Personal is Political: On transportation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people get around and what impact it has on their lives.
I grew up in a small Southern college town. We drove everywhere. There was a public bus but we never took it. Since leaving home I’ve mostly lived in big cities with public transportation–NYC and DC. The subway is amazing and almost everywhere was really accessible. It runs all night, hits all of the boroughs and is relatively affordable and fast.
When I moved to DC last year, I settled back into life in a smaller city. Still a relatively good public transportation system but it gets less places and closes at night. I started riding the bus, brought my car with me and used it much more than I had expected.
Then two months ago my car died. I then had to rely completely on public transportation, mainly the bus. When you take the bus everywhere, you have a lot of time to think. When you’re waiting for the bus to come, stuck in traffic on the bus, walking to and from the bus stops. I started to notice how much stress it added to my life. Often running late to things, not being able to get around quickly, dealing with unpredictable and often unreliable buses. Often spending a few hours of every day just getting from place to place.
And I live in a city with a good public transportation system. I don’t live far, I don’t really commute a significant distance. I also started to notice more and more who was riding the bus with me. With the exception of rush hour times downtown, the majority of bus riders are people of color–in my area, Latino and African American folks.


What emphasized all of this is that I recently started riding my bike to get around. I remembered what it’s like to be able to get around quickly and easily. No waiting for the bus, no running late because of traffic or late buses. I could go on about why biking is so great but I’ll leave that for another post.
What it has made me think about is how poverty is such a cycle. How things like the amount of time it takes you to get around can make it even harder for you to improve your situation. How commuting to work, being late, having to juggle many responsibilities and not having enough time in the day keeps these cycles going. How even just the stress of getting around can have an affect on your health. How privileged I am to live in a city with transportation, to have access to a car sometimes, to be physically able to bike around.

and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

86 Comments

  1. revivingemma
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I live in Denver, CO. I ride my bike nearly every where I go. It has become an integral part of my life. I enjoy the pace that riding a bike demands and allowing myself to zip through parks on bike paths on my way to meetings. Riding a bike is also very liberating. Plus they are very affordable. Bike repairs can be done on your own for minimal costs. In Denver there is also the Derailer Bicycle Collective that teaches folx how to make bikes for free. Derailer also has classes for womyn, queers, trans peeps that offer an alternative to macho bike shops. Highly recommended!
    http://www.derailerbicyclecollective.org/
    When it does snow or is too windy, the bus is sufficent. But the prices keep increasing while service is being cut. My friend started and RTD Watch Blog as a way to offer a public voice about the changes made in our public transit system.
    http://rtdwatch.blogspot.com/
    Alternative modes of transportation make so much more sense for cities.

  2. ElleStar
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Here is a great color-coded map: http://www.tastypopsicle.com/maps/cta.asp
    The Red Line goes North and South through the loop and sticks mainly to the East side of Chicago along the lake.
    The Blue Line goes from O’Hare on the North West side, coming Southeast through the loop, and back out to the Southwest.

  3. Vx24
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Yea,someone sees that poverty is more than just being poor. It means being trapped. No car no good job because the bus doesn’t go there or if it does it stops before your shift is over. I have lived in Seattle which has a good internal bus system. I lived close in the city and could walk most places. But my job was in Redmond at a place that had no bus service!! At night when I wanted to go out depending on where I wanted to go walking or the car was better. Standing by oneself at a bus stop at 1AM is not a healthy thing to do. There is much to be said for having a choice!

  4. davenj
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Gotta say, I love PATCO and SEPTA in Philly. SEPTA doesn’t run super late, but PATCO goes all night. As someone who uses the two to commute to school a lot I can definitely say the two are pretty terrific, especially PATCO, which is an absolute breeze. Philly gets knocked for not being subway-heavy, but their transport to the outlying areas is pretty darn good.

  5. llevinso
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I also live in Chicago (I grew up here and recently moved back 2 years ago) and I take use the CTA all the time. It’s true it is very convenient it that the lines literally go everywhere and the Blue and Red lines do go all night, so that’s nice…sort of. But you don’t really want to be on a train at 3am by yourself anyway, I wouldn’t really say that’s safe. I know so so so many people that have been robbed on the Red line (I say Red line because that’s the one most of my friends use, it could be just as common on other lines as well). I have several friends that have been harassed. In fact one of my best friends about a month ago was followed off the train by some creepy man that kept saying he wanted to have sex with her. She had to run into the nearest Walgreens and call the cops.
    Also I used to work as a bartender and server which had late hours and I’d usually leave work with lots of cash on my person. I hated using public transportation having all that cash that late at night. So I’d try to drive as much as possible which made me have to leave extra early to find parking and cost me extra money and blah blah blah.
    Anyway, all I’m saying is that you’re lucky your experience with the CTA has been so good, but I know many that don’t feel that way. Also the CTA’s budget is in the toilet and the prices keep getting higher and higher as do the cutbacks. All I see is the CTA is going to get worse unfortunately. Although, if we get the Olympics then it has to improve. I have my fingers crossed.

  6. little_bear
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    “reliable” is code word for “car”. So says one employer I know. That’s one inequity a decent divorcee I know has encountered. For several jobs that she’s qualified for and that would support her and her child, she required a car, that she could’t afford. This is one way the impoverished are kept in poverty.

  7. Shade
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Okay, that’s fair enough.
    But if an employer were actively requiring you to have a car in a job where a car isn’t necessary to do said job(I’m assuming something other than delivery driver), isn’t that a form of hiring discrimination that she can protest? Did they want to know her license plate numbers or something, or require physical proof that she had a car?
    If she has a way of getting to the job on time, then it shouldn’t be any of the employer’s concern as long as she does in fact show up to work on time.

  8. Rush
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Just to put this out there, BART cannot run 24 hours at a time because the physical infrastructure of the system was designed to have a daily period of maintenance. I can’t find the article that originally discussed the reasoning behind this decision to cite my source, but I believe it was decided in part because of neighborhood concerns about noise. It seems likely that other subway/train systems are also designed with a similar maintenance period.
    And since we’re talking about public transportation horror stories:
    “A recent study shows that along with some Bay Area freeways, some of BART’s overhead structures could be extensively damaged and could potentially collapse in the event of a major earthquake, which is predicted as highly likely to happen in the Bay Area within the next 30 years.[38] Extensive seismic retrofit will be necessary to address many of these deficiencies, although one in particular, the penetration of the Hayward Fault Zone by the Berkeley Hills Tunnel, will be left for correction after any disabling earthquake, with the consequences for in-transit trains, their operators, and their passengers left to chance.”
    Left to chance. Known issue. Collapsing tunnels with people potentially inside of them. Left to chance. If this doesn’t say something about the state of public transportation in the US and California (and our budget), I’m not sure what does.

  9. az
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    This is something I have been thinking about recently, too. I teach in a Boston public school. To get to school, I walk to the T station, take the subway to the bus station, then take a bus to school. This takes about 45 minutes. Since BPS students are allowed to “choose” (sorta) what school they go to in the city, they are given a free monthly student T pass at school. Many of my students commute an hour OR MORE to school- and that is one way.
    Even beyond this time issue and the politics of busing in Boston schools, I am also continuously amazed at how my students can ever be in a good mood. They wait at a crowded bus stop for a bus that comes every 20 minutes. Then they have to squeeze on to the bus, with the bus driver probably yelling at them to scoot back. It’s crowded and uncomfortable and noisy. Of course many of my students are in horrible moods by the time they get to my class! I get frustrated and irritated everyday too!

  10. az
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    This is something I have been thinking about recently, too. I teach in a Boston public school. To get to school, I walk to the T station, take the subway to the bus station, then take a bus to school. This takes about 45 minutes. Since BPS students are allowed to “choose” (sorta) what school they go to in the city, they are given a free monthly student T pass at school. Many of my students commute an hour OR MORE to school- and that is one way.
    Even beyond this time issue and the politics of busing in Boston schools, I am also continuously amazed at how my students can ever be in a good mood. They wait at a crowded bus stop for a bus that comes every 20 minutes. Then they have to squeeze on to the bus, with the bus driver probably yelling at them to scoot back. It’s crowded and uncomfortable and noisy. Of course many of my students are in horrible moods by the time they get to my class! Of course they are hostile and angry in the classroom. I get frustrated and irritated everyday too!

  11. myheartisagapinghole
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    ‘m totally shocked by this post. I moved to DC six months ago from Michigan–home of the motor city and absolute zilch in terms of public transit. I mean, the Peoplemover in Detroit is an absolute joke. I love it here in DC and don’t miss my car one bit. In the past year in Michigan I shelled out at least two grand in repairs and even more than that in gas. I just don’t think it’s a sustainable way to live. Especially when I compare to what I pay here–my employer pays for my public transit fare and I commute for free!
    I thank my lucky stars everyday for the metro and metro bus. As for being late, you learn to leave early and bring a book. Occasionally you get a cab and suck it up. I understand that public transit is hard for families and those who have to work at awkward hours. However, I get really pissed off when I see working class professionals driving to work in their SUVs alone when they easily could be sitting next to me on the bus.

  12. MissEmma
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I live in a fair sized city in Northern Ontario and even though the central bus depot is in a great location(downtown next the mall, all the best shops and a 10 minute walk from my school) the schedule is horrible. The busiest buses run every 15-30 minutes, but the “less needed” buses can run as much as 2 hours apart. I live in a rural area that is about a 30 minute drive from downtown, but because of routes and schedules the bus doesn’t even come halfway to my house. There are TransCabs that will take you beyond the reach of the bus, but my house is even out of range for them (which is complete bullshit).
    This semester I have dance rehearsals at school 3 nights a week with an additional class at a studio on tuesdays, meaning I have to take the bus to the last stop and wait for my parents to pick me up FOUR NIGHTS A WEEK. If this didn’t piss me off enough I take one of the “less needed” buses that only runs every 2 hours; even if I’m done rehearsal at 4:30 I rarely get home before 6:20. Oh, and they jacked up the fare last week without announcing it first. All in all, not very please with the service in my town.

  13. Marja
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    “To all the people talking about some cities not being bike-friendly: with the exception of some major interstate highways, bikes legally have the right to use any roads that cars do. Any place with roads is “bike-friendly”.”
    Not true.
    Where I live the drivers are extremely aggressive, and the courts are biased in favor of drivers over bicyclists in car/bike accidents. The roads are NOT set up for bicycles. For example, the left turn lights are rigged to pressure plates. Drivers get to make left turns; bicyclists do not.

  14. Liza
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    The problem comes with bike riders who can’t obey simple traffic laws. They are allowed on many streets with cars and thus are expected to follow the same exact laws. This means: not running lights, stopping for pedestrians, not riding on sidewalks, paying attention to one way signs and a host of other things that make bikes a nuisance. They should be a great thing, but the people on the bicycles acting like entitled asses make them a problem.

  15. Marja
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, I ride on the sidewalks because the roads are too dangerous, and because the traffic lights DO NOT WORK for bicycles. As I’d mentioned, pressure plates.

  16. Kathleen6674
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Therein lies the problem with the Philadelphia area. People who live in the suburbs/New Jersey/Delaware think Philly is great, because for them everything works.
    This goes not just for public transit, but for everything else.

  17. flamingofeminist
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Just as an FYI, some of the trains run all night, such as the major red line route. The service is more infrequent, but it runs. My husband and I used to live off the brown line and we felt like we had a curfew! haha! we’d be downtown visiting friends and have to leave by 11:30 or so to catch the last brown line north. a little over a year ago we moved to a red line area, so it’s easier. however, safety is a huge issue and there have been a lot of instances on our end of the route recently. you would think an increase in violence/assault would result in security, but no. grrr.

  18. AgnesScottie
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    “I don’t think “danger” should be a factor that deters anyone from biking.”
    Really? Higher likelihood of getting hit by a car while not encased in anything but clothing and a helmet seems like a good reason to forego cycling in certain areas of town.
    I’m not anti-cycling. I’m very pro-cycling. But some cities are more bike friendly than others. They have specific lanes for bicycles, and because more people ride bikes, cars are used to giving the bikes leeway and watching out for bikes.
    In Atlanta, cars don’t look out for bikes. They also often pass bikes leaving very little space. If more cyclists were on the road, the cars would get used to the bicycles, but as it is, it is fairly dangerous in many parts of Atlanta (especially at certain times of day) to ride a bicycle. And if you aren’t particularly fast, cars honk at you and ride up right behind you…which makes me personally very uncomfortable.
    Bike Friendly is kind of like the term user friendly. Sure, bikes are allowed, but that doesn’t mean that the drivers give them enough space, or that there are bike lanes, or that drivers in the city seem to have a disdain for cyclists. Some cities are just better for cyclists. It’s a valid point when talking about transportation options.

  19. denelian.livejournal.com
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    i live in Columbus OH.
    so far as i can tell, the bus system here actually rocks. for a bus system. my b/f’s car is on the shop (has been for over a week) so he’s been riding the bus to work. he works 30 minutes from where we live (by car). it only take 45 minutes for him to get to work on the bus!
    but i, i cannot use the bus. why? because the CLOSEST bus stop is three times my maximum allowed walking distance away (not that i can walk all the time – three times the max i am ALLOWED, which is not how much i CAN, i cannot walk as far as i am “allowed” most of the time, it hurts too much)
    there is, purportedly, a disabled system, that will pick up disabled people. ok, yes, there is, i have seen it, i’ve even ridden it once. but IT is not reliable AT ALL. couple of years ago i had a professor who was wheelchair bound (let me tell you, she was awesome. but i always felt bad, because a cane is less bad than a wheelchair) one day, i saw her waiting for the disability bus. it was supposed to pick her up at 5:30. i went to class, got out at 8. she was STILL THERE.
    and that happened to her at least once every two weeks.
    so, i drive. unless i can’t drive that day – and i on days when i can’t drive, i can’t bloody WALK either.
    where are the mass teleportation devices RAHeinlein promised me!?!?
    seriously, when my dad lived in DC, i would go visit him, and i LOVED the Metro. (that WAS over a decade ago, but still). if buses were closer, i would probably take them more.

  20. wax_ghost
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Exactly. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen drivers tailgating a person on a bike in my city. It is very very uncommon and drivers just do not know what to do, plus they have the attitude that the person on the bike is obstructing them and should just get out of the way. In an accident between a very large, heavy, fast steel box vs. a very small, light, slow human being on wheels, guess who’s going to win?
    Also, the weather here is often not conducive to riding a bike. I’m not talking about snow and ice (though that can be dangerous too, especially when you’re sharing the road with those heavy steel boxes) but hail the size of quarters, rain that you can’t see through, tornadoes, and really fast straight winds plus lots of overhanging limbs. People here could definitely bike more than they do now, but let’s not pretend like it’s as simple as hopping on a bike.

  21. yun_chun
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    Miriam: oh please do post about how great biking is! I finally got one myself and am really, really amazed at how great it feels to be in control of your life with such a small, healthy, friendly vehicle. It does help that the Chinese city where I live has bike lanes almost as wide as the road on every street – only problem is the air pollution! *cough cough*

  22. Anacas
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    There’s a mysterious tendency for jobs to sprout driving-related requirements if the employer is concerned about “reliable transportation.”
    Reliable transportation always means car. There’s no opportunity to prove that you’re willing to catch the bus an hour earlier to guard against the possibility of the bus that makes more sense running 30 minutes late, no chance to investigate carpooling options with coworkers or beg a friend to drop you off. If the public transportation in your area has a crappy reputation and someone has an inkling you might rely on it, you’re screwed. Every prospective employer will suddenly realize it’s vital that any new employee be able to perform some peripheral errand at a moment’s notice someplace you can’t get to by public transit, even though there are 20 other people at the office who can do it instead. Not exactly something you can sue over.
    I live on Long Island, and am job hunting sans car. What a disaster–not only are the buses infrequent and prone to missing connections, but apparently people without cars don’t need to go anywhere on Sunday or after 8pm, which makes things like grocery shopping an adventure. If I didn’t live with my car-owning girlfriend, I’d be totally screwed. I’m lucky enough to have been able to make public transportation proximity a top priority when I was apartment hunting, and it’s still easier for me to commute 2 hours by train into the city than it is for me to get to most of the surrounding towns–and I’m young, able bodied, and able to walk long distances. And perception often matters more than the reality of how easy it is for you to get somewhere; I once got automatically disqualified for a job that was four stops away from my apartment on a reliable bus route that ran every half hour, because the person doing the hiring didn’t know anything about the bus system and decided I had to be lying about my ability to get there consistently on time.
    So yes, I do think employers not being willing to make some simple accommodations for non-drivers (or even just hold back their negative assumptions) is unprogressive and destructive.

  23. Ishtar
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    I lived in Groningen in the 90s and public transport was fantastic then too. I usually cycled though and it was an absolute pleasure, giving me a freedom of movement I don’t have back home here in South Africa.
    I don’t drive and have always relied on public transport and let me tell you it is stressful and exhausting. I live in the city centre and for years I worked in the outlying suburbs. I spent an average of 2 1/2 to 3 hours commuting every day, using a combination of trains, buses and taxis.
    I stopped using the train when I was mugged at knife point (not the first such incident for me) and stuck to buses and taxis.
    Our buses are old, noisy and polluting and the schedules are not always adhered too. But they’re safer than the trains.
    The minibus taxis carry the most passengers – hundreds of thousands every day. The industry is unregulated (Apartheid legacy – long story) and is characterised by lawlessness, violence and almost non-existent safety standards. If the taxi associations don’t like something they go on strike (with accompanying violence) and simply shut down major routes, blockading roads and attacking buses trying to transport people.
    Minibus taxis are generally not all that comfortable and they squeeze in as many people as possible. For example, one evening I was in a taxi (meant to hold 14 passengers, a driver and a fare collector) that squeezed in 23 people – and the driver wanted to squeeze in more!
    Fortunately in my area the taxi service is different from other areas in that the drivers are generally professional and friendly and the vehicles are in good condition. They have close ties with the community and make every reasonable effort to maintain a high standard of service.
    The City of Cape Town is now in the process of formulating an Integrated Rapid Transport system, along the lines of what has been successfully implented in some South American cities. The implementation is frustrated by a lack of co-operation from the taxi industry, which is represented by literally hundreds of associations, all of which have some kind of beef with others.
    Recently they staged a 3-day strike in protest against the IRT system and thousands of people simply couldn’t get to work. Buses and a few motorists were attacked and several people were injured. It was an ugly episode.
    Sorry about the long post. It’s just that the topic of public transport is very close to my heart and having had a taste of safe, affordable and convenient public transport in Europe, it is one of my dearest wishes that we can have the same here in South Africa. It would literally save lives and give a significant boost to our economy, as well as the national psyche.

  24. JennyMac
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    i live just outside Belfast, so whilst geographically smaller than the cities mentioned on this post, the transport system is similarly smaller (in both service-area and mindset) we have 4 train lines, a bus service that turns up as and when it feels like it, an international airport with abysmal connetions to the city centre. I grudgingly used the train and bus until i passed my driving test 6 months ago and getting on board with a pram, or equally being told to wait until the next bus in 30 mins if there were too many babies on board already really did suck, the public transport here is overcrowded, unreliable, infrequent and compared to the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and London positively archaic – cycle lanes are minimum and according to the Unofficial Code of Belfast Bad Manners, cyclists definitely do not have the right of way! to get about in Northern Ireland you need a car – and that’s the voice of experience.

  25. joy-mari.com
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa and only recently got my own transport. I’m finally able to take a drive along the beach after work, and then head home — 22 miles away.
    Before I got the scooter, I had had to use public transport: buses, taxis, private cabs, and the train. Back then I didn’t realise how expensive and time-consuming it is to use public transport. Never mind limiting.
    And yes, POC are the worst hit. There are 6 train lines in the Cape Peninsula and I’m not sure about the bus routes. Taxis aren’t terribly unsafe but I far prefer my scooter. Buses are probably the most reliable form of public transport in Cape Town.
    Trains, buses and taxis stop running at either 8pm or 9pm. One — possibly two — area has 24-hour taxis, however. I know people who choose where they stay based almost exclusively on the frequency and availability of the public transport.
    We now have 2 high-speed services but I wonder how many people can afford them. I know I can’t.

  26. allisonjayne
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I also live in Toronto, and am so privileged to be able to live somewhere with a decent public transportation system (it’s quite true – our mayor uses public transit to get around – which of course does mean that public transit is a priority for our city government…sadly, not as much of a priority at all for our icky federal government…sigh). I don’t have a car, and live in a neighbourhood with most of the services/shops within walking distance – and work in another neighbourhood with many shops/services within walking distance. I walk, ride my bike or take the streetcar everywhere.
    My partner and I are currently debating about buying a car when we have a baby. She thinks we will need it – and I see the logic, it would definitely for one make it much easier when visiting relatives/friends that live outside of the city. But I think we can still get by fine without it, and that we won’t need the added expense. And I know that once we have a car, we will use it for trips that we could probably still do on public transit, because it will be ‘easier’. Sigh. Anyway, that’s for another post I guess.

  27. kat
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Another Chicagoan here.
    The CTA works well if you live in certain neighborhoods and work in certain neighborhoods, and if you don’t have kids. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods it doesn’t serve well are those populated by the people who need it most.

  28. Lea
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    In general, I think fear is a bad reason to not do anything. You could get run over by a car. You could also have a heart attack and die from being in terrible physical shape. Or you could be involved in a car wreck in which someone else dies, and then kill yourself out of guilt. Shit happens. Live in the moment.
    PS. I understand it can take some getting used to, having people tailgating you and honking… but again, it’s not your problem, it’s theirs.

  29. Lea
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    geez, where do you live? that weather sounds FANTASTIC. (I’m a storm lover… the crappier the weather, the more I like it, haha). and yeah, wind can really suck for a biker… i’ve been pushed off the road a few times by strong gusts, and once into the side of a bus, tho i’ve never actually been knocked off my bike by wind… i’m sure it’s possible though. and when i first started biking and wasn’t in very good shape, a strong wind could sometimes make it impossible to pedal up steep hills. but in general, with the possible exception of hail, i don’t really think good weather is a prerequisite for biking. if it’s raining or sleeting heavily, goggles to improve visibility might be good… and gloves are important for extreme cold. the last time i crashed, it was because it was 19 degrees out with strong winds and sleet, and i needed to use my brakes but my fingers were too numb to get around the handbrakes. stupid me… i won’t forget gloves again. ;) but for the most part, yes, it really is as simple as hopping on a bike. just do it, people! biking is awesome!

  30. Lea
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    in heavy traffic, isn’t there usually another car there to trigger the pressure plate? and when there isn’t, isn’t traffic usually light enough for you to just make an illegal turn?

  31. carokaro
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t tell them you don’t have a car, the day your bus is late is the day your job finds out you don’t have “reliable transportation.” It’s also probably the day you’ll get a warning or get fired.

  32. aedifica
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    (Here via FeministFinance.) I grew up in a college town with excellent bus service, so I got spoiled to that early on. I live in Minneapolis now and for my needs, the bus service here is almost as good as what I grew up with. My employer partnered with the transit system to offer the unlimited bus pass for about $60/month pre-tax, there’s a bus stop half a block from my house, and it actually takes me less time to bus to work than to drive, once you figure in letting the car warm up in winter and finding a parking place after I get to work. The bus is usually a little crowded in the morning, but never too bad–I usually get a seat, and on the way home it’s never too crowded to sit. There’s also a trip planner on the transit company’s website where you can say “I am here, I want to go there, I want to leave/arrive at x:xx, what are my options?” Oh, and there’s room for two bikes on the front of every bus, so I can bike to meet another bus and still take my bike with me!
    I’m also lucky enough that the local co-op grocery store is near enough that I can just get off the bus one stop early on my way home from work, shop, and walk the rest of the way home with my groceries. I pay a little more doing most of my grocery shopping at the co-op, but I think it evens out with the amount I save on gas by not driving often.
    However, all is not roses. When I lived in a suburb here it took me much longer to take the bus than to drive to work. I still sometimes took the bus because I love not having to deal with traffic (especially on snowy or rainy days) but more often the desire to stay in bed just a little longer won out. Also, I know that if I worked nights instead of days, or if my employer were less centrally located, I’d have a much harder time bussing.

  33. Ishtar
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Hi Joy-Mari
    I agree with what you wrote except about minibus taxis not being terribly unsafe.
    Just this past week in the news: 15-month old toddler killed in taxi accident (tyre burst), taxi driver knocks over 19-year old student and drags his body 30m, taxi driver seemingly deliberately runs over 16-year old girl on her scooter. How about that case last year where the taxi driver plowed into a group of school kids, killing 6 of them? And these are only the stories that made the news.
    I’ve travelled by minibus taxis for over 20 years and I can tell you they are getting worse and worse. Some areas are better than others (like the Vredehoek/Oranjezicht taxis – they’re excellent) but the others scare the crap out of me. I’ve stopped using the Main Road taxis because I got sick and tired of praying for my life as they sped down the always crowded Main Road and of course, the chronic over-crowding and long long waits in Claremont until the driver felt good and ready to leave.
    I’ve driven in taxis where the doors flew open, the seats were loose, there were holes in the floor and with make-shift steering wheels. I’ve also more than once heard drivers discuss other drivers who drove while they were drunk or on drugs. And if a taxi driver says someone is a danger on the road then you must know how bad that person is!
    The taxi industry is now threatening to derail the elections in April if they don’t get their way. Yes there are good honest individuals in the industry, people just trying to earn a living and provide a valuable service. But the taxi associations are run by thugs and criminals who victimise their own members as much as they do the general public.

  34. Ishtar
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I just read an article on News24 about Afriforum asking the public to use their cell phone cameras to photograph lawless acts by taxi drivers. They will collect everyone’s pictures and stories and present it to the Transport Minister at the end of the year as part of their report on the state of the taxi industry.
    According to the article, the latest report from the Road Traffic Management Association states that minibus taxis were proportionally involved in four times more fatal accidents than the general public. 21.02% of minibus taxis are either unlicenced or not roadworthy – as opposed to 8.26% for the general public.

  35. wax_ghost
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I live in Oklahoma. And I didn’t mean that the wind itself was a problem but the wind when it decides to bring down lots of tree limbs, both large and small. Hard to navigate a limb-littered street without getting a flat tire.
    Also, there are plenty of times when you literally cannot see more than a few feet in front of you because the rain is so hard (if you are from the West Coast you have probably not experienced this and don’t believe it – which I say because I used to be one of those people myself). That is really really dangerous not just for steering your bike but when you are on the road with cars that can’t see you just as you can’t see them. Goggles will not do anything because it isn’t the rain getting into your eyes that is a problem, it’s the rain falling in near-literal sheets.
    Plus, where are you going that you can show up completely soaked and not have people look at you like you’re nuts? Some of us have jobs where we have to dress and look a certain way, and don’t have luxuries like changing rooms or showers or even the time to ride our bikes to work and then put on new clothing and do all that needs to be done to look presentable. So no, it isn’t as simple as hopping on a bike.

  36. Penny
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    Here is a key issue that has not been addressed: if you use the private car and what it enables you to do in a day in the suburbs, other forms of transportation can’t compete. Why? Suburbs were set up post WWII in arrangements that make it work only if the private car is the mode of transportation. If, in a typical day, you need to commute to work, go food shopping, go to the dentist and the dry cleaner, not to mention attend to the needs of your kids, you must have a car in the suburbs because these various responsibilities I cited are generally spread out in such way that they can’t get all get done in a day without a car. So what does that mean? It means that we’re going to decide as social and economic policy for suburbanites that we want to abandon the private car in favor of local buses (if we can get local buses in our suburbs, and that’s a whole other story), and that means we are all committed to and comfortable with new social norms which are that we only do one or two of those things in a given day; say, commute to work, pick up our kids (with the bus), and go home. No soccer, no mall, no supermarket. The distances are too great and too time consuming doing it with a local public bus (again, assuming buses go to those places, and that’s a big assumption. I am just citing that for the sake of the argument).
    Personally, I am happy with that arrangement — doing only 2 things in a day, with the bus. I think that the private car has encouraged us, or at least allowed us, to do too much in one day. We’re always running. Instead of doing more, how about doing less? And with a bus, you’ll have to do less, much less. Good for our pocketbooks, and good for our mental and physical health.
    Another alternative is to support the opposite plan — that we want to be able to do as much with a local bus in the suburbs as we did with the car. That’s possible too, but it means closing the distances between home and business, schools, doctors, supermarkets, stores, etc. In essence, this plan would re-structure the typical suburb to be like Queens, NY, a borough of NY city which is family centered, full of kids, with parks, etc., similar to the suburbs. Yes, Queens does have local buses and subways, but except to commute to work, people don’t for the most part use the buses and subways. (How do I know? I lived there for much of my life). And a sizable portion fo the population do not have cars. So how to they manage? Here’s how: supermarkets, doctors, day care centers, shoe stores, etc., are interspersed within all the residential neighborhoods, so that you can walk to all services, including the public schools. And that is what people do. Some differences from the suburbs are apparent, but they’re insignificant. For example, you can’t buy several 10 packs of diet coke along with your additional bags of food, because folks in Queens, walk to the local supermarket with something called a “shopping cart” — a little hand-held wagon — and there is no room in it for 10-packs of soda, and bags of food. A shopping cart holds about 6 bags of food. So — you have to go shopping more frequently, which is more doable since, again, the supermarket is only a couple of blocks away.
    The typical American suburbs could be like this. Does it have to be all residential cul-de-sacs, 10 miles from the strip mall? If we had, and we could have, commercial enterpises, and services (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc), interwoven into residential communities in relative walking distance from each other (with sidewalks, of course), with the addition of local buses connecting these communities, we would have a suburban landscape no longer dependent on the private car. Will it happen? Probably not? But could it happen, and would we be far better in so many ways if it did happen? You bet!
    Penny

Feministing In Your Inbox

Sign up for our Newsletter to stay in touch with Feministing
and receive regular updates and exclusive content.

221 queries. 1.570 seconds