Tag Archives: public transit

(310) Love your local bus!

Pentagon bus_tifIn his weekly column on TruthDig Chris Hedges shares findings regarding the privatization of public transit in the United States and also in Canada where it is approaching like a bus with a cracked frame, no brakes, and a driver who has fallen asleep because he has to do a hundred hours a week behind the wheel to get by.

The column was read with interest at this blog where public transit fills the view finder as a primary feature of suburban poverty.  A feature that is hardly addressed by corporate power and abuse.  And how else to describe the accidents, declining service, rising fares, poor wages, long hours and huge profits that are part of a picture of privatized, globally-owned, anti-union bus and transit systems?

Sweatshops on wheels

image: Pentagon-bound GMC bus in Washington, DC in the 1970s by YR Okamoto via Wikimedia Commons/NARA

(209) Transit again [Brookings report]

The Brookings Institution is never far from these pages, …or our hearts, truth be told.  This past summer they came up with another big paper directly related to social difficulty in the suburbs, this one about public transit and the economic health of America’s cities.  We see suburbs as, yet again, difficult places for transit and therefore maintaining one’s employment, and generally encouraging job growth and invesment there, is correspondingly tough.  The findings of the report are very mixed, in some places as little as six percent of typical jobs are accessible to public transit users. A major investment in public transit could only help the American economy and the people struggling along at the bottom of it we would think.  Wouldn’t it help out all manner of business activity, too?

Where the jobs are: employer access to labor by transit 

photo: Wikimedia Commons

(204) Guelph, ON

Guelph is a city of about 120,000 people located an hour’s drive west of the Greater Toronto Area on the Speed River.  It’s generally a well thought of example of a small city with a good sense of itself.  Statistically, Guelph holds a position many North American communities would deeply envy.  Crime is low, incomes are reasonable, the environment is in pretty good shape.  A university town, Guelph is situated near good agricultural land.  Other employment is found there in retail, government offices, and services along with a certain amount of manufacturing, something that helped build Guelph from the nineteenth century on.  Nonetheless, there are some issues.  How could there not be.  Among them are ones familiar on this blog: growth in inequality, over-emphasis on far-flung and unremarkable suburban development, concerns for the older downtown’s physical and economic well being, declining vacancy rates and public transit and traffic issues.  A source of research and perspective is the Guelph & Wellington Task force for Poverty Elimination.  We enjoyed their 2010 report on public transit and poverty in Guelph.  One of the most consistant findings around here has been in regard to the importance of public transit as a deliberate response to community poverty.  In September the task force released findings on housing issues, another big one for suburban-poverty.com.

The Impact of Public Transit Fees on Low Income Families In Guelph
gwpoverty.ca – also other resources

Guelph Community Foundation Vital Signs Report

image: Wikimedia Commons

(158) Strap Hanger [Book review]

Taras Grescoe, a Montreal-based writer, is a sensible, optimistic lover of urban life.  He couldn’t have been otherwise to undertake a project of visiting fourteen cities in North America, Asia, Europe and South America to check out their public transit systems.  Grescoe reports on the history, present state and potential of each place with journalistic guts for the detail in the choices facing these cities.
Sprawl and cars prove inescapable and hateful in Grescoe’s worldview soon enough.  Some places, like Beijing, are early on the curve that rises to saturation levels of automobile ownership.  Other cities, like Copenhagen, are down the other side of that curve and evolving, not always easily, into something else.  Still other places, Toronto for example, are somewhere in-between, on the crest of change.  It was important for us to see suburban poverty fully acknowledged as part of a package of miseries waiting for communities unable to adapt.  Grescoe doesn’t hide his advocacy of public transit, why should he?  What indeed, will happen to cities that do not consciously make themselves over to be more walkable, transit-centric, bikeable and just generally interesting places to be?  They will become crowded, unhealthy, unmanageable places that discourage business and culture alike.
But Grescoe’s is not just a mindless reiteration of THE TRUTH ABOUT CITIES as laid down by Jane Jacobs decades ago in her own battles against the American interstate highway system.  He acknowledges the difficulty, cost and entrenched resistance transit systems face in the planning stages alone.  Strap Hanger points out the global importance of getting this right in an urbanizing world with a growing population, a changing climate, a world increasingly dominated by weird and inequitable economics.  Grescoe balances the kind of personal story your well-travelled best friend comes up with over coffee and the big picture of trade offs and economics cities are challenged by.  Strongly recommended to students, voters, taxpayers, motorists, politicians, economists, and, of course, those in public transit vehicles everywhere, holding onto straps.


STRAPHANGER: Vancouverism and smart transit planning
excerpts in Spacing Montreal

Cities visited in Strap Hanger are: Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Tokyo, Bogota, Portland, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal.  A dozen pages for source information and further reading are included.

(29) On top of it all: job sprawl

Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never!  Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit.  It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville.  Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you.  We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com.  Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence.  God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty

Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users.  The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders.  God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor

editor’s note
: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale.  We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door.  We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.