Mar 8Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

I commute by plane (San Diego to Oakland CA) once per week. This morning, the entire process of Ubering to the airport, going through security and flying took less time than taking the train less than ten miles from the airport to downtown Oakland. Over an hour of train delays and mismatched schedules leading to standing on the cold platform with my luggage.

To me, the decision to avoid public transit wherever possible comes down to several factors:

1) Carrying baggage is inconvenient on the train, especially if it’s oversized or heavy. I would love more funding for carts and elevators and moving sidewalks. Plus, baggage gets stolen in a way it doesn’t in the trunk of your car.

2) Train schedules end too soon and need to run 24/7. If I get held late at work, I’ll miss the train and be stranded overnight or need to take a pricey Uber.

3) The train usually leaves me a mile or more from my destination. Coverage isn’t thorough enough. Buses are scarce and unreliable.

4) Commuting time is unpredictable no matter what, since even a car can hit traffic, but I often need to book an hour or more extra into commuting by public transit due to delays and closures.

5) It feels more expensive than it’s worth. My unpleasant ride on the train this morning cost as much as my Uber this morning, and one was ten minutes in a warm car with some friendly chat and one was over an hour of guarding my bags in a smelly train car and standing on the cold platform.

6) Open-air platforms are cheaper and nice in the summer, but miserable in bad weather. Who wants to stand in damp windy cold for forty minutes for a train that takes its sweet time to arrive, then have to unbundle your layers so you don’t sweat in the train car?

7) and finally, the train is noisy and smelly and unpleasant and my car smells like Bath and Body Works and has my own music and temperature control and no weird dudes looming over me asking what I’m reading and where I’m from.

I don’t know what the answer is, because I feel like globally I absolutely support better public transit, but I’ve had so many mundane terrible experiences getting stranded or dealing with sexpests that I don’t actually want to be the change I want to see in the world. Some of these problems are so fixable but they require money, and it’s hard to marshal public will when the timelines are like “you’ll have a nicer train station in fifteen years but you need to pay higher taxes for it today.” So many collective bargaining agreements from contractors balloon both costs and timelines for improving old transit, much less building new routes. And this isn’t even getting into how awful the train is if you have a disability or injury - every week or so another stop has an unexpected elevator shortage.

I actually love the NYC subway system, which I used for years and always ran close to on-time, almost everywhere I needed to go, 24/7. I know good public transit can be done and if the city I lived in had a system like that, I’d sell my car. The Coaster in SD is actually really nice, and we’re making an effort to use it more.

But man, it’s such a tall ask to get people to use BAD public transit, even before the petty crimes.

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I agree with everything you said. In my region, the busses are almost impossible to get around in, and no one uses them unless there’s absolutely no alternative. That’s apart from the issue of the crime, which is also a problem. The busses are not useful or practical here.

But I hold out no hope for improving transportation in the US. We are a culture where our “leaders” care so little about the people or their well-being that we don’t even have the health care that places with fewer resources (but longer life expectancies-- like Czechia, Cuba, Lebanon, and about 43 other nations) manage to provide.

America is crashing and burning, and I very much wish as a young adult I’d decided to build a life elsewhere.

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Mar 9Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

I had to stop reading at the sight of P****** M****** because it caused me great pain. But I was moved by the vegetables discussion.

I love vegetables and have always loved vegetables. Growing up in an Italian American household one of the things I never grasped was that there's a large amount of Americans who are spice averse. Or even salt averse.

Most people rhapsodize about homecooked meals, particularly vis a vis restaurants, but in my life they are a parade of blandness. If there's one piece of advice I could give Americans of northern European extraction it is to start doubling the amount of spices you use in each recipe. If it's a pepper based spice, double it again.

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Mar 8Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

Companionable silence, love that term.

I wonder how much of the obesity problem we have in the US is due to the time we spend seated in our automobiles. After a big meal out we lumber to our Kias instead of a ten minute stroll to the train station. That stuff adds up year after year.

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Mar 8Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

Excellent essay! I agree wholeheartedly. The way to change people's minds is to change their reality.

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