Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

krazeeboi

Attitudes towards mass transit in the South

25 posts in this topic

As our cities and metropolitan areas continue to experience significant growth (and, in turn, congestion), more transportation options are being taken seriously. Several Southern cities either have some form of advanced mass transit (e.g., light rail, commuter rail) under construction or are seriously considering it for the near future. Also, just about all metros of significant size in the South at least have a bus system; however, many are fraught with issues from low ridership figures to lack of financial investment to lack of regional cooperation. So what do you think is the general attitude towards mass transit in the South, especially compared to our Northern/Midwestern/Western counterparts? Are we more apathetic, or perhaps even hostile, towards mass transit? Why are the prevailing attitudes about mass transit in place as they are? And what can we do to change the negative attitudes/perceptions many have towards mass transit?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I think that people, regardless of where they live, will want to drive places if they can, and if mass transit is faster/cheaper/less of a hassle/etc. than driving, then they will prefer mass transit (not only taking it, but also voting to fund it). The South has just had less density, traffic, etc. than places like the Northeast, leading to driving in the South being consistently easy and hassle-free compared to mass transit. As congestion and gas prices increase, making driving a hassle, the South's support of mass transit will grow.

People in the Northeast don't want to wait in sub-freezing weather for an overcrowded train any more than people in the South would, but if it's easier than driving, both will do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Also, just about all metros of significant size in the South at least have a bus system

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My question for you as OP is, do you yourself prefer and use mass transit whenever available over private transportation? (I walk to work, so I can largely duck the question. :) )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As our cities and metropolitan areas continue to experience significant growth (and, in turn, congestion), more transportation options are being taken seriously. Several Southern cities either have some form of advanced mass transit (e.g., light rail, commuter rail) under construction or are seriously considering it for the near future. Also, just about all metros of significant size in the South at least have a bus system; however, many are fraught with issues from low ridership figures to lack of financial investment to lack of regional cooperation. So what do you think is the general attitude towards mass transit in the South, especially compared to our Northern/Midwestern/Western counterparts? Are we more apathetic, or perhaps even hostile, towards mass transit? Why are the prevailing attitudes about mass transit in place as they are? And what can we do to change the negative attitudes/perceptions many have towards mass transit?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With most Southern cities being much smaller until as of late, mass transit has not been a major concern in many of the municipalities here. Most cities have had streetcar service which was replaced with Bus transit that has fairly much been limited to lower income populations.

I am an advocate of mass transit and would utilize it if the schedules were effective and the terminus points were relatively close to my origin/destination.

However, until the densities of Southern Cities increase, I doubt we'll see very effective mass transit systems here such as there are in Europe, NY, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think its ironic that people view cars as "less of a hassle." I consider it a major inconvenience to have to drive somewhere, park, walk 1/4 mile to the store, then walk 5 miles in the store to get the three thigns I need -which are in 3 corners of the store- and then go back to my car... only to drive to the next store and do the same thing all over again. I think that life in the South without a car is very difficult, though there are people who do it. The big determination of success is how many people use it by choise. That is a better indication of the success of transit.

I think that the saving grace for south is the flex-car concept. Larger city have them. If you're not familiar- basicly it allows you to live in an urban environment with that non-car lifestyle, but still have access to a car when you need it. Its basicly a communal car. I've not seen them much in the South, but I think it will catch on. DC has them, and I think that Atlanta does too.

- - - - - -

As far as transit itself, I know that in my city of Spartanburg, it is largely an irrelevant thing. Its a way for the poor to get around, and it is not much more than that. The problem is that nobody has ever tried to make it more than it is.

Transit has seen a large upswing nationwide though. The South included. So maybe the time has come when transit moves beyond the subsistence level and actually impacts lifestyle chosies in out cities.

I know that in SC, commuter rail, light rail, BRT, and express bus studies have all been completed, and they are working towards a higher level of transit presence. Charleston, for example, is the frst city in SC to have a permanent express bus service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who wants to stand out on a platform and wait for a train when the option is an air conditioned automobile? Even if it takes longer at least you can play your tunes, eat, and drink.

Wife and I visited Chicago and rode the train everywhere. It worked great. If it was 105 degrees and I had a coat and tie it woudln't be so nice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Temperature might be an issue for two or three months a year. Otherwise you don't have an arguement. How much time do you spend on the plat form or at the bus stop? 5-10 minutes max? You can do all of the above on the bus/train (except maybe eat/drink depending on the system). You can also read, take a nap, stare into space, or what ever you want. People can do that in cars too, but they tend to cause crashes by doing that.

Who wants to sit in rush hour traffic hitting every red light, changing lanes, dealing with a-hole drivers when you don't have to? Obviously a lot of people, but thats just my take on it! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like to use mass transit myself so I don't have use the car as much. Sometimes, I need a little more sleep before work and that extra 20 minutes napping on the bus can do wonders. Can't wait for the light rail to open since I will be riding for a couple days a week.

However, I also like riding my scooter. Spending $2.00 on gas a week to commute 15 miles a day for 6 days is actually less expensive than riding the bus or future light rail. Not only that, commuting home from work is also like joyriding. So I'm killing two birds with one stone.

In short, I can't go wrong with riding mass or riding 2 wheels :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Riverrat has come the closest to why mass transit isn't well received down here, not to mention the ongoing stigma that mass transit is "for the poor".

I present another reason why mass transit isn't well received: Taxes. I don't know of a single mass transit system in the South that idn't taxpayer supported in one way or the other. And as we know, this region of the country is historically a "don't raise my taxes" region.

Now I know roads are also built with taxpayer funds, but let's not forget the original intent of Interstate highways, for example, which was to facilitate the movement of commerce & military equipment, neither of which can be accomplished on a bus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think people in the south, generally think that public transportaion is for the poor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think Riverrat has come the closest to why mass transit isn't well received down here, not to mention the ongoing stigma that mass transit is "for the poor".

I present another reason why mass transit isn't well received: Taxes. I don't know of a single mass transit system in the South that idn't taxpayer supported in one way or the other. And as we know, this region of the country is historically a "don't raise my taxes" region.

Now I know roads are also built with taxpayer funds, but let's not forget the original intent of Interstate highways, for example, which was to facilitate the movement of commerce & military equipment, neither of which can be accomplished on a bus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think Riverrat has come the closest to why mass transit isn't well received down here, not to mention the ongoing stigma that mass transit is "for the poor".

I present another reason why mass transit isn't well received: Taxes. I don't know of a single mass transit system in the South that idn't taxpayer supported in one way or the other. And as we know, this region of the country is historically a "don't raise my taxes" region.

Now I know roads are also built with taxpayer funds, but let's not forget the original intent of Interstate highways, for example, which was to facilitate the movement of commerce & military equipment, neither of which can be accomplished on a bus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that generally mass transit is not a competitive alternative to driving in the south, so it is underutilized when available. If it were better, people would probably be all for it. All this 'American dream' and 'people like driving' stuff is bullcrap. Some people are very political in their opposition to mass transit. Usually, it is just a routine product of how American cities grew after WW2.

Taxes are a silly excuse. The road you're driving on is just as guilty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


But its under utilized because our cities are primarily suburban, which is really what this whole thread is about. As our cities become more urban, transit becomes more viable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe in the Northeast nobody thinks of it for a certain kind of people, but atleast in the South or as I see in Columbia people think its for the poor or people who can't afford cars

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want to revisit this issue in light of our impending energy crisis and crumbling infrastructure. Do we see attitudes starting to change even just a little here in the South?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll add that I was in Atlanta at the end of last week, took MARTA from the Airport to Midtown. At 10:00 at night on Wednesday, the train was standing room only, and Friday afternoon it was the same way. There is hope for mass transit in the south.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many cities and states appear to be taking a second look at transit. The South Carolina DOT is study passenger rail options within SC, and hopefully it will result in a functional rail system sometime in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with the posters who've mentioned that Southerners associate mass transit with the poor, those who can't afford to own or operate a car. This attitude is a relatively recent development, however.

Reaction to the civil rights movement, including high-profile bus boycotts and whatnot, led directly to the current attitude toward public transit in the South. Post-WWII businessmen used to get around town on the bus until the 1960s. The bus system gave kids a great deal of freedom and allowed them to get around town without saddling their parents with the drudgery of being chauffeurs.

Before WWII streetcars were very popular in the South and were used enthusiastically by people from all walks of life. Many Southerners used to walk or ride bicycles to work every day.

IMO the stigma associated with public transit is not permanent and will fade if we put together proper public transit systems that are convenient and reliable. Ridership is surging all over the country, including the South, and it's only limited by things such as lack of capacity and reliability concerns, which can be fixed with proper funding. Public transit simply hasn't been funded properly since the 1960s.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic about the prospects for public transportation, but I've seen the results here in Montgomery with my own eyes. With more routes, increased frequency and additional hours, the Montgomery bus system has seen roughly a 600% increase in ridership over the past 8 years. I think Southerners will warm to public transit if we fund it properly. Fiscal conservatives should love it because it's cheaper than building and maintaining new highways.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If one takes the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area as an example, there was vociferous opposition only a few years ago to the idea of a light rail system. Since then, the light -rail project is under construction and appears to enjoy the support of many in the area. I agree that more fiscal conservatives might see the benefits of public transportation. There must be a shift in the public mind at large in order to develop mass transit- not only in the South, but throughout the country. The receny fluctuation in gas prices might serve as a pointed reminder that we cannot live by the automobile alone.

A place like Fort Lauderdale would benefit enormously from the application of a truly widespreas and workable light rail system. The current Tri-Rail is almost laughable in its location and its on-time performance. A better system is clearly needed. The saddest truth is that widespread distrust of mass transportation is not limited to the South.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
People in the Northeast don't want to wait in sub-freezing weather for an overcrowded train any more than people in the South would, but if it's easier than driving, both will do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well it's not just about driving; it's also about parking. I've suffered through many a muggy day in DC, walking a couple of blocks back and forth to my destination and the nearest Metro station in a full suit, just to not have to deal with--and pay for--parking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.