National, Randal O'Toole, Transportation

Reason #8 most Americans don't ride transit: Life is complicated

(Editor’s note: This is eighth in a series on why most Americans don’t ride transit.  The first is here, second is here, third is here, fourth is here, fifth is here, sixth is here, and the seventh is here.)

Transit works best going from point A to point B if you happen to be near point A and want to get to point B. Transit doesn’t work well for going from point A to point B via points C, D, and E.

On your way to work, you might want to drop off your kids at school or daycare, drop off your suit at the laundry, and get a cup of coffee (Yes, there’s probably a Starbucks next to your transit stop, but your transit agency probably doesn’t allow you take beverages on board). On your way icon_2016_report_commhome, in addition to picking up the kids and laundry, you may want to go grocery shopping. This is called trip chaining, and because life is complicated and people don’t want to spend all their time traveling, trip chaining works best in an independent vehicle such as a car.

Some analysts wonder whether people choose to drive because they want to trip chain or if they trip chain because they have cars. But this is the wrong question. The reality is, life is complicated, and cars do a better job of helping people deal with that complexity.

Other studies find that people who live in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods can accomplish more of their tasks on foot and don’t need to drive as much. But this ignores the self-selection issue: people are more likely to live in a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood if their lives aren’t as complicated–for example, if they don’t have kids–but even then, a bicycle can handle trip chaining better than transit. But that doesn’t mean such neighborhoods can significantly simplify other people’s lives.

For most Americans, transit doesn’t serve the complexity of most of their adult lives.

Randal O’Toole directs the Transportation Policy Center at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.  A version of this article originally appeared in his blog, Theantiplanner.


Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.

CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.

Comments are closed.