Monday, March 23, 2009

On the Hiawatha Today

So if you follow my twitter account you'd have seen my tweet noting that I was on the Hiawatha Light Rail line in Minneapolis. What you didn't see is what I was thinking on my way to downtown Minneapolis. It was strange now that I think back on it. A colleague and I were on the train and just chatting away with our bags in our laps but I didn't feel like it was out of the ordinary. I felt perhaps like some do when they dream in a foreign language after learning it for a long time. I've learned to take transit and expect it to be there yet this isn't a serious option in many of our regions and cities and that makes me a bit sad.

It should always be so easy to just hop on the train. In the last few weeks I've been able to not drive a car since I left Chicago. I took the Orange line to the airport, flew to San Francisco, took BART home. Today I walked down to BART, flew to Minneapolis and rode light rail to downtown. It's second nature now I guess, looking for the easy accessible transit. During those rides I was able to chill and not worry about whether I was going to be late. I was able to check email or listen to a podcast. I didn't need to worry about parking my car. I just needed to be. Is that so hard to understand for folks so opposed?


Jeramey Jannene said...

I know what you're thinking. I jumped the Milwaukee County system, to Badger Bus to Madison, and a Madison Metro bus out to the edge of town there. All the while sending emails on my phone, working on my laptop on the long route, and reading a magazine. Not a hurdle at all to move around the big cities in the state without a car.

How many other people I know would feel comfortable doing that? Not enough, if any.

It's not hard (even in Milwaukee/Madison), just requires changing the way you think. The mind boggling thing is how much easier it is in Chicago compared to Milwaukee.

Thankfully systems like Google Transit are making it easier for people to make the jump.

Robert said...

You have to understand that transit in most cities in the US sucks. If I hadn't been to Chicago and Washington, there is no way that I would be a transit advocate because the other cities where I've lived have been very poor examples of transit.

In essence, I saw the light there. Some people never have.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, where even semi well designed, transit is very useful. Sadly, though in the SF Bay Area, two different blogs devoted to BART are full of complaints about the 'undesireables' on transit. Between the whinging about yawn and finger nail etiquette, and the presumption that the cars should be as sterile as a suburban model home these "choice" riders clearly yearn for their cocoonmobiles.

Bob Davis said...

Reminds me of the time a few years ago when I was riding the VTA light rail in San Jose and noticed a young man busily typing on a laptop computer. I asked if I could take a photo of him, and he said "OK". Another young man nearby said, "Yeah, he wants to get a picture of a genuine Silicon Valley Nerd." Kinda like going to Canada and taking a photo of an RCMP Mountie, or a hula dancer in Hawaii.
Here in Southern Calif. we've gone in less than 20 years from nothing but buses to five electric railway lines and an extensive diesel-hauled suburban service. When I want to go on an Amtrak trip, my wife can drive me the few miles to the Gold Line (East Pasadena to LA Union Station), and I can get downtown cheaper than driving, with no parking fees.
Regarding complaints about "undesirables" on BART--remember when BART was condemned by the "leftists" as elite transportation for affluent suburbanites?
I got to thinking the other day about the word "bus"; it's short for "omnibus" which in Latin means "for all". This is why some people don't like buses. They don't want something that's "for all", they want an automobile that's "for me (and nobody else!)"

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Anon I complained on my twitter about fingernail clipping. No I don't expect transit to be absolutely clean, but there is etiquette to transit riding and some norms that should be established.

Rhywun said...

I'm disgusted by some of the stuff I see on transit--I live in NYC so I see a lot of it... eating stinky corn chips next to me is one of my pet peeves--but it's just part of life in the city; you get used to it.

Anyway, I have never owned a car, so this is the way I live my life. A friend who gave up his car when we were living together in Buffalo once commented that I "couldn't understand" missing something if I hadn't experienced it (car ownership)--and he was right. My family thinks I'm weird.