I ride the subway almost every day of the year. The people’s taxi is one of the most efficient means of transportation available and it is also “green.” There is something wonderful about not getting in a car and sitting in traffic each morning. I’ve been able to read several novels so far this year during my morning and evening commutes. However, I can’t be the only person in New York City who feels like she is paying more for decreased service and quality from my transportation experience.
When I tell my friends from other cities that a one-way ride on the MTA is $2.75, they often think I am telling tall tales. So why does the price of an MTA ride steadily increase while service, cleanliness and timeliness continue to decline? Last week, as I waited on the subway platform for a train, I noticed a rat waiting on the platform as well. Luckily, he did not get on the subway car when it arrived in the station.
One of the largest culprits that contributed to the financial drain on the MTA is the Second Avenue subway line. Using plans from the early 1970s, the planning, digging and disruption of neighborhoods has yet to yield an end result. Supposedly the first phase will be completed by 2016. So 45 years for phase one—I don’t like those odds. I guess my great-grandchildren will enjoy the final phases. We aren’t building the pyramids, we are just building a subway line with plans that are a half a century old.
Whenever traveling to other cities within the U.S. or abroad, I always take public transportation. I think it is a necessary way to see how cities have prioritized particular areas and neighbors and how those priorities are laid out when it comes to tourist attractions, business districts and the actual extension of the public transportation system itself.
The most efficient public transportation system I have ever encountered was in Bogota, Colombia. The Transmilenio is a rapid-bus system. It operates much like a subway system, except cities do not need to spend decades digging underground. Passengers pay before getting on the bus, which is similar to many of the Select bus systems throughout New York City right now. However, the most important distinction between the Transmilenio system in Bogota and the current Select system is that in Bogota the lanes on the roads are actually blocked off so that idle cars, bikes, motorcycles and taxis cannot use the lane when convenient. Essentially, they have created a rapid transportation system in the form of a bus, which costs the city (read, taxpayers) a fraction of the price.
Our transportation structure must be rehabilitated in some areas and completely built in others. It is beyond time we look to other cities and the creative ways they have solved their transportation problems. Until then, beware of the closing doors.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.