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Mass Transportation Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Saturday, 18 November 2006
I seem to hold two contradictory beliefs. On the one hand, I really dislike driving. It's not that I don't like other people driving, it's that I don't like to drive. It is a tedious task most of the time. Yes, occasionally I feel the thrill of the road, but not often. Usually driving is something I have to do to get from one place to the other. And to make matters worse, I can't do anything else while I'm driving. I can't read or write or watch a movie or work on a laptop. Nothing. The seemingly contradictory opinion that I hold is that current mass and public transportation systems stink.
You might be tempted to think that someone like me who doesn't like driving might be thrilled to death with the idea of buses, subways or even lightrail systems. You couldn't be further from the truth. I think that those systems are almost always a big waste of money. They usually don't solve the traffic problems on a large scale and certainly don't meet the transportation needs on an individual scale.
Personally I would love to see a public transportation system that I could use. I would be the number one rider. But, you see, it has to be as good as a car. This is where the current systems fail. They don't provide the same level of service that a car does. Sure, you don't have to drive it yourself, but you give up a lot. A successful transportation system would need to do the following:
  • allow a rider to depart anytime they want (just like a car)
  • allow a rider to leave from anywhere and go to anywhere
  • allow a rider to get to their destination in a reasonable time (compared to a car)
  • allow a rider to carry a reasonable amount of baggage
  • cost about the same (or less) as a car trip
  • allow a rider the same level of anonymity that a car provides
  • allow a rider to choose who he or she rides with
I know that sounds like a big list of things to accomplish but the fact is that there are public transportation systems that can do most of those. The sad part is that for political reason these systems never see the light of day.
Imagine a transportation system with stations every 1/4 mile (approximately two blocks). You walk up to the station and get in a waiting car. The car holds 3-6 people but you can ride it alone if you want. You tell the car where you want to go and it takes you there directly. No waiting in traffic. The interior of the car is large enough that you could bring something as large as a bicycle or wheelchair in the car with you. These cars are available 24 hours a day and can go to any other station. They travel up to 60 MPH without making any stops along the way. You can pay with cash if you want.
Systems like this exist but they lack the funding needed to be built. It is sad to me to see a city spend billions of dollars on a lightrail system that services a very small fraction of the region when they could spend a fraction of that (maybe even 25%) and build an alternative system that would service most of the metropolitan area.
Someday it will happen, I hope.
 

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