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On the bus, nobody’s better than anybody else.

May 13, 2010


Public transportation: a downright egalitarian utopia!

We all have to sit in the same torn vinyl seats or cling to the same grimy hand rails. We all have to remember when to pull the cord for our stop. We all have to endure to the driver’s tendency for last-minute braking. Most importantly, we’re all getting where we need to go for the price of a cup of coffee.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to your corner office or the unemployment office.

Since Rosa Parks ignited the movement to end bus segregation, U.S. vehicles of public transportation have become places where we’re all on equal footing—albeit unstable footing aboard lurching vehicles.

From this view, public transportation seems to be the great equalizer.

I recently read an article in the Washington Post about New Delhi’s fancy new Metro system. In a nation where a caste system has long reigned, now anyone with some rupees can go anywhere they want in the city, in a clean, safe, and modern train system.

But what happens when you get off the bus?

I guess that depends on which stop is yours, or if your neighborhood even has one.

In many cities, with new and improved public transportation infrastructure come things like nice restaurants, high-end boutiques, fancy coffee shops—and a higher cost of living.

That means that when a Metro stop moves in, the poor people move out.

“Only the affluent can afford to live in places around [New Delhi’s] Metro lines now,” said Dunu Roy, the director of Hazard Center, a city planning advocacy group.

Such is also the case in our nation’s capital, where the Green Line now extends into neighborhoods that have been in shambles since the ’69 riots, and the people who once lived in those neighborhoods now reside in the Metro desert of upper Northwest. I’m guessing this phenomenon has happened and is happening in other communities around the world too.

Obviously, I’m a big supporter of public transportation, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its drawbacks.

Does public transportation make us more equal or less equal?

I don’t have an answer. Do you?



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