Public Transportation: The Kid-FactorDecatur Metro | October 8, 2010
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.