The one thing you can count on from a contemporary transit advocate is that there’s one specific form of transit that’s not on the table:
“When people talk about transit, they aren’t talking about buses. When people talk about improving transit, they aren’t talking about the frequency or quality of buses. There’s transit, and then there’s buses.”
The bus is the transit equivalent of the minivan: no matter how much functionality you can cram into it, it’s still never going to be cool.
Before you write the check for one shining steel rail, though, consider this:
If all of the sudden every streetcar and commuter train that ever ran was to suddenly reappear, would we still need buses? I would argue “absolutely, yes”. Whether we like it or not, my grandparents’ generation is responsible for a huge amount of decentralization. There are dozens of neighborhoods that didn’t exist 30 years ago which are now served by buses. And in neighborhoods where rail now re-exists (in my hypothetical example), they are struggling to get enough people on the trains because, in many of these neighborhoods, the population isn’t anywhere near what it was at its height, and people’s destinations are not necessarily point-to-point the way that they were 50 years ago. Buses (and, eventually, demand responsive transit) [have] a very important role — to serve areas that it is not effective to serve by trains.
That’s it, blame everything on the baby boomers.
He’s right, though: the bus isn’t going away. A transit proposal for Oklahoma City calls for streetcars, but it also calls for retrofitting the buses to operate on CNG, which would at least reduce the stench.