4 Reasons Traveling Around The USA Totally Sucks
Pretty much everything about our transportation network is royally fucked. We've got airlines loading passengers onto planes in the wrong way, and a subway filled with cops willing to beat a teenager half to death for evading a $3 fare. And then there's, well, all of this nonsense here ...
A Staggering Number of Our Bridges Are Screwed
In April 2019, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released a damning report -- based on data provided by the Federal Highway Administration -- about the state of the nation's bridges. How damning? Well, let's put it this way: If there's a bridge that you regularly use ... don't.
Of the 616,087 bridges in the U.S., ARTBA reports that 38% (235,020) are in need of repairs. Which might not be so bad, depending on the level of repair in question. But far more concerning: Of those 235,020 bridges, 8% (47,052) are "structurally deficient" and in need of urgent repairs. And you can go ahead and throw another 7,000 bridges in there, because prior to the publication of last year's report, the FHWA tightened the criteria of what a "structurally deficient" bridge is from the definition they used in 2018, which led to that many being reclassified as mere fixer-uppers. On the plus side, we're probably talking about bridges in the middle of nowhere, ol' rickety things that no one-
According to ARTBA, structurally deficient bridges account for 178 million crossings per day. These bridges are everywhere, and include notable ones like the Arlington Memorial Bridge (Virginia), the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (California), the Brooklyn Bridge (New York City), the Pensacola Bay Bridge (Florida), the Robert S. Maestri Bridge (Louisiana), and the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge (Washington).
By the way, if you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania, congratulations! Those states account for 18% of the country's least-eligible bridges. Have you considered moving to West Virginia? There's literally an entire song about how their roads will get you home.
Sorry, our radio's been stuck on a folk station lately.
This situation is compounded by the fact that at the current rate at which we're working on our literally crumbling infrastructure, it's going to take more than 80 years to repair or replace all 47,000 bridges that need it. Fun fact! The average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 62 years. So unless we get off our asses, the bridges we need to repair now will be the only working bridges in the country by the time we've finished.
The Largest Mass Transit System In The U.S. Is Poisoning Its Riders
There are a lot of terrible things about school buses, from the sticky seats to the kids in the back. But we rarely think about their exhaust fumes. Throughout the years, numerous studies have found that kids who ride the bus regularly breathe in an absurd number of diesel particulates. One study put the figure at between 5 times and 15 times over the "normal" level of exposure.
We already know what the effects of this exposure are, too. According to a study published early last year in Economics Of Education Review, school districts that used buses retrofitted with clean air technologies were found to have, on average, higher standardized test scores than districts without. A study published in 2015 in the American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine found that children who ride buses fitted with clean air technologies experience, on average, lower levels of absenteeism than those who don't.
So what's to be done? In one respect, there's an easy fix. Retrofit or replace every school bus so the kids don't vape poison. In another respect, though, that "easy fix" requires updating/upgrading nearly half a million vehicles. The title of this entry isn't joking; school buses ferry an estimated 25 million passengers per day.
Amtrak Trains Are Constantly Running Late Because Of Freight Companies
Amtrak's motto is "Rain, shine, sleet or snow, Amtrak takes you where you need to go." And that's largely true ... if you use it to commute between Boston, Washington, and New York, where they have an on-time rate of 79%. (For the purposes of this article, pretend that's good.) In the rest of the country, however, Amtrak's on-time rating is roughly on par with that of, well, Amtrak. They're so slow that they're their own punchline.
Why the big difference? It's all about who owns the line. In the Northeast, Amtrak owns most of the rails. In the rest of the country, though, they're owned by freight companies, which dee-light in topping Amtrak wherever and whenever they can. Fun fact! There's a federal law which states that freight companies have to give passenger trains priority on their lines. Do they, though? Ask Amtrak, which spends its days on Twitter dragging (and nearly getting sued by) freight companies. Which is the most #relatable thing a brand has ever done on that hell site.
Public Transport Neglects People Who Work Late Shifts
According to a recent report by the American Public Transportation Association, late-shift workers are frequently left out in the cold (literally) by public transit, due to night lines running a reduced, infrequent service, or not running any service at all. As a result, many late workers frequently struggle to get to and from their jobs. Which might go some way toward explaining why they have a higher turnover rate than their daywalker equivalents and/or struggle to get home after their shifts have ended.
Of course, there's a simple explanation for why this is happening. Public transit is underfunded at the best of times, and the easiest way for these systems to save money is to cut services at night, when demand is lower. As much financial sense as that may make, it's still cold comfort (literally) for the millions affected. It's not as if these folks can easily afford cars, either. When you crunch the numbers, late workers earn 14% less per hour than day workers, yet spend a higher proportion of their wages on transportation.
Unless we do something, it's only going to get worse in the future, since many of the industries that depend on late-shift workers -- including manufacturing, healthcare, and food service -- are expected to grow in the next several years. So the next time you're commuting home and your train is running late or your bus is stuck in traffic, spare a thought for those traveling in the opposite direction.
For more, check out The 4 Ways We Travel In The Modern World (Are About To Suck):