Relative Quality

I have a new post over at All Opinions Are Local, thinking about the problems that exist with public transportation in Washington, DC.

(from Dsade on Flickr)

By most measures, Washington has one of the best public transportation systems in America. The city will continue to have some of the best transit for years to come. The problem is that it doesn't mean that it's great or that it's getting better.

People have a tendency to judge things relative to other things. It's hard not to. So as long as DC has better public transportation than City A or City B, we ought to be happy with it, right? Well, no; not if the systems in every American city are getting worse at the same pace.

The only benchmark we really should be considering is how good public transportation is relative to itself. Is Metro better this year than it was 5 years ago? Is it more reliable? Does it offer a better value? If the answer to these questions are 'no', then there's a serious problem, even if it's still better than whatever most other cities can offer.