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For the love of city transit

Thanks MUNI !

In my unscientific experience, traveling on public transit in most cities is far faster than cars. I'm happy to see others thinking the same, transit twitter besties. (The original story at SF Chronicle is paywalled).

In San Francisco, most of downtown has dedicated bus and taxi lanes. And now with the new subway extension to Chinatown, you can skip most of the traffic congestion on the roads. If it was safer to ride around most cities, meaning bicycle transit is a first class mode, then we'd have an even better mode of transit for most. I've ridden bicycles around most cities I've visisted, both as a means to explore the city as a tourist, and to get to work when living there. Riding a bicycle is a great way to see a city and get a feel for the people and neighborhoods. 

In Dubai, the world of the car dominates. I'd expect nothing less given the general wealth and cheap petrol available. However, they have a great public transit system that is shockingly clean, efficient, and timely. The rail is quick and gets you close to many of the places you want to go. The buses are the same. The many times I took public transit in Dubai, it was pretty busy. 

In Kuala Lumpur, the public transit system is amazing. It goes everywhere, stops frequently, and avoids the 1) torrential downpours, 2) the swarms of scooters and cars everywhere. 

In Vancouver, Singapore, Stockholm and most European cities, the public transit system is fantastic. They are asy to navigate, even if you don't read the language, and well laid out to get you where you want to go. And I don't mean going somewhere as just a tourist. Having spend working weeks or months in each place, you really start to take the public transit for granted. It's like the power and water systems, you just expect it's there and working. Stockholm subway also has the added benefit of each station with a unique, artistic design. The beneift of the public transit starts on arrival in these cities as well. Direct, fast, easy subway rides from the airport into town. Why San Francisco, New York City, and nearly any midwest city can't have this setup is beyond me.

If the US had a functional cross-country rail system, I'd greatly prefer that over flying. In some fantasy world, we'd have a high speed rail network like Japan. It's amazing to take weekend trips from Tokyo to either Tohuku or Kansai by bullet train. One could do it in a day trip even.

I don't hate cars, in fact for most of the US there is no functional public transit. Taxis are too expensive. The only real option is to either move into downtown or have a car/truck. In the end, people generally take rational actions. Most people who live in downtowns or big cities, don't own cars. I only have anecdotal evidence for this statement, but logically it seems true. Tens to hundreds of thousands of people and no where near that many cars or parking spots for them all. Therefore, these people must not own cars.

A nice total transit trip could to travel from San Francisco or Los Angeles to the Sierras via train. Buses, or stagecoaches!, could take you from the train station to your hotel/camping/destination. I've tried to map out this exact trip many times, but it seems to take 25 to 40 hours and lots of disjointed transit lines. It's roughly a 4.5 hour drive.

Instead of spending all this money and effort on highways, electric cars, etc, we could build a vastly better public transit mesh crossing states, the country, and well, everywhere. American heresy, I know.