Saturday, January 1, 2011

What Would Make You Take Mass Transport?

Chicago wants to know.
Over the last few weeks, Chicagoans have been asked a simple question: "What would encourage you to walk, bike and take CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) more often?" Ads posing the question in buses, subways and public spaces invite the city's residents to respond with their ideas, via text message.
I can tell you what works best in Asia: public microtransport systems that cover very small areas.

What am I talking about? In Thailand or The Philippines, when you want to go the quarter mile from your front door to the main street bus stop, what do you do? You go into the street outside your house and clap your hands: a guy on a motorcycle comes riding up, and for 20 cents he drives you down to the end of the road where the busses are. When you get off the bus close to your destination there is a second guy on a motorcycle waiting to drive you the last quarter mile to the place you want to go.

Granted, you won't convince the average American to hop on the back of a motorcycle taxi — nor get many Americans to sit around on motorcycles waiting to get paid 20 cents to drive somebody to the end of the road every few minutes — especially in a slippery, freezing Chicago winter. But that is the most important step: door to door public transportation. Obviously in a place like Manhattan, something like that isn't as important; but in Los Angeles, it's not the 20 mile drive that causes people to get in their cars: it's the half mile walk to the bus stop that causes people to grab their car keys instead of a bus pass.

If you can get people easily and effortlessly to a bus stop (and as long as the wait isn't too long) then many more people will take the bus.

As for riding a bike or walking? Hmm... you'll have to ask someone else about that.

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