Skip to main content

Public Transit's Sinking Ship

Fellow blogger Matt left a comment last week about some potentially burdensome transit cuts in DC and Maryland.
...if Metro gets its way, come September 30, my bus ride is going to increase by 15 minutes. Not because I'm moving, but because Metro is making my bus route longer to compensate for a different one, which they are cutting. Well, actually to be more precise, they are eliminating the direct route and forcing me to change to the indirect route, which they are making even more indirect... The practical outcome will be for me to switch to bike on any day when it does not rain or snow.
The scenario he explains is essentially the same as the one I described back in April, and it's the reason why I quit riding public transit in Cleveland and switched almost all of my trips to bicycle.

(from Flickr user el swifterino)

Here's the reality: all public transit agencies are facing some sort of financial crisis. You need to look no further than T4America's crisis map to see that the problem is not isolated to a few struggling cities. It's easy for people to think this is an isolated problem because most people only ride public transit in a single city; but the problem is undoubtedly widespread.

Some ships have already sunk while others are quickly approaching the tipping point. Whether or not a system becomes devastated or survives these tough times will have a lot to do with its constituents. In cities where a large proportion of professionals and other well-connected and outspoken people use transit, or at least understand its value, the fight will push on for longer. In cities where the "transit is for poor people" attitude reigns, the well-connected people with enough clout to do anything meaningful will just throw up their arms, say "get a car" and move on with their lives.

In cities with both bus and rail service, bus service will be hardest hit - again, because of the constituents that use buses vs. rail. Is it fair? Is it equitable? That's a debate for another time. But it's politics. And ultimately, that's what matters.

Comments

catfood said…
The additionally tough thing about Cleveland is that's it's kind of spread out to begin with. Even pre-sprawl. It's quasi-Midwestern here.

So even at best, our public transportation isn't going to be as awesome as New York's.

I think at some point we have to decide whether RTA is worth our serious financial support. More than, say, the colossally stupid Medical Mart deal.
John Morris said…
Sorry, but ultimately it's not politics but reality that matters most.

The idea that one could use political considerations over rational economic logic is the exact reason transit and transportation policy in America has become such a black hole and why the country is bankrupt.

Believe it or not, in places like Hong Kong--systems make money (or act as real estate developers) and the original transit systems here followed the same logic. The key thing is that in those places, cars are not given special treatment in parking, zoning or tolling policies.

Sooner or later after who knows how many problems, we are going to have to return to this.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':



Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…