You’re Going Nowhere

1 Apr

The idea of public transit in the US is wonderful–too many cars, too few roads/lanes. But outside of the certain urban areas, it doesn’t get much traction. Why? Because the timing simply doesn’t work.

The first problem is waiting; it’s a pain in the butt. With a car, you get in whenever you want and you go. With public transit, you are dependent on other people. There’s a schedule and you have to be there at that time or you have to wait. Honestly, bus schedules are more of a “suggestion” anyway, because they’re dependent on traffic and the number of riders.

Then there’s the bus itself. I personally love trains–light rail, subways, Amtrak–absolutely love riding them. Any time I can make an excuse to ride them, I do. Buses… not so much. When choosing between an amazingly clean bus and an amazingly dirty train, I’ll take the dirty train every time. Why? Because the train only stops at designated places; the bus stops any time someone wants off. Of course, that’s the local bus. There are express buses which only have designated stops… but it’s still not as fun as a train.

Most places I’ve lived, when I have the train option, it doesn’t go where I want to go. If I work in Corporate Acres, but I live in Lesser Middlesburg, the train station is in Upper Middlesburg, it goes downtown, then you have to switch to go to another train to get to Corporate Acres. So I have to “park and ride.” When I lived in Cincinnati, I lived outside the highway ring, and took the express bus downtown, and then my company had a shuttle direct to campus. It was very convenient. Then we moved to a closer suburb. I was going to ride my bike to the bus stop and take the bus in. Going into work was fine, but then catching the bus back meant I had to wait, and wait, and wait… because everyone who got on the bus downtown had to get off before it got to me. After a while, I started just riding home the 11.5 miles. Then I realized, “Oh, I can ride faster than I can take the bus,” so I became a dedicated bike commuter for three years. (Then I changed jobs.)

When I worked in Baltimore, there was a light rail direct from the airport to where I was staying. Great! Except my flight got in after midnight, and the last train left at 11:30. Oops. So, taxi it was. When I caught my flight, I could take the light rail, but otherwise, everywhere I wanted to go… I could walk faster than waiting for the “Charm City Connector.” The bus was really nice–but it’s never where you needed it, and never where you wanted to go.

That’s the problem. US was built for the car, and our urban sprawl is based on being able to get there by car. So unless there’s a geographic constraint (such as New York City and San Francisco) or there’s simply too many people between you and your objecive (Chicago, Washington D.C.), it simply is faster to take the car than the bus. Even if you get enough trains to where you need to go, the price tag is often more than the return you will get from it. With COVID and working from home, this is even more true.

But that’s just my opinion– where did I get it wrong? Can public transit work in the US? Is it doomed from the beginning? Let me know in the comments below! Meanwhile, of you like my writing, pick up one of my books. But if you’re still not sold, download one of my stories for free! You’ll be glad you did.

One Response to “You’re Going Nowhere”

  1. Patti Aliventi April 1, 2021 at 12:33 pm #

    Many small to mid-size cities had cable cars which disappeared with the advent of the automobile. It’s a shame because I think they really could have been great for a lot of places without the same expensive infrastructure as commuter trains.

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