Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Transportation is more than just moving people

This Sunday’s New York Times op-ed page was all about transit. One article that particularly caught my attention was a piece by Jeffrey Zupan about making transportation more appealing for riders. In the process he mentions the infamous Penn Station debacle, and suggests that centers of transportation should be places that citizens can take pride in.

And there are things that can be built to make us proud, like at Pennsylvania Station, the busiest intercity and commuter rail station in the nation, which, unlike the magnificent Grand Central Terminal, has not seen an awestruck tourist since the original station was torn down almost 50 years ago. A new Moynihan Station on Eighth Avenue would be a gateway that would attract rather than repel visitors and business travelers.

As our transit system improves, we could devote public space now consumed by moving and storing cars to uses like walking and biking. Our transit stations should be magnets for intelligent and environmentally sensitive land-use planning.

Unfortunately, this “civic pride” aspect of transportation planning has been neglected for years. For every Grand Central Terminal left in country, there’s a Penn Station. For every neighborhood transit station, there’s one that’s stuck in the median of a humoungous interstate. In the same vein, there’s a reason people dislike the dehumanizing experience they have to go through at the airport. This isn’t a “rail romance” blog, but as we look towards a less fuel-dependent future, we need to consider transportation’s effect on the community and indeed the traveler himself. Failing to do so fifty years ago was part of what brought us into this mess in the first place.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, , ,

2 Responses

  1. I’m all for big symbols and nice-looking infrastructure, but when transportation systems around the country are hurting for cash, we can’t afford to spend billions on improvements that are almost entirely symbolic, like the current plans for “Moynihan Station West” in New York. We need to keep some perspective.

  2. I don’t think good design really costs that much more, and I think in the long term, its worth it. Yes transportation systems are cash strapped, but thats our choice. People keep wanting to pay as little as possible and don’t care unless its their road or their station. Then they want everyone else to pay for it.

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