Buses have a bad reputation in America. Every time we write about them, or in fact any form of shared transportation, we hear about, as Ken Avidor put it, "the peculiar American fear that everyone on a bus is either poor, deranged or both." But buses have a lot of attributes that a lot of companies are spending a lot of money to put into cars: they are very much part of the sharing economy, they are now often electric or hybrid, you can read a book or play with your phone while you are being driven by it, and in most cities, there is even an app that tells you when the next one is coming.
But it has been the car makers that make all the sexy ads and the grand future of shared mobility without having to drive yourself, when in fact, many of the virtues of the autonomous car of the future can be enjoyed right now. Andrew Hawkins of the Verge explains:
Västtrafik, a Swedish public transit agency, has just released a new ad that takes the technology fever that’s gripped the automotive world and turns it on its head. The 45-second ad looks like your typical new car commercial, with fast cuts and dramatic music. The text promises the most electric, connected, tricked-out vehicle you could ever imagine, only to reveal at the end that said vehicle is actually a city bus.
The CEO of the bus company is quoted in the Verge:
"We welcome, of course, safer and more environmentally friendly cars,” said Lars Backström, CEO of Västtrafik, in a statement. “However, more people alone in their cars — regardless of whether they're self-driven or not — does not belong to the future. Not having to drive yourself in shared vehicles, on the other hand, definitely does. Something our customers have been enjoying for over a hundred years.”
Buses are not perfect, but they do a lot of the heavy lifting in the public transit world and deserve more respect, and better marketing.