Telling my local community this proposal.

Photo shows a wheelchair chassis carrying 2 pc. of Rubbermaid brand 18 gallon (68 liter) storage container.

The wheelchair with the storage containers is a sample or prototype for carrying stuff on a public bus.

I posted a link to this blog on my local community web site. Thanks for the comment and I'll work to clarify the proposal.

Carrying carts - what are the range of services?

Here is a list of the things that might be transported on the public bus system.

The first 3 items are carried by public bus systems in use today.

The last 4 items are transport challenges of increasing difficulty.
  1. Incidental baggage that depends on hand and arm strength - knapsack, purse, briefcase, shoulder bag, laptop computer in a case, makeup case, cloth grocery bags.
  2. Purpose carriers that use shoulder support - backpacker's pack, laundry bag, two bags of balanced weight with a shoulder strap.
  3. Bicycles carried in a front of bus carrier.
  4. Heavier objects that can be lifted but not held for long - tool boxes, handle grocery bags with canned goods.
  5. Wheeled devices that can be lifted up steps- rolling suitcases.
  6. Wheeled devices operated by a passenger that require ramp or lift to enter the bus: modified shopping carts, modified wheel chairs (seat cushion removed). Contents can include: construction supplies, personal computers, printing, mail, restaurant and office supplies, weekly groceries for a family, automobile repair parts.
  7. Freight containers designed for shipment without an accompanying passenger. These containers are travel on pallets and are boarded and removed based on shipping orders. Contents can include: groceries, business supplies, personal computers and monitors, store purchases, food supplies for restaurants, hotels, schools.

The peak problem: why buses have spare capacity

The load factor of a bus is fraction of seats filled or passengers riding compared to the total number of seats or passenger capacity.

In 1979, the load factor for the Los Angeles public bus system was somewhere below 33%. I am looking for a published load factor with a 2007 to 2008 date.

For the typical public bus system, and for a lot of passenger carrying systems, load factors of 25% and less are quite common. There are a number of reasons for this persistent state of affairs:
  • A passenger car with 1 driver out of a total of 4 or 5 seats is already operating at 25% or 20% load factor.
  • Public buses start out empty in the morning and they gradually fill up as they drive from the suburbs to the city center.
  • There is a big surge of bus patronage each morning. The bus management has to schedule enough buses to reasonably handle the peak of the surge. The peak hour bus fleet continues to run even as the patronage surge declines.
  • The peaks of the twice daily surge are plausibly about a workday plus a lunch hour apart ( or about 8.5 hours).
  • It is a management and labor scheduling challenge for every public bus system to arrange reasonable working hours for bus drivers to match bus service with the demand for it.
As a public bus system critic I see the "below 33% load factor" as a huge service opportunity.
Potentially up to 66% of the gross carrying capacity of the public bus system is available to do useful work.

My daughter runs into the "bus can't do it" problem.

My daughter is having her first exciting month living off campus at a northern California college town.

Her initial scheme for saving money on groceries is to shop at a discount grocery store about a mile away, and perhaps 400 feet lower elevation.

In round numbers, she hopes to buy 4 bags of groceries at $15 each instead of 4 bags at $20 each in the gourmet ghetto.

So the scheme is to save about $20 by going to the discount store once a week. The bus fare is $1.75 each way.

The choices for her are:
  • Travel by bicycle: The trip is a 2 mile (round trip) bicycle ride on heavily traveled side streets.
  • Travel by bus: The bus trip requires walking 2 blocks to the bus stop, waiting, then taking a 1 mile bus ride, then walking 1 block to the store.

I'd say her travel problem puts her on the boundary line of the utility of the public bus system.

Doing this trip by bicycle is a strenuous ride with lots of automobile traffic hazard. Doing this trip by bus will raise problems with arm and hand fatigue. If she doesn't carry the 4 bags of groceries, then she needs a large knapsack and a shoulder bag.

So the point I see as a public bus critic is: the bus does not accommodate the day-to-day need of people to carry 30 to 120 pounds on the bus.

Example of how private firms block the transit district

My local public bus system was sued by a private transportation firm for "unfair competition". The result is, the public bus system restricts the amount of luggage people can carry on the public bus that goes to the airport.

Here is the story it appears in the website.

"Luggage Policy on Route KX

SamTrans is unable to allow excess luggage to be carried on Route KX between San Francisco and the San Francisco International Airport in either direction.

SamTrans Carry-on Policy States:

"If a passenger can carry the item(s) on his/her lap or store it under or next to him/her on a seat unneeded and not hurt anyone else, and not interfere with others, the item is probably safe to transport." The final decision will be made by the bus operator, who is responsible for the safe transport of everyone on the vehicle.

Alternatives & Information:

If you are unable to ride Route KX, Route 292 can take you to The City or the airport.

SamTrans wants your trip to be as pleasant as possible. If you have any routing or fare questions, please call 1-800-660-4287.


Since SamTrans receives some federal money to help fund its operation, a private bus operator cited "unfair competition." Under an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, SamTrans agreed not to transport passengers with luggage between The City and the airport on its express route.

If the item fits into the following definition, SamTrans will gladly allow the passenger to board with the item. "


How does a transit district define itself?

Here is how my local San Mateo County transit district defines itself.

The omission... from my viewpoint as a transit critic is there is no commitment to allow the bus rider to carry or board with any substantial load.

"About the District

San Mateo County Transit District provides SamTrans bus service throughout San Mateo County and into parts of San Francisco and Palo Alto.

The transit district also offers Redi-Wheels paratransit service for persons with disabilities who are unable to ride SamTrans.

  • Mission:
    To supply the public with a high-quality, safe and efficient transportation system that should enhance quality of life by increasing access and mobility, reducing congestion, improving the environment and promoting economic vitality.
  • Vision:
    San Mateo County Transit District is a leader in providing mobility alternatives that are relevant and desirable.
  • Values:
    Integrity, Customer focused, Respect, Quality, Teamwork, Leadership, Accountability."
Quoted from:

Walk, wait and ride times explain the bus system network

The structure of a public bus network is reflected in the time a bus traveler spends walking to, waiting for and riding the bus.

If you want to "improve" the time performance of a public bus system, you can decide which time relationship you want to improve.

  • To reduce the walking tine, you add bus routes so the distance is less to walk.
  • To reduce the waiting time, you add buses so the interval between buses is less.
  • To reduce riding time, you add faster buses or provide high speed lane options.
There is a problem with globally "improving" a bus system by adding more buses and routes: The operating costs can go up much faster than patronage arising simply out of shorter trip times.

At the time of my 1979 bus study, the public bus system spent 3 times more than it earned in
farebox revenue.

You can say, conventional American public bus systems operate in a "cost and revenue saddle". The total time of a bus trip can be 2x to 3x the same trip made in a private car. There simply isn't the funding or resources to drive down bus travel times by the brute direct provision of more routes, more buses and faster buses.

(Unfortunately, I have not been able to find my 1979 linear regression travel time analysis data and formulae.) I am still looking. The data was on HP-41 magnetic cards. I hope to find at least the notes and calculation work sheets.