“If there’s an intellectual highway, there’s also an intellectual subway.” Stanley Crouch
Because, after all…
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls…” Paul Simon
You walk out of your house. You walk a short block or two to a downstairs entryway. You walk down the stairs through a tunnel that ends at a subway station. Lets say it’s a small subway station with just an information booth, post office, bank, and small food store. You swipe your “all access” monthly rail pass, which by the way costs you a fraction of what it costs to buy, maintain, and operate an average vehicle in America. You walk to your platform and hop a train that takes you to a major subway-exchange station.
This major subway station offers you trains to any part of town that you want to go, to multiple outlying suburban areas, to multiple far away cities, and to all other public transportation destinations. Not only that, but large easy to read maps are posted every 400 feet or so that list the stops for each train line and popular public / tourist destinations. Many ticket dispensaries are located beneath these maps where people can buy any denomination they want – from a single destination ticket to daily, weekly, monthly or yearly passes using cash or credit cards. Seniors over a certain age ride for free.
Not only can you take convenient, clean, safe, and cheap public transportation to any destination you desire, but the large and mid-size stations offer abundant businesses and services that any commuter might need to take care of on the way to or from work. In the larger stations it is a shopping mall atmosphere combined with a subway station. Everything you could possibly need or imagine is there for your convenience. The smaller stops offer the most basic errand destinations: info / ticket booth, post office, bank / ATM, and small (real) food store.
This is not a pipe dream. These exist. I have been in them (in Europe and Japan). It is an experience to behold and cherish. Let me try to explain how it feels. On my last trip to Japan, I was relaxing in the subway after a tiring day of site-seeing, thinking to myself how nice it would be if after a tiring day at work I could just sit, relax, and decompress while someone else drove me home. I got off the train. I stopped at the ATM to get some much-needed cash. I then proceeded out the tunnel only to stop at one of the many take-out restaurants lining the streets adjacent to the subway exit. Next, I stopped at a convenience store (truly convenient because it has real, healthy food) to pick up some breakfast items for the next day and then proceeded on to my hostel. All of these errands took just a few precious minutes, I got to walk the entire way, and not once did I have to go miles and miles out of my way.
I have been in many countries where this is the way it’s done, but it was on this last trip to Japan, when I was alone, that I made the paradigm shift that this is a better solution than the way I live now. I am tired of driving a mile or three or five to get a tomato and a pint of milk. I understand that America’s development is tied closely to the automobile, but in the age of waning oil supplies, global warming, and environmental disasters isn’t it time to shift our way of thinking? Instead of “what’s convenient for me” could we think of “what moves society forward as a whole?”
“If we fail to expand and modernize our public transportation systems, the growing gridlock in many urban areas will strangle economic progress and lessen the quality of life.”
“Increased use of public transportation is the single most effective way to reduce America’s energy consumption, and it does not require any new taxes, government mandates or regulations.”
Both quotes by William Millar.
Just a thought…