Why Our Public Transit Is Such a Nightmare

Aaron Gordon weighs in at Vice
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2020 1:45 PM CDT
Why Our Public Transit Sucks
In this May 24, 2016, file photo, "L" train commuters work their way across a crowded subway platform in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

"American cities are facing a transportation crisis." That's how Aaron Gordon kicks off a lengthy Vice article about America's half-hearted commitment to public transit. Gordon argues that the US lags far behind Europe's tram and metro lines, and China's high-speed rail lines, which makes life harder for Americans. "There's terrible traffic," he writes. "Public transit doesn't work or go where people need it to. The cities are growing, but newcomers are faced with the prospects of paying high rents for reasonable commutes or lower rents for dreary, frustrating daily treks." He sees many causes for the problem—like sprawling cities, rising costs, distrust of government, and too much highway-building—but at heart, he says, it's a political issue.

"If there's one point on which all the experts I spoke to agree the most, it is that transportation is politics." Even a vague transit plan, he says, can trigger long debates between competing factions (like developers focused on certain areas, or neighborhoods with racist concerns about who's traveling through). Add in government budget cuts dating back to the 1980s, and it's an even bigger boondoggle. Gordon's fix: Fund local transit agencies to create "long-term expertise," so they aren't hiring pricey contractors and "reinventing the wheel" with each project. He also wants transit "within the responsibility of one elected official who is clearly accountable." That may not solve every problem, he admits, but it's a start. Click for his full piece. (Or see how Uber affected traffic congestion.)

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