Reason #8 Most Americans Don’t Ride Transit
Life Is Complicated

Transit works best going from point A to point B if you happen to be near point A and want to get to point B. Transit doesn’t work well for trip chaining, going from point A to point B via points C, D, and E. Because life is complicated and people don’t want to spend all their time traveling, trip chaining works best in an independent vehicle such as a car.

On your way to work, you might want to drop off your kids at school or daycare, drop off your suit at the laundry, and get a cup of coffee. On your way home, in addition to picking up the kids and laundry, you may want to go grocery shopping. This is called trip chaining, and it is a lot easier to do in a car than by transit. (Yes, there’s probably a Starbucks next to your transit stop, but your transit agency probably doesn’t allow you take beverages on board.)

Some analysts wonder whether people choose to drive because they want to trip chain or if they trip chain because they have cars. But this is the wrong question. The reality is, life is complicated, and cars do a better job of helping people deal with that complexity.

Other studies find that people who live in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods can accomplish more of their tasks on foot and don’t need to drive as much. But this ignores the self-selection issue: people are more likely to live in a walkable-mixed-use neighborhood if their lives aren’t as complicated–for example, if they don’t have kids–but even then, a bicycle can handle trip chaining better than transit. That doesn’t mean such neighborhoods can significantly simplify other people’s lives. For most Americans, transit doesn’t serve the complexity of most of their adult lives.

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6 thoughts on “Reason #8 Most Americans Don’t Ride Transit
Life Is Complicated

  1. paul

    The cost of parking is also an issue. I have knew two people who drove to and from work in the SF bay area even though they lived and worked an easy walking distance from BART stations. The businesses they worked for were happy to subsidize the parking. Planners are upset at this “subsidy to drivers” and want charges for parking, but then don’t want transit riders to have to pay the full fare, but want transit subsidized, clear hypocrisy.

  2. LazyReader

    The whole emphasis of new Urbanism is they wanna build socially equitable mixed urban style communities. I’ve seen these new urban communities, beautiful yes, but they downplay a crucial ignored fact. They’re suburbs too. They may not resemble the dead worm cul de sacs of suburbia, but they’re suburbs. “Other studies find that people who live in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods can accomplish more of their tasks on foot and don’t need to drive as much. But this ignores the self-selection issue: people are more likely to live in a walkable-mixed-use neighborhood if their lives aren’t as complicated”
    except families do move to these neighborhoods…..and investigations of these neighborhoods show frequent car use anyway. You can walk to your local venues…but your job, the schools your children go to, the doctors you must visit, the places you NEED to go versus the places only accessible via walking. So I’ve seen some new urban communities , Kentlands, Maryland in particular and SURPRISE, they’ve shown cars and big parking and big box stores.

  3. AjaxTFC

    The value of trip chaining to the community at large cannot be overemphasised. Every trip is undertaken to effect an (economic) transaction, a (social) interaction, or a (personal spiritual cultural or environmental) experience – ie one or other of the threes TIEs for which society exists. The more such TIEs undertaken per day, ie the more commerce, and the more traffic between all land-uses , the richer (in every way) will be both the individual and society at large. (Within the reasonable desire and capacity of the individual involved, of course!) Those who advocate for fewer trips and/or less traffic presume that the fewer trips per capita undertaken will continue to generate as much wealth for the community at large as sustains the lifestyle they have been enjoying – an impossibility which exposes the barrenness of planner would-be restrictions on human activity. In effect, they assume wealth grows on trees, that they know better than each individual how to better his/her life, and/or that commerce will find a way of increasing (or at least maintaining) wealth-creation per capita regardless of how much they restrict traffic between all landuses (not just those they select for access by fixed-route transit.).

  4. scatcatpdx

    I going to answer both It Doesn’t Carry Freight and Life is Complicated here because both are related.

    Before I learned to drive in 2000, grocery shopping was a chore, ether I walk or was limited to a few bags, and waiting at the bus during Portland’s rainy season for a bus. The only option is an expensive taxi ride. Worst chaining trips can take half of day in transit travel. A doctors visit can tax half a day off work. I leaned to drive and bought a truck in 2002 but had to sell it for scarp in 2016 after I drove it 220,000 miles till the engine died. Now I am with out a affordable car.

    The irony is, except for commuting to work during the weekdays, I still depended on cars. During the fall and winter car rental rats are low. I kept a non owners car insurance that covers rentals. I only am paying 15 to 20 dollars a day during the weekend to pick up groceries, and as an added bonus I have a car to drive a good restaurant on Saturday and to church on sunday. I live in Hillsboro but go to church on the east side. Then there Zipcar and Uber for other times. I wish Ubers’ car leasing / rental plans expanded to Oregon. I can earn money; I am unemployed, but even if I get a now job I can use Uber’s program to dive and pay for the rental.

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