Why American public transit is so bad | 2020 Election

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Most Americans have no choice but to drive. How do we change that?
Watch more 2020 US election explainers at vox.com/ElectionVideos
In the middle of the 20th century, the US government made a decision that would transform American cities: It built a huge system of interstate highways, many of which went right through the downtowns of its biggest cities.
This sealed the country's fate as a car culture, and today we're seeing the results. In most cities, it's extremely difficult to get around without a car, in part due to public transit systems built to serve an outdated commute. And when our politics turn to infrastructure, the government often favors building new roads and highways instead of improving and expanding public transportation.
The result is a system that forces more Americans to drive, at the expense of those who rely on public transit. It's also the biggest contributor to our country’s carbon footprint. Fixing that over the long term will require a reimagining of American cities and towns. But there's also a way that, if we wanted to, we could improve American transit systems, and get more people riding them, in a matter of weeks.
This was the seventh in our series of 2020 election explainers, all based on viewer suggestions. Watch the others, which cover the stakes of the election on:
1) Climate change: alpost.info/mine/gcmkvZOogaDanqM/video
2) Voting rights: alpost.info/mine/kc-W1oqZkn-rdZc/video
3) Reproductive health: alpost.info/mine/ct3Y0GKUfqbbl6M/video
4) Public schools: alpost.info/mine/nKmtmGjToV-2kas/video
5) Police reform: alpost.info/mine/g6vItZjNiGSbc4E/video
6) America’s role in the world: alpost.info/mine/g5iv14LXbGuZeas/video
7) Transportation: alpost.info/mine/Xb2nv6WjiobclX0/video
8) LGBTQ rights: alpost.info/mine/qLXR1YbRrJiadWQ/video
9) The eviction crisis: alpost.info/mine/dpOa3oWqaHyWgZ8/video
For Jonathan English’s research comparing Canadian and US public transit: www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-08-31/why-is-american-mass-transit-so-bad-it-s-a-long-story
For research on suburban commutes from the Brookings Institution’s Adie Tomer, Joseph Kane, and Jennifer S. Vey: www.brookings.edu/interactives/connecting-people-and-places-exploring-new-measures-of-travel-behavior/
For more of Vox’s coverage on public transportation: www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9118199/public-transportation-subway-buses
For more historical maps on how the federal highway system transformed cities: iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/
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Komente
MUSTASCH1O
MUSTASCH1O 3 orë më parë
Surely this is a business opportunity. Question is, why haven't companies sprung up to offer the service people want to pay for?
matateto
matateto 10 orë më parë
Other western countries: Well public transport is pretty alright... Americans: Public transport? THATS SOCIALISM! WHERE IS MY FREEDOM
AlphineWolf
AlphineWolf 10 orë më parë
We learned from Hong Kong. Smaller buses for short routes that still serve people that commute from those routes
Jan Roberts
Jan Roberts 13 orë më parë
And no one is talking about how Ford and other rich car makers bought almost all railway companies in the country just to abandon them and instead build more high ways and roads with the help of their politician amigos and force people to buy and drive cars. Look at what USA now compared to Europe. You can't even compare them. lol
Jack Skoskiewicz
Jack Skoskiewicz 18 orë më parë
Part of the reason why cars are so popular though is the freedom. You can drive straight to wherever you want. Im not saying we shouldn't invest in Public transport, but still
Liza Mazalova
Liza Mazalova Ditë më parë
so grateful to live in London
Lyz Ruvalcaba
Lyz Ruvalcaba Ditë më parë
Koch brothers anyone?
pigtailsboy
pigtailsboy Ditë më parë
It's part of the CTA, you can use your transit pass to connect with an intersecting bus line. There is the Metra and the CTA subway lines and the Amtrak system among others. It is not impossible or all that difficult to range around Chicago it is Illinois residents that are unwilling to utilize near by systems. If you use what systems are available they will further prosper and progressively demand further expansion. This is as good as it gets for suburban based sprawl if you want to balance for mass transit and heavy road and highway networks.
Tom Rosedale
Tom Rosedale 2 ditë më parë
I feel like these videos are very one sided can you please show more of the other side of the argument? Love these videos though thank you
Byzo!
Byzo! 2 ditë më parë
my city is in the thumbnail I’m so proud!
Louisa Chalarka
Louisa Chalarka 2 ditë më parë
America only serves the upper and upper middle class. The rest of us are battered citizens
Louisa Chalarka
Louisa Chalarka 2 ditë më parë
Hey that’s what I noticed @ the start of any job
Joe American
Joe American 2 ditë më parë
All's dandy until transit workers go on strike.
Eric Wang
Eric Wang 2 ditë më parë
Is this video a joke? You intentionally left out US cities that have good public transit NYC, San Francisco Bay Area and focus only on smaller cities where public transit just doesn’t seem sustainable. Also public transit in Toronto is not great either.
Nate Animates
Nate Animates 21 orë më parë
But that's a tiny part of the overall problem. I live in Seattle and the public transport is a joke here. Going from one city to another requires either a car or a long bus drive
Jonathan Park
Jonathan Park 2 ditë më parë
Yall need to visit Korea and try the subway/bus/train system here. You can get to anywhere in the city with subway/bus system with a single transportation card and only costs 1~1.5dollars and you get discounts if you transfer.
Dennis Wu
Dennis Wu 2 ditë më parë
I can make a cross-country travel with ease using public transport in China. The railway system is really world-class, in terms of size.
Rawbone
Rawbone 2 ditë më parë
Just drive
whitefangv
whitefangv 2 ditë më parë
Maybe Americans just love the freedom of driving. You get to go anywhere you want any time you want.
Nate Animates
Nate Animates 21 orë më parë
You'll have more freedom if more people took public transport, as less cars on the road mean less traffic. Not to mention, public transport boosts the economy since more people are able to work in cities.
Little Bastard
Little Bastard 2 ditë më parë
quebec city is exatly like the first cities you described, they even built un-crossable highways preventing pedestrians and cyclists from going anywhere. all public transits are well over 1 hour travel + 1 hour wait to reach your destination, we are litterally taken hostage. want to go shopping, what takes 15 min using a car, takes the entire day using public transport.
Ethan Pinella
Ethan Pinella 2 ditë më parë
Half of detroit just disappear s in the before and after
Harrison Muntner
Harrison Muntner 2 ditë më parë
*me laughing in New Yorkian
puytqiggsgf
puytqiggsgf 2 ditë më parë
america is the land of wasted potential
wh3resmycar
wh3resmycar 3 ditë më parë
Anyone tried this on cities skyline?
Auno94
Auno94 3 ditë më parë
As a German who lives in one of the biggest cities. It is baffeling to see how little space there is for pedestrians and how bad US public transport really is. I mean I can be faster in paris by train than any other option(messuaring door to door communte)
Nikola Sirovica
Nikola Sirovica 3 ditë më parë
ride a bike jesus, it's the fastest, cheapest, healthiest, most environmentally-friendly and enjoyable way to get around.
Nikola Sirovica
Nikola Sirovica Ditë më parë
@Stephen Robertson Yeah, it's all relative. Literally every single city I've lived in has people claim 'it's too dangerous to bike here'. In the United States I'd argue that you have de-facto bike lanes in the majority of US suburbs that head into the city, because most streets have sidewalks that nobody uses and just stay empty. These could easily be converted into bike lanes, and expanded to have one section for pedestrians too. Even though overall i'm more of a fan of having streets with bike lanes instead of sidewalks with bike lanes.
Stephen Robertson
Stephen Robertson Ditë më parë
I think you forgot how lazy and obese americans are lol. In all seriousness though, many major cities are way behind with bike lanes and its actually quite dangerous to bike to work. I know several ppl who have been hit. Thankfully only minor injuries, but we cant even support bicycles right unfortunately.
Peter Kuzmin
Peter Kuzmin 3 ditë më parë
Electric cars in the mix? Also, cities might be slowly dissolving as real estate becomes too expensive and remote work becomes more accepted
Clem Aloy
Clem Aloy 3 ditë më parë
Americans are lazy to use Public transport . Even in India nowadays its becoming the same case . Each and every house has a 4 wheeler
John Leach
John Leach 3 ditë më parë
Hold on. The example you showed, Charlotte vs Toronto ignores a couple of basics: The first is density, which, in this case is like 5:1, The 2nd is region: Charlotte, NC is in a historically sleepy area, far eclipsed by Toronto. The second example you chose, Chicago, is where I grew up (3100 North). I remember it as a pleasant 1/2 hour bus trip to the loop for a dime, courtesy a private company, the Chicago Motor Coach Co. As I lived near Sheridan Road, the El wasn't feasible. This was 1939-53.
qwertyuiop
qwertyuiop 3 ditë më parë
Public transportation has two jobs. The first is to get me to where I need to go in a reasonably efficient manner so I mostly don't have to drive. The second is to keep as many cars as possible off the road (because people are riding the bus) so that driving isn't a hassle when I do drive.
ssj4david
ssj4david 3 ditë më parë
Sigh* Toronto as a benchmark...... The bar is sure set rock bottom.....
You Know Nothing
You Know Nothing 4 ditë më parë
I am 32, and have been living in Toronto since I was 18 years old. I have never had a car because the Toronto public transit system is one of the best in the world. Not perfect, obviously, but still a really good system. :D
Jake McGaughey
Jake McGaughey 4 ditë më parë
I take Toronto’s transit everyday, it’s terrible. These cities must be really bad then
Cool sloth
Cool sloth 4 ditë më parë
I'm in TORONTO and we use ttc (public transport) all the time
JustMoseyinAround
JustMoseyinAround 4 ditë më parë
Toronto got a shout out? *What it doo babbbbyyyy*
Tor Bai
Tor Bai 4 ditë më parë
The answer to those questions is very simple: the automobile and energy capitalists force you to spend more on vehicles and gasoline by creating inconvinient infrastructures such as the interstates crossing the cities downtown built in the 50s. It's exploitation in capitalism. (But I can imagine people in the US will disagree and defend the capitalists who exploit them...)
Brandon Mitchell
Brandon Mitchell 4 ditë më parë
2:55 add Syracuse, NY to that list. In the late 50's early 60's a prodominently black neighborhood was razed in favor of a highway running through our city.
Terrell Littleton
Terrell Littleton 4 ditë më parë
Because the government doesn’t care about us, next
Kartikay Bhardwaj
Kartikay Bhardwaj 4 ditë më parë
They want u to buy a car.. that's it
Mabel
Mabel 4 ditë më parë
Sorry I was too harsh to TTC, really should forgive the rush hour shut down after watching this.
Mayangone
Mayangone 4 ditë më parë
Build more lines that loop the city like beltways. When I was in Beijing, I could take trains that loop around the city.
space_skeloton
space_skeloton 4 ditë më parë
All ontario transport is good except London it is worse than all of the states
davidemmyg
davidemmyg 4 ditë më parë
Whats good for gm is good for USA lol
Crunchy Buns
Crunchy Buns 4 ditë më parë
Public Jet Skiis are an under utilized form of public transport
Peng JHP
Peng JHP 5 ditë më parë
He only showed the transit for Toronto and not GTA. So that map is mainly downtown areas served by TTC, if you add in YRT, things don't look as nice and gridded
TheZombaslaya
TheZombaslaya 5 ditë më parë
This is why I wish we’d abolish zoning laws, they’ve destroyed this country.
Nick Carrter
Nick Carrter 5 ditë më parë
A combination of different things I think more train routes also better bus systems with more buses and more stops and more express buses would solve a lot of transit issues in like 99 percent of major cities in the us you could easily link all the suburbs with rail systems
Viraj Voditel
Viraj Voditel 5 ditë më parë
4:19 This guy is the real Johnny English
Black Friday
Black Friday 5 ditë më parë
I was an exchange student, stayed in SC. I was surprised that I didn't find any public transportation. The only one I found was only school bus 😂
George Henry Jr
George Henry Jr 5 ditë më parë
Slow down with Toronto’s transit system. It still has major service issues, that frustrate people who don’t have vehicle access. Don’t be fooled by this video. Toronto is big, expensive, and hard to get around. Even on the best transit day. Toronto transit might look good on paper, but it needs more subways, and less bus routes. Ask anyone who lives here. The Kingston road 12 bus is the worst run bus route on the face of the earth.
Ryo Murata
Ryo Murata 5 ditë më parë
Come to Tokyo....Problem Solved :D but one problem....no young people wants cars...ouch Toyota Honda Nissan
Y O
Y O 5 ditë më parë
I don't understand why Chicago can't build a sort of "north-south" rail line beginning at O'Hare that cuts through multiple existing lines.
Ray
Ray 5 ditë më parë
Americans: Because public transport is communism, they deprive you of your freedom of driving and dictate where you from where you go
Rey Nolds
Rey Nolds 5 ditë më parë
And racist city planners destroyed mostly black families neighborhoods.
Shang Li
Shang Li 6 ditë më parë
I think people in these comments don't realize that the US can't simply imitate Japan or European countries. When you don't have the requisite density, it just doesn't make sense to establish a transit system that is similar to those countries. When your average density is 1000-3000 per square mile, a light rail or subway is just a waste of money. This is why this video point to Toronto as an example. You can't build transit with density and you can't build density without transit. Thus, the most practical and the most politically feasible solution would be to promote density along existing transit lines (through rezoning, etc.). And as density increases along these transit lines, you could slowly accumulate enough political support to invest more in their expansion. Meanwhile, buses are easier to expand but must be paired with light rail or subways to become useful. In Chicago's case, there is actually a bus route that leads you from Avondale to Ellwood Park that requires you to transfer once. However, even with a very short layover, it would take an hour and 12 minutes. Compare that to driving and it is very obvious what choices people would make. So unless there is a transit network anchored by efficient light rail, simply funding buses more would not increase transit usage in any meaningful way.
Tora Black
Tora Black 6 ditë më parë
As somebody who doesn't have a car or a drivers license I am all for making cities/towns more transit orient.
David Warshaw
David Warshaw 6 ditë më parë
Every Vox video- govt sux Every Vox Video - lets make it bigger.
gijs _k
gijs _k 6 ditë më parë
Not bigger. Better. If you have a government that isn't influenced by special interests from large companies then good things can actually get done.
Sasha Arugula
Sasha Arugula 6 ditë më parë
In Moscow when people have to wait longer than 2 minutes for a metro train they start to complain... We literally have seconds countdown on metro stations. And live minute countdown on bus stops. There's also live GPS tracking of every bus and most buses are EVs in 2020. And you can pay for public transit directly with Apple pay or Google pay. And Russia isn't even a first world country... I love America but I'm not a fan of this car culture.
Max
Max 6 ditë më parë
The suburbs don’t want public transit because they think it will bring poor people into them. That’s why Georgetown in dc doesn’t have trains that run through it
The Moon Vibez37
The Moon Vibez37 6 ditë më parë
Kanye said this already
LeChienN
LeChienN 6 ditë më parë
Looks like Vox haden't more reasearch on how bad USA's public transit to the System in Toronto. Despite it having more destintations than the USA it's equally bad when it comes when it comes to other forms of transit such as buses and LRT systems in and outside its area. Inconisitant schudules and delays are pretty common due to the high traffic or other circumstance may ruin your experance using it's transit system.
Cosmia's Stash
Cosmia's Stash 6 ditë më parë
The American railway system is also very bad. Not sure why that's the case, but if the Republicans want to favor rural areas and look back to the good old days, then building a cheap and reliable railway system for the whole country like Americans did back in the 1880s should get their approval?
Jozh
Jozh 6 ditë më parë
Main reason is billionaires who has stakes in businesses who stand to lose billions if not their entire businesses because of public transportation becoming the main form of transit for the population. Simplest solution to fix public transportation is getting money out of politics and actually having politicians working for the people and not corporations.
hasbeendrummer
hasbeendrummer 7 ditë më parë
Someone's gotta pay for it. If only it were as everyone makes it out to be.
CommunisThanos
CommunisThanos 7 ditë më parë
For someone who lives in Charlotte and that's not how our transit system works.
Kodi Marius
Kodi Marius 7 ditë më parë
would you say the Japanese has the power to make that happen? Afterall they don't even know what a real delay is.
Kik Rothschild
Kik Rothschild 7 ditë më parë
I would love to take public transit to work. Instead I have an hour commute in and out of New Orleans. The difference in wages and cost of living causes people to live far from work.
AdamOrnelles
AdamOrnelles 7 ditë më parë
I don't ride the bus anymore because half the time I get harassed by someone.
Azul Andrade
Azul Andrade 7 ditë më parë
no one: me: hey that's buenos aires (argentina) at 3:14
UA ПЛАНЕТА
UA ПЛАНЕТА 7 ditë më parë
please help for pasta 1-2 dollars (Visa 5168 7574 1094 8998). I live in a hostel.
Thiago Favero
Thiago Favero 7 ditë më parë
"America" is a big neoliberal experiment. Cannot be worked well.
Maria Gonzalez
Maria Gonzalez 7 ditë më parë
The only thing I'm grateful for in nyc
iohin
iohin 7 ditë më parë
Here in Seattle instead of making it convenient to use a bus we made it inconvenient to use a car: expensive parking and $500 tabs.
Toasted Doritos
Toasted Doritos 7 ditë më parë
I live in Toronto and I can confirm public transit is amazing
Leandro Gomez
Leandro Gomez 7 ditë më parë
1:29 that's Argentina lol
Beck Mal
Beck Mal 7 ditë më parë
I lived in Fairfax(which is basically suburb of Washington DC), worked in Tysons and used bus almost everyday. Believe me or not I’m never seen full bus. Average waiting time was 30-40 minutes. So whatever this video proposes is nonsense. Unless it’s convenient enough(like high speed trains in Tokyo) there’s no way people would prefer buses over personal cars
Beck Mal
Beck Mal 7 ditë më parë
*Japan
Paulo Rito
Paulo Rito 8 ditë më parë
Because anything public in America is "socialism"
Incephony
Incephony 4 orë më parë
@Robert Matlock so how is it socialism, first of all, and lets say that it was socialism. how is that bad in any way? you're delusional.
Robert Matlock
Robert Matlock 8 orë më parë
@Michael TNK By definition it is socialism. Do you know what strawmanning means? Or logical fallacy? Because you're a flaming example.
Michael TNK
Michael TNK 17 orë më parë
@Robert Matlock The US is the only first world country without universal healthcare. You don’t know what socialism means
Robert Matlock
Robert Matlock Ditë më parë
@Paulo Rito Buses/subways are transit...... Healthcare by definition is socialism lol
Paulo Rito
Paulo Rito Ditë më parë
@Robert Matlock nor does buses, clean subway or Healthcare, there's a line there isn't it
Kevin Murphy
Kevin Murphy 8 ditë më parë
I wish I spoke other languages so I could live in countries that actually have infrastructure
Puneeth Bedre
Puneeth Bedre 8 ditë më parë
Brisbane has the same issue
stara Basista
stara Basista 8 ditë më parë
1.5$$ trylion MADNES
victor kim
victor kim 8 ditë më parë
move to Toronto, got it!
Chico Percebe
Chico Percebe 8 ditë më parë
In Madrid happens the same.
likejeppy
likejeppy 8 ditë më parë
Suburbs, another american failure
emanuelgoldstein1984
emanuelgoldstein1984 8 ditë më parë
Highways were chosen over railways to divide whites from non whites
Roland Owen
Roland Owen 8 ditë më parë
When you live in Singapore...
1 2
1 2 9 ditë më parë
lol....you expect dem to do something abt this.....dem n rep is just different side of same coin....only capitalist lapdog....usa is so fckd up
Shin Kizawa
Shin Kizawa 9 ditë më parë
As a local Chicago resident. I live in the suburbs but we don’t have a problem commuting because we lived 5 minutes of a drive from a train station but a convenient commute to another suburb would be nice.
Diego Hernando Izquierdo
Diego Hernando Izquierdo 9 ditë më parë
In Madrid we have great public transit, you can move by blue bus (only the city) or green bus (the whole community/state) the metro you can go anywhere by metro if you are in the city and cercanías train for the whole community/state basically it doesn't matter where you live cause in every town almost there's either a train or a bus to the city or to order parts of the suburbs, plus it's really cheap
Diego Hernando Izquierdo
Diego Hernando Izquierdo 9 ditë më parë
What public transport do you have? Us: no
Maximilian Lee
Maximilian Lee 9 ditë më parë
reminds me of malaysia before the MRT is constructed.
MrBlueberry
MrBlueberry 9 ditë më parë
The city of Almere, Netherlands, has the best public tranpost in the world. The are seperate lanes for Pedestrians, Bikers, Cars, Buses, Trains and even boats. The city is very well connected with Busses and they come almost every 5 minutes, Never late. They have a big screen in the busses that tells you the 5 next stations, and also at what time it'll arrive there, and they also say the next station out lout just in case you're visionaly impaired or just not looking on the screen. its very easy to get into the bus too, you dont need to physically pay the driver, you just swipe a card and thats it, takes less than 2 seconds to do.
Kaat V.S.
Kaat V.S. 9 ditë më parë
People in the Netherlands: what about a bike?
Phil Df
Phil Df 2 ditë më parë
@Maximilian Lee I live in south america and ride everywhere withing 10 km of me, that's excuses
cherry316316
cherry316316 7 ditë më parë
look at the square km of total Netherland and square km of US. you can only bike so far if everyone lives in apartments and dense.
Jan van Riebeeck
Jan van Riebeeck 7 ditë më parë
@Maximilian Lee Yea these people have never been outside of their country. No way to ride a bike safely even in places like Prague, London, Rome etc. There are no bike lanes, drivers aren’t used to bicycles. You have to be on your toes all the time.
Maximilian Lee
Maximilian Lee 9 ditë më parë
if only all US cities are bicycle friendly and has low security concerns eg theft & robbery
Jericho Inalisan
Jericho Inalisan 9 ditë më parë
*Laughs in Filipino with the worst public transport with Jeepneys*
Ernie Allen
Ernie Allen 9 ditë më parë
As someone who lives in Chicago I usually just take my bike on the train.
Jervis Gonzales
Jervis Gonzales 9 ditë më parë
Public transport in the Philippines: Hold my beer
inyazserg Sergey Larin
inyazserg Sergey Larin 9 ditë më parë
I guess the world considers Americans to be the richest people, but I have heard that you are not so rich, and many of you complain about poor lives. Really? Please, break this myth.
Joshua Ramos
Joshua Ramos 9 ditë më parë
Heavy taxes make things expensive in inmer cities
America Supporter
America Supporter 9 ditë më parë
Hasn't covid shown compact cities are a dead idea. Public transit is spread disease. Globalists want to push people into congested cities where they are dependent on govt transportation and everything else. Most people don't want that. Cities are backwards.
Stalin Jiménez
Stalin Jiménez 7 ditë më parë
... I've seen it all.
Yuul Selv
Yuul Selv 9 ditë më parë
Public transit spreads disease and is a threat to public safety and health.
Bas
Bas 10 ditë më parë
All of a sudden i wont complain bout Dutch public transport anymore.
PG_TacticalBear ,
PG_TacticalBear , 10 ditë më parë
a good example is Beverly, Massachutes for good transport
ricardo ugalde
ricardo ugalde 10 ditë më parë
This lady lives like 4 minutes away from me Probably not a good idea to put a map of where you live online 😂
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