I was traveling in the USA this summer, and after I had a very negative experience due to an incompetent worker in the public transportation industry I vowed I would write a blog post about it. Actually, I sort of threatened it, saying if that Greyhound did not apologize for the poor service (which lead to a delay of several hours, such that we were no longer able to arrive during daylight hours ) then I would call them out on it.
Well, if I hadn’t written the previous bit, then I would have lied before — and I didn’t want to do that, either.
With that out of the way, I would like to add something more useful to this topic. Put simply, public transportation fails in the United States of America for no other reason than this: Many / Most Americans don’t want public transportation. If the public doesn’t want public transportation, then public transportation doesn’t need to work. If public transportation doesn’t need to work, then why invest any money in trying to make it work? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply employ incompetent people at minimum wage and not to worry about what they do at all? Granted, not all people who work in public transportation are incompetent, but apparently no one to cares whether they are or not.
It seems that in the USA, the way the so-called “free market” incentivizes someone to be more than incompetent is to pay more than the minimum wage. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it seems to me that the main difference between someone receiving unemployment and the minimum wage is that people who receive the minimum wage are will to get up and do something (whether they do it well or not doesn’t seem to matter all that much).
Until Americans realize that their level of consumption of fossil fuels is preposterously high, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for them to want public transportation to work. Although the next oil shock — if it is significant enough — might make that happen, Americans are still completely unprepared for it. It will probably be messy, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will have to happen sometime… and probably sometime relatively soon.