Saturday, November 6, 2010

Public Transportation: long way to go in U.S.

I live in the suburbs.  We moved here for the scenery, fresh air, and open spaces.  The compromise we've had to make is that we are 10 miles from any modern conveniences, such as the gas station, grocery store, and preschool.  We've also succumbed to the suburban lifestyle of shuttling our kids to sports and afterschool activities.  This makes using public transportation next to impossible, besides the fact that it's nowhere to be found out here in the sticks.  There are no walking or bike paths on the rural road I live off of and the only buses you see are for school.

Having lived and traveled in Europe and South America, I've seen that public transportation is used as the primary mode of getting around.  They bike, walk, take the bus or train to wherever they need to go.  They use their cars for weekend and family excursions.  The reasons for this are many, for example, the medieval roads are too narrow for cars larger than a 2 person capacity so that strikes out large families or non-European tourists.

Another reason is that cars aren't seen as a status symbol.  In the U.S., depending on where you live, taking the bus is for the underprivileged folks or college students.  Our cars tell so much about our lives and personalities.  Do I even have to mention the mini-van?

Most importantly though, cars are the most convenient way for Americans to get around.  No schedules to wait on, no delayed trains or buses, no walking to and from the station.  In Europe and South America  their trains and buses run more efficiently and take you everywhere so taking public transportation isn't as complicated as it can be for us.

I went down to the city the past two weekends and found taking the metro extremely inconvenient and nerve-wracking.  After last year's deadly crash and recent terror threats, it's hard not to think of something awful happening while you're on the train.  It also took me twice as long to get to the city as it would have if I drove.  Granted, it was the weekend and the trains don't come as often, and one weekend had record crowds traveling on the train, but it's not something I'm willing to do again any time soon.

Unfortunately, for most of us our time is too precious to wait for the bus or train so getting in our very own little capsule of transport is easier to get from point A to point B.  There are some American cities that have it together, like Chicago or New York, but it needs to improve everywhere for it to become more attractive to everyone.  If you can't get an environmentalist to take public transportation, imagine the work you need to do for everyone else to want to get around this way.

In a few years, the metro will be extended a little further out in the suburbs and maybe it'll be a better experience.  But for now, don't expect to see me on the metro too often.  I'd love to be able to promote public transportation in this area, but for us suburbanites it's just too much of a pain in the ass.

1 comment:

  1. If communities were designed around mass transit to start with, things might be different. However, developers will exploit what ever land they acquire to make the most profit, not for the public good. Too bad we don't have a government that has the power to regulate such things.