“Those who are most addicted are also those who are trying to literally get to their dialysis appointments,” said Stephanie Gidigbi Jenkins, who works on federal policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council and is a board member. of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. . “We totally forget who is really the most dependent on our transit system.”
In Cleveland, the transportation company cut downtown rush hour service at the start of the pandemic and halted express bus lines to suburban park and ride lots. But that didn’t cut service in neighborhoods where officials believed more workers, including hospital staff, had in-person duties.
“Do we have the heart to say after they’ve worked 12 hours serving the community that now when they get to their bus they will have to wait almost an hour before the bus can pick them up?” Said Joel B. Freilich, director of service management for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
In 2019, the agency has planned off-peak service improvements, which will be rolled out this month. The pandemic further confirmed to officials, Freilich said, that every hour is a rush hour for someone.
In the large regional public transport agencies, these decisions will be more onerous.
“In almost every transit agency, in its policy, in its decision-making, there is this inevitable conflict between the interest of the commuters who are trying to get out of congestion, which is very focused on the problem of congestion. peak, and then there’s the interest of people trying to get around all day, ”said Jarrett Walker, a transportation consultant who led the planning for changes in Cleveland.
But there are other ways to better align everyone’s interests in a world where travel peaks aren’t that strong. Less congested urban streets could mean faster bus trips, more space for cyclists, and more humane trips for people who still drive.
What if all of this means that some low-income transit riders are turning to driving on roads that aren’t so bad anymore?