wasting bandwidth since 1999

Transport Failure


CNN has yet another list, this time 18 of the world’s best metro systems.

London, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Copenhagen… Notice a pattern?

Most cities in this ranking are the capitals of major industrialized nations. Where the metro/subway is only one part of an extensive public transit system.

Notably absent? Washington DC.

Our Metro is not only NOT among the best in the world, on many days the system wouldn’t even qualify for a list of the middle tier cities.

The primary reason is that the United States, with very few pockets of exception (NYC and Chicago on this list), does not believe in public transportation.

In this country, we operate on the premise that it’s everyone’s god-given right to own a vehicle (or two or three), to drive it anywhere, anytime, and at the lowest cost possible.

If someone can’t afford a car (or chooses not to use one), tough luck. You certainly can’t expect society to provide safe, reliable, affordable mass transit.

And that is certainly true here in the Nation’s Capital, where most of our federal leaders have drivers to get them around town. And absolutely refuse to provide the funding necessary to build and maintain a “world class” transportation system.

Or even a functional one.

Now, let’s talk about intercity rail…

The photo shows a Metro train arriving at Dulles International Airport, the DC-area’s connection to the world. Dulles opened in 1962. Last year, they finally managed to extend a Metro line to the place. 14 years from the start of construction and more than 30 years after the first plans were drawn up.


  1. Doug Johnson

    I’ve only been to DC as an ignorant tourist or conference attendee, but I have always used (and loved) the DC metro system. Despite usually staying in Arlington (being a cheapeskate), I don’t think I’ve ever rented a car when visiting but still being able to get wherever I wanted to go with requiring a taxi. Minneapolis/St Paul is slowly trying to expand it minimal light rail system – only to find very few riders experiencing an environment many feel is unsafe.

    It is true that many/most European cities have far more developed public transit systems. But most of those cities have been around a few centuries longer than ours. Cut DC a break – I applaud its subways.

    • Jennifer

      As another DC-area resident, I have to back Tim’s view here. The metro does a decent job of hitting all the tourist places, but is almost useless for residents. The metro bus system does a little better but the difference between DC and NYC or Chicago is still immense.

    • tim

      I agree with Jen that the Metro is great for tourists but has lagged in addressing local needs. You are also right that DC is younger than other capital cities but I think poor planning is a larger reason why we don’t have better transportation options. In the early part of the 20th century, the DC area had a pretty well developed tram system, linking the city into what was then the suburbs. Following World War II, those tracks were torn up or abandoned in favor of the automobile culture.

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