12.29.2005

How people get to work...


Image from Transportation Alternatives

...during a transit strike. There was so much coverage about the transit strike in New York City that I didn't bother covering it, and I'm too ignorant to partake in a discussion about labor rights. However, we started a discussion on PPS about how people got to work and there are some good comments there.

I like to see how the everyday plays out in the city, so how people got to work interests me, and the event had varied results. We had one intrepid staffer who took 4 modes of transportation to get here: walking, car, water taxi, then taxi. Then we had other people who didn't want to come in because their bike tires were flat and they couldn't face 45 minutes of riding in the cold. Having no subways running is highly inconvenient, to be sure, but it seemed that city travel is a lot about the state of mind, and whether one is up for it...or not.

Honestly, I thought that NYC, given a transit strike, was much better off than most American places in that the structure of the city offered many options for commuting, even if the subway was down. Biking wasn't happening along fast 4 to 6 lane highways as it might in other sprawl-ridden communities - from Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan, it happened on city streets and across bridges, many of them with bike paths. The city was able to open up major thoroughfares in Manhattan to bikes with little effect on traffic. It was a great chance to view our city under a different light. What would happen if we made our bike paths wider? If there were fewer cars? If more people walked?

Perhaps this is too positive a perspective to take, and I certainly wouldn't want another transit strike -- we were lucky that it lasted only a few days -- but I thought overall it was great to see all the activity in the street throughout the day.

And, please treat the transit workers with respect. They are people like you and me who have to commute to work too. That they make our commute so much easier deserves credit.

3 comments:

madgeneral said...

I don't think you're being too positive about the issue. Any strike is a wake-up call, not only to the people writing the union-members' paychecks, but to all who are negatively effected by the tactic, in this case, NYC commuters. Although in general people seem to react to transportation strikes with a woe-is-me-how-dare-those-insolent-fuckers-walkout displeasure and pine for the day when normalcy returns and things regarding their commute once again make sense, many others make due or even realize a benefit hidden somewhere deep within the inconvenience. For these, the wake-up call is a worthwhile thing. Still others have observed the situation from within or from afar and have asked interesting questions that may spark the imagination of someone who normally wouldn't have paid the issue much attention.

Thanks Shin-Pei!

One more thing. The worst part of a situation like this is that it comes seemingly out of nowhere, even if it has been marinating a long time. Most people just haven't planned for it -- their bike tires are flat, etc. And therefore, they feel great distress and disillusionment. But if one is now applying forethought in the wake of an unfortunate situation such as this, then one will hopefully be more prepared for a like circumstance recurring. One could even say that they would be more amenable to a like circumstance recurring given that the cause of their great distress -- a sense of being crippled -- has been to a certain extent removed. Could that small lesson in self-reliance not lead to a re-examination of one's own relationship with convenience? And if extrapolated, to more walkers, bikers, etc?

Shin-pei said...

Thank you for your endorsement! Convenience is such a magic word. But I think we don't really know what is actually convenient to us. It's the reality vs. aspiration perspective...we ultimately really need far less than we think we do, I think. -- By the way, I got Better Together over the holidays! I'll let you know how it goes.

madgeneral said...

I've recently started Better Together, as well. I'll race you to the end! Not really, because I'll lose bad. But yes, let's definitely share impressions.

Very true about our needing less than we think we do.