Has it ever taken you as long to drive from the airport to your final destination--home or office--as it took you to fly from the point of origin? It's happened to me several times, most recently after returning to the office from a business trip to New York City.
The flight from Boston to The Big Apple was about 45 minutes. The cab ride from LaGuardia Airport to downtown Manhattan was an hour.
Okay, it was rush hour in New York and LaGuardia is a hike from Manhattan, so what could I expect? Everyone knows how busy New York is.
But when I returned to Boston on the same trip--another 45-minute flight--it took an hour to get to my office, about 10 miles from Logan Airport. Okay, so it was another rush hour and all locals know that the so-called Big Dig--a massive highway reconstruction project downtown--is guaranteed to slow traffic to a crawl. Still, it's maddening, and leads me to wonder why government agencies don't funnel more money into making mass transit clean, convenient, and affordable in urban areas.
Trains, subways, and buses can carry far more commuters than cars can, unclogging the highways, decreasing fender benders and other more serious rush-hour accidents, and cleaning the air. But for mass transit to be attractive to us car nuts, ever on guard to protect the freedom our cars give us, it would have to be re-engineered. Routes and schedules would have to expand, and new technology would have to find its way into public-transportation vehicles. That takes money, commitment, and engineering creativity. The latter is easy to find. In fact, Design News readers are the most likely source.
In one of our recent reader surveys on automotive topics, we asked readers to rate various alternatives for dealing with traffic congestion. Seventy percent of respondents picked improved mass transit as the best tool. (Second place--44% of respondents--went to intelligent vehicle highway systems.)
The money and commitment are the problems. Government agencies should consider committing more highway funds to mass transit. What does it take to get public officials serious about public transit? Maybe they should be forced to sit in traffic for hours. Come to think of it, they probably already do--Washington, DC is no commuter's picnic. For their own sake--not just ours--they should unleash engineers to make mass transit better.