There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dignity on the bus


At work I received an email with the subject line "Stuck on the bus." I get a lot of spam, but sometimes even spam can be interesting. But not this e-mail.

Below is a screen capture from the e-mail.

It is bad enough that one of the oft-repeated excuses people cite for not riding the bus is that they would have to associate with people who make them uncomfortable, but to have a right-to-life group use that cliche as a starting point for a discussion of stem cells is just unbearable.

And just what is it about that picture that is supposed evoke uncomfortable feelings? Is it the toothy grin on the blonde? The smug smirk on the guy with the glasses. Or it is the black man out of place in the front of the bus?

Is it any wonder that transit has a difficult time attracting "choice" riders?


wburg said...

That photo certainly doesn't make me uncomfortable about riding the bus. It pretty much makes it look like a nice time, unless one is the sort of person who freaks out at the sight of a black man sitting near white women.

Who are these people who get to choose everyone who surrounds them at all hours of the day? Do they somehow have the option to not get behind the person who takes forever in the checkout line at the supermarket? Do they get to choose the other people in the theater when they go to a movie? Do they get a say-so about who else is in a restaurant when they go out to eat?

Not having total control over who might join one on the bus is a pretty damn bogus argument against public transit, considering that one has equally little choice about who might be in any other public place people might visit...which means, effectively, that it's an argument that shouldn't bear any weight outside of the "racist agoraphobe" demographic.

John said...

Ah! "Racist agoraphobe demographic." Excellent. That's a perfect label to slap on these people.

Unfortunately, I suspect this demographic isn't as rare as I would hope. It's likely to be highly concentrated behind gated communities.

ByJane said...

If a photo is a thousand words, what does this one say? That the black guy is the only "normal-looking" person, and the white people all look like they're refugees from the funny farm.

wburg said...

Maybe I've just known too many refugees from the funny farm, but everyone in that picture looks pretty darn normal to me, unless having a nice smile makes one a candidate for a rubber room.

The gated-community demographic is never going to go for public transit in a big way: those aren't the transit-riders-of-choice you're looking for. The choice riders that will come are the ones on the fence: the ones that would use transit if it was just a little bit more convenient or ran just a little bit later. Let the outliers in gated communities feel just a bit more alienated from society when the transit tipping point occurs.