The Purpose of Public Transportation

Jim Ley-2016

public-transportation-tram-bus-seats-landscapeWe live in the most transportation rich country in the world.  The majority of our population lies within an hour of a major airport.  The average family owns in excess of two automobiles.  It can be argued that our transportation system focuses on serving individual needs first, and our collective needs second.  For most of us we have the personal freedom to travel on a whim.  We can walk out our front door at a time of our choosing, get into any one of several vehicles in our family, and back onto a street system that connects to anywhere we would desire to go in our community – or the country for that matter.  The system is supported in turn by a relatively inexpensive source of fuel.  The system has been developed to support our collective individual transportation freedom needs. The system is pervasive, it is dense and it serves the majority of us so effortlessly, that it is taken for granted as something that always has been and should be.  From an infrastructure perspective, the U.S transportation system is at once the ultimate reflection of, and the ultimate facilitator of our individual demand for personal freedom.  Personal freedom to travel, to choose where we work, to choose where we live and where we seek our education. But not everyone in the U.S. either has or demands this freedom.  More and more we see evidence that younger and some older generations are seeking to live in a different style, trading off transportation convenience for convenience in other aspects of life.  Thus the evolution of “livable”, “work/live” and “walkable” neighborhoods and communities, and the resurrection of many late 19th and early 20th century downtowns.  The development market is just beginning to understand and address this market desire.  Public transportation agencies are at the same time exploring their role as infrastructure providers to support this rising reflection of changed personal freedom objectives. While transportation objectives are evolving, there are many of us that do not have transportation freedom.   The freedom to improve one’s own economic circumstance is fundamental benefit of public transportation.  In fact, a recent Harvard study suggests that the relationship between transportation and economic advancement is stronger than between other factors like public safety, school test scores or family composition. The purpose of public transportation is to give those who choose, or those who absolutely need to use public transportation, the freedom to move and live in communities in a way that improves their lives. That is, the freedom to access  employment, education, retail, health and recreation facilities, as well as other community facilities that define life. The freedom to improve and enhance their lives.

 


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