Public transportation in the USA is generally seen as some of the safest in the world. However with the ever increasing costs of energy to fuel that transportation, the amount of money for routine maintenance is becoming razor thin in other countries.
Recently in Thailand private bus operators staged a strike because they were actually losing money. They raised their fare 1.5 Baht (about $0.05) but were shot down by the court. Because of that court action the strike was staged. The operators chose the lesser of two evils between losing money or making no money by striking. As a result of that strike, the Thai government put in a temporary six month stop gap measure of providing fuel at a discount to busses. That slim margin of profit is all that remains for maintenance.
This is not only in Thailand, any place that has significant public transportation in developing countries is experiencing the same squeeze on available funds to fix things. Running with a worn part until it finally breaks will become more of the norm and not the exception.
Every so often you hear about some bus losing control and people getting killed. Considering that there is zero enforcement of maximum loads, coupled with parts in desperate need of replacement and a very unsettling picture starts to emerge.
In places where fares are regulated by the local government and fuel costs are not are truly the most dangerous. This not only applies to public transportation, but trucks that fall into the same regulatory category are also accidents waiting to happen. Once again in northern Thailand, private truck operators simply parked their trucks because they were working at a loss. This just feeds the rising cost of things based on the simple economic rule of supply and demand, thus putting further strain on the system.
Unfortunately there is no quick fix and the fact the worlds supply of crude oil is clearly past the tipping point as shown in the price of oil, alternative energy becomes the only answer. However the ramp up time for this can be years as these vehicles are only now coming into demand. Replacing the 10,000 plus busses in the greater Bangkok area alone is just a drop in the bucket when you look at a world wide scale. Bangkok and New York are cities of equal size and population just to provide a perspective.
China on the other had is going in the opposite direction. The sales of cars continues to rise simply because the cost of fuel is still relatively low when looking at the global picture. At some point they too will come to a tipping point. American car makers are reaping the rewards of China with what we can now call ‘Old technology’ cars and not the new hybrid technology. I guess that shows a certain mind set that profit comes first. One can’t help but wonder just how much that thinking has lead us to where we are today with the global oil supplies running out.