But there's a chance that it won't happen, that students won't show insufficient interest in the privilege. What's up with that?
I live with a woman who answered that very eloquent rhetorical question, reminding me that there's a stigma attached to public transportation. She used to take the bus to work--had a job that even paid for her bus pass. Now she works at a job that's even more convenient for bus travel, but (despite being an advocate for mass transit) she's decided to stop riding the bus. Why? She wants to control the kind of impression she makes at her new job. Who's to keep someone who sees her getting off the bus from thinking that she either doesn't have her life together enough to own a car or hasn't managed to acquire or maintain driving privileges.
Sure, I say, but who's to keep you from being seen as an awesome, civic-minded person who believes in responsible energy use and wants a more palpable connection to her city. Be a trend setter, I say. Show corporate American that riding the bus is cool.
She gives me that look that tells me that my ivory-tower idealism is getting out of hand.
Fine. I get it. The professor in me knows that Americans have always had a fraught relationship with public transportation, that busses and trains have been the testing (and, too often, failing) grounds of equality. I think of that provocative cover photo of Robert Frank's photobook, The Americans (1958) ...
Busses and trains have been the sites of social unrest in America, the epicenters of legal arguments about race and equal rights--it was Homer Plessy's refusal to sit in a "blacks only" train car that sparked the case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's endorsement "separate but equal" racial segregation, and it was Rosa Parks's refusal to move to the back of the bus that pretty much started the Civil Rights movement.
Long story short, one is definitely stepping onto more than a vehicle when one steps onto a bus or a train or a trolly or a streetcar. I like to think that whatever force it is that keeps so many of us off the bus, locked away in our private cars, is subsiding. And I'm not the only one.
A facebook friend posted this delightful reminder of the enchantment public transportation.
And this, my favorite song about busses: