Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mass transit and "green"

I'm going to come right out and say this, but I despise riding mass transit. I don't go near buses and use subways (light-rail, etc) only when I have to. About the only form of mass transit I will use is the train from Baltimore to DC. Mainly this grips is about the over-high concentration of people and the less than pleasant condition of the carriages. (One exception that I have encountered is the light-rail in Portland - the seats were actually spaced apart so that standing people didn't lean on you, there were specific spaces for bikes, all in all a pleasant experience).

Recently, as part of the "cars are evil" push from the mass of the Environmental Movement, mass transit has been pushed as the solution. Get people out of individual cars and into buses. This morning I encountered one of the two glaring flaws in that.

Most mornings when I get stuck anywhere near an MTA bus I slow down to a crawl to let it get far enough ahead that I don't have to play leapfrog at every stop. The bus I was behind this morning was so nasty that I could still smell the exhaust when it was three blocks away. The best part? It had a giant MTA Green ad on the back end. Yeah, real "green".

My other major gripe as a bike commuter with the push to get everyone onto the buses is that all of the near misses I have had in my ~ 10 years of bike commuting are with buses. The drivers either don't care or can't see what's going on around them. Especially in Baltimore there is an definite attitude of road-ownership that you can almost feel anytime you get within a half a block of an MTA bus. They regularly crowd cars, trucks, everyone using the road out of their way, to the point that there is really no benefit in griping since if there was going to be any changes they would have happened long ago.

I understand the Movement's ideals behind pushing mass transit over personal vehicles. I just think there needs to be a little more thought applied. Buses aren't necessarily very green, but they do work great for greenwashing, allowing jusridictions to avoid actually doing anything to cut pollution, while making life significantly more difficult for the cyclists who are legitimately cutting their pollution output.

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