San Diego has many qualities for which it is renowned globally. The weather is perfect year round, though the resulting drought is less than enjoyable. Our beaches are wide and welcoming. The range of indoor and outdoor activities is enticing for all age groups. The laid-back attitude of the natives makes visitors feel at home.
Public transportation, however, will never be our crowning glory.
This has become abundantly clear from my time spent abroad. The public transportation systems in the U.K. and Ireland are efficient, and it opens up major cities to a broader group of citizens. Having a transit system allows those unable to otherwise reach civic centers, such as the disenfranchised and the disabled, to travel farther and have more independence in doing so.
It also makes it easier for youths to funnel their money into housing as opposed to expensive cars and gas. In areas where the cost of living is as high as it is in London, such transpiration is critical for daily survival. On top of this, there is a Congestion Fee for drivers with personal vehicles of £15 (roughly $20) for each day they drive in the city. It’s easy to see why many turn to public transportation as their main method of travel.
The Tube in London is one of the most striking examples of successful, culturally ingrained public transport. Once you get the hang of the intersecting travel lines, the Tube is one of the best ways to move around the city. During rush hour, the already tight cabins get uncomfortably congested with the flux of travelers, but it is worth feeling like a sardine for a few minutes to quickly get across town.
Traveling around on the tube made me feel as if I were a born and raised Londoner. Clearly, I had places to go, people to see!
In Edinburgh and Dublin, the bus systems were all one needed to have full access to the city. The Old Town and the New Town of Edinburgh are easily connected for those able to afford a bus pass. You could get on the bus surrounded by centuries old churches and exit it in a maze of modern businesses. The talkative bus drivers in Dublin ensure you are entertained while getting to your destination. The sense of community that forms between journeyers, no matter how brief, is a refreshing change of pace from the isolation of driving independently.
That mentality is not seen in San Diego. Americans are highly individualistic; our needs come first and foremost. We will get where we need to go on our own. Not only are personal cars one of the fastest ways to travel, owning a own car is a status symbol. Many Americans feel that the style, year and make of car they drive directly reflects their place in society. It’s hard for us to envision the upper class driving a Honda Civic. Relinquishing cars in favor of public transport would constitute abandoning a significant part of that identity.
This isn’t even to mention the outrage that would arise due to the cost in taxes it would take to dramatically improve San Diego’s public transportation system. The trolley is nice, but it doesn’t cover enough ground to be effective for the masses. The current infrastructure is not able to cope with the population of the nation’s eighth largest (and growing) city. While it may be quite a ways down the road, I would love to see San Diego invest in its citizens by investing it public transportation.
Annette Rainey is a television, film, and new media junior. This summer she will be traveling through Ireland, the UK, and France on a faculty-led program.