I've written a lot about public transit here at Extraordinary Observations and I like to think I've been a rather strong proponent for it. But lately I've been feeling much less enthused. The transit service cuts that I've personally experienced, along with riders from across the country, have left me feeling frustrated and defeated when it comes to the issue.

(from Flickr user mgarbowski)

It's now been almost a month since I've ridden public transportation. I've replaced almost all those trips by bicycling. I've found that biking around is ideal for short trips (less than two miles), usually the best option for medium-length trips (2 to 5 miles), and at least as (in)convenient as public transit for long trips (up to 10 miles).

I think what I liked, in principal, about public transit is that it's so cheap (compared to driving) and (in theory) gets me to the places I want to go. I don't have to worry about actually driving (a stressful activity, in my opinion) and I can read a book or a magazine as I'm ferried along to my destination.

Over the past month I realized that bicycling is cheap too - cheaper than riding public transit, in fact (assuming you aren't riding an expensive bike). And while I might not be able to read or write emails or sleep while I'm traveling from one place to another, I am exercising, and that's a form of multitasking about as good as any. I don't have to visit a gym. I don't have to schedule a workout into my day. I don't sit around at the end of the week feeling guilty because I've been "too busy" to exercise all week.

It's not that I don't still think that great cities need great public transit - it's that I've been left feeling disillusioned and fearful that many of America's major cities have hit a tipping point where it's going to be incredibly difficult to get to the point where they should be.

5 comments:

    On April 12, 2010 LKBM said...

    I feel much the same way. Bus fares have doubled in the past to years in Austin, and the service, while not worse, is still bad enough to anger me on a weekly basis. Biking is faster and cheaper. The thing that's kept me using buses for the past few months is that it's the only time I read books. Well, that and the fact that I hate shopping, and shopping for something something as major as a bike doubly so.

     

    For the ladies, biking's not always the greatest, especially to work and to a dress up date. We really need to re-think what's worth saving in bad economic times.

     
    On April 13, 2010 Anonymous said...

    I think the two compliment each other rather well. It's nice to have a backup to riding a bike other than a taxi. Also, there are many days when weather or illness makes an alternative to biking attractive.

     

    For myself personally I have very mixed feelings about public transit. I'm skeptical that it'll ever even reach a break-even point (unless gas hits $5 a gallon). That's not necessarily an argument against it, but I think you have to look at the real public costs of subsidizing it.

    I think the real problem is that there are so many people who have no other option. In this day and age when so many families are so far apart, the poor, elderly, and infirm all need at least some modicum of public transportation to help them get around. I don't have the answer to the problem in these straitened times, but I do think its important, if not necessarily for us healthy young folks.

     
    On April 16, 2010 Anonymous said...

    I actually started riding a bike to avoid the bus with its crazy people, random fights, and breakdowns that end up costing real time. It was a bit more effort yes, but good for exercise and definitely not as frustrating. I hope it gets better, we need an overall better system for getting around. I do believe that good public transit can really transform a city.