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April 25, 2019

Celebrate all things public transportation

by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator

“Mama took the Altimeter Transit bus to work each day
All the way down San Pablo, thirty years a Naval base
Never heard her once complain about taking public transportation
You should ride the city bus just like the rest of us in El Cerrito”

Cracker, “El Cerrito”

Growing up in Chicago, my friends and I considered the CTA our lifeline to so many great things the city had to offer. I lived walking distance to at least 3 bus routes (the old “green limousine”) that took you downtown plus 35th/Sox Park on the Red Line was “our stop”. As a teenager, we were able to go to the lakefront, the museums, walk up and down Michigan Ave, and go to the movies - without needing a car (I didn't buy my first used car until I was in my early 20s), thanks to the system we had at our fingertips.

I like to think that I gained a second education in “street smarts” thanks to the freedom we were allowed back then - something that my friends who grew up in the suburbs (where you had to drive everywhere) never had the chance to experience the way we did.

When I lived on the north side of the city, where it even made less sense to own a car (and long before the Uber & Lyft days), it was more of the same - public transportation was just our way of life. Going to work? Take the bus. Heading to that party? Take the Brown Line. Dinner at my parent’s place? Well, the Red Line of course (and they still live there).

When my wife and I were first looking to move from Chicago for her work, the choice came down to Cambridge or Palo Alto - and for me it always came down to, with all other things being equal, who has the better public transit? Where do we need to drive the least? We ended up in Cambridge nearly 10 years ago and haven’t looked back (and I STILL live right off the Red Line). And with traffic being what it is around here these days, using public transportation is even more critical.

My love for buses and subways (old subway cars is where the “railfan” in me comes out) growing up is why I do what I do as an advocate. I want everyone to have the same experiences as me, no matter where they live. To the the rest of the country build modern and reliable transportation systems so that none of us need to rely on cars everyday. And that’s why I’m happy to see that there is a National Public Transportation Day going on today. Whether you daily user or a once and in while vacation traveler, today is the day to celebrate and #GetOnBoard. (Click that hashtag link and see what your local city or authority is doing - some are even giving free rides).

Sadly, but not completly unsurprising, my local authoity is NOT participating in the national event today. But the CTA and DC Metro are....