In a recent news story, billionaire Elon Musk expressed his seemingly negative perception towards the use of public transportation.
Musk is currently the CEO of Tesla, Inc. and is an entrepreneur who has recently proposed a hyperloop (a vacuum-sealed tube through which pods can fly at tremendously high speeds). He is also preparing to bid on building a train connecting downtown Chicago with Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
In this article, it was described that Musk's comments caught the attention of Brent Toderian, a Vancouver-based city planner and urbanist. Toderian called for people to use #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit to share their positive experiences on public transportation services such as Metro Transit.
In response, Metro Transit General Manager Chuck Kamp shared this story.
Just now, I got off a #6 mid-day bus that had about 18-20 people on it, including people of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. One gentleman at the bus stop was with his 16- month old son, talking about how he just got out of jail, got a full-time job at a local commercial company, and is beginning to turn his life around.
He did not know that I worked for the transit system. He and his wife spent a couple months at a YWCA transitional housing place, and they just started renting their own apartment on the #4 route that provides direct service to his job on the other side of town.
Many of the jobs in our community take much longer to get to than his trip, so it made me glad that it is working for him. Still, with a young family he said he is trying to save up to buy a car. That makes sense in a town like ours----we’re not like New York City or Tokyo where you don’t necessarily need to buy a car.
Some of Metro’s other routes take college students to school, hospital workers to several local hospitals, and high tech workers to their software jobs. The more a transit system like Metro is going to attract the full spectrum of riders, (and we should be doing better at that than we’ve been able to recently) the more we need to actually beef up transit capacity, not just add car capacity.
The coming generations need to sort out the balance between precious space for traffic lanes and tunnels and how those precious and scarce transportation resources should be used for people, transit, bikes, and cars.
Cars are sometimes a very high priority, but pedestrians should be our first priority, and in denser areas transit needs to get greater support because of the role it plays in economic development, good land use, public health, and equity.
I wish Mr. Musk could have been on that bus ride with me. And hundreds of other rides similar to it over the 36 years I’ve had the privilege to work in this field.
Metro Transit General Manager