Monica Millsap Rasmussen: Why not Transit?

At first glance, the question “What’s stopping others from using transit more regularly” seems to be an easy answer. Convenience. After all, a popular saying in the US used to be, “this is the best thing since sliced bread.” But is the answer more complicated than that?

Listening more deeply, and if one had the ability to converse with people who have made these statements, would we find that another theme is actually freedom to choose? After all, many people who cannot afford a car or are in a situation where they cannot obtain a driver’s license also face many of these obstacles, but due to their circumstances must face them on transit. Making mass transit more convenient would certainly improve the quality of life for users who need to take transit, but would the others take transit or still choose to drive? And would those who are currently without a car still choose to buy a car once they could afford one or obtain a license?

Monica gets at another issue of regarding mass transit -- the need for high quality options that push out current users. In many cities mass transit is designed for those who can't afford a car. For mass transit to be more popular to the middle class and thus most politicians, it will require rail and bus use to be dominated by the non-poor. We now subsidize roads for the middle class, likely at a higher cost ($/mile) than rail, bus, or streetcar. Why? Because the preference for suburban (i.e., low-density village of our distant past) life-styles?