The U.S. debate on the merits of public trans generally revolves around the train system's failure to turn a profit as it competes against the heavily subsidized automobile infrastructure system. Elimoore, on her blog, reminds us that there's another aspect of public transportation--it brings people into contact with each other:
maybe i am all hippy-fied from my time in europe, but i felt like this before, so who knows where it came from, but i love public transportation. it is not just how it helps cities to grow that draws me to it, or how i don’t have to pay car insurance, or buy gasoline. but i think what is most interesting to me about public transportation is how is connects people.
Elimoore goes on to praise the public culture of Europe (which is found virtually everywhere except for the U.S. where we sit in front of our TV sets like mindless monads).
i love meeting people, and collecting their stories. this was fairly easy to do in europe, as there, you are allowed to drink outside. this allows for people to congregate in places for the purpose of relaxing without having to pay $5 - 7 for a beer. in spain, i was able to buy a liter (basically a 40) of beer, and go to the plaza and mingle with anyone else who could afford this location - and possibly the $1 beer as well. this is a great social mixer, as people of all classes would gather in the plazas and squares, to talk, laugh, and just have a good time.
In the last part of her post, Elimoore mentions another point: public trans brings people of different backgrounds and socio-economic classes together. (Isn't this a healthy thing in democracies?)
here in order to find a similar environment, i have to go to a bar. and not that i have a problem with bars, but they segregate. i won’t even begin to get into how the non-smoking law in new york has furthered the segregation by creating what are basically “smoke-easies”, but even down here in dc, people go to bars that have the music they like, or the bar that their peers go to. this creates social segregation. not that i propose taking this right away from anyone, as sometime i want to go to a bar with my peers as well, but where can i go to meet people of all classes, races, and socio/ecomonic background?, no where else but public transportation. and even in this environment people are always coming or going somewhere, so there is little chance for interaction.
In spite of the healthy interaction that public trans and public places promote, these are in rapid decline in the U.S., where public policy is determined by private (in other words, corporate) instead of public interests.