Public transit systems are slow, inconvenient and lack coverage: Greater mobility improves quality-of-life.

COST Commentary:This is an update of a previous post adding an article, following the initial post below, from “Atlantic Cities” about a new study (Driving to Opportunity: Understanding the Links among Transportation Access, Residential Outcomes, and Economic Opportunity for Housing Voucher Recipients) which verifies the warm, human story in the first posting. “Atlantic Cities” is generally very pro transit and seems to be struggling with reporting the findindings in the study.

The article below about the new study states The importance of automobiles arises not due to the inherent superiority of driving, but because public transit systems in most metropolitan areas are slow, inconvenient and lack sufficient metropolitan-wide coverage to rival the automobile. This clearly indicates Atlantic Cities’ heavy bias and belies the fact that no transit system is competitive with the automobile and can never be. The is technically impossible and the very few transit riders also render this financially impossible for taxpayers to subsidize.

An interesting element to the new study, below, is the reporters reluctance to accept its implications as indicated at the end of the article. He uses the term “shortsighted transportation planning” making cars a necessity in many communities; as opposed to accepting the fact that cars provided a dramatic increase in peoples’ prosperity and quality-of-life due to greatly expanded mobility and convenience.

This is the initial post:

COST Commentary: The short, heartwarming story below is validation of the principles which COST has been promoting from its founding. COST’s goal is to improve transportation and mobility for the entire community recognizing a key foundation to achieve higher quality-of-life is more efficient mobility, providing: shorter travel times and greater access to career opportunity, education, medical needs, recreation, cost-effective retail, entertainment and all of life’s offerings.

Public transit will always play a vital role in the lives of people early in their quest for higher quality-of-life and those unable to support private transportation. As the article below indicates, assistance to many people in achieving private transportation may be the most cost-effective way to achieve a win-win for the individuals and for the community.
A car to get them off welfare and improve their lives in Baltimore

TOLLROADSnews, Posted: Fri, 2011-10-07

The Baltimore Sun’s transport report Michael Dresser has a great story this week about a Baltimore charity called Vehicles for Change (VfC) that is enriching the lives of transit-dependent people by getting them a car. 24-year old Karyn Wilmer a single mother with a 2-year old calls a 1998 Honda she got from VfC “almost a miracle for me,” the car has so radically improved her life. The car had enabled her to get work because transit to the workplace was impossible.

Recipients of the donated cars said that their new mobility enabled them look after children better and to shop better.

Vehicles for Change organized a promotional event recently called “Walk in their Shoes” in the car recipients left their cars at home for one day and retracted their walks and transit rides on typical trips they had to make when carless.

Reporters and officials traipsed along on the long walks to the bus stop and then waited around for the buses which rarely ran to schedule, then the awkward routine of folding the stroller and hoisting it and child up into the bus while maneuvering coins and bills for the fare.

The Sun report quotes a survey that showed 70% of recipients of cars said they made thousands increase in income in the year after they’d got a car. Children benefited in less monetary ways, being able to be taken more places than transit makes convenient.

Recipients rent the cars typically for $75/month. Often after a couple of years they’ve made enough extra income to be able to afford their own. A good rent payment record is accepted by local banks as a credit positive.

No comment from the transit enthusiasts or those who want to “get people out of their cars.”

OUR COMMENT: Carlessness in the modern world is a form of transit-slavery, a scourge which true progressives and liberals will oppose. Programs like Baltimore’s Vehicles for Change enabling people of limited means to get cars deserve support.,0,1131382.story

testimonials from grateful recipients of cars:

How Access to Cars Could Help the Poor

Rolf Pendall, April 01, 2014, Atlantic Cities

America may be rethinking its love affair with cars.

We’re driving less. Adjusted for population growth, the number of vehicle miles driven per year has dropped 8.9 percent since peaking in 2005. We’re also buying fewer cars. While driving will accelerate as the economy improves, many Americans would rather not have to drive so much.

But a new study co-led by myself; Evelyn Blumenberg from the University of California, Los Angeles; and Casey Dawkins from the University of Maryland suggests there is at least one group that may need help to drive more, not less: low-income residents of high-poverty neighborhoods.

Our evidence comes from two Department of Housing and Urban Development demonstration programs: Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing and Welfare to Work Vouchers. Both were designed to test whether housing choice vouchers—that is, subsidies that allowed participants to choose where they live—propelled low-income households into greater economic security.

Taken together, data sets from these studies allowed us to examine neighborhood quality, neighborhood satisfaction, and employment outcomes for almost 12,000 families from 10 cities: Atlanta, Augusta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Spokane.

The results? Housing voucher recipients with cars tended to live and remain in higher-opportunity neighborhoods—places with lower poverty rates, higher social status, stronger housing markets, and lower health risks. Cars are also associated with improved neighborhood satisfaction and better employment outcomes. Among Moving to Opportunity families, those with cars were twice as likely to find a job and four times as likely to remain employed.

For more than a century, cars have signified status.

The importance of automobiles arises not due to the inherent superiority of driving, but because public transit systems in most metropolitan areas are slow, inconvenient, and lack sufficient metropolitan-wide coverage to rival the automobile.

More research is needed to determine if the relationship is causal or associative, that is, whether the car is the catalyst or if there is something deeper at work, of which the car is simply one manifestation. Cars are expensive to purchase and to maintain, even more so for families with severely limited resources. A low-income household that is somehow able, inclined, or afforded the opportunity to buy a car might also do many other things to get ahead. Motivation, opportunity, or both could be key.

Yet our current findings are enough to raise important questions.

For example, should government welfare programs facilitate automobile access or ownership? In some states, a car would push families over the asset limit for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, making those families ineligible for help.

There are also environmental considerations. How might we balance the apparent benefits of car access for disadvantaged families with serious concerns about climate change and the need to reduce automobile emissions? Car-sharing in locations and at price points that are accessible for the working poor could be part of the solution.

For more than a century, cars have signified status. They became emblems of freedom. And by the 1950s, shortsighted transportation planning made them a necessity in many communities. Even as highly educated millennials and baby boomers fantasize about car-free cities, car access is still indispensable for many families seeking safety and economic security.

Comments are closed.

©2007 Coalition On Sustainable Transportation