Excerpt: How Individualism Harms Public Transit

In an excerpt from his book, Human Tran­sit, Revised Edi­tion: How Clear­er Think­ing about Pub­lic Tran­sit Can Enrich Our Com­mu­ni­ties and Our Lives, pub­lished in Next City, Jar­rett Walk­er argues that Amer­i­can indi­vid­u­al­ism is harm­ing the nation’s pub­lic tran­sit .

Using a quote from Elon Musk as an exam­ple, Walk­er notes that “ ade­quate fund­ing and in the con­text of good city plan­ning, pub­lic tran­sit can do all of these for num­bers of peo­ple, though not for every­one and pos­si­bly not for Elon Musk.”

In fact, the way tran­sit forces you to in some way with strangers is one of its strengths. “At its most suc­cess­ful, a tran­sit sys­tem’s rid­er­ship is as diverse as the city or com­mu­ni­ty it serves. It’s full of all kinds of peo­ple mak­ing all kinds of trips, all a bunch of ran­dom strangers to each .”

When tran­sit agen­cies to cre­ate spe­cial­ized ser­vices for var­i­ous groups of peo­ple, the sys­tem as a whole can suf­fer from inef­fi­cien­cy.  Walk­er rec­om­mends that, instead of con­sid­er­ing user groups sep­a­rate­ly, “we must think of pat­terns that many dif­fer­ent peo­ple will find use­ful, so that all those peo­ple end up on the same vehi­cle, shar­ing the expen­sive time of a sin­gle dri­ver.” The of a tran­sit sys­tem’s rid­er­ship, for Walk­er, is indica­tive of its suc­cess.

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