Transit: The Long Commute

The headline trumpeted “Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others,” in a 2000 edition of The Onion, the leading national satirical newspaper. The spoof suggested a national transit promotional campaign with the slogan “Take The Bus… I’ll Be Glad You Did,” and quoted a Los Angeles 80 mile daily commuter “Expanding mass transit isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity… My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It’s about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road.”

The reality is that transit often polls well, being perceived as a means to reduce traffic congestion. Many billions have been spent on new rail systems to attract drivers from their cars to transit, often financed with tax money paid principally by households who predominantly use cars, not transit. Yet, 17 years after The Onion article, transit’s market share is stuck and in 2017, for the first time, the number of people working at home every day exceeded the number commuting on transit.

There is a substantial disconnect between public attitudes The Onion implies and how people actually commute. In fact, there are many 80 mile commuters and all of them spend more than one-hour commuting one way to work. And, they are disproportionately on transit.

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