What we know about public transportation

…is that it’s the fastest way to traverse all kinds of neighborhoods, food groups and living habits in a smushy, sweaty, cramped cacophony of humanity.

It’s pretty obvious how much I love public transportation. From poetry to my ongoing critique of the MCTS (seriously, if there’s a meeting I need to go to about how we can make it better, please tell me), public transportation knits together the various facets of cities; which is one of my hobbies. See: ethnographies, poverty, jobs, food and water distribution, social programming and income distribution.

But by way of social media, I found this AMAZING interactive piece in The New Yorker that maps income distribution by MTA stop. Which led me to Donkey Hottie which mapped out similarly the income distribution by L stop in Chicago. The blog post posits an interesting question: does the CTA follow the money or does the money come in when the CTA comes in? (And what’s the deal with Sedgwick, anyway!?)

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It’s widely accepted that public transportation is integral to the success and integration of  diversity (and by diversity I don’t mean non-white people, I mean things that are not the same) but rarely in the reading I’ve done have I come across the exact peeling apart of how public transportation changes the fabric of the city. This really became a focal point for me when I moved to Milwaukee from Chicago because EVERYONE drives here. I mean everyone.

In Chicago, you get the folks who bike and the folks to bus and the folks to take the L andthe folks who, miraculously, have enough money to pay rent and rent for a parking space. But the vast majority of folks fall in the middle of that list — bus and L. I think a lot of the habit there stems from public transportation being (largely) pretty effective for a city of that size. You can get just about anywhere with the combination of L and the bus. The L will get you in the vicinity of where you need to be and the bus will take you practically to the doorstep of where you’re going. It’s a dynamic system, it works together, until you wand to get out of the North Side but that’s a whole separate issue.

In Milwaukee, there is no rail system. Despite how much Mayor Barrett wants to bring a rail line to this fine city, having walked around nearly all of the city I just don’t know where we’d put the dang thing. As such, I propose we use ski lifts instead (metajoke). But seriously, while high-speed rail would be a dream in Milwaukee, cutting our transit time from 20 minutes to 2 minutes what would be more effective in the short term would be re-assessing the bus routes. For the most part they’re liner, only traveling North-South or East-West and changing the way they route would add commute time, but make it more effective as having to transfer 3 times to get to Target isn’t time effective either.

But I digress. The salient point of The New Yorker piece wasn’t so much how much fun it is to play with, but that I want to take a look at how the MCTS lines intersect with median income. Because I’m curious as to the density of folks with parking spaces and car payments in contrast to the density of bus stops in this city. I bet I’d be surprised.

Just one more thing to add to my list of ethnography topics.

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