I have reluctantly decided that public transport outside major cities is a waste of money / time. Within urban areas it's great and cities that build enormous park'n'ride carparks on their approaches are to be strongly praised, asssuming they price things right (Milan is a good example of how this can work).
However in general it has recently come to my notice that even subsidized public transport, such as we have here in France, is still generally at least as expensive to the user than driving when more than one person travels. And it is typically a lot slower. Allow me to illustrate. Say the wife and I want to go to Nice for the afternoon/evening. We have three choices:
take the train from the station c.500m away
take the bus from the bus stop c.750m away and change once in either Cannes or Grasse
Here is a breakdown of costs and duration of the options. The distance is approxiamtely 35km by road, depending on where exactly we're going in Nice.
Cost (2 people)
Duration (one way)
Complete flexibility about when to leave/return
Trains roughly once per hour last train back leaves Nice at 22:10
Buses roughly every 30min, but have to wait 15-20min to change Last bus back 19:10 or 21:55 if you get a taxi from Grasse
Bus travel is the slowest, most inconvenient and cheapest. Note that if we want an evening in Nice we have to spend the night there because there is no direct way home after 7pm. Restaurants are just about OPENING at 7pm so a night out on the town isn't going to happen by bus unless we stay out clubbing until about 5am. If we want an afternoon shopping then we have to leave at about 11am and eat a sandwich on the bus. In this scenario we'd spend some 5-6 hours travelling for 3-4 hours in Nice.
Train travel is not much slower than driving, assuming I pick the right start time. It would take us 10 minutes to get to the local station then it's about an hour on the train to Nice Ville and then we've got a few minutes wait and then perhaps a 10 minute tram or bus ride to our final destination. Evenings out though are tricky because you need to leave the restaurant at about half past nine to be sure of catching that last train. Otherwise, as with the bus, you're looking at catcing the first train in the morning or getting a taxi from either Cannes or Grasse.
Driving is about the same price as the train but we can go any time we feel like it. We can return any time we want to. AND it is quicker.
*Driving cost, Worst case c. 70km @ 10km/litre and €1.17/l plus €5.40 tolls plus €21.40 parking - these are generous figures, I'd expect more like €25 to €30 since fuel is more likely 7l/100km (=14km/l) and parking more like €15. Adding 15 minues to the duration in each direction would allow me to skip the toll and save €5.40 so my minimum price is about €20 **Train. €7.50 one way to Nice / person (1 hour duration) plus two tram/bus tickets (€1 each) in Nice (15 min duration).