A lot of people are up in arms over Alison Benedikt’s piece at Slate declaring those who send their kids to private schools “bad people.” Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is. She raises a good point! We should sacrifice ourselves and our families as much as possible to build up the glory of state-run enterprises. Allow me to make a modest proposal: If you live in a city with a public transit system and you use private companies like Yellow Cabs or Uber to get around town, you’re a bad person.
Not bad like rapist bad. But bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-yourself bad. So, you know, pretty bad.
I’m not a transportation policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every person who had to get around a city took everyone of their trips on public transit, public transit would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. You might be frequently late to work and miss flights in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
Everyone needs to be invested in our public transit in order for them to get better! Not just lip-service investment, or property tax hikes, but real flesh-and-blood-and-butts-in-the-seats investment. Your bus line only has one carriage come by every hour so you take a cab or hail an Uber? Then the badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. But if you’re dedicated to public transit and your local Metro station is un-air-conditioned and attracts drug dealers and prostitutes? I bet you’re going to do everything in your power to make it better.
Aggrieved commuters have a lot of power. In many D.C. communities, for instance, it’s the local ANCs that agitate for more buses and get police patrols of the metro stops. Everyone, all in. (By the way: Banning private transportation isn’t the answer. We need a moral adjustment, not a legislative one.) (Of course, once the morals have adjusted we will then feel perfectly fine about banning the object of our hate. But let’s not discuss that just yet—this is a modest proposal, after all.)
There are a lot of reasons why bad people use private transportation. Yes, some do it because they can’t be bothered to learn the rail and bus lines. But many go because they have to get somewhere in a hurry or can’t wait 20 minutes for a train to come. Some have personal issues like claustrophobia. But those compelling reasons are exactly why we should all opt-in, not out, for some reason.
I believe in public transit, but my bus line isn’t all that good! you might say. I understand. You want to get to work on time. But you don’t actually need that. If you can afford a cab you probably have a good job, or something, and they won’t care if you’re late all the time. You’ll have support from your bosses and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about transportation issues—the exact kind of person that can help your crappy line become less crappy.
I worked for 2 years in a part of the city with terrible public transit. The nearest metro stop was two miles away. There wasn’t even a bus line nearby. I never had to learn the routes. I wasn’t prepared to work downtown and move to Columbia Heights, D.C. neighborhoods in which it was actually pretty easy to get around via public transportation. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine.
Many of my (morally bankrupt) colleagues use private transportation. I asked them to tell me why.* Here is the response that most stuck with me: “Don’t you want me to get to work on time and be able to cover the stories you assign?” I get it: You’re dedicated to your job. But the world will survive if we don’t have full-on coverage of topless protests and Street Sense vendors. Quit being such a narcissist.
In conclusion, the next time you hail a cab, think about how terrible you are, how you’re destroying your city, and why you deserve to die in a fire.
*This is a lie; I’m just going to assume what these horrible monsters would say.