Transit Tuesday

one less bus

I regularly follow two blogs that discussion public transportation: Human Transit and Cap’n Transit.

Bikes vs Transit

Recently, Human Transit lamented an apparent “monomodal fixation on cycling” among cycling advocates, when he sees some natural alliances between cycling and transit advocates.

He quoted a remark that many bike riders are young, affluent and educated (we are?) who hold many of the same perceptions about riding the bus that General Motors advertising execs have. I know many Cyclelicious readers share that opinion as well. In areas of the country with broken, underfunded transit systems, you may have good reason for your perceptions.

I’m somebody who uses public transportation to complement and extend my range of travel. The other weekend, I traveled the 82 miles from Santa Cruz to Sausalito via a combination of public transportation (bus, Caltrain, and ferry, with BART thrown in the mix for the return trip) and a bike. Public transportation is a part of my daily commute. Bikes and transit complement each other. I attend Caltrain and Santa Cruz Metro board meetings and pay attention to VTA and BART, which I suppose makes me a transit advocate.

Scofflaws vs the rest of us normal people

Human Transit’s post about bikes vs transit generated the usual comments about scofflaw maniac bikers. I see the same thing locally: Santa Cruz Metro has a Metro Advisory Committee (MAC) of transit using volunteers who act as a kind of focus group for the Metro Board. None of these committee members ride bikes, so you see goofy decisions from them every once in a while, and I and other bike advocates show up at the subsequent board meeting to ensure the MAC’s resolution doesn’t become Metro policy.

People Power Santa Cruz are the human-powered (bike and pedestrian) advocacy group. They’d like to place a bike rider on the MAC, but they don’t have many bike riding members who also ride the bus. Micah Posner asked me to join the MAC as their token bike person, but their Wednesday night meeting time is not available for me, unfortunately.

Affluent transit users

Cap’n Transit, in the meantime, looked at 2010 American Community Survey data and found something interesting: transit riders have higher incomes than drivers in nine metro areas he examined.

The median transit commuter in Idaho Falls made $61,214 in 2009, while the median single-occupant driver made only $25,607. Torrington, CT was more dramatic because the incomes were higher: transit commuters made $82,431 while drivers only made $41,540.

Cap’n Transit also comments on the disparity of planning for “choice riders” (i.e. the young, affluent, educated bike rider) vs “captive riders” (i.e. “creeps and weirdos” and other assorted poor minority undesirables).

It’s sometimes funny watching a room full of transit professionals from different agencies. Somebody from the suburbs mentions “choice riders,” and you can see the hackles rise on the planners from the urban transit districts.

“One Less Bus” photo by Jessica Wilson in San Luis Obispo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. I’ve seen this same bike in Santa Cruz.


  1. i’m surpised you aren’t mentioning margret here…. 
    one of the biggest problems transit has it that they can’t turn the Crazies away or make them behave.

  2. I can walk 500ft from my house, get on a bus for free (paid by employer), and end <500ft from my office, in 20-30 minutes. I don't think it gets much easier than that. But instead I spend thousands on biking because it just seems silly to rely on big gas machines when I can just use my own power instead. 

  3. Free the Captive Riders!  Creeps and Weirdos Unite! 

    As best you can…no,dangit,  I said Creeps over here and Weirdos over there.  What?  OK,  you can be a Creep,  but only today then ya gotta go back to the Weirdo line…hey, Kook!  this bus is for Creeps and Weirdos only!  Hey,  wait a minute…is that a carbon bicycle?  How did that guy get in here?  Get him!

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