Archives for posts with tag: public transportation

“When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to local Filipinos. Locals stripped down the jeeps to accommodate several passengers, added metal roofs for shade, and decorated the vehicles with vibrant colors and bright chrome hood ornaments. The jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to reestablish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during World War II.”

I’m often mad at “my people” for a variety of reasons, but occasionally I’m reminded that we Asian-Americans have a lot of things to be proud of. The jeepney is, I think, such a great symbol of Asian community and ingenuity in the face of destruction and colonial bullying. And while it is a Filipino form of transportation, I am reminded that its larger cousin, the Chinatown or “dragon” bus, has similarly revolutionized public transportation here in the States. When I was in NYC two weeks ago, I found buses leading to Chinatowns EVERYWHERE. Philadelphia, Richmond, Baltimore, Atlanta, Nashville, Detroit (!), Chicago ($70!!)–this thing is way larger than the Fung Wah everyone talks about. And it’s not just the East side–there’s buses running from SF to LA to Reno and back. Even within NYC, a similar dragon bus system is now challenging the Metro by offering faster and more convenient service from Manhattan to Queens at a competitive price.

The dragon buses rose out of the need for community so strongly built into Asian cultures. Once one Chinatown was cheaply connected to another, people could more easily visit their families and get the goods they needed. Essentially the same thing happened in Montgomery during the bus boycotts, but the dragon buses realized that they could do a better job than what the government was providing and are here for the long haul. It’s an example commonly passed over when people are thinking about community action (even if it’s private companies running it, it did come out of a community need), and unjustly so–if the systems we can build for activists can have the longevity, dependability, and success of the dragon buses, this country will be in good shape indeed.

And while I’m being proud of Asian-Americans, here’s a good (!!!) Asian-American rap group I found.

Dear MBTA,

I love you. I love you very, very much. Without you, I would have a sad time walking to MIT all the time, nor would I have access to the beautiful plethora of food that is scattered all over Boston. The Red Line is like the sister I never had, etc., etc.

Sure, you’re inefficient and you break down all the time, sometimes stranding me in Boston Common for an hour. Sure, during the winter the “emergency shuttle fleet” runs probably more often than the actual subway. But you’re a public transportation system. All that is to be expected, and I’m from Ohio so I don’t have very high expectations for public transportation anyway.

Then came along this stupid Charlie Ticket thing. You take all this trouble to renovate EVERY SINGLE STATION (but not all of them at the same time! Oh no, there has to be the longest, most awkward transition period in the world) so that they can read these cards. Except, all of the token-operated rotating things also read cards–monthly passes. Why didn’t you just rewire/reprogram the monthly pass card readers??

It’s supposed to be convenient, I guess, but it’s really not. The machines are much slower than going to a person and getting tokens, and the cards are hard to use for first-timers who don’t know that there’s a “correct side”. The doors have weird sensors so that they don’t open at an intuitive time, and sometimes close on your stuff/foot/ass. Worst of all, since we’re still in the transition period, about half the stations *only* take tokens while half the stations *only* take cards…which makes me a sad panda.

I wouldn’t even really care about all of that, though, if it weren’t for the fact that you’re spending ridiculous amounts of moneyon all this reconstruction. Why, oh why, can’t you just use it on other things? Things people actually want, need, crave? Things like the Kendall Band. Two out of the six handles for the public art/musical instruments in Kendall Station are broken–why can’t you just fix these so I can play with the chimes again??