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The efficiency of buses?

By Deref - 26 October 2011 16

That buses are much more efficient than cars is almost an article of faith. In theory it should be true, though I can’t help wonder. Canberra’s layout mitigates against public transport (unfortunately) and I’ve never heard of any actual research (though absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

I’m not anti-public transport – far from it – but I’m sceptical about some of the claims. Scepticism is not rejection; it’s a desire for evidence. A full, or even half-full, bus is presumably dramatically more efficient than transporting the equivalent number of travellers by car. But I see so many buses with few passengers, and buses stopped at layovers with their engines running, that I have to wonder what the reality is.

One simple datum I’d like to see would be total fuel used in a year/total passenger-distance travelled. Is anyone aware of what the answer is?

Of course that’s a very simple calculation and the data should be readily available. Other factors are much more difficult to calculate.

What’s Your opinion?


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16 Responses to
The efficiency of buses?
krats 11:12 am 02 Nov 11

Stevian said :

krats said :

What We Need Is More Bums On Seats,BUT If You Are Carrying A Skate Board You Are Not Permitted On A Bus.Why Is That?Do We Have Different Currency?

You have your own transport, you little thug. We can at least try to keep you away from decent people.

I Suspect You Talk With Forked Tonque

Stevian 10:33 am 02 Nov 11

krats said :

What We Need Is More Bums On Seats,BUT If You Are Carrying A Skate Board You Are Not Permitted On A Bus.Why Is That?Do We Have Different Currency?

You have your own transport, you little thug. We can at least try to keep you away from decent people.

Thoroughly Smashed 10:01 am 02 Nov 11

A serious look in to the comparative environmental costs of public transport and private cars is going to need a whole of life analysis of the vehicle fleets, among other things.

krats said :

What We Need Is More Bums On Seats,BUT If You Are Carrying A Skate Board You Are Not Permitted On A Bus.Why Is That?Do We Have Different Currency?

o_O

Leon 9:22 am 02 Nov 11

The average ACTION bus trip uses about as much fuel, and produces about the same greenhouse emissions, as driving 6 km. This is about twice the fuel use per passenger of Sydney buses. The difference probably relates to low passenger loadings at off-peak times. There is more information at http://grapevine.net.au/~mccluskeyarundell/leon_pubs.html

krats 9:09 am 02 Nov 11

What We Need Is More Bums On Seats,BUT If You Are Carrying A Skate Board You Are Not Permitted On A Bus.Why Is That?Do We Have Different Currency?

Deref 7:34 am 29 Oct 11

matt31221 said :

Bring on light rail! Please spend the money on it ACT Gov it will be the best thing you ever bought

Oh yes. At an estimated cost of $1 billion. Excellent idea – as long as the fares are based on the user-pays principle.

Minz 11:26 pm 28 Oct 11

Bring on housing density and we’ll be able to justify decent public transport! Go to any of the great cities of the world which has awesome public transport, and the one thing you’ll notice in common is that people in those cities live in densities which far outstrip anything we have in Australia. And those cities’ bucolic suburbs are just as badly served by public transport as ours are.

So lets live a little closer together! Or a lot… try it somewhere you can get it, and you may find you enjoy it, as I did!

Felix the Cat 7:25 pm 27 Oct 11

Buses people, buses….

matt31221 4:27 pm 26 Oct 11

Bring on light rail! Please spend the money on it ACT Gov it will be the best thing you ever bought

Keijidosha 4:00 pm 26 Oct 11

Grail said :

A full bus carries 47 people.

~45 seated (53 on a steer tag), and during peak hour another 30+ standing.

Grail 3:39 pm 26 Oct 11

A full bus carries 47 people. Thus to break even with people driving small cars, you’d have to drive 1km full to balance out every 10km empty.

We still need some actual figures from ACTION, but 1:10 assuming only full busses versus only empty busses is going to be fairly trivial. ACTION do not run empty busses every 5 minutes, but they do run full busses every 5 minutes. Thus every 5 minute run during peak times is worth an hour of night runs.

And of course for everyone who leaves the car at home and gets on a bus to get to work, the odds are weighted further in ACTION’s favour.

I expect that the ACTION bus fleet is working at parity with, if not significantly better than, the equivalent fuel efficiency of 1.0L engine cars.

Classified 12:25 pm 26 Oct 11

There are lots of factors to consider. The ‘multiple trips’ issue is a big one for many, which includes things like dropping kids at school, and having to attend more than one place of work.

That said, public transport has huge potential. If I lived in a suburb that had good bus coverage (eg along an intertown route or walking distance to an interchange), our family would probably only own one vehicle rather than two. As it stands, buses to where I live are practically unusable, so two cars it is.

dtc 11:29 am 26 Oct 11

The intertown buses are only full because they take passengers from the (sometimes) not very full suburban routes. Thus a fair comparison will need to be made across the system as a whole, not just an individual route. Plus, of course, the infrastructure savings from having less cars on the road.

trevar 10:55 am 26 Oct 11

Finally! Common sense! I’m with you Deref; though I think there’ll be very few to echo your thoughts.

I think one of the most difficult factors to measure is the need for a very large proportion of the workforce to be mobile during the day. Most arguments assume commuters go from home to an office in the morning and from that office to their home in the evening. Most of the people I work with, though, move around the city during the day as well, and I can’t see any way public transport could cater for their needs. I for one don’t have a typical day in terms of where I need to be, and for my professional life I attend meetings anywhere from Bonner to the Naas Valley and sometimes as far as Batemans Bay. And my personal transport needs are similar. I don’t see how public transport could ever meet them. I’d like to see empirical data on what proportion of our workforce stay in one part of the city their whole day.

I’ve long thought a better and more sustainable response to environmental concerns is to put all our energy into reducing emissions from private transport, preferably with a view to eliminating emissions altogether without sacrificing the benefits of total individual mobility of private vehicles. And that’s not only a question of technology; how do you extend use of private vehicles to the poor, disabled and elderly to prevent social exclusion?

So like you I wouldn’t say I’m opposed to public transport, but this blind faith in its ability to save us all from complete annihilation reminds me of our dear friend Danny Nahlia…

arescarti42 10:46 am 26 Oct 11

I’ve had a bit of a look into this sort of thing in the past. IIRC the fuel efficiency of a big diesel bus is about 30-35L/100km. So you need 3-4 people sitting in a bus before efficiency per passenger kilometre is on par with a typical car (Also seem to remember reading that the average efficiency for passenger cars in Australia is about 10-11L/100km and the average occupancy 1.2 people per vehicle). As for time spent idling, my car uses about 1-2 litres an hour idling and uses about 3x less fuel per 100km than a bus, so I’d guess a bus would use probably 3-6 litres per hour idling.

Certainly the high frequency intertown routes with lots of passengers are dramatically more efficient than having the same number of people in cars, the infrequent suburban routes are potentially less efficient than cars given their indirect nature and low numbers of passengers. In addition to saving fuel, an intertown bus running at peak times filled to capacity takes about 80 cars off the road and out of office car parks.

The thing with a lot of the ACTION bus network is that it is largely designed as a social service to provide transport to people too old/young/disabled/poor to drive, so efficiency for many routes is probably not a priority.

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