We've been thinking about transportation a lot lately, and not just because today is our favorite holiday, National Defense Transportation Day (your card's in the mail). It's the focal point of our Drive Together initiative, it's been a huge topic at the Minnesota legislature, and it's fueling our just-about-to-drop (do I sound like Bey?) podcast Here to There.
Here to There is a 10-episode miniseries that will explore the human dimension of commuting in and around the Twin Cities through the lens of bigger questions for our transit options and systems such as how do we make it more affordable, accessible, and healthier? We'll keep you posted on when and how to listen, but before then, join the ride by adding your own commute story on the podcast's website. There, you can also meet our speakers, supporters, and sponsors.
For now, let's dig into big ideas on commuting, transit, and what's driving (get it?) change.
1. Foresight - Vox has a great explainer on some of the biggest pitfalls in American transit systems' success. To summarize, we haven't planned well. Suburban sprawl occurred largely without thought to incorporating public transit, Americans were brought up believing a car was a sign of success (and relying on public transit conveyed the opposite), and our political system is stacked against it. This is a great primer in some of the things we see playing out across the country.
2. Accessibility - A lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority alleges that New York City's transit system is one of the least accessible among the 10 largest transit systems in the country. Specifically, many stops do not offer elevators for those with mobility constraints. This is largely due to the size and age of the NYC system (Boston's in a similar boat), especially compared to newer systems such as that in San Francisco which is completely accessible, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be holistically addressed through a comprehensive plan for modernization and inclusion.
3. Urban Identity - Ever wondered what it's like to ride on the most diverse subway train in the country? Now operating for 100 years, the 7 Train's unique microcosm is captured in a new book looking at the ways public transit cuts across intentional and unintentional segregation. For anyone who's ever taken public transit, this sounds like a must-read.
4. Inclusivity - With commuters diversifying their methods of transportation, there's an essential question of which comes first, supply or demand? The Seattle Times takes on this question as it pertains to building, connecting, and increasing bike lanes. If you were going to ask some people who really like anticipatory governance (cough), we'd tell you to put the desired outcomes first and work back from there. In this case, if you're desired outcome is making it easier for bikers and wannabe bikers to use their bicycles as a healthier, more environmentally friendly way to get to work in a system that makes it safe and accessible, I'm going to suggest going ahead with those new bike lanes.
5. Enjoyability - Who says you can't enjoy the ride? With the average American commuting 25 minutes each way every day, there's good reason to find ways to enjoy your commute more. Some of us (myself included) tend to use this time to catch up on podcasts. Some of us are choosing to make that time into workout time. And some of us might use it to pursue a passion. After all, what better time to plan your future (potentially a future that's commute-free) than while you're getting from here to there?