I found this quote interesting from an article about Texas’s appeal as a destination for retirees:
“The downside is that it’s not easy for seniors to get from place to place if they don’t drive: Big Texas cities have poor public transportation…”It’s really hard to get around,” he said, “and we have relatively little social services.”
The quote is from the Texas state demographer–no doubt a wise man but perhaps not a close student of transit. Understand–I’m not arguing that Texas transit (Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso) is stellar, but the fact that we have light rail in Houston and Dallas, commuter rail planned for Austin, and several of the cities’ systems on Google Maps (and, by extension, iPhones and Blackberries, etc.) is significant to me, the transit rider. Part of the challenge may be to better link senior groups/retiree communities with transit agencies to address their needs (beyond the special, door-to-door service–I’m talking fixed route).
The other piece is that as the article extols Texas’s virtues, it seems to focus heavily on the low cost of living, nonexistent income tax, and other economic factors. It’s no accident that some of the most robust and extensive transit systems are in more expensive-to-live-in coastal cities, and I think we must still search for an equilibrium point between having low, low costs of living and taxes and having enough funding for transit and road needs (to say nothing of sidewalks and bikes). I think it’s incumbent upon transit advocates to reframe the conversation both in terms of making Texas easy to manuever and transit-friendly as a “calling card” in attracting residents and visitors but also in terms of helping the seniors/less fortunate/young/one-car families etc. Melodramatic though it may sound, I think transportation–being able to get from A to B–is something of a human right, and I think we should work to ensure people can do that regardless of mode.