Some people wonder whether I go on vacation to relax or experience foreign public transit systems; I like to think it’s a little of both. Utilizing foreign transit and witnessing other city’s approaches to some of our similar problems captivates me and drives me to try and bring about some of these changes in Miami. The small nation of Scotland is entwined in a network of rail and regional bus routes, guaranteeing regular access to even some of the most remote towns and villages.In Edinburgh, you queue. Not to place an order in the drive-thru, but to wait for the bus. Scottish residents queued for the bus and boarded in the order which they arrived in a most uncanny display of civilized behavior. Lines stretched down blocks a few yards, allowing continuous pedestrian passage along sidewalks. Bus shelters were even designed longer than American shelters to allow for greater covered queuing space and typically featured electronic displays of routes and approximate wait times.

We rented a car to experience both the joys and hazards of driving on the wrong side of the road and headed north to witness the natural beauty of Glen Coe. While driving along a precarious single lane road (with a few haphazard passing bays) which serviced only two small (~500 people) towns, we pulled off the road to allow the daily public transit bus to pass. Remarkable! This wasn’t the only instance where we encountered this, in fact every town we passed through had a bus stop with schedules attached listing the daily regional bus service which passed through the area, even in towns where sheep seemingly outnumbered people 50 to 1.

Glasgow is the only city in Scotland which currently has rail public transportation, although Edinburgh will soon begin work on a streetcar system (see sign below.) The Glasgow subway runs in a circular path around the city center and has never been expanded since its opening in 1896, making it the third oldest metro system in the world. It’s a most unusual subway train, just 4 carts long and barely tall enough for me to stand up straight in. The limited 6.5 Mile system is interconnected with several (7, I believe) suburban train lines which arrive at the central station as well as the city’s vast bus network. Plans are in the works to also bring streetcars or guided busways to the city.

It was August in Glasgow and a chilly 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was drizzling all day (heck, all week) and the wind was kicking, yet the city was alight with activity, pedestrian activity that is. With weather conditions that would typically render walking along Lincoln Road improbable, Glasgow’s main pedestrian mall was buzzing with pedestrian activity, shopping, and dining along Buchanan Street.

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3 Responses to Scottish Transport

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am there right now, the UK has some of the most polite drivers in the world. More polite than the Italians, French, and they drive much slower and more sane than the Germans who are too aggressive. The stats bear this out.
    Norway has the best rural bus system in the world, even more amazing given their geography. Most European countries have bus systems to serve rural areas, the UK has one of the worst. Scotland is better off because of devolution. One of the problems with public transit in the UK is that it was privatized by Thatcher (who Americans are always surprised to discover is now much despised in the UK). Therefore, the companies who bid on the routes only make money on very few routes and thus must be subsidized by the local councils and national government. The whole thing is widely seen as a failure (the worst being the so called privatization PPP of the London tube where the main company just went broke), and yet no one will discuss public ownership. For instance, the rail system is very expensive, far below the standards of other European nations, and cost more to run in government subsidies than the old government owned British Rail. It can cost a person using a Virgin Train pass to commute to London almost 10,000 USD a year to use what is still a subsidized government service. In many ways the UK has the worst of both worlds plus the inventor of trains now has a system almost as bad as the USA. While there is much good in the UK system, when compaired to USA, it falls far short.

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  2. Ryan says:

    Wow, these people are using that new outdoor weather technology I’ve heard of. I think it’s called…the umbrella. What a thought!

    These people must hate themselves for being pedestrians out in the rain for a few minutes, wishing they could enjoy a sunnier, more tropical climate where it never even snows (as if a place like that ACTUALLY exists…ha).

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  3. Miami-Forum says:

    If I remember correctly, electronic displays of routes and approximate wait times, was promised in the PTP. Considering it took 5 years just to get bus shelters, I doubt we’ll ever get electronic displays. And if we do, I’m sure it will just be at the tourist hot-spots.

    I wish I could be more optimistic in regards to Miami-Dade Public Transportation, but I was just expecting so many more improvements by this time.

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