Fur Coat and No Knickers

more fancy fur coats ccPhoto by echoforsbergIn a fine, angry article in The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole sums up what’s wrong with public transport policy in Ireland. In fact, now that I think of it, it probably sums up much of public policy in general. And none of this wrong-headedness started with the economic crisis. It started with the beginning of the so-called and now very dead Celtic Tiger.

[pullquote]cc photo credit: echoforsberg: some rights reserved. [/pullquote]

We need to get away from the “fur coat and no knickers” mentality that dominates transport policy. Big, glamorous and monumentally expensive projects like Metro North would be fine if they were coming on top of a decent basic public service. In a time of crisis, scrapping the metro would save at least €5 billion.

And he gets to the nub of it here:

This is a public service that you’re paying for twice, through your taxes and your fares. It is, literally, a connection to your city, your society, your country.
And when it doesn’t function, your society is telling you something. It is reminding you that you don’t really matter, that even in the small, apparently banal things of life, you are a person of no importance.

Public transport, in this respect, is a function, not just of an economy, but of a democracy. A decent service is a form of public respect. A bad one is a form of public disregard.
–Fintan O’Toole Bus cuts plan shows contempt for people

“This is a public service that you’re paying for twice, through your taxes and your fares.”

No one seems to ask the question: why are we paying twice? Why not just once, through taxes?
I’ve tried to tease out this question in Transported for some years now, but O’Tooles article has crystalized a few things for me. For instance, the point about respect has been at the back of my mind for a long time. Now it’s at the front.

Contrast urban Dublin, with a population of half a million, with a city like urban Bogotá in Columbia, with a population of almost 7 million, and where income is one-tenth of what it is in New York.
Here are two videos from Streetfilms which illustrate the point. [Streetfilms is the video arm of the Livable Streets Initiative: producing educational, entertaining, and inspiring films for a sustainable urban environment.]

Streetfilms-BRT Transmilenio (Bogotá, Colombia)

Street Films – Lessons from Bogotá

Bus Rapid Transit: Bogotá

Note: I used the Youtube versions of the videos above as I found the FlowPlayer used on the site to be very slow (a pity, it’s a gpl player).
Note 2. I used the Video Embedder plugin for WordPress to embed these video files. It makes life a lot simpler, from a cross-browser point of view. If you’ve problems seeing the videos please let me know.

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