Public Transit Realities
Matt Yglesias reviews Sim City 4 and laments the fact that “the game is curiously optimistic about middle class people’s willingness to ride a bus to a subway station then take a subway then get on another bus and take that to work. Maybe when gas costs $20 a gallon, but in the real world I think people who aren’t in desperate financial straits are only going to use transit if it’s reasonably convenient.”
Damn straight. And that’s as it should be.
There are plenty of reasons to desire as a society that more people use mass transit. But we shouldn’t expect that this will happen out of some sense of altruism. Rather, we should get about the business of figuring out how to make it reasonably desirable, preferably directly rather than by penalizing driving. My instinct is that, aside from people living in a handful of metropolitan areas, it’s just not feasible. But that would still cover a whole lot more people than it does now.
The DC Metro rail system is reasonably clean and safe and I’d use it a lot more than I do now if 1) there were a stop within walking distance of my house, 2) trains ran with sufficient frequency, 3) I were able to get to my destination with reasonable speed and undue fuss. And, yes, I realize goals 1 and 3 are difficult to realize given the existence of non-me ridership.
The generally touted quick fix is some sort of rapid transit bus system which has all manner of advantages over rail. Unfortunately, for reasons that I don’t at all understand, bus systems almost immediately degenerate into lowest common denominator experiences. The DC Metro bus system, certainly, is a relative nightmare as compared to MetroRail.