Western Governors University
Causal Analysis for English Comp. I
In North America, Mass Transit is not used as much as it is in Europe. There is a lot of reasons for that. The biggest and hardest reason to get around is the fact that a major section of Americans live in a suburban or rural area. Only 62.7% of Americans live in a city. (Release Number: CB15-33, US Census, March 04, 2015) Even Then, western cities are highly suburban, and there are a lot Americans left that are in unincorporated suburbs or rural areas. (How Suburban Are Big American Cities?, FiveThirtyEight, May 2015) Along with that, the infrastructure that existed for mass transit before the start of the suburban sprawl in the 1950’s has been torn up. Between the 1930’s and the 1950’s the streetcar system that most Americans used slowly was torn out, while people were encouraged to use automobiles. (Why Public Transportation Is So Limited in the United States, TruthOut, August 2015) These are the two biggest ideas why I think mass transit fails in North America and will be its biggest stumbling blocks. So the question is why people in North America don’t use mass transit, and maybe should it be a concern?
Most of America does not have the proper design to support an efficient transit system. Just going off the US census information stating that 37.3 Americans don’t live in cities, that is still a significant amount of people don’t need or won’t use mass transit. (Release Number: CB15-33, US Census, March 04, 2015) Looking at the fact that also that a good amount of the cities out there have a large amount of suburban areas. Rural areas do not have the population to support a local transit system. Suburban developments were designed from the outset for automobile primacy for transit use. For the sake of cost and efficiency, mass transit will not take hold in these areas. Unless there is a massive re-design on how half of America lives, these people will still use automobiles as the primary mode of transportation.
Most rural areas are both low population and low population density. They nether can support a localized transit system nor need one. In a place where you could be a minimum of a half mile from a neighbor, it would be vastly easier to walk, bike, or drive to them. The population centers of these areas tend to usually only a couple of blocks comprising of a mix of shops, homes, and local government. Theses people tend to be in the same situation because you can literal walk to the end of town, or bike, or drive. Since both Canada and The United States have decent freeway systems, Commuter rail is duplicitous. It as convenient to just hop in the car and drive to the next town, then get on a train and go there too. Mass Transit dose not help the rural American.
Suburban America commonly sees mostly bus routes mixed in with normal traffic as the most visible form of transit. Most suburban areas are not near any commuter rail systems. On top of that, most of them never had a streetcar system either. Suburban developments were pretty much established along the interstate system and design to take advantage of that, so cars were and are the vehicle of choice. Light Rail, when established, has a hard time finding a convenient right of way to lay track to serve the community. Bus Service is not convenient to use because of the lack of close stops. This leaves people in suburban areas having to sacrifice personal freedom to use mass transit. What could be a thirty minute drive to the urban core now takes a one and half hour bus and/or train ride in. Time is precious, and therefore mass transit is currently not convenient to the suburban dweller. A suburban layout of development is not conducive to Mass transit use, unless there is a massive redesign.
This leaves the smaller half of the American population. Most urban cities had streetcar systems in the early 20th Century. By the 1950’s these were ripped out. (Wikipedia, Tram, 2016) This set back the mass transit system infrastructure in most of our cities. The idea that mass transit can share urban space with cars and trucks is a horrible idea. It makes it slow and inefficient. Most Places that have, to American standards, decent mass transit systems either saved or maintained the existing systems that were developed in the early 20th century. It will take time to reintroduce ways to set up a mass transit systems in other cities to match the infrastructure assimilate to New York, Boston, Vancouver, or San Francisco.
There are essentially three ways to re-implement the infrastructure to improve transit situation in urban centers. Although the most obvious way to do it, is unfortunately the most expensive. One of the most used transit systems in world, is the New York Subway System. With Most the trackage underground, the subways system has uninterrupted path throughout. This makes the system very convenient. The Second way, which is still expensive, is to use elevated road or rail. Although this cheaper than digging subways, it unfortunately take up some road easement, Not as much as putting it at road level though. The third is to use a mix of road use and rail right of way. This is the cheapest, but the least convenient. Light rail and streetcars that share the road with cars and trucks usually don’t have the right of way. They also present their own new set of dangers; such as the cars themselves, exposed high voltage lines, and more complicated street signaling. There is a way forward but choices need to be made and implemented.
So as we can see, some people can’t use mass transit, some don’t want to use it, and some would like to use it, but it needs to be improved. When it comes to the urban dwelling American people, mass transit needs to be convenient, and sometimes it is. For wider adoption we need to improvement the modern Mass Transit system. For Rural people do not need mass transit, what they have works just fine. And for those who live in Suburbia? Well, that all depends on what is next. We would have to totally redesign current communities to better take advantage of a mass transit system. Is that even possible? Mass transit adoption is only a concern of the city dweller currently, but with 62.7 % of Americans living in the city we need to look forward and take care of the issue now before it becomes worse.
U.S. Department of Commerce, U. S. Census Bureau, March 04, 2015, U.S. Cities are Home to 62.7 Percent of the U.S. Population, but Comprise Just 3.5 Percent of Land Area, CB15-33
U.S. Cities are Home to 62.7 Percent of the U.S. Population, but Comprise Just 3.5 Percent of Land Area, CB15-33
Jed Kolko, FIVE THIRTY EIGHT, May 21, 2015, How Suburban Are Big American Cities?
How Suburban Are Big American Cities?
Daniel Faris, TruthOut, 17 August 2015, Why Public Transportation Is So Limited in the United States
Why Public Transportation Is So Limited in the United States
Wikipedia, 2016, Tram