I was reading the Fred Frailey blog over at Trains Magazine (http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2014/09/05/for-it-until-they-were-against-it.aspx) and it brought to mind a lot of silliness I've heard over the years about passenger trains and rail transit. Here are some.
1. "Nobody will ride it."
This is my favorite.
It is usually heard in places that have no trains and is followed by "People here love their cars and won't ever ride a train." I wonder if they believe they think they have evolved different DNA from people other places who happen to ride trains?
I wonder if, just before the road building era, if anyone complained about road construction. "Drive from Chicago to Denver? Why would anyone do that? You can get there overnight on the train."
Then there is the tautological aspect of the argument. Nobody rides because there's nothing to ride. Everyone is getting where they are going right now, so why should anyone do anything new?
2. "If they could connect (where I am) to (some other place) by HSR, it would be great."
When I was a kid, I used to think about how great it would be if there was a subway line from my street to my school. How cool would that be! Problem was, I lived in a lightly settled suburb.
The mayor of Atlanta wants HSR to Savannah, Georgia. How cool would that be! Savannah is a nice place to visit, but it really doesn't need a dedicated HSR line.
The mayor of Columbus, Georgia a HSR line from there to Atlanta. How cool would that be! Columbus isn't even as good a desination as Savannah.
Then there are the continuous and ongoing studies (pushed by some influential politician) for either a HSR or Maglev line from Atlanta to Chattanooga. How cool would that be! Chatanooga is a fine place - kind of a mini-Savannah. But, a HSR line? Really?
3. "Transit is useless to me. It doesn't go where I want to go."
Pssst. Are there people using transit who, for at least part of their trip, would be on the same road as you? Would you like them clogging up "your" road?
That's the easy retort. The harder one is explaining how when you build around roads, you optimize car trips. It's a fools errand to try to build transit to replace automobile trips. You build transit to allow growth beyond automobile oriented development.
If you want to get really puzzling looks, ask someone how they think all those folk who live and work in Manhattan got around before they built the subways?
4. "Criminals ride transit."
They will ride out to your neighborhood on the bus, get off, break into your house, take your TV, head back to the bus stop, and catch the next bus back to Transitville. Sure. This one is usually a thinly veiled reference to "those people" - whoever they may be.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch....
...cities have build and expanded transit. Sometimes. in places with where none had existed. Surprise! People do actually ride it! The greatest car-loving, freeway oriented place in the world, Los Angeles, is the best example. They are slowly transforming LA with a combination of heavy rail transit, light rail and commuter rail. On top of that, intercity passenger rail has been expanded to the north and south. Other cities starting from scratch are Dallas, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Portland, Seattle, and Phoenix to name a few.
...and I've yet to see a guy with ski mask carrying a stolen TV on MARTA!