AMBUS Yet Another Transit Solution

We get fed up with all of the competing logic when it comes to the government bailing out the auto manufacturers while at the same time some folks say we have to stop building roads and advocate more trains.

We need a nationwide intercity government operated bus system. We can call it AMBUS, retool the car factories to produce a STANDARDIZED fuel efficient “SUPERBUS” to run on the nation’s Interstate Highways. We create work for the auto industry, keep funding focused on highways, and cut down on car trips.

The GUARDIAN thinks it would be a lot cheaper and vastly more logical to simply create a nationwide intercity bus network running on the highways. No need to build or purchase costly trains. Besides, buses could run where trains cannot–anyplace there is a road.

We think with enough political will, AMBUS could be up and running within a year. Truck stops may not be elegant stations, but we figure many of them would love to have bus passenger traffic–as many do now.

Advocates of rail travel think nothing of having government operated AMTRAK trains and every city in the country has a public bus line. We can provide luxury motor coach travel, complete with onboard entertainment and facilities just like those found in Europe and South America.

The beauty of the GUARDIAN plan is increased departure frequency and vastly more “connectivity” between cities. Some artful routing and schedules would offer express service with few if any stops between major cities and “feeder lines” from rural America to the Interstate Highway system could link small towns to the bigger places.

A major investment in passenger rail service is ill advised. Improving the existing highways and offering alternative transit with AMBUS on those highways makes good sense.

Trouble with trains is they cost about 10 times as much as a bus and depend on tracks.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 12, 2009, 6:17 pm

    OK, but when the AMBUS bus drops me, my wife, my dog, and our luggage off in Kalispell, we walk to Glacier National Park?

    AMBUS, Amtrack, Greyhound, the mini-rail between Caldwell and Boise, and the trolley around downtown Boise are all socialized travel schemes. Thanks, but I’ll keep my personal car (a hybrid) and my truck. We need to solve the energy crisis by population reduction, not by socialized travel scams.

    EDITOR NOTE–We were offering BUS over TRAIN and keeping highway funding intact!

  2. The Boise Picayune
    Jan 12, 2009, 6:38 pm

    Bill Clinton and Al Gore were the 1st Democrats I had ever voted for, having been a staunch Reaganaut Republican up until that point.

    Part of the reason was because Al Gore touted using the “Peace Dividend” from the end of the Cold War and the now unemployed defense industry engineers to design and build a nation-wide high speed rail system.


  3. “We need to solve the energy crisis by population reduction…”

    I like it! Lets start by getting rid of the old people and any of those colored folk.

    I’m all for public transportation, but nobody has ever liked buses and nobody ever will. We already have an intricate, and cheap, bus system – its called Greyhound. Trains are expensive but get over it, every other civilized country in the world (and some who are less civilized) have rail systems in use. Germany’s inter city rail system is spectacular (and much faster and more convenient than buses)

    If we are going to have public transportation we need to go all out and just do it. If we don’t want to spend the money than we don’t need the public transportation, we need energy efficient modes of transportation.

  4. Serendipity
    Jan 12, 2009, 7:43 pm

    Well, Shane, “every other country” also have varied bus systems, including deluxe buses that are very comfortable, have AC and good loos, making travel a lot more efficient and pleasant. One drawback in some countries (NZ comes to mind) is they also have TV on the buses and play it so loud you can’t sleep. Requests to turn it off or down even at night go ignored. But WE have earbuds and walkmans or whatever is used these days so WE don’t need TV, do we.
    Because of our addiction to the auto, this country has never got with the mass transit program, so well done even in Asia for god’s sake (India, Vietnam, Thailand for ex.).
    I took over-night buses in Chile and they were decent (but a bit run-down inside), and the breakfast offered was so pathetic it was stupefying: a cup of lukewarm Nescafe and a dry something to eat (biscuit? not sure). But hey! We have to bring our own food on Southwest Air, altho granted they do hand out free coffee!

    I’m all in favor of saving $$ and going ahead with Dave’s idea. The rich bozos can keep on using their gas guzzlers for now. Eventually, those will have to go too as unaffordable to run.

  5. Like it or not, public highways are also “socialized travel schemes.”

    And Rod, beyond that, to condemn “transportation socialism” while simultaneously endorsing population reduction? How would you effect population reduction without some highly socialistic measures?

    (There are some NICE little vintage buses that can transport you around Glacier. And ironically, Glacier was created largely as a destination for railroad travelers.)

  6. sounds as if it could work – so the government will never go for it.

  7. I have a bit of a tough time understanding why we seem to be trying so hard to emulate the transit systems in Europe. There seems to be no recognition of the significant differences between us and them. Chief among those differences is land! The distance between population centers that we enjoy, are in direct conflict with mass transit of any sort. When, with a co-driver, you can drive across all of Europe in 1 1/2 days tops, the comparison wanes.

    A few years ago, we hosted a group of Japanese exchange students at our summer place in eastern Washington. The #1 thing these children just couldn’t comprehend was the open spaces between Seattle and eastern Washington. they kept asking where all the people were over the Cascades. When we told them that no one lived there in great numbers, they just shook their heads in amazement.

    In my opinion, given the open spaces in the midwest and western US, mass transit of any sort is going to be a really tough sell. At this point, it seems that emphasis needs to be placed on fuel efficient private transportation while developing alternate sources of energy. Just this effort will occupy the nation for the next 10-15 years.

    Let’s get a bus system that works here in Boise, before we fix the problems between population centers.

  8. Some artful routing and schedules would offer express service with few if any stops between major cities (((And will they have full meals, sleeping areas and a bar, like trains do, or are we supposed to sit up, go hungry and dry from one major city to the next — quite a distance in some areas))) and “feeder lines” from rural America to the Interstate Highway system (((where I guess we should have left a car parked?))) could link small towns to the bigger places.

    Trouble with trains is they cost about 10 times as much as a bus (((and carry 30 or more times as many people, with a lot fewer drivers per/passenger))) and depend on tracks (((which, with basic maintenance, last practically forever, instead of having to be repaved every few years, and sometimes torn out completely and rebuilt at intervals))).

    Your bus idea is good, but your hatred of trains is overwhelming!

  9. Bingo Cyclops!!!!

  10. The Boise Picayune
    Jan 13, 2009, 10:12 am

    Proportional (to the strain they place on infrastructure) Registration Fees and increased Fuel Taxes or no Mass Transit is the simple equation.

    European + countries have excellent Mass Transit because they understand that which we do not, to wit:

    There is no free lunch!

    We Americans want it all; but don’t want to pay for it.

    And either through ignorance or indifference for our children (and THEIR children) we deficit spend for needed services.

    And for what it’s worth… In the book “Mig Pilot – The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko”, a Hero of the Soviet Union and defector observed that the United States had come closer to achieving “True Socialism” than the Soviet Union ever had.

  11. This “We need a nationwide intercity government operated bus system.”

    Is simply wrong. People do not like Bus travel. Existing bus comapanies are hurting. People LOVE intercity trains where they exist and the train runs pretty much regardless of weather while buses are just big cars.

    Bring back real high speed train, at least between major cities. High speed train…100mph or more, with stops only in those big cities and not at every little town along the route. Lets do the math. Seattle is about 400 miles away. That is 4 hours or less in a high speed train. How long does it take to get there by car? By air? By the time one gets to the airport an hour or so early, go through the strip search, wait for the inevitable delay, the 90 minute flight, the delay while they find your lost bags, the 30 minute trip from the airport to the actual city, why, you have wasted way over 4 hours and the trip is pure hell.

    Trains are great, fast trains are even better. The rest of the world manages to make it work.

    EDITOR NOTE– Jim, true fast train service requires “grade separation” (overpasses for either cars or train), otherwise, trains have to slow down. I offer up the AMBUS idea as something that would fill the need immediately. Trains on either coast and Chicago work great, but the potential ridership in this area is meager at best–especially without a good bus system to support trains travel.

  12. Is there not a proposal to bring back service from Salt Lake to Seattle or Portland? If they did that and did it on new track with new trains, stopping only in larger cities and not every small town, the train would make money.

    I lived in Portland Maine. For a decade we lobbied the state and Amtrack to bring back a Portland to Boston service (100 miles). We were told it was a guaranteed failure, no one would take it, it would stop too often (it did) and would lose big money. Politics prevailed and we got the service.

    In the 5 years of its service before I left the state they almost doubled the number of runs and the size of the train. One had to get tickets well in advance for weekends and Amtrack was trying desperately to increase the service to meet demand. It took 3 hours to drive to Boston and 3 hours by train. Guess what people preferred. As/if gas prices go back over $3 and air travel continues to deteriorate, folk will flock to an alternative. I just don’t think a bus is that alternative…that is 1950’s thinking when the world is full of trains that go way over 200mph (2 hours to Seattle or Portland). Buses are limited to traffic and speed limits and size. Modern trains are not.

  13. As an aside, When I did move from Portland Maine to Idaho, I took the train from Portland Maine to Spokane and highly recommend the experience.

  14. Tom Anderson
    Jan 13, 2009, 12:05 pm

    Every newspaper in America ran a story 3 years ago that evidently every American has forgotten.

    They all essentially said that “When the price of oil rose above $50 per barrel, we ceased to be able to maintain our current roads at a minimum level of service, even if all government money were directed to road maintenance.”

    If you cannot maintain a ‘minimum level of service’ then the roads will fall into a state of chronic decay and will become unuseable.

    Every economist, and especially the ‘peak oil’ aware ones, are saying that oil prices are headed back up to around $75 per barrel will probably spike over $200 when the economy tries to rise from the grave.

    This means our roads are going away. Trains are not needed for moving people, but goods. If we don’t fix our lack of side rails and mgf more trains, Idaho is going to have very few goods available that we don’t produce, including that very popular item, FOOD.

  15. Dr Spiegelvogel
    Jan 13, 2009, 12:21 pm

    Let’s give them all a sloty: Buses, Trains, electric cars, trollies, etc. The cumulative effect will help clean the air and lessen dependence on foreign sources of enegy.

  16. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 13, 2009, 12:51 pm

    I think Cyclops is right. Trains and busses are efficient back east, especially in the crowded northeast. Out here in the west we need different solutions.

    Population (here) can be reduced or maintained by voluntary methods and immigration reform.

  17. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 13, 2009, 2:41 pm

    How does one make the intellectual leap from what I said above: “We need to solve the energy crisis by population reduction…” to what Shane said about what I said: “Lets start by getting rid of the old people and any of those colored folk.”? The answer is – you don’t. That is a political debate tactic used by disreputable people like Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps Shane’s comment should have been moderated by the moderator. I didn’t say that or imply that, but Shane made it sound like I did.

    The truth is – we ARE running out of resources, and not just gas for our cars, but arable land, water, etc. And the reason?? Too many people. That’s the cause of the problem and therein lies the solution. When you have a toothache you go to a dentist, not a podiatrist. When you have a population problem, you don’t solve it by putting people on AMBUSSES.

    Toyota is working on a solar powered car. But the car will still have to be built from scarce resources like tin, rubber, aluminium, steel, etc. Not really a solution.

  18. Rod, I was pointing out how silly your comment was with a silly way of achieving it.

    How do you propose population reduction? Do you want the US to adopt laws like the Chinese have? Cut immigration (too late, they’re all already here).

    The comment was irrelevant to the discussion (especially since you proposed no solution…as there isn’t one).

  19. Tom Anderson
    Jan 13, 2009, 9:16 pm

    Rod: Don’t know if you’ve heard about the latest book by Richard Heinberg called “Peak Everything”.

    The basic thesis is that even if we came up with fusion power, or maybe some source of energy that was free and limitless, our planet is running out of the mine-able metals and minerals that make energy useful. He says that our most valuable resources will be near exhaustion within 15 to 20 years.

    So, even with free electricity, we will lack the ability to make vehicles, microwave ovens, televisions, cell phones, computers, etc.

    This craving to somehow shuffle our reality around a little so we can keep cars, paved roads, planes, and big inefficient houses with sprawling lawns needs to come to an end. We need a new American dream Version 2.0 right now or things are gunna get ugly.

  20. The rubber tire vehicles are a more flexable solution to getting people in transit from source to distination. You can’t have trolleys or communiter trains everywhere. About 1970 the Shirley Highway Express Bus system was constructed in the median of I-95 from Fairfax County, VA to Washington DC. It reduced a 1 hour 50 minutes between my home and the Pentagon to 20 minutes and eliminated the parking problem and expenses. The Boise Mayors rail mounted trolley is a folly of the past and a costly system when compared to tire mounted delivery system.

  21. Wow, another completely Unconstitutional idea. But, the Federal Government has ignored the United States Constitution for most of a century now and we might as well just rip it up.

    Do people not know that the Federal Government has no power to do this and most other things it does. Oh, the public schools do not teach the Constitution anymore so I guess people don’t know this.

  22. Cyclops nailed it this is not a question of technology but a question of geography. As a former resident of San Francisco I can tell you that the reason mass transit works there is because A) The entire city is only 7 square miles and B) Dense population.

    The whole idea of any Mass Transit system being implemented in Boise, Idaho is a gigantic waste of money. We are isolated 400 miles away from any other major population center… And our population is still very low and spread over a wide area. Right now there is barely a good argument to have the existing bus system we have now in Boise.

  23. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 14, 2009, 3:22 pm

    Shane – There isn’t a solution to overpopulation? Then just wait – nature will provide it’s own solution for us, and it won’t be any fun. Tinkering with modes of transportation (AMBUS, or whatever) is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, if you look at the big picture.

    Tom Anderson – No I haven’t read that book. I am currently reading a biography of Andrew Jackson. You are right, we are running out of everything. But, we wouldn’t be running out of everything, and the vast majority of people on earth wouldn’t be living in abject poverty if there were fewer of us chasing the available resources.

  24. Our roads would last much longer if idaho didn’t have some of the heaviest axel weights allowed in the nation. Thanks Idaho Republican Legislature.
    I’m with Tom on this one. We are doomed. This nation voted for George Bush twice! We have a severe lack of mental capacity. Americans always want the easy and cheap way out of the muddy trench we dig ourselves into.

  25. Frightening isn’t it? Just look back over these comments. Find a way to stop people from reproducing, go back to the rail system, reduce axel weights and this jewel: kiss your butt goodbye because despite the fact that the country is only a couple hundred years old our resources will be gone in 20 years!
    We Americans are a greedy and ignorant people. We won’t solve the energy crisis because we’re too greedy. (Rod ain’t givin up his truck for nobody) What our future holds is not fewer immigrants, its more immigrants. Look around. The Chinese could shut down our financial system tomorrow if they wanted to. French and German corporations own most of our water systems. American Water is owned by a German company!
    Obviously, OPEC could shut us down if they wanted to and why do you think this situation exist? Because foreign investors know greedy Americans will pay, pay and keep paying, no matter how high the cost. Our economy isn’t ours anymore ladies-gentlemen and in 50 years, our government probably won’t be very similar to what it is today. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, I served in the military and I’m glad I did. I just believe we have dug ourselves into a hole too deep to get out of alone. We let our political system become a rich boys club. We sit idly by while they slowly destroy the country, screw us at every turn, shun morality and work ethic and we are too busy feeding our greed to stop and try to regain control of our own destiny.
    Happy New Year! 🙂

  26. Rod wrote: “But, we wouldn’t be running out of everything, and the vast majority of people on earth wouldn’t be living in abject poverty if there were fewer of us chasing the available resources.”

    I think that’s oversimplifying the situation. If there were fewer people, there would be fewer people available to extract the resources we need and want. Think of sailing in the open sea. There is always the horizon. No matter how far you sail, the horizon is still there and you cannot see beyond it.

    Likewise with resources. One must negate the temporary effects of the business cycle in this thought experiment. Why should a business person, farmer-miner-rancher produce more than what the market can absorb? A pie chart, no matter how divided, is still a perfect circle.

  27. Back to the topic at hand, intercity bus and rail will not work at this point in time here in the west for reasons already outlined. And if no one else will say it I will, I DO NOT want to ride a bus with dirty stinking people. I’d just as soon stay home.

    If we are going to put our resources into anything, it should be hybrid electric vehicles. It is my opinion this offers the greatest bang for the buck. Not ordinary hybrids as most think of them, but sophisticated hybrids that can double as a power supply for your home. I’ve read of certain people using their hybrids as backup generators for their homes. Think about it. Why would you need a car and a generator when the electrical cable recharging your plug-in hybrid could also work in reverse to power your home? I firmly believe a combination of solar, wind and battery technology and electronics could make a huge amount of suburban homes self-sufficient energy-wise at a reduced environmental impact. And more importantly, reduced dependence on foreign oil. If I had the opportunity to go off the grid I would. Added bonus, maybe eventually we could take down all the ugly-ass power lines.

    Odd thing, in the never-ending rancor over pollution, overhead power lines never get mentioned. For one thing, considerable energy is lost transporting electricity long distances. Then there’s the infrastructure cost. Don’t forget, each utility pole is a mini toxic waste dump. And they are just plain ugly and a hazard to aviation. Those poles kill a number of drunk drivers every year too. 🙂

  28. Tom Anderson
    Jan 15, 2009, 11:15 am

    I find it rather amazing the no other reader remembers the media articles that ran all over America talking about how we could not maintain paved roads when oil prices went above $50 per barrel.

    Carol McKee, the president of ACHD remembers, ask her about this. We talked about it at length just a few months ago. She fully understands that the paved road is not long for this world.

    Basing any future plans on the assumption that we will have smooth roads that will facilitate travel at speeds above 10 miles per hour is pure nonsense at this point.

    Connect the dots folks. The world is running out of cheap oil, cheap oil is needed to maintain paved roads, paved roads are needed to ship food 1,500 miles to your local grocery store.

    Without food, nobody is going to be thinking about buses, electric cars, iphones, or any other mythical future. When food gets scarce, people tear down and burn cities.

    Expensive oil is not a gasoline problem, road maintenance problem, or an economic problem, it is a food problem. When food gets scarce, nothing else matters.

    Tonight at 7pm, at the Boise City council chamber, there will be a meeting. It will be about this food problem. If you like food, I would encourage you to go. The wording makes it seem like an ‘enviro’ meeting, but I assure you that the folks behind it would back up every word I’ve said here. The city councils of Spokane, Oakland, Austin, Portland and many other cities across America have created a “Peak Oil Task Force” to deal with this issue. Tonights event is our first step into looking at how to survive a low energy future.

    January 15, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Community Food Forum at the Boise City Hall Council Chambers. “We are pleased to announce that Sustainable Community Connections of Idaho and the City of Boise will be sponsoring a Community Food Forum. What is a sustainable local food system? How do we prioritize what needs to be done? What is a food shed? What is a food inventory? What are you doing and how can you help? Please join us as we answer these questions and engage in conversation on the creation of a sustainable local food system. Local experts will be gathering your feedback to establish priorities and set objectives for 2009. There is no fee to attend the forum. Please RSVP to [email protected]. Seating is limited.”

  29. Most Americans, are willing to let someone else kiss their butts away.
    But we’ll bomb the crap out of them first because that is how we like to do it. Point fingers, blame, ask questions later, do it again.

  30. Great! Another task force!!!! Pontificating about everything, solving nothing!!!

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