Buses on film

While we’re on the subject of transit and class, here’s a quick report on that Bus Riders Union documentary I went to see a few weeks ago:

The film basically focuses on the BRU‘s struggle to make the LA MTA more responsive to the needs of the poor and disabled, people who don’t have a choice about whether to ride. I am supportive of the organization’s goals (if not all of their tactics), but I found it unfortunate that they seemed to dwell on a (in my view, artificial) distinction between bus and rail. Apparently, the vast majority of the MTA’s resources are spent on rail, which tends to be used by middle-class commuters, and according to the 10-year-old documentary, not very many, at that. A small fraction of its resources are spent on buses, which tend to be used by poor people, and a much larger proportion of MTA’s customer base. In the film, the BRU reps argued for a drastic reduction in the amount of money being spent on rail.

This distinction seems to me to be less a function of the mode of transportation and more a function of its implementation. Rail transit can and does serve the poor in many major cities, and it could certainly do so in LA. It is true that rail costs more than buses initially, so, if we’re talking about getting bang for limited bucks, it might make sense to invest in a BRT system like the one in Bogota. But if you’ve ever been to New York or Chicago (or, for that matter, Paris), you know that everybody–and I do mean everybody–rides the train.

Saulty on the subway
New York City subway riders: Beware of this man.
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