I've been asked a lot and have been thinking a lot about what makes transit cool or not cool. A lot of it has to do with image but a lot of it I think is generational and can be changed over time. As I was walking home from BART today I noticed a the 48 Muni passing me up the hill. It was one of the new hybrid electrics like the one below.
Then I got to thinking, what are the statistics for that bus? What kind of grades can it operate on? How much power is produced by the motor? Then I immediately shot back to when I was a little kid trading Ken Griffey Jr. and Craig Biggio baseball cards. I knew everyone's stats and had them memorized. I also had micro machines and my friends and I liked collecting them. My favorite was the Star Wars A-Wing fighter. I can still tell you that it can go 120 MGLT, faster than any fighter ship in the Star Wars galaxy (At the time of my last guidebook, it might have changed).
But why can't we have transit vehicles portrayed in the same way with stats and figures? Why can't we take a wikipedia entry and make micromachines out of the Siemens Combino or the S70 vehicles (which do not have a wikipedia entry)? There could be old time streetcars as well with Birney Safety Cars in a set with PCCs. Add in some historic buses. The point is that you can give younger folks, and even folks my age a reason to get excited when they see transit. Kids would know all of the streetcar types and would get excited when they saw them in cities. It would also make the city seem more interesting to kids who might never have been exposed to it living in the burbs.
The only reason I know about rapid transit is because my dad and I used to ride BART to the auto show at the Moscone Center during Christmas holiday on our visits to my grandparents house. Pop culture feeds kids cars in the form of hotwheels, power wheels and micro machines, if we want to change views of transit, we have to look at how they get into our sub conscience so early. Perhaps trading cards, perhaps hasbro?