Monthly Archives: April 2009

Doomsday is coming for many transit agencies

While I have mentioned a few times that New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is facing a May 31 doomsday of budget cuts and fare and service hikes, there are other transit agencies facing the same types of issues. Whether the issues are caused by lack of funding from the local and state levels, poor management of the agency or unforeseen budget problems, transit cuts are going to happen, whether we want them or not.

Sacramento Regional Transit 220 CAF 2004
Creative Commons License photo credit: jacksnell

The current economic crisis has made it difficult to guarantee funding for transit agencies. However, if the United States is ready to invest heavily in its future, let’s guarantee funding for transit agencies capital projects AND operations! With transit ridership at record levels, let’s continue that trend.

It goes without saying that transit is a more sustainable option for transportation than continuing to build roads, parking spaces, interchanges, etc. for personal vehicles. Other countries have fantastic public transportation systems – and so should we! Spain has a high speed train network that is rivaling France’s and Japan’s, most European countries ensure their citizens live within hundreds of meters of transit stops, and yet America only has public transportation in limited locales throughout our expansive countryside. Some cities have transit that is so unattractive, it has a hard time attracting riders other than the poorest of the poor.

I told a classmate a few days ago that transit can be a great class equalizer AND serve as a way to invigorate the economy. Jobs can be created in developing, building and operating transit and planning and building new transit oriented developments. The time is now – is America ready for a new future beyond doomsday?

National Train Day

I will be in Washington DC for National Train Day on May 9. It would be cool to meet any of my readers at the events! Leave a comment, and let’s plan to meet! Ironically, I’m taking BoltBus to National Train Day, because it was only $2.50 round trip from New York City!

2009-04-20-IMG_1488
Creative Commons License photo credit: martin_kalfatovic

Shucks, I cheated!

Yes, I promised myself in January, “no more taxis”! But today was a horrible, rainy day, and I was feeling all sorts of bummed out starting when I first woke up until after midnight.

Rainy Day
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mink

Just one of those days, you know? So, I took a taxi to my meeting in Manhattan from Penn Station – for a total of about $25.

$25 might not seem like a lot of money to most people, but that’s half of a week’s worth of groceries for me – or a little over a third of the cost of a monthly unlimited MetroCard!

The taxi ride was pleasant – I got to talk to my mom and sister via three-way while I zoomed up the West Side Highway, but I have to admit, I really regret taking a taxi today. The subway was RIGHT THERE, yet I chose the option of taking a taxi!

I fell off of the wagon, but I’m getting back on. I need to think a little more about what’s best for me – a little bit of exercise and rain drops on my head to use a $2 subway ride, or a door-to-door trip that costs more than 10 times as much and leaves me feeling like I’m a bad car-free kid!

Living Car Free is not as hard as it seems

I have been living car free for most of my life, with an exception of about 3 years when I had a car. Living Car Free really isn’t that difficult, even if you live in a place with a hodgepodge of transit options.

All you really need in order to be successful at being car free is to have the desire to make living car free work for you – whether it is going to work on weekdays, or just for fun on the weekends.

First, you need to make the commitment to being car free. Promise yourself to give it a fair shot, and move on to the next steps.

Second, gather up the supplies you need to make livng car free a relaity. This includes transit maps and timetables, Google Transit and a friend who can help you navigate the system.

Now, here comes the easy part – check out the maps and timetables and fashion a few trial runs of getting to-from work or your destination. I don’t know about you, but it is so much easier to get a bus to/from the mall than to deal with the traffic and parking issues!

Okay, so we have our schedule set, so let’s do it! Get up and out, and try your trip. You might miss a connection here and there if you aren’t familiar with transferring from one mode of transit to another, or one bus to another, so give yourself plenty of time to transfer. Make notes about where the best places to sit and exit are, and continue to improve your experience. Notice where other peopele sit and exit, which exists have escalators (if you don’t like stairs) or how long the average wait is for an elevator, how long it takes to get up the stairs, etc.

If you continuously tweak your commute or transit trips for a few weeks, you will hit that “sweet spot” and be in a position to live car free without a lot of hassle AND have some more free time to read, listen to music and simply enjoy life!

Get up for people on the train… or get your photo taken!

A few weeks back, I discussed some tips to help you not be a jerk on public transit – however, I failed to mention that you shouldn’t take pictures of other riders.

Yes, that’s right – don’t take pictures of other riders! Why? Because the NYTimes will do a story on you, and the commenters will tear you apart like tissue paper!

priority seating
Frances Roberts for The New York Times

Long story short, there’s a guy on crutches in NYC (Mr. Muro) going around taking pictures of people sitting in the “disabled” seats on the subways. 99.94% of the time, the subjects have no idea that they are the focus of his irrational anger toward people without crutches sitting on the subway seats “reserved” for the handicapped. While Mr. Muro says that this experiment (blog) is mainly a source of entertainment for himself and his friends, I must wonder if this guy really knows the danger he is putting himself in by snapping photos of perfect strangers on the train – OR if he realizes that simply ASKING someone for a seat won’t hurt, no matter what the research says.

I was on crutches myself about 10 years ago, and it was a pain to sit down and then have to get up. The pain was horrible and even today, my leg aches on rainy days and it is simply easier to just stand on the subway than try to sit down and struggle to get back up. Back then, it was easier for me, even living in a place where cars ruled and transit was not even an option, to simply limp/crutch myself to where I had to go around campus, rather than getting a ride to/from class.

And on the danger point, Mr. Muro is forgetting one very important point – New Yorkers are not the friendliest bunch, nor are they the most helpful bunch. Take a photo of the wrong person on the wrong day, and Mr. Muro might be needing a full traction instead of just a pair of crutches.

Mr. Muro has been careful thus far to take photos of people whose eyes are closed, but he’s still taking a huge chance with his physical safety or at least his peace of mind. I often close my eyes on the train to block out the action of people shuffling around, looking around, reading, making faces, etc. – but that doesn’t mean I’m sleep! And it surely doesn’t mean that I can’t “feel” someone looking at me!

I can’t stress it enough – it is easy just to ask someone for a seat if you need one – for every person unwilling to give up their seat, there’s one who is willing to help a “handicapped” person out! Just ASK!