This week we addressed the topic of car dependency and public transportation and how these things affect lower income families in this country. I asked that the Modest Needs community share its primary mode of transportation in this poll, and 63% of you who responded (thank you!) use a vehicle as the number one way to get around. [See results of the poll.]
Just in browsing through the application at Modest Needs, so many of which are requests to help fix cars that are crucial for their livelihoods, but so in disrepair that they are risking their lives by continuing to drive, that providing transportation services to those in car-dependent areas will help the working poor by directly impacting their access to basic necessities: education, jobs, medical services, social services and more.Here are an assortment of stats on public transit and the working poor:
- For every dollar spent on this [public] transit, rural communities reap about 3.1 dollars in benefits. [source]
- The poorest fifth of Americans spend 42% of their annual household budget on the purchase, operation, and maintenance of automobiles, more than twice as much as the national average. [source]
But more compelling than numbers, are the shared stories from commenters about how car dependency affects their lives:
The answer isn't simple. Nashville put in the Music City Star, a rail system that transported workers, primarily, from the suburbs to the downtown area. Despite density in population in that area, the train never really took off. It's often only filled to 10 or 15% capacity, even at busy times of the day. Perhaps that transit system isn't broad enough to motivate people to go completely car free, because well, the area is too spread out. People *must* have a car, so they might as well drive it for the convenience, even if a train is available.
I lived without a car for over fifteen years while paying off loans from college, and supporting myself. I have no family that I'm in contact with (abuse history), and have supported myself the whole way. The only way I was able to survive the carless years was that I was single and childless, and at that point not disabled. It was horrendous. Most mass transit companies have cut back service to the point where no buses run after 7:00 PM, so if you work late and miss the last bus, you're out of luck. Service for the disabled is frequently horrible, i.e. in Sacramento, people who require seats or who are in wheelchairs can be denied service at any time if the bus or train is "too crowded"...
Are you happy with your transit situation? Do you wish you had better access to public transit? Would you support the building of mass transit in your area with an increase in taxes? Or could you never give up your car?
Speak up below.
[Photo by Michelle Brea]