Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting Around Vs. Getting There

Any article about anything in Philly always brings out the haters, which is good for a laugh. It also reminded me of something I'd been meaning to write about, which is how much the emphasis of public transit in this country, where it exists, is on commuting. This is most obvious in suburbs, where cross-suburban transit is (often understandably) completely inadequate, and peak hour commuter rail service is the focus. But it's also the case even within cities, where outside of the central urban core service is also focused on bringing people into it, and service for people trying to get around more generally ranges from non-existent to infrequent and inconvenient. Obviously New York is always the exception to everything urban and transit-related in this country, but even in Manhattan going up and downtown is generally a lot easier than going crosstown. Funneling people from outlying areas to employment centers has more of an emphasis than moving people around generally. Obviously there's a certain logic to it, but the emphasis has shifted a bit too much in that direction.

As for what this has to do with Chestnut Hill, a neighborhood about 11 miles from Center City... well, it's one of those places which is nice enough but would be much much nicer if it were better served by transit, both of the getting around variety and of the traveling the 11 miles into center city much much faster variety. The main routes in to the center include one high frequency but slow for the usual reasons bus (use to be trolley grumble) line and two low frequency commuter rail lines. And buses-to-get-you-around options are fairly limited.

Just in case you're still reading, all of this is an excuse to discuss some ideas outlined in a Daily News story which I can't seem to find at the moment regarding beefing up service frequency on commuter rail lines and other routes within the wider urban area, erasing the distinction in this area between the commuter rail system and everything else and making it more convenient and easier to ride. Basically this would be similar to the way that London is integrating (trying to, anyway) commuter train service with the intra-city transport system, combining the London Overground with the London Underground. The ideal result would be a kind of better version of BART or the Metro in DC, both of which combine relatively good but not as good as they should be intra-urban transit with longer distance, somewhat lower frequency suburban commuter service.

Oh well, dare to dream!