Lord knows there are some rather vocal supporters of public transportation out there.
They could generally be described as the riders who ELECT to use public transportation over a car for their daily traversing. They are a spritely bunch. As passionate about their underfunded and underrepresented cause as any minority voice.
But have you ever noticed that it’s a minority without many kids?
It’s not like it has completely escaped me that transit-swingers are largely made up of young singles, DINKS, and retired persons, but I only recently became more acutely aware of what I’m terming “the kid-factor”.
What spurred me to this revelation? Well, having a kid.
Bottomline: Having a kid makes taking public transportation HARDER. Where once you could jump from feet to bus to escalator to train to bus to feet, now such hopping becomes a slog. A slow, stroller-folding, elevator-riding slog.
And apparently I’m not the only one. Note this line from a recent article by transit-loving journalist Maria Saporta, reflecting on the greatness of MARTA bus line 45…
Finally, when my son was born, it became a bit much to ride MARTA. Plus I needed my car to go to assignments all over town.
Although I was no longer a daily rider on the 45, it was comforting to know it was there when I needed it.
And if Maria Saporta has to give up MARTA, what choice do I have?
But has this recent development caused me to cede my pro-transit promotion to my procreation? Nope.
In fact, the experience actually just emphasizes the built-in difficulties of Atlanta’s transportation system. Where it was once tolerable, in the present it’s just not an option for a time/baby-strapped parent.
I may have been a bit more grim in my overall assessment of the kid-factor if I hadn’t recently taken my trip to Portland, Oregon. (Oh lord, here he goes!).
OK, OK, but young parents and their children abound on Portland’s light-rail. Now is that because 8 months of rain toughen the Oregonian spirit and make lugging a kid onto a train no big deal? Not really. I’d argue it’s because it’s just plain easier to get a kid on and off transit in Portland. No entering stations. No steps onto a bus. Short walks to stops.
In Portland, the “convenience threshold” is met, even for parents.
But here in Atlanta, we’ve settled for a less convenient model, which tends to limit its ridership to the die-hards, the ultra-mobile, and those without options.
And no longer as “ultra-mobile” as I once was, I’ve suddenly found myself back in my car.