I have a love/hate relationship with public transit. I think of it as a dysfunctional marriage. As a whole, I’m unhappy with most aspects of it, but on a day-to-day basis, the alternative seems considerably less desirable.
Plus, in the digital age, figuring out how to get from point A to a new far-away point B is a lot easier than I imagine it must’ve been in the ancient times of the 20th century.
In all seriousness though, I truly believe in the power of public transit. It’s just that very few cities (e.g. NYC) have pulled it off effectively, and it seems that they are usually severely underfunded. If you were looking for the silver lining of $4 per gallon gas, it’s that maybe public transit will get a little more attention.
One or two years ago, the Philadelphia public transit authority SEPTA has changed the codifying (I like this word, so I’ll use it) of its regional rail lines from colors and numbers to the names of the destination stops. So, the line that went from Thorndale to Doylestown used to be called R5 (and was colored blue), but now is two lines called Thorndale and Doylestown respectively, both colored black like the vapid nihilistic nature of the reasoning behind the change. Why? According to SEPTA, tourists would get confused about the fact that R5 (and the other lines) went two ways. Apparently most tourists that come to Philadelphia expect their trains to run one way, much like the Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train:
I wrote this quick post to put my two (cynical) cents out there. I believe that saying and remembering colors and numbers is much easier than terminal stop names at least for people like me that don’t ride the regional rail more than once a month.
I have seen the world from all 5 perspectives in the title, and perhaps not surprisingly, every time it’s everyone else except me who is a damn irresponsible insensitive a**hole from that perspective. And that seems to be the common trend. Bicyclists complain about cars, bus drivers complain about pedestrians, and everyone complains about cabs.
So I wanted to gather up some random facts, stats, and whatever else I have in my notes on the subject.
50% of bicyclists wear a helmet for at least some trips. 91% of bicyclists killed last year weren’t wearing a helmet. So don’t be like me and wear a damn helmet (and also criticize me for not wearing one).
Most bicyclist deaths occur on a major road between intersections
Cyclists have the same rights as cars, but are supposed to ride as close to the ride curb as possible.
Riding a bike drunk is the same as driving a car drunk in most states (meaning it’ll get you a DUI). The same goes for riding a lawn mower while intoxicated, in case you were wondering.
Google Transit revolutionized (for me) the public transit system… kind of. It appears that most of it still basic artificial intelligence algorithms operating on data provided by individual cities and states (and not user-added data a la Wikipedia). The problem is that a lot of data is missing, and also the algorithms often find routes that could be significantly simplified, shortened, and made cheaper by human beings that actually ride these routes on a daily basis. These are the “experts” and Google is not using their nearly infinite knowledge base in this transit planning problem.
For example, I traveled to North Bergen, NJ recently. There are a lot of ways to get there. I ended up going with a trip that cost me $15 as opposed to the $60+ that would result if I followed Google Transit suggestions. It was also faster and involved less transfers than what Google Transit suggested.
Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see public transit authorities moving more and more to the web, and not just the web of 1990’s but Web 2.0 (as much as I dislike that term).
Specifically, as a Philadelphia resident, it’s nice to see Septa and NJ Transit bring a few features to mobile devices. Specifically, each stop now has a unique id (see Septa and NJ Transit). You can then text this id to the respective website, and get information about the next bus or train arriving at that stop. In some cases you can even track the location of trains and buses.