via Wikimedia Commons, this map of the Tokyo subway.
I have a t-shirt with this image on it, boughten from Urban Outfitters. Yes, as I've said before, mapfascination is zeitgeisty. I'm not even sure if I should bother writing a post about it.
This is an oblique lead-in to a brief post pointing you to a good article by Katharine Mieszkowski in Salon (does she ever write bad articles?) called "Who Says Americans Won't Ride Mass Transit?"
The thrust of the article is that gas prices are driving Americans back to mass transit, but governments are simultaneously cutting funding. So the new/old transit riders are not merely encountering the overcrowding that would result from an influx of new riders into existing schedules, but are actually joining at a time when lines and service are being cut.
It's a story being repeated across the country -- a story with a grim irony. California, under the Schwarzenegger administration, has embraced ambitious goals to fight global warming, pledging to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020. But you wouldn't know it from how the state is treating transit. Transportation is the No. 1 source of global warming pollution in the state, and it's the fastest-growing source, yet the state budget recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature raids $1.7 billion from transit funding.
"They're diverting the money from transit and keeping highways whole," says Tom Radulovich, a BART director and executive director of Livable City, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable transportation. "There's been a big shift to transit as people are trying to avoid high gas prices. But we're taking billions of dollars away from transit, and investing billions in highways."
Mieszkowski calls the attitude of "'When you're allocating money for transit, nobody ever asks how crowded buses are'" a "persistent hangover of America's romance with the car." But I'd call it a date rape, not a romance. Naturally, I'm one of those misanthropic liberals who sees conspiracy everywhere, but it doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to recognize the persistence of the automobile industry's lobby against withdrawing money from public transit and putting it into highways at a time when any fool can see the writing on the wall. What else would you call a situation where the public is actually asking to put away their cars and ride the bus, and the government still won't step up?
Seriously? Vote for Obama.