the free market, then it would be their civic duty in promoting the free market for local bus services.
 

RT4038

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America is famously a right-wing country. So why aren't buses deregulated there?

Probably because the country is so car orientated that virtually no local bus service (of which there are comparatively few anyway) could be operated 'commercially' (i.e. fares collected covering costs of operation). Longer distance services are deregulated.
 

HSTEd

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Because left-right is not a simple linear scale and America is a deeply complex place
 

RT4038

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You can be sure that if there was a buck to be made by running US local bus services by entrepreneurs, there would be a clamour for bus deregulation and local government would be only too pleased to have it taken on by them. But there isn't. No civic pride and responsibility arguments.
 

radamfi

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Probably because the country is so car orientated that virtually no local bus service (of which there are comparatively few anyway) could be operated 'commercially' (i.e. fares collected covering costs of operation). Longer distance services are deregulated.

Britain is car orientated yet manages to get away with deregulation. Regular posters on here complain about car based development making bus service impossible. If you look at bus fares in American cities they are typically dirt cheap. So all they have to do is raise fares to a commercial level. From what I've seen in the suburbs of big cities when on holiday, there are quite a few people using buses. Busier than many bus services in Britain. Yet there are enough mug punters who put up with British bus fares despite mass car ownership and usage, making bus deregulation viable.
 

A0wen

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The NHS is dismissed as "socialised medicine" by most Americans.

Only one other country in the world has copied the UK's centrally run NHS model - Cuba. Across Europe schemes involving insurance and indeed private companies are commonplace, albeit with government underwriting or mandatory insurance.

If the NHS model was so wonderful why hasn't it been copied?
 

radamfi

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Only one other country in the world has copied the UK's centrally run NHS model - Cuba. Across Europe schemes involving insurance and indeed private companies are commonplace, albeit with government underwriting or mandatory insurance.

If the NHS model was so wonderful why hasn't it been copied?

So the UK is to the extreme left when it comes to healthcare. So why is it on the extreme right when it comes to local buses? America is the reverse.

This modest sized city in Indiana, so staunch Republican territory, has a bus system with a flat fare of $0.25!

 

Daniel740

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Britain is car orientated yet manages to get away with deregulation. Regular posters on here complain about car based development making bus service impossible. If you look at bus fares in American cities they are typically dirt cheap. So all they have to do is raise fares to a commercial level. From what I've seen in the suburbs of big cities when on holiday, there are quite a few people using buses. Busier than many bus services in Britain. Yet there are enough mug punters who put up with British bus fares despite mass car ownership and usage, making bus deregulation viable.
Have you actually been on a local bus in the USA? If they were deregulated there wouldn’t be a service in most places. In smaller towns no one with a car would choose to take a bus, in fact many people without a car refuse to as well, preferring to walk rather than waiting literally hours for a service
 

radamfi

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Have you actually been on a local bus in the USA? If they were deregulated there wouldn’t be a service in most places. In smaller towns no one with a car would choose to take a bus, in fact many people without a car refuse to as well, preferring to walk rather than waiting literally hours for a service

I've travelled on buses in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Newark NJ and Atlantic City. Bus service can be surprisingly OK and well used, in some ways better than the UK outside London.
 

Daniel740

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So the UK is to the extreme left when it comes to healthcare. So why is it on the extreme right when it comes to local buses? America is the reverse.

This modest sized city in Indiana, so staunch Republican territory, has a bus system with a flat fare of $0.25!

Columbus is the size of Manchester, yet has only 5 bus routes, you think a private provider will do any better?
 

Daniel740

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That's a different Columbus (assuming you are talking about Columbus, Ohio). I'm talking about Columbus, Indiana. According to Wikipedia, population 48,000.

Fair do’s I didn’t read your post correctly, but I can point to the city my mum was born in, Oklahoma City, the metropolitan population is 1.5 million yet has only 15 bus routes. Where she grew up there was a two mile walk to a bus stop where there was only an hourly service to downtown. Again, how could the private sector improve on this?
 

radamfi

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Fair do’s, but I can point to the city my mum was born in, Oklahoma City, the metropolitan population is 1.5 million yet has only 15 bus routes. Where she grew up there was a two mile walk to a bus stop where there was only an hourly service to downtown. Again, how could the private sector improve on this?

They probably wouldn't improve on it. In Britain clearly the private sector isn't doing well either. It only manages to survive by charging outrageous fares. In America the taxpayer is prepared to pay for a heavily subsidised bus service. If it was necessary to subsidise British buses outside London to the same degree, there would be no bus service. Some English councils have already decided to stop subsidising local bus services.
 

A0wen

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It only manages to survive by charging outrageous fares.

Outrageous fares which are the cost of providing the service. Why should your mode of transport be subsidised?

And the companies aren't exactly profiteering - Stagecoach's profit margin is 2-3%.

Perhaps you should ask why it costs so much to run a bus service and what can be done to reduce that cost?
 

radamfi

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Outrageous fares which are the cost of providing the service. Why should your mode of transport be subsidised?

Exactly! In Britain, we allow the bus companies to charge unlimited fares. In America, fares are heavily subsidised.
 

Daniel740

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They probably wouldn't improve on it. In Britain clearly the private sector isn't doing well either. It only manages to survive by charging outrageous fares. In America the taxpayer is prepared to pay for a heavily subsidised bus service. If it was necessary to subsidise British buses outside London to the same degree, there would be no bus service. Some English councils have already decided to stop subsidising local bus services.
Exactly, most cities in the US are just too spread out for buses to work. If the public sector can’t provide a comprehensive service, how on earth do you think a private company would?
 

radamfi

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Exactly, most cities in the US are just too spread out for buses to work. If the public sector can’t provide a comprehensive service, how on earth do you think a private company would?

But there are quite a few densely populated cities, yet they aren't deregulated. Regular posters on here complain about Britain being difficult bus territory with endless suburban housing estates and out of town shopping. Americans still bother to provide a service instead of having no service in quite unpromising bus territory. If British operators weren't able to do it commercially, there would be no bus service in the UK outside London, because the council wouldn't pay for it.
 

RT4038

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They probably wouldn't improve on it. In Britain clearly the private sector isn't doing well either. It only manages to survive by charging outrageous fares. In America the taxpayer is prepared to pay for a heavily subsidised bus service. If it was necessary to subsidise British buses outside London to the same degree, there would be no bus service. Some English councils have already decided to stop subsidising local bus services.

So I'm not too sure what the point is that you are trying to make? In Britain we do not want to subsidise bus services to any degree, but in America they do. [Except they only do in City areas] As has already been pointed out - in Britain we want to subsidise health services - in America they don't.

So perhaps we could have dirt cheap bus services in city areas in exchange for more expensive health provision all over the country? I know which option I would rather.

Yes, the private sector running bus services in this country is getting smaller and smaller [much like what happened in the US in the 50s], but the public sector is not (generally) stepping in to pay for service provision and certainly not to reduce fares (at least yet).
 

Daniel740

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But there are quite a few densely populated cities, yet they aren't deregulated. Regular posters on here complain about Britain being difficult bus territory with endless suburban housing estates and out of town shopping. Americans still bother to provide a service instead of having no service. If British operators weren't able to do it commercially, there would be no bus service in the UK outside London, because the council wouldn't pay for it.
Maybe not deregulated, but some operators act like they are. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has more than 40 different municipal operators, none of them work together and there are no multi operator tickets or passes. The same in New York, several different municipal operators in the outer boroughs, no cooperation.

Also in the US, buses only run on the main roads, whereas buses here divert into estates. Can you imagine if a bus service in OC had to serve every estate on the way to downtown? It would take hours to get there!
 
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radamfi

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So I'm not too sure what the point is that you are trying to make? In Britain we do not want to subsidise bus services to any degree, but in America they do. [Except they only do in City areas] As has already been pointed out - in Britain we want to subsidise health services - in America they don't.

So perhaps we could have dirt cheap bus services in city areas in exchange for more expensive health provision all over the country? I know which option I would rather.

Yes, the private sector running bus services in this country is getting smaller and smaller [much like what happened in the US in the 50s], but the public sector is not (generally) stepping in to pay for service provision and certainly not to reduce fares (at least yet).

The point is, we point the finger at the US and laugh. We look down on their health system. We even look down on their public transport. Yet even such a famously car-orientated and right-wing country is prepared subsidise their public transport.

On this forum, regular posters take pride in the fact that British bus operators manage to operate a poorly used service without public subsidy, apart from pensioners passes, despite the main point of public transport being to get people out of cars. I've seen this on other bus forums as well. They actually prefer that to having a heavily used bus service which needs subsidy.
 

RT4038

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Maybe not deregulated, but some operators act like they are. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has more than 40 different municipal operators, none of them work together and there are no multi operator tickets or passes. The same in New York, several different municipal operators in the outer boroughs, no cooperation.

I guess that is similar to the position in this country's major urban areas before the advent of PTEs in the late 60s. Lots of different municipals, not often working together, certainly no multi operator tickets or passes.

In the regulated era in this country, the philosophy of municipal operators varied wildly, with levels of subsidy varying, reflecting in service frequency, coverage and fares policy.

In America city bus services were generally provided by private companies in a fairly regulated world, who got into financial difficulties in the 50s, partly due to private car ownership and partly due to increasing suburbanisation. This suburbanisation [with the car, part of the American Dream] meant that areas of low population density, far from the city centre, could not be served economically, exacerbated by regulation of fares and being wedded to a flat fare system. The municipalities were forced into taking over the bankrupt bus service, in the face of otherwise none at all.
The history and evolution of UK bus services is not quite the same, and therefore we do not quite find ourselves in the same position now.

The point is, we point the finger at the US and laugh. We look down on their health system. We even look down on their public transport. Yet even such a famously car-orientated and right-wing country is prepared subsidise their public transport.

On this forum, regular posters take pride in the fact that British bus operators manage to operate a poorly used service without public subsidy, apart from pensioners passes, despite the main point of public transport being to get people out of cars. I've seen this on other bus forums as well. They actually prefer that to having a heavily used bus service which needs subsidy.

You might think that 'the main point of public transport being to get people out of cars', but others might see it differently, such as 'providing a viable commercial transport service between A & B, which people can use instead of a car'. There is a subtle world of difference in these views.

I would also point out that we subsidise our passenger railways a lot more than in the US. If some of that were diverted to subsidising our bus system....
 
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radamfi

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'providing a viable commercial transport service between A & B, which people can use instead of a car'. There is a subtle world of difference in these views.

Why would you pay high bus fares instead of using the car, especially if the bus service is unattractive? I suspect quite a small percentage of British bus users outside London leave the car at home. If that's the case, then the contribution of the bus to pollution and traffic reduction is limited.

I would also point out that we subsidise our passenger railways a lot more than in the US. If some of that were diverted to subsidising our bus system....

But if that happened then the regular posters on here and elsewhere wouldn't be able to take such great pride in having a bus service free of subsidy!

It is bizarre and inconsistent, of course, that we choose to subsidise one and not the other. It is all public transport at the end of the day.
 
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edwin_m

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Outrageous fares which are the cost of providing the service. Why should your mode of transport be subsidised?

And the companies aren't exactly profiteering - Stagecoach's profit margin is 2-3%.

Perhaps you should ask why it costs so much to run a bus service and what can be done to reduce that cost?
There is a logic to subsidizing buses because a well-used bus in a city could be taking 50 cars off the road. Traffic congestion costs money, as does the alternative of building and maintaining more roads and car parks, which also risks attracting even more cars until there is very little left in the city centre except roads and car parks. This is the position in many of the small to medium cities in the States where bus provision is the absolute minimum, rather comparable to tendered buses in the UK except that most of them are indeed publicly operated.

Bus fares on commercial services in the UK cover the cost of running them, if they carry a reasonable number of passengers. In most other advanced economies the cost is probably similar but the fares are lower because of subsidy. Also, in mainland Europe and London at least, there isn't the artificial split between commercial and tendered service because all are operated by the same agency, or operated under contract but with integrated fares and sometimes schedules. The network is easier to understand as well as cheaper, often integrated with rail, so more people will use it and the city gets a better environment with less spending on roads.
 

RT4038

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Why would you pay high bus fares instead of using the car, especially if the bus service is unattractive? I suspect quite a small percentage of British bus users outside London leave the car at home. If that's the case, then the contribution of the bus to pollution and traffic reduction is limited.

If you haven't got a car, or use of a car at that particular time?

You are looking at public transport (and particularly buses) from a particular angle, which is not necessarily shared by others. I am not saying it is right or wrong, but there are various different views on the subject.
Getting back to the US, I'm not sure that the dirt cheap fares and high subsidies are aimed at pollution and traffic reduction either; more to do with the extremes of wealth and the needs of poorer passengers to travel to places of work/commerce etc to enable wealth generation for the other end of the scale.

Why would you pay high bus fares instead of using the car, especially if the bus service is unattractive? I suspect quite a small percentage of British bus users outside London leave the car at home. If that's the case, then the contribution of the bus to pollution and traffic reduction is limited.



But if that happened then the regular posters on here and elsewhere wouldn't be able to take such great pride in having a bus service free of subsidy!

It is bizarre and inconsistent, of course, that we choose to subsidise one and not the other. It is all public transport at the end of the day.

I am not suggesting that the total public transport subsidy bill should be any larger though. (i.e. not paying more taxes...)

Therein lies the rub: reducing rail services/increasing train fares in order to increase bus services/reduce bus fares. The Americans took that decision in the 60s/70s and wiped out most passenger rail services.
 
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radamfi

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I am not suggesting that the total public transport subsidy bill should be any larger though. (i.e. not paying more taxes...)

Therein lies the rub: reducing rail services/increasing train fares in order to increase bus services/reduce bus fares. The Americans took that decision in the 60s/70s and wiped out most passenger rail services.

It doesn't have to be either/or. It is possible to subsidise all public transport properly. If you do that, and that leads to congestion and pollution reduction, what's not to like?
 

RT4038

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It doesn't have to be either/or. It is possible to subsidise all public transport properly. If you do that, and that leads to congestion and pollution reduction, what's not to like?

I suspect the main dislike is paying the bill.

Getting back to the thread subject - has dirt cheap fares on US buses resulted in congestion and pollution reduction commensurate with the costs of the subsidy?
 

radamfi

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I suspect the main dislike is paying the bill.

Getting back to the thread subject - has dirt cheap fares on US buses resulted in congestion and pollution reduction commensurate with the costs of the subsidy?

If it doesn't then there is little point in buses, other than to provide transport to the few people without access to a car.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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If it doesn't then there is little point in buses, other than to provide transport to the few people without access to a car.

I think this has been explained in some detail now.

The population density in US towns and cities is just not great enough to enable bus services to be operated without public subsidy.

US cities are much more car orientated; much more so than the UK. In terms of car ownership per capita, the US is 4th (after NZ, San Marino and Monaco) whilst the UK is 35th.

In the UK (and in Western Europe generally), the attractiveness of public transport is greatly assisted by factors such as population density/infrastructure and the prevailing view on taxation.

Comparing Western Europe (incl. UK) with the US is like comparing apples with apricots.
 
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