When We Do (and Don't) Use Mass Transit

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carpools only (flickr user Richard Drdul)

What exactly would it take to get you to green your commute? The answer turns out to be: a lot. A new study out by the Brookings Institution shows that, while there's been a slight uptick in public transit ridership, over three quarters of Americans still get to work by driving themselves alone in their cars.

Brookings' Bruce Katz explains which regions have the worst commuter offenders and who's doing a little better at making their commute environmentally friendly. And Steve Dutch, Professor of Applied and Natural Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Green-Bay, gives us his theory as to why Americans won't surrender their keys for the bus, train or even an occasional carpool.



Steve Dutch and Bruce Katz

Comments [12]

Liam Hegarty from Old Greenwich, CT

I live in Old Greenwich, CT and work in Larchmont, NY. Both are suburbs of New York City and are on the New Haven line of the Metro North railroad system feeding into New York. Off peak hours, the trip takes about 25 minutes between the two towns and that is with stopping at every local stop. Considering my home and my work are each about a 20 minute walk from the respective train stations, it would be a healthy hour commute. Not bad.

However, during rush hour, there are no trains making local stops. This means I have to change trains three (3) times in order to get to work. This means twice as much time on the train and waiting on platforms. In fact, it would take approximately the same amount of time for me to go from Old Greenwich to Larchmont as it did when I worked in Brooklyn.

Also, Metro North may be more reliable than it used to be, but no one is going to trust it to make two connections on a consistent basis.

That is why I drive my car every day, spewing pollutants and killing the environment.

May. 11 2010 10:51 AM

I'd love to take the bus to work. Unfortunately I live about 30 miles from my job (it wasn't this far when I moved here, but I was moved from our office in Detroit--20 miles but who wants to live too close to Detroit??--to another town further from where I live). I know I should move, but I love where I live, and down near my office...well...there's not much. And I moved from my hometown to here to get away from "not much"!

I looked up how Google suggested I should take the bus, and it said my trip would be 3 hours (I assume it involves a massive layover somewhere). Sorry, but I gotta give the miss to getting up at 4 a.m. or earlier, so I can make the bus by 5 a.m. (walking almost a mile to the nearest stop), so I can get to a stop that's hopefully sorta near my work by 8 a.m. and then walk to work or hope I can get a coworker who drives past the bus stop to pick me up (but none of my coworkers are usually at work at the time I am).

Ideally I'd live close enough to work to walk or ride my bike when it's nice out. But not gonna happen unless I want to live in a small town where there's nothing. Only other option is to hope I might find someone to carpool with, and then hope they're reliable and have a good driving record...

May. 10 2010 07:24 PM
Leslie from Hallandale Beach, FL

I live in Hallandale Beach, FL and work in Ft. Lauderdale. When my son and I were sharing a car, I was commuting to work 3 days per week by bus on the US1 Breeze which runs on US 1 from Aventura Mall to Sample Road in Pompano Beach. I enjoyed my trips on the bus because I got to speak to some interesting people. In addition, it gave me the opportunity to read. I am not using it now, but will shortly as the price of gas keeps climbing. With the length my trip, using the bus 3 times per week will save me about $50.00 per month.

May. 10 2010 11:41 AM
Melanie Ashby from Miami, Fl.

I commute daily by bus and rail but would LOVE to commute by bicycle. Cyclists are in mortal danger ,as they attempt to share the streets of Miami and elsewhere in this country, with motor vehicles.

May. 10 2010 09:52 AM
chris hilsenbeck

I live in San Francisco and commute by bike 3-5 days a week. It's about 10 miles round trip and has kept me in shape and out of the car. It's hard when it's raining but I really like the fresh air and exercise overall.

May. 10 2010 09:00 AM
Axel Dougan

I like public transport. I like it a lot more outside the US.
We need to start early, no wonder kids don't like buses after having to ride in school buses. In Australia school buses look like up-market tour coaches.
In Munich commuter trains run at 20 minute intervals all day - not just at peak times.
The subways and subway stations in Hong Kong and Singapore are air conditioned, quiet and clean.
The trains pretty well anywhere are faster (on average) than the famed Acela.
To get people to ride the experience needs to be acceptable - not fantastic, just acceptable.

May. 10 2010 08:26 AM
Dave Duffield from Northville, MI

I commute every day to work on my bicycle 7.5 miles. Unfortunately, I'm not a "general" member of the public; I'm a bicycling advocate and a Director at Large in my state's advocacy organization and also have a non-motorized pathway almost all the way to work. This does not mean however that the average person with a commute of less than 10 miles cannot do it on a bicycle. I encourage anybody who meets this criteria to give it a try, you'll find, after not too long, that you're in better health, will save a bundle on gas, and generally enjoy your ride to and from work much more so than you did in your car!

May. 10 2010 07:30 AM
Janet Moyers from South Plainfield, NJ

In the suburbs of NJ mass transit is non-existent if you don't live near a rail line. For my son to get the 8 miles to work or the 10 miles to classes he must take 2 buses, often not making connections in time. In the case of school one of the routes doesn't run after 6pm making late afternoon classes impossible. The other route doesn't run at all on weekends, limiting his availability for work. In addition the round trip of 8 miles costs $7.00. I WOULD LOVE TO USE MASS TRANS and do whenever possible.

May. 09 2010 11:39 AM
Michael G from Hoboken, New Jersey

I commute by train and bus to work each day in New Jersey. It is great that I can, if I wanted to, go door to door using public tranportation. Even though NJ Transit (NJT) fare prices have gone up 25% this month, I'll continue to ride, even if the bus continues to be late!

May. 08 2010 12:21 AM
Karin Parsia

A mass transit system would help.

May. 07 2010 09:31 PM
Gene Russianoff from Brooklyn, New York

You can't or don't want to take transit if your bus line is eliminated - or if you're packed in like a sardine or have big waits in the heat or the cold.

In three weeks, millions of New York City riders will be slammed with these kinds of cuts in service because our transit system has a $750 million budget shortfall this year.

New York is not alone. 84% of public transit systems – in big cities and small towns alike – have cut service, raised fares or both. Without emergency funding from Congress, transit service in New York and in the U.S. will deteriorate.

So, for people who use transit across America, I urge you to call your United States Senators.

May. 07 2010 03:26 PM
Jessica Jozwik from Detroit, MI

I would love, love, LOVE to take a train to work. I live Detroit and work in Ann Arbor. It's about a 100 mile commute a day. I've put over 100,000 miles on my car in just 4 years... It's expensive :(

May. 07 2010 02:39 PM

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