The Big Question: Trains Vs Buses

Yesterday we had one of the most memorable Off Topics that I can remember. I asked you guys to talk about your experiences with public transport and it seemed to touch a nerve! I thought I'd continue the discussion on The Big Question with — as is customary — a question! Which do you prefer: buses or trains?

As I mentioned yesterday I've recently moved house. Now I get a bus into the city instead of a train. Before I would have sworn down dead that trains were the superior mode of transport, but now that I'm in the routine of catching a bus everyday I'm not so sure.

And it's not because buses are more efficient. They're not. It's not because they're more convenient. They're not.

It's because bus people just seem so much nicer. They wait in queues, they don't put they're bags on seats. It's almost as if being on a bus inspires goodness in people. Weird.

What are your thoughts?


    Whilst bus people are nicer, I still prefer the train. Greater distances in a shorter amount of time usually amounts to being better for me. That and I have headphones on normally anyway ;)

    Also you're mad for touching on PT AGAIN Mark... I'm picturing you with marionettes above this thread ready to manipulate the puppets...

    Last edited 03/09/14 11:24 am

    Clearly a geographical bias here! :p

    You forgot to add 'Tram' to the poll..... it's OK Sydney, we won't remind you how everyone laughed at Melbourne for not ripping up it's light rail network like everyone else.......

      I didn't want to get into that but yes, trams are awesome :D

      Yeah, but to compensate for your trams you get hook turns. *shudder*

        You pretty much do them at any really busy intersection when you want to turn right anyway.

        hook turns aren't annoying.....
        drivers who do not know how to do a hook turn are annoying! :p

          Drivers shouldn't have to know how to do a hook turn in the first place. Wikipedia only lists 10 places in the world where they're performed. :P

            if you are driving in one of those 10 places, you should have to know how to do one ;-)

              So, should those 10 places have no tourism so that outsiders can't get confused by them unexpectedly?

              (I should note I understand how hook turns work and were I required to do one I'd probably have no issue with it. It's the concept / rarity / confusion it can cause to others that I don't like.)

                I would wager that tourists comprise a vast minority of drivers within the Melbourne CBD. It's the locals who should know better! :p

                Last edited 03/09/14 12:07 pm

                The thing that confuses me is bus lanes. Most of the places I drive don't have them so I've never really had to deal with them, totally clueless once I'm surrounded by them.

        Hook turns f'ing terrified me when I moved to Melb. I'm not even kidding. For the first month or so I would plan out routes that only involved left turns or, where possible, right turns with an arrow light.

        I would literally spiral my way around the city doing left turns until I reached my destination.

        Then I actually did a couple of hooks and learnt how awesome they are. They get you out of the way of the main flow of traffic, then you get to make your turn easy-breezy after the light goes red and people stop trying to smash into you. I'm a total convert. They are fantastic, and I'm glad they exist.

    I've never had issues with patrons on the train (but a lot of the time I have to stand for a couple stops anyway) but on busses is where I get problems with people taking up too much of the seat, putting bags on seats etc. Maybe that's just the routes I travel, I don't know.

    Last edited 03/09/14 11:30 am

    Train. Because I don't understand buses.

    With a train you go to the station and you know exactly where it can go, and where to get off. With a bus, somehow the number on the front of it is supposed to mean something and you need to know where you're going to be able to pick when to get off but chances are you won't be able to catch any of the street signs you need (god help you if it's a main road though because apparently those don't need street signs, everyone "just knows" which ones they are) and will end up lost.

    Neither, ever since I got my licence 15 years ago I refuse to catch public transport unless there's no other option.

      I've got to be the complete opposite to you. I've consciously given up having a car to catch public transport.

        I cannot comprehend that choice in the slightest.
        Like Monkey I got my license asap and never looked back. I can't fathom living without a car.
        Sure I don't work in the cbd but even if I did I would motorbike in.
        Glad if it works for you though.

          It started from some financial issues a few years ago so I centralised by moving to the CBD. Walked to work. The costs I saved from not having car expenses more than made up for the increase in rent and also gave an increased quality of life.

          Currently live around 2k out of the CBD, and about 5k from work. I don't recommend going car-free for anybody living outside of those kind of distances, it's just not feasible. But if you do, it's surprisingly effective and you quickly get used to it. On the occasions I do need a car there's friends, taxis, etc.

          Like @beeawwb I've always lived pretty close to the CBD, and I got rid of my car, too. It was costing me more to house and maintain something I never used, because it was always more expensive to go anywhere. For me, parking was the major factor. I'd spend at least double the public transport costs on parking, before I'd even looked at fuel and maintenance.

          That's still turning out to be a viable option because my current apartment is literally thirty seconds from a major busway terminal.

            Fair call, if your life/work includes a lot of CBD and you live close it makes sense.
            Driving is much better in Adelaide too (less crowded) and the bus system woeful. But in east coast capitals, I spose it would be much more viable.

            I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to live in a big city (Adelaide is really somewhere between a real city and a town) and walk/public around, with all the things nearby.
            Probably horrible for a quiet desiring hermit like me.

            Last edited 06/09/14 11:20 am

              What I find interesting is that no-one's said a thing about the environment yet. c.c

                Really though, as a big and long term a problem as that is, to your average individual the immediate concerns of their life such as how to get to work are of more significant consequence.
                Global warming and such is just too big a thing and a single person's efforts too insignificant.
                Eg: I could live in an inner city apartment and ride a bicycle to work, but why should I inconvenience myself that much when the million+ other drivers in my small city alone don't follow suit? Let alone the other billions around the world and all the factories and coal plants and the beef industry... It would change absolutely nothing.

                Environmental impact change has to come from above. Cities better designed for public transport, electric cars, clean energy generation, etc.
                To fix that problem we need to fundamentally change the way humanity lives and uses the planet. Asking citizens to car pool and turn lights off is a cop-out when the people in charge with the power to actually do something need to be doing something.

                  Pretty much the conclusions I'm drawing from the lack of comment, too.

                  It's interesting because I remember it wasn't many years ago that environmentally conscientious behaviour was being heavily drilled by schools and large corporations. Switch off your lights when not in rooms, don't leave appliances on, kind of thing.

                  I don't know if it was a red herring, a weak excuse for being seen to act, or a naive faith in humanity that education and altruism could overpower individualist self-interest on a mass, public scale... but I'm guessing it hasn't worked.

                  You are completely correct, I suspect, that the only change that can have a meaningful impact is from the top.

    Trains run more often and are more reliable.
    Easier to do stuff on the train - no lurching starting and stopping, no sharp corners.

    The people on both suck. Both will walk right to the front of the bus queue/platform even if they're there 10 seconds before the bus/train pulls up. Trains are generally more reliable though. Buses can be early, late, non-existent and you don't know about it until it's too late. Trains at least stick to the timetables or let you know when they're running late. Also less traffic on the railways :P

    My major gripe on buses though is people sitting on the aisle seat when the window seat is available but they won't move over to let someone else sit down on the aisle seat, no, they'll just swivel their legs around and expect you to squeeze past them to get to the spare seat. I'll generalise here, I've only seen Asian girls/women do this. I don't know if it's a cultural thing or what, but it bugs the hell out of me that common courtesy doesn't always exist. Mind you, common courtesy is hard to find anywhere on public transport, but that's my main issue

    Also, trains are cooler than buses :P

      Perhaps they're claustrophobic and can't stand the idea of being pinned in to the window? I know my mum is like that on planes and get's really uncomfortable if she can't sit in an aisle seat.

      Of course since you point out the cultural aspect maybe it's an act of deference or politeness to give up the window seat for someone else? The thing about common courtesy much like common sense is that they aren't always common.

      Just a couple of things to think about before declaring other people rude for not doing something your way.

        I have no problem with someone preferring to sit on the aisle seat for whatever reason, it's the whole not getting up and letting someone get to the other seat that gets me when instead they just turn 90 degrees and expect you to climb over them. That's not common courtesy

          Well I will suggest that your first post pretty emphathically suggests that is what you have a problem with...

          My major gripe on buses though is people sitting on the aisle seat when the window seat is available but they won't move over to let someone else sit down on the aisle seat

          As for the swiveling, do you really have that much less room to move by? Sure if you have a large bag or something, but in general the only thing blocking you from getting past is the legs jutting out from the seat.

    Anyone that votes Bus, go catch a Bus in Darwin then tell me you have the same opinion.

    To be fair tho, there are no trains in Darwin.

    Last edited 03/09/14 11:35 am

    while with buses you rarely see asshats dressed up in grey and who like to extort money out of you, i have to say train. its the sheldon cooper in me i guess....

    here in melbourne, and for anyone who knows what is seriously wrong with a suburb named frankston, theres a bus that goes from frankston to melbourne airport that takes 6 hours. i find it funny cause, well, frankston is a hell hole and theres a bus to take people to the airport to get away from it.

      I hear Frankston is pretty bad. But I also hear you don't want to be a female patron waiting for a late train in Lilydale.

      Ballarat is the closest to Melbourne I want to be.

        where did you hear about the lilydale one? i live there and dont know anything.....PSO's are around now, so it shouldnt be too bad...

          The same place I hear about everything. The Internet.

          Last I heard Lilydale had a reputation for assault and sexual assault at train stations.

    Trains, because I'm a dumbass. Trains follow specific lines, you know where the station is, buying tickets is easy.

    If I took buses all the time it would be a fairer question because I'd be equally comfortable, but I rarely use buses and simply can't figure them out - the routes, knowing which buses are running on which days, where the stops are, etc. Pre-Opal I had no idea how to go about buying a ticket.

    I also have no idea how often buses face problems like delays and service interruptions compared to trains.

    If I look at purely it terms of the experience of being on a bus vs. a train I'd probably still go with the train though.

    Train for me. Although it's not much of a contest because I'd rather walk 20 minutes than spend 5 minutes waiting for a bus. I think the last time I caught a bus that wasn't a replacement for a train (and thus packed) was back in high school. Although I sometimes catch a tram when I'm heading outside the city, if that counts. They're usually pretty empty when I catch them, so they're more like trains.

    Spent 3 years travelling to the CBD on buses only, 10 years with trains, and 5 years back on buses.

    It's trains hands down, especially if you can catch them slightly outside peak hour. Much faster, smoother, and more reliable. Don't get stuck in horrid traffic when it rains.

    Though I do agree that you get less crazies on the buses here. Though have you ever caught a bus in the USA? Dear God...

      I've heard the trains in the US are amazingly good though. Or at least wherever it was my sister went.

        I've found them pretty good in the cities where they've been well planned and core to the effective operation of the city e.g. New York, Boston, Toronto (yeah, I know, Canada, close enough). But in cities where they're tacked on and poorly managed, they're pretty bad e.g. Los Angeles, San Francisco. You can see why most Californians drive everywhere.

          Actually I think it might have been San Fransisco she was talking about.

          Maybe they're just amazing compared to here :P

    Trains, without question. No stopping/starting motion sickness, less frequent stopping, more legroom, clearer indication of where it's going, ticketing complete before you board...

    Train hands down. Long or short, it's typically quicker, subjected to far less traffic and very rarely results in death.

    Warrnambool to Melbourne for example. To hell with bussing that. You get your slightly chilled Coke and a reasonably warm pie from a train at least.

      Oh that's a point I forgot - you can safely eat and drink on a train, too. Walking on a bus with a bottle of coke or chocolate bar can cause outright hostility from the driver.

      And that's another point - you have to deal with bus drivers on buses. Most are nice, but man, some are cranky and horrible and ruin it for everyone.

        I had a bag of Chinese food to take home with me on a bus that replaced a train once. I had no intention of eating it on the bus, I was just taking it home with me. The bus driver gave me a dirty look when I got on, then waited until everyone was on and shouted 'vaguely' back in my direction like three times that food can't be consumed on the bus and he'll kick off 'anyone' who eats, all the while staring at me in the rear view mirror. I just stared back until he gave up and started driving.

    Buses and trains? What about planes and automobiles?

      Well, I've walked under a bus and got hit by a train; And it felt so good I want to do it again.

      No, no, I'll show myself out.

        *shakes fist at computer screen*

        Damn you, Bo-b! Damn you!

        *starts humming tune*

    Gotta be the train and I've been taking the train far more in the last year or two if only for the reason that I'm able to catch up on so much gaming on my 3ds in my two hours travel time I get each day. It's pretty much made my travel time so much more fun (used to drive) and relaxing and played a lot of games I would not otherwise been able to play. I've also been able to get a fair street passes in that time (when I first got it I might be lucky to get one or two a month).

    The one thing I don't get is that I seem to be the only one playing a game on the train. Are other people embarrassed to play a game?

    Trains for many reasons but the foremost:

    Buses are made for midgets. I think anyone over the height of 6 foot is seriously going to struggle to get their legs in properly, not to mention if you don't pay attention and stand up near the back you'll probably hit your head against the ceiling.

      But that's ok because anyone over the height of 6' is a freak of nature :P

        Nooo, six foot is normal!

          For a freaky internet person!

          (all my Internet friends seem to be ridiculously tall compared to just about everyone else I know IRL)

    I voted trains because we need more of them in Australia, but trains and buses should work together. Trains should link major areas/highly-populated areas of the city (as they travel faster or they should be) with bus stations next to the train stations to provide suburban services. That's how things usually work here in Japan (I live in Tokyo at the moment).

    What we really need in major Australian cities are subways. Australia is one of the few developed countries that don't have subways. We need them because overground train services are pretty bad and it's too late to do anything about them now so subways are the way to go in my opinion. It's a shame that the Sydney Metro project was cancelled. But I hear that the Anzac line, which is supposed to be the start of something similar, is still under proposal though.

    Buses only won for me because they have a wider range of travel than trains, and most travel I do consists of catching a train to a common node and then riding a bus the rest of the way. People on buses and trains tend to be equally as obnoxious. Buses even more so because you can't move down a carriage.

    1/ Trains
    2/ Tram
    3/ Bus

    I prefer trains. Greater distances quicker - bus people are nicer, but trains are bigger and it's easier to avoid idiot people most of the time. Melbourne trams are like the happy medium of buses and trains.

    Trains all the way. Buses in Sydney are awful. I actually lost a job because I couldn't get a morning peak bus to get to work on time. I kept getting to the stop earlier and earlier, only to see more and more buses drive past full. It ended up that I either had to get to work 75 minutes early or 15 minutes late. It wasn't a customer-facing job so I tried offering to work half an hour later each evening but they weren't interested, so I got fired for showing up late.

    For regular daily commuting, bus is my only option (no train service where I live), and it's fine. So I'm happy to vote bus.

    If you're talking long distance travel, definitely train. When I went to Japan a few years back we were travelling from city to city on the shinkansen, and it was bloody brilliant. If I had that option everywhere then I'd never fly anywhere ever again.

    Wait till you're running late and your bus doesn't show up for an hour... and when it finally does it's packed to the brim and the bus driver isn't going to let you on. Yeah... Trains hands down.

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