For many people who elect not to use transit, it seems like one of the prevailing rationales for not doing so is the value of personal space, something that automobiles undoubtedly offer that transit cannot. Within the confines of one’s own car, eating, listening to music without the use of earphones, smoking, talking to oneself, singing, etc. are all permissible. Transit users may begrudge the inability to carry out these same privileges, but we still like to respond in kind.
The advantage for transit riders, of course, is that someone else is steering behind the wheel, which removes a heavy burden of responsibility off each passenger’s shoulders. For one, texting and reading while driving is absolutely disallowed by law. Neither can a driver apply makeup or play solitaire without the risk of crashing, or a tremendous fine at the very least. Aboard a bus or train, however, you are liberty to pursue such comforts.
Both driving and taking transit have their respective benefits, and ultimately I think it’s rather pointless to quibble about the two, especially when it comes to matters dictated by policy. The privilege to text, smoke, read, or sing aloud are all self-centered benefits that are more about the individualized commuting experience. There are, however, much greater considerations that should be the focal point of public policy, like regional mobility, modal choice, etc.
If everyone elects to enjoy the aforementioned individualized benefits of driving, it impacts mobility and health in the entire region by clogging up roads and polluting the air. This is no different than the argument that Roger made on Wednesday— pursuit of individual interests can absolutely detriment the interests of the community, largely because we’re dealing with the dimension of space in matters of transportation and land use.
I think when it comes to public policy, whether it’s a transit expansion package at the ballot or a service restructure, the most important consideration is how that policy will impact everyone. When we start talking about the things that drivers and riders get to do and experience, it devolves the discussion into a meaningless debate about individual privileges, when community and regional well-being should the biggest concern.