Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get on the Bus!

I really can't remember that last time I rode the bus, but this was a great story by MPR the other day about bus ridership in the Twin Cities region. While the good news is that ridership is up, this story really demonstrates that how our 50 years of sprawl are making it difficult for some to use public transit.

From the MPR article:

Americans collectively make billions of trips a year -- to work, shopping, to the corner store. But the number of trips made via mass transit is still a very small piece of the pie -- just 2 percent, according to some national research. On a given workday in the Twin Cities, fewer than 10 percent of commuter trips are by transit, according to the Metropolitan Council. But the selective use of trip statistics irks Twin Cities Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons. Gibbons says a more meaningful measure is to look at how many people ride buses at critical times -- at rush hour, for example.

Metro Transit says its surveys show lots of people want to ride the bus. But there aren't any bus routes close to them, or bus trips take too long, or buses don't run often enough. The excuses, of course, are often true. Laura Graves describes as "fantastic" the bus service from Edina to downtown Minneapolis, when she worked there. Now she lives in Minnetonka with a job way across town in Woodbury, a commute that is a transit desert. "I investigated the bus option and there's nothing, there is absolutely nothing. There wasn't a way to make it work," said Graves. So, every workday she endures a 45-60 minute commute each way.

The answer is clear that people need to move closer to work, but we still need to build a strong transportation network that will provide real options for those people living in first and second ring suburbs to get to work in other first and second ring suburbs. The reality is that many of our job centers are no longer in the city center.

1 comment:

Mike Hicks said...

I was pretty disgusted by Gibbons' comment saying that we should focus on the amount of ridership during rush hours. Metro Transit is way too focused on commuter routes into the downtowns, in my opinion. Why are there so few outbound trips in the mornings and so few inbound trips in the evenings? The woman who lives in Minnetonka and works in Woodbury might be able to make that trip if the inbound/outbound express buses were more balanced.

One reason why the Hiawatha Line has been so successful is because it carries low-income riders out of the city to the Mall of America where many of them work, and you can actually do a little suburb-to-suburb travel from there (not much, but a little).

If you can only use transit in one aspect of your life (commuting), but can't use it for other things, the value of it in your life is dramatically reduced. It also meas that you're not sharing the experience of riding the bus or light rail with your children, giving the idea greater distance with every generation.