January 29, 2012

TIM CAVANAUGH: How many public transit expert/advocates actually ride on public transportation?

I have met more than three folks, in and out of the establishment media, who speak with authority about mass transportation yet somehow can never get around to using it in the heat of their daily struggles. Judging by this storied Onion headline, I’m guessing others have met such people as well.

But how frequently, really, are we getting our fix of transit-solution bloviation from people with no practical experience of the “systems” they’re diagnosing and claiming to cure?

I wonder this every time an expert makes the case for more intelligently planned transit networks featuring smarter coordination throughout the hub or loop or grid. There’s one thing you learn by your second day of using transit when you actually don’t have a choice: For every transfer in your itinerary, you need to double the time allotted for the trip.


UPDATE: Reader Donald MacQueen writes: “The Washington DC area public transit system is run by WMATA. WMATA’s board consists of elected officials from DC. Maryland, and Virginia, all of whom, you will be shocked – shocked! – to know, have reserved parking spaces for cars at WMATA headquarters. Public transit, like all the other things our elite betters say is good for us, is for the little people.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Greg Reihing writes: “As a former bus operator in Toledo,Ohio I know first hand of the inefficiencies in Public Transit. Only one board member ever used the bus regularly and even he rubber stamped the management ideas. I tired of explaining to the riders why it took 2hrs to get to their job when a car ride would take 20 minutes. The claims of energy savings and environmental benefit are all bogus. There aren’t enough seats available to make one iota of a difference in air quality. Safety? Public transit is a big target for litigation. The entire industry is influenced by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) who lobbies congress for funding. It’s a boondoggle-first rate.”

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