SD must jump on the public transport bandwagon

by Staff

Paige Nelson, Photo Editor
Paige Nelson, Photo Editor

San Diego is called America’s Finest City. I can’t agree more when it comes to how beautiful and how wonderful the weather is all year long. However, there is something you need in order to enjoy the city completely. I am not referring to being 21—also a necessity—but to owning a car.

I don’t have a car, mainly because I am only here for one academic year and I would say even the easiest errands seem a lot harder without a car. For example, going grocery shopping becomes quite an adventure requiring much planning.

Compared to many other large cities in the U.S., such as Los Angeles, San Diego has a decent public transportation system. There’s a trolley that provides transportation to the different parts of the city and there are also buses.

You could get to most important places in the city without using a car, but the majority of people who live here use their cars. And I don’t judge them, it’s totally understandable. Why would I take the trolley and bus to get to the beach, which might take more than an hour, when I can get there in 20 minutes by car?

I’m from Spain and used to live in Madrid, which is a big city with a good public transportation system. There, everybody uses the subway, buses or short-distance trains. I don’t feel the need to have a car. Moreover, it would be hard to drive around the city because of the traffic, not to mention finding parking, which can be considered an epic accomplishment.

It’s not only in Spain. In most of Europe, public transportation is much better than in the U.S. This doesn’t mean the American transportation system is bad; I just think it’s different.

From my point of view, the main issue here has its roots in American culture. In Europe, people in the cities tend to live in apartments and everything is concentrated in a smaller territory. This makes it easier to build and develop efficient public transportation systems.

However, people in the U.S. prefer to live in houses with their own backyard, a garage and maybe even a porch. This is a country in which everything is big: the houses, portions, roads and distances. All these go along with a lifestyle where nearly everything is done or reached with a car.

The first time I visited the U.S. about four years ago, something caught my attention. For the first time in my life, I saw people taking money from an ATM without even having to get out of their car.

If you are an American, you might think I’m stupid or at least a little weird for thinking that’s significant. But the truth is, I had never seen anything like it before and I never thought anyone could go to the ATM without standing next to it.

Although the distances are longer and “the car” is settled in the American way of life, I still think it would be possible to encourage people to use public transportation.

The key is probably in the younger generations. Starting in elementary schools, kids should be educated about public transportation so they can become aware of its benefits. If people started using public transportation, the system could definitely improve in terms of routes, frequency and price.