Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Transit

We all talk about how great transit is and how we should all abandon our cars to take mass transit. But many of us do not. Why? Sometimes it’s because transit is not available. Sometimes it’s because it is inconvenient. A lot of times it’s because of the poor customer service/overall experience.

The last time I took Metrorail, the train was late, dirty, and packed full of people. One very large lady (I use the term loosely) shoved me and screamed that I needed to move further in (I was already touching the person in front of me), while someone else sneezed in my face. I then had to wait 15 minutes to change trains (they’re supposed to come every 6 minutes). I could have driven to my destination much faster, for about the same cost, and without the headache and future cold.

I just read a great article on, “The Genuinely Better Way” that talks about San Francisco MUNI’s new Connected Bus and how it hopes to provide better customer service. This bus is a pilot program that MUNI and Cisco have developed that provides passengers with wireless internet, information on other vehicles in the system, and green stats on the bus’s environmental impact.
I certainly hope all public transit agencies start to think more aggressively about customer service/customer experience!

Other articles on the Connected Bus:


Green-A said...

Okay, not to be too hard on you but are you seriously not going to take transit b/c the trains are too crowded (you were already 'touching' the person in front of you?) or they come every 15 minutes instead of 6? Sort of like, I don't mind helping the planet but not at MY expense? My roommate is a transit planner and although she could DRIVE to work in about 15 minutes, she takes transit which boosts her commute time to an hour. Why does she do it? It's the principle of the matter, and it isn't the environmental principle, it's that transit is a better allocation of resources.

What you may not know about transit:

When highways need to get funded, about 80-90% of the funding is Federal. When transit projects need to get funded, about the same percentage is local, with only minimal Federal assistance, if any.

This is why we have more highways than rail lines.

Now, owning a car may seem like a basic right to you, but it is actually a luxury. One that most middle class Americans have grown accustomed to. But the fact that you CAN take transit to work means a car is not a necessity at all, but rather a convenience.

In my opinion, it makes no sense to spend public dollars (Federal funding) on luxury infrastructure and not to spend any on public transportation infrastructure.

I think public dollars should go to public transit and local communities should have to raise money from local car owners if they want to provide everyone with the luxury of automobile access.

And I also think it is okay to wait an extra nine minutes for the train, and I think it is okay to be touching other people on the train.

Jodi "Millennial 4 Earth" Williams said...

Judge me all you want for not wanting to be shoved and sneezed on, or pay money for a service that doesn't provide what it says it will. The point is that the majority of people with cars are not going to abandon them until tranist becomes a comfortable and convenient alternative, or until commuting by automobile is too inconvenient and expensive.

As shown by the examples given by myself and by Green A's friend: it's not there yet.

Yes, we should use transit for the "right" reason...but I don't think we're there yet. We're all still in the "what's in it for me?" mode.

Kevin said...

It is my opinion that the first comment on this post is way off base. No where in the post did I read that the author would not take mass transit for the reasons which were stated. It brought up a VERY good point which needs to be addressed if we are to realistically expect the majority of the population to take mass transportation. Green-A you did make a good point that funding is a large downfall of transit service -- this would be a possible solution to the cold fact that most people won't take the solutions provided if they don't meet certain expectations in timeliness and convenience. The internet-on-bus idea which comes up in this post is another excellent solution. People will be more inclined to take the transportations options if the time spent isn't idle.

For me, personally, the 1.25 hour transit commute is a decent time to catch up on reading, when I can move my arms enough to put the paper within reading distance -- but I'd gladly spend it returning emails on a small laptop if that opportunity was provided. I'd be even happier if I could use any sort of wi-fi at the metro stop waiting for my bus to take me to/from my house.

Bottom line to me is this is an important topic to talk about. The majority of the population will not take mass transit for principled reasons -- and that is just a fact. So we need to make it as easy and comfortable as possible to encourage it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I have to do a comment with 150 words as an englisch homework --> i hate my teacher!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god you are so silly...
Our teacher can ready this comment!!!

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