Why Public Transportation Sucks In California

Matt Lillywhite

Everyone knows that public transportation in the United States is often unreliable and slow. "American cities are facing a transportation crisis," writes Aaron Gordon in Vice. "There’s terrible traffic. Public transit doesn’t work or go where people need it to. The cities are growing, but newcomers are faced with the prospects of paying high rents for reasonable commutes or lower rents for dreary, frustrating daily treks."

Public Transit Is Often Slower Than Driving In California.

If you drive 81 miles from San Jose to Stockton, the total journey time is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, per Google Maps. Meanwhile, taking public transit (such as buses and trains) will probably take several hours.

The same is true for Los Angeles. If you drive 75 miles from Santa Monica to San Bernardino, it'll take approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. Meanwhile, public transit takes almost three hours to get from A to B.

Sadly, public transportation in California is significantly slower than other major cities around the world. For example, you can travel by train from Brussels to Paris in 1 hour 30 minutes. That's a total distance of 195 miles.

Over in Japan, you can travel from Tokyo to Osaka in less than 2 hours 30 minutes, thanks to the high-speed train that departs every 20 minutes. That's 312 miles, which is roughly equivalent to the distance from Oxnard to San Jose.

Public Transit Agencies In California Face A Massive Dilemma

"Transit in the US is caught in a vicious cycle," said David King, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University. "We push for low fares for social reasons, but that starves the transit agency, which leads to reduced service."

It's also worth mentioning that the urban sprawl of cities in California makes it difficult for public transit to transport people on en-masse at a low cost. Quoting an article published by Vox:

"Most American cities — especially those outside the Northeast and Rust Belt — are relatively new, so they were built mainly with the car in mind. They're sprawled out, with cul-de-sac-heavy suburbs instead of a tight grid. All this makes cost-efficient and fast transit way more difficult. After all, it costs more for a rail or bus line to serve the same number of people spread across a wider area."

What do you think about public transit in California? Leave a comment with your thoughts. And if you think more people should read this article, share it on social media.

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Matt Lillywhite covers politics, the economy, and kitchen-table issues that matter.


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