I have a friend who lives in Dayton, Ohio and we were talking the other day about how hard it has become in the last few years to get from city to city and from place to place if you don’t drive or own an automobile.
I remember when I lived near Dayton, Ohio way back in the 1960s – - and if I wanted to go to Cincinnati which was a mere 30 miles to the south all I had to do was go to a local drug store on main street – - one that had the ticket concession for a major bus line – - buy a ticket for a couple of dollars and wait for the bus.
Once I arrived in the “big city” I discovered there were all kinds of transit buses, trolley cars and taxi cabs – - all vying for my money – - all readily available on almost any street corner – - and all reasonably inexpensive to use – - and all with workable schedules that would fit almost any lifestyle or schedule.
These days I guess one might have a much harder time trying to get from Dayton to Cincinnati because in order to get on the major bus line one has to first get to the bus station in Dayton – - and if you live in any of the surrounding communities that might present a problem because taxis seems to be expensive – - transit lines don’t always go where everybody needs to go – - and the trip from Dayton to Cincinnati can be very expensive. I checked out one taxi fare and it was $114.00. – - for 30 miles in a cab!
When my Grandfather was a young man – - back in the 1940s – - he worked in Cincinnati and lived in another small town 20 miles to the north of the metropolis. The way he got to his work everyday was to go down to the train station on the edge of the small town where he lived, get on a train and pay the 25 cent fare to the big city.
In the period from 1900 to 1913 when my Dad was a kid there was an extensive system of trolley cars that sped along a whole inter-connected grid covering most of the Eastern United States. These were called “Inter Urbans” and they traveled from city to city at speeds of as much as 40 miles per hour – - even back then – - and the fares were ridiculously low – - and the whole thing ran on electricity. The places that people could get to on the Interurbans were virtually limitless.
The burgeoning automobile industry soon took care of that transport system however and with the coming of the super highways in the 1950s and 60s it seems that major mass transit became a page in American history – - and I think that development is just too damned bad! I think today’s oil-dependent country could do with a lot fewer cars on the highways – - with all the tension and hassle of driving sometimes – - and I think we are overdue for reconsideration of the rebuilding of the mass transit infrastructure in America.
I think the very building of the thing would do wonders for the struggling economy – - providing countless well-paying jobs for a long time to come – - and it certainly would give Americans even more mobility and accessibility to places many of them can’t even dream of getting to now unless they can afford to drive – - to park – - to pay cab fares – - buy bus tickets – - learn to fly helicopters – - invent some kind of space-age teleportation system or simply learn to disassemble themselves and reassemble somewhere distant.
Well – - maybe it doesn’t have to get that drastic!
My thought here is that there are really too many transportation problems in this country and the almighty car is not solving them all – - and may even be making things worse – - and of course – - not just every Tom, Dick or Harry can actually afford to own and maintain an automobile and some of these folks have a deuce of a time getting back and forth from a job if they are lucky enough to have one in the first place.
I think we should think less about becoming involved in more foreign conflicts and concentrate some of the money we are bound to spend on such adventures onto rebuilding our roads, bridges and – - mass transit systems.
But I am sure there are others who will have different ideas – - and that is alright too.
But if we are going to compete in the growing global reality, I think we are going to have to at least provide some of the infrastructure improvements that are driving the growth of some of our neighbors across the sea.
Just a thought!
Posted by John at 9:47 PM on June 19, 2013