Mass Transit vs Personal Transit

I’ve always loved the idea and even most implementations of mass transit. But I find that the practical reality favors personal transit.

I’m biased, living in Texas - I’ve seen people drive to their mailbox[sup]1[/sup]! But I couldn’t imagine driving in New York City or Tokyo, and I’ve been driven around in both. I liked riding the Tokyo subway (but never experienced a “pusher”) and I like listening to books on tape door-to-parking-spot when driving and that seems too distracting while using mass transit.

My question is, how does mass transit work comfortably and practically for you?
[ul]My train experience is - I get in my car and drive to the train station. An ironic beginning. I navigate the cold, or sun, or rain, or wind to the depot. I get a ticket and wait in the weather or behind a wind-break for the train. I find a seat and am glad I don’t have to carry anything. I travel (and enjoy it). I arrive and then have to walk on average a quarter mile to wherever I’m going in whatever the weather is.
[/ul][ul]By car - I start in my garage. I drive listening to an audiobook. I adjust the temperature and fan as I drive. I arrive in the company’s covered parking garage. I walk in through a windy garage a short distance.[/ul]
I wear a heavy coat in winter and take an umbrella as needed. It’s scorching hot in the summer. How do you manage the weather and carry anything else? I can’t imagine grocery shopping, small appliance shopping, etc., and then taking mass transit. I buy food, cat litter, giant toilet paper rolls, TVs, PVC pipe, new drill, etc. and then take them home in my car.

The debates[ul]How do you incorporate mass transit and get the everyday shopping, appliance purchasing, trips to dinner, and movies done?[/ul][ul]Should we suck it up and use mass transit because it’s better for the community, resources, and the environment?[/ul]
My two favorite anecdotes:[ul]I had a ride to the airport from downtown Manhattan. The driver zipped out onto the road and weaved through traffic like a madman. I thought to myself - finally, someone who knows how to drive![/ul][ul]A European couple visited Dallas and headed toward the NorthPark Center Shopping Mall. They spent a long time walking beside the highway looking for the underground tunnel to take you safely under the highway.[sup]2[/sup][/ul]

[sup]1[/sup] He was an elderly man in poor health. And he had a lot of classic cars!
[sup]2[/sup] We have no such concept of an underground walkway - or in getting anywhere without driving to it.

I live in Southern California, where freeways are a way of life and our official state religion is about our cars. (Well, darn near!)

Mass transit is improving, and the car culture is actually fading (to my astonishment!) In my day, turning sixteen was a really big deal, because you could get your first driving permit. Now, I know lots of kids who aren’t interested and don’t care.

(A lot of things we used to do in person are now getting done on Skype…)

I’m an old fart: I likes me my car! But the culture is definitely changing, and decent M.T. is a huge part of that. I can get to the mall, my doctor, my friend’s house, or my favorite restaurant by bus or trolley.

I guess I’m biased too – I live in New York City.

I use mass transit for everything. I take the subway to work every day, and to see friends and relatives. For shopping, I walk to the stores in my neighborhood. For something like an appliance, I would have to have it delivered.

I do have a car, but if I take it out of the garage once a month, that’s a lot. Probably once a month at most.

“how does mass transit work comfortably and practically for you?”

It doesn’t. I almost never use mass transit. I live in a suburb of SLC, UT, and take my car virtually everywhere. My reasons are:
[ul]
[li]time: virtually everything I can do in my car faster than I can on mass transit.[/li][li]privacy / safety: I don’t like riding in a public transit light rail car or bus with hoodlums and crazy homeless people. I certainly wouldn’t want any woman I care about doing so.[/li][li]convenience: having a trunk, or a pickup bed, to haul stuff around for me is really convenient. Being able to leave things locked in my car while making stops is really handy too. Picking my own music is nice, as is setting the temperature where I want it. The seat in my car is significantly more comfortable than the seat on the train.[/li][li]price: a TRAX ticket is $6.25 for the day. That’s like 4 gallons of gas, which will get me ~75 miles in my vehicle. I know that private vehicles have other costs (insurance, maintenance, registration, etc.), but those are already mostly built in.[/li][/ul]

The one exception to this is when I travel to University of Utah football games. There isn’t enough parking near the stadium for me to bring a car, and our TRAX (light rail) line drops me off literally in the stadium parking lot. Even then, sometimes I choose to park my car a mile or more away from the stadium and walk.

Back when I was attending college, the college gave us “free” transit passes (including in the price of tuition) and so I sometimes rode it to and from school, doing homework on the way.

There is no mass transit where I live. The nearest town is not really laid out in such a way as to make mass transit feasible. There are lots of tiny little communities scattered around one larger town, and nothing really lines up along a convenient route.

We don’t have mass transit here. We have a bus service, but its coverage is patchy and even the heaviest-traveled routes run once per hour at best. They are slowly building a light rail service but it doesn’t go anywhere near my house or office. It’s a shame, because this is a rapidly growing city and building an underground rail system now would save billions over the long term.

My brother lives on the very edge of London, and rides a bicycle about a mile to catch a train.

I live in the suburbs of Orlando, and it’s about a 40 minute drive to my office downtown. His train takes about 35 minutes to reach Central London. On the downside, his bikes keep getting stolen at the station so he bought a shitty one and painted it hot pink.

I live in Chicago and don’t have a car. I moved here by choice, not only for a better job, but also for the chance to live carless. I live by Wrigley Field. I bundle up in winter with a coat, scarf, hat and gloves during my 10 minute walk to the train in winter. I’ll bitch about the heat in summer. I use Amazon to buy most things, Peapod for grocery delivery, I can have alcohol delivered through 3 different services. I don’t have to worry about funny lights flashing on my car and costing me $1000 for headlight fluid. I can stop off by a bar near work and have a couple drinks and not worry about a $5000 DUI. There are restaurants offering food from almost every place in the world that I can walk to within a few blocks. I can have delivery from just about every restaurant in the city if it’s cold or I just want to stay in. Oh, and I can listen to my own music or just about any radio station in the world, since the subways now have free 4G.

I live in the suburbs of a decently large city but you’d have to live within city limits to make use of the buses (there is no subway just the bus). Everything is so spread out where I live there it would be extremely inconvenient to take the bus.

Even if we had a subway from the burbs to the city, I love driving, I have a sports car with a manual transmission that is just incredibly fun to drive, I feel sorry for the fast food workers and old ladies I see waiting for the bus.

I’ve always used mass transit. Currently, I only use it once or twice a month, when the weather is too crappy to walk to work. The bus system here is great…for me. I would feel a lot differently if I didn’t live literally right across the street from a stop. Or if I wasn’t in good enough physical shape to walk the half-mile from the closest bus stop to my office. I also don’t have to worry about losing my job if I am just a few minutes late to work. The bus is not ideal if you’re working that kind of job. But otherwise, it’s great!

When I am doing shopping and errand running, I either walk or drive. I have used the bus/train for these kinds of things before, and it worked just fine. But again, it’s one of those things that requires a certain alignment of the planets to be optimal. For instance, bus rides suck when you’re lugging a ton of groceries. Doubly so if you’ve got to take multiple buses. Also, it’s easy to run multiple errands when you’ve got your own transportion. But errand-running by bus can be a long day affair if you’ve got multiple destinations and none of them are on the same route.

It’s been my experience that public transit is only good when a critical mass of middle-class people use it. When only poor people use it, no one cares about how badly it operates. But when middle class white people are seen waiting at the bus stop, suddenly the buses stick closer to their schedules and the routes are more expansive. Unfortunately, outside of a few places, buses carry a stigma. When I’ve told people I ride the bus, they look at me like I’ve just confessed to giving homeless guys blow jobs or something. They just can’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily do something like this. And it’s not just well-to-do people who think like this. A lot of people who could actually benefit from public transit also look down their noses on it. It’s a class thing. No one wants to rub shoulders with the poor, I guess.

I live in suburban Sacramento. Car is king. We have a local bus that runs around town. It’s funny that it is called Route 10 or something, as if there are 9 other routes in town. LOL it’s the only one.

We have light rail that extends from downtown. The parking lots are pretty full for that, and the people riding all that way (about 20 miles) to their government offices benefit from not having to deal with traffic on the freeway or parking. My office is about 10 miles down the freeway, so it makes more sense to drive, and there are back roads to avoid the freeway. Making shorter trips on light rail is for people without cars, and the system has a reputation for being dirty and has a passive attitude toward freeloaders, making it a less attractive alternative during non-commute hours. However, a few years ago it was new and clean, so I used to take my kids on rides on the light rail on weekends - just get off a few stops down, and wait for the next train going the other way. I am sure that is not the use they intended.

I take Amtrak to SF a couple times a month for work. True, you ironically drive to the station, park, wait for the train, etc. However, on the other end is where the benefits lie. Parking in SF is about $40/day, if you can find some place near where you need to be. And, getting out of the city in the late afternoon is awful on the roads. Riding the train (Amtrak/BART) I can leave work at a normal hour - it is quite satisfying whipping past the parking lot on the freeways. Also, since the train has wifi, I can sit comfortably and work while I am riding, and I arrive ready for work or home and not frazzled.

So, intercity mass transit I use, but locally personal transit only.

Depends on where you want to live. And other factors.

When I got my job that I have had for 23 years, there was no way I could afford to live close to it in a resort area. Also, I’m a dog person, and would never put a dog in an apartment or condo.

So, I bought a house 30 minutes from town. A very leisurely drive that I actually enjoy. The house has quadrupled in value and will be paid off in 18 days. Now, I know that new housing has also quadrupled, but for the next 10 years or so, until retirement, I can put most monies to savings. We already have a nice nest egg, so I’m not counting on that.

There is no way that I could use public transportation where I live, and frankly, I would have no desire to do so. We can’t walk to the store, so we buy what we need on the way home from work. Easy peasy. We enjoy our house and rarely have a desire to go out after we get home.

When I lived in central DC, I used public transport for everything. I’d pick up shopping at the grocery store down the street or do Peapod, and larger purchases on Amazon.

Since I’ve moved to the Burbs, I still metro to work but it’s not as good a fit for daily errands.

I live next to DC and I use public transportation as much as possible. We drive to pick up groceries, but it’s not absolutely necessary; we could walk but we’re usually too lazy.

I much, much prefer the subway commute to a driving commute – I just sit back and read my kindle, and have no stress due to traffic. Sometimes there are train delays, but that’s okay – I’ll just sit there and keep reading my kindle.

I live in NYC. I used to commute out to NJ but now I work from home, so the car is gathering dust upstate. For a while I commuted by train out to NJ, where my company ran a shuttle between the train station and campus. It was nice not having to mess with traffic and after-work fatigue and tolls and parking and all the BS that driving in and around NYC entails but it came with a time penalty.

As far as grocery shopping and appliances, etc. we just buy less stuff more often. If there are going to be lots of liquids (heavy) or bulk we bring a little two wheeled cart. Otherwise we’re always walking by grocery stores so we just pick stuff up on the way home. Anything too big to take on a bus or a train we use a cab or have it delivered. If there’s some massive project I’ll rent a minivan or whatever is appropriate.

There are a couple of movie theaters a few blocks away so we just walk. Other theaters are a bus ride away. There are a gazillion restaurants within walking distance that I can’t even keep track of and more often we order in rather than dine out. Usually from the same half dozen or so places.

There’s one bus line a block away, another two four blocks north and south. All buses connect for free to multiple subway lines so it’s hugely convenient and cheap. I’d say buses are our primary mode of transportation though.

I live in Tampa, Florida. Cars, cars, cars, strip malls, strip malls, strip malls. It’s not nearly as bad as L.A. – because of lower population, I suppose – but we’re no strangers to rush-hour traffic jams… There are buses – only the poor seem to use them. There’s one trolley line but it only runs from Ybor City to the downtown Convention Center. Every few years there’s talk of building a light rail system, but it’s never been approved at the ballot box. (A subway would be out of the question, the water table’s too high, few homes here even have basements.)

I live in Houston. When I first came here I worked downtown and lived on a good bus route. I was also in walking distance of a grocery store, so during the week I rarely had to drive and I loved it. Because I was single then, I did have to drive after work hours and on the weekends because the bus system vanished after typical work hours.

Sadly, I now work in a neighboring county and there is no mass transit. I have to drive everywhere. I would give just about anything not to have to own a car to get to work and have an active social life. I long for the day when I can rely on mass transit, my bicycle and legs. Unfortunately, that day probably won’t ever happen where I currently live, and I don’t want to move up north and deal with actual winter.

I grew up in the suburbs, but wasn’t a terribly independently minded kid so I didn’t get my license until the summer before college. Since graduating, I’ve only lived in big cities where owning a car would be much more of a hassle than relying on public transport. I haven’t actually driven a car in years. It probably wouldn’t be safe for me to drive one right now. I live in Tokyo these days and neither need nor want a car.

Personally, I actually prefer having to walk a bit to and from public transport. I’m not a terribly fit person, and that 15~30 minutes of walking each day helps keep me from becoming too sedentary. If I were to move in the future, I would very strongly favor living in a place with good public transportation.

I’m hopeful about the future of self-driving cars, though. I think I would rather join some sort of self-driving car share program rather than own a car myself.

Public transit only works if you live in an area were the population density is too high. Why would I want to pay more to live in smaller, crappier apartments?

I live in the Seattle area, which has pretty decent bus service; also a commuter train and the beginnings of a light rail system, which they are gradually expanding. I’m a strong supporter of mass transit, but I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t use it very often, even though there are bus stops within easy walking distance to my house. I used to go into Seattle fairly frequently and usually took the bus to avoid traffic and parking headaches, but nowadays seldom have need to travel to the “big city”.

About six months ago, I was briefly unable to drive (broken wrist, big clumsy splint, got in the way of the steering wheel). So – I walked or rode the bus to wherever I needed to go. It wasn’t that bad an experience, although shopping was a little awkward. I learned how to plan my trips so as to avoid standing at the bus stop for too long; also learned what food delivery services were available, so I didn’t have to go shopping as frequently. Taking the bus is fine, actually, if you don’t have a bunch of stuff to carry.

Like Monstro mentioned upthread, some people have very strange reactions to bus riding. One of my cousins was shocked that I was riding a bus at all; middle-class people just don’t do that, even if they temporarily can’t drive. She told me I was “very adventurous”, which I think was a euphemism for “crazy”.

I live in the U.K so it is a mix of car and public transport. For work I need to use my car as my hours are flexible and it is a 17 mile walk if public transport has stopped for the day, shopping is mainly by car as there is no bus service to my preferred supermarket (good quality at low prices) I also have preferred independent fishmonger and butcher that I try to link in with other car journey’s, for none food shopping it is my local town centre I use the bus as I have a free bus pass (age related) it is also a good way of getting to know the locals ( I will talk to anyone ). London I will go in by train unless I have to return after 1 am. Birmingham and Manchester I use the car as trains are to expensive and are not direct plus taking up to much of the day.
I love driving my car a slightly warmed up sports coupe but it has to be a sensible mix with public transport, I save my serious driving for France usually well away from bus and train routs