Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Will Car Drivers Fight Efforts to Make Transit Fashionable?

So, you're driving down the road and you spot a person traveling on foot, or perhaps a cyclist in business attire. Maybe someone waiting for the bus. What is your perception of that person? Do you feel sorry for them? Or are you irritated by their smug sense of superiority? Or both? Can you feel both of these things at the same time?

I'm reminded of a piece in Planetizen last December in which Brian Ladd describes how transit is appealing more to riders of choice, contradicting the belief, often reinforced by politicians, that public transit is for people who have no choice.
When a Los Angeles bus rider asked presidential candidate George W. Bush about transit improvements in 2000, Bush responded, "My hope is that you will be able to find good enough work so you'll be able to afford a car." Bush was undoubtedly sincere. Like many Americans—probably most—he saw a bus (like a bicycle) as a nothing more than a pathetic substitute for a car.
How we feel about people who use alternative forms of transportation affects policy and ultimately the resources we spend on them. Ladd worries that as alternative transportation becomes more fashionable, car drivers will adopt a bunker mentality and try to demonize policies that favor bikes, trains, and buses.

Just remember, for every person you see on foot, on a bike, or waiting for a bus, that represents one car that is NOT in your way.

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