Catching the Bus

It's heartening that Americans are riding buses, subways, and commuter trains in larger numbers (see story on page 1). Perhaps mass transit is more than just a good idea stuck in low gear. Maybe it can compete with the private car, especially those driven solo by commuters.

Still, ridership figures are tiny compared with the years before the birth of the suburban car culture. Americans - and there were many fewer then - took 23 billion transit trips annually in the years just after World War II.

Last year, the total was 9 billion, a big jump from a decades-long lull of about 6 to 7 billion yearly rides, and most of the acceleration has occurred over the last three years.

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The reasons for this include widespread frustration with congested roads, government investment in transit, generally reasonable fares, and the environmental benefits of cutting back on car use.

Demand is now outpacing transit capacity in many cities. So investment in less-polluting buses and more comfortable rail cars should continue, helped along by a buoyant economy and big tax revenues.

Mass transit may not regain dominance. But its comeback is welcome.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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