I am finally returning to this strange passion of mine–the world of transit. In the coming weeks, I intend to post pictures and commentary from recent trips to Chile, New York, San Francisco, and Dallas, where I rode transit and made observations.
Before getting into the specifics of those transit systems and my trips on them, I would make a few general observations, both about those systems and about transit in general. My perception, backed by some data, suggests that we have something of a paradox in public transportation today. More people than ever want to use it, and more of it, in their daily lives and for special trips (i.e., high speed rail out of town), but funding lags. But to me, if a city like Dallas, one of the more sprawling and “transit-unfriendly” I have seen, can add three light rail lines and a commuter rail line to Fort Worth, that says something about the bright future of transit nationally, if not worldwide. Whether for financial, environmental, moral, logistical, or other reasons, people want alternatives to driving themselves where they want to go. What’s important is for people to accept the need for upfront investments in public transportation that lead to a tremendous amount of additional value in their cities and states, that put money back into their pockets, time back into their days (in the ideal scenario), and the like.
I’ll say more about all of this later. For now, here’s a quick update from South Florida, which I visit frequently. While at first it might not seem so significant that a bus is dropping stops and running express, the report claims that this change in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area is significant: “The service was launched last January as the first true regional cross-county bus service that allows riders to take a single bus deep into the heart of the adjacent county without having to switch to another bus after they cross the county line.”
And returning to the idea of money in people’s pockets, “”I am looking forward to experiencing a shortened ride to and from the downtown area,” said Marc Cohen of Pembroke Pines. “Even in a gas efficient vehicle, a round trip in and out of Miami will run about $6 in gas. If you want that express lane, add another $4. There is an obvious saving of time, money and gas here. Who can complain?”‘
Beyond taking away reason to complain, my hope is that South Floridians begin thinking more about a reason to switch. In all my visits to South Florida, it is obvious that much of the region does not lend itself nicely to transit. You have limited walkability and long stretches of major roadways with lots of traffic signals. So, to make transit competitive with driving, at least on the basis of how long it takes, is not easy. I applaud the South Floridian initiative, in this case, to recognize the need to connect the cities of the region and to put in place measures to enhance the riding experience–dedicated lanes, sensors to change traffic lights for buses, etc. I hope it helps ridership and changes the way South Floridians view transit.