Every city-dweller has strong feelings about public transportation. We love it, but we can’t stand it. We’re grateful to have a bus stop outside the apartment building, but we hate how loud the train can be at rush hour. It gets us to where we need to go, but we wish we could afford to Uber everywhere instead. I’ve been feeling pretty down about public transit lately, so I’m going to try to explore it a bit more.
So, let’s start with the bad. Public transit is, inevitably, overcrowded, dirty, and slow. There’s no way around it. Cities continue to cut transportation and infrastructure-related budgets, which leads to the continuing decline in public transportation quality. Could you imagine if the MTA hired just a few dozen more employees? It they could clean the stations with a bit more frequency? Even more, could you imagine how much more convenient your train would be if the city invested in a few more cars? Public transit is essential for city living, but it’s consistently neglected by city governments.
Also–let’s face it—transit is slow. Like, really slow. For example, a study out of DePaul University found that it is often faster to ride a bicycle through Chicago than to take public transportation. That says a lot; Chicago is known for its extensive light rail system and frequent bus service. But overuse and general traffic congestion—especially along busy parts of the Blue Line and criminally underserviced areas on the south side—has had a devastating effect on transit’s utility.
Public transportation, especially in big cities, can also be pretty invasive. Think about it: you’re tapped in a 5’x20’ space with thirty strangers. If somebody wants to talk to you about something, there’s nowhere to go. Don’t even get me started on the crap that women have to deal with.
So, I’ve covered the negative. Now let’s focus on the positive. In big cities, public transit is remarkably accessible. I’ve been able to live in a city for six years without a car, and I think that’s pretty impressive. It’s an excellent way to explore new places, see different types or people, and figure out a city. Also, despite recent hikes around the country, it’s still pretty affordable. I’d gladly rely on public transportation—even with a $0.25 fare hike—instead of owning, maintaining, and driving a car in a city.