After living in the Midwest for a decade, I began to doubt whether our communities had any chance of making progress on plans for public transportation. The support for these initiatives was obvious as almost every referendum about public transportation would successfully pass when held to a vote. But for many reasons, citizens were being blocked from investing more in their transportation options.
Public transportation is important to the US economy. And perhaps more important for American cities than anywhere else in the developed world due to our sprawling infrastructure and geographically scattered labor force. Without public transportation, a significant number of our neighbors can’t access jobs, healthcare, education, or other critical institutions. It is a sad situation.
Because I felt that only cities with public transportation have any future, it became a priority to be located in one. So, while living in the state known as the “Crossroads of America” I ended up at a certain crossroads of my own. I decided to pick up and move somewhere that public transportation was robust and useful. I moved to the San Francisco bay area, and now feel blessed to live in a place that values public transportation.
In fact, the ability to get on a train, cablecar, streetcar, light-rail, bus, or ferry and quickly travel around the city is nothing short of a miracle to me. Yes, local and state taxes are high, but oh-so-worth-it. For me, deciding to get onboard with public transportation was a one-way ticket: I can’t imagine life without it now.
These days I have a real sense of why public transportation is important, rather than despair over a broken infrastructure funding system. I have come to realize that there is very little standing in the way of better transportation options. When the US is ready to build a better network, I’m sure that we will.
In the meantime, I offer encouragement in the best form I can imagine – an open-air streetcar running along Market St and Embarcadero. Not a utilitarian or mean vehicle, this one reminded me that we can still achieve the city of our dreams. Combined with the workhorse BART and MUNI systems, it is a perfect way for this city to celebrate it’s commitment to public transportation.