Why American public transit is so bad | 2020 Election

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Most Americans have no choice but to drive. How do we change that?
Watch more 2020 US election explainers at vox.com/ElectionVideos
In the middle of the 20th century, the US government made a decision that would transform American cities: It built a huge system of interstate highways, many of which went right through the downtowns of its biggest cities.
This sealed the country's fate as a car culture, and today we're seeing the results. In most cities, it's extremely difficult to get around without a car, in part due to public transit systems built to serve an outdated commute. And when our politics turn to infrastructure, the government often favors building new roads and highways instead of improving and expanding public transportation.
The result is a system that forces more Americans to drive, at the expense of those who rely on public transit. It's also the biggest contributor to our country’s carbon footprint. Fixing that over the long term will require a reimagining of American cities and towns. But there's also a way that, if we wanted to, we could improve American transit systems, and get more people riding them, in a matter of weeks.
This was the seventh in our series of 2020 election explainers, all based on viewer suggestions. Watch the others, which cover the stakes of the election on:
1) Climate change: fistream.info/work/videot/h8d5kcOsfZ_a058
2) Voting rights: fistream.info/work/videot/l81rqrqdjn6rqpM
3) Reproductive health: fistream.info/work/videot/eNutpJKYeqXbzJ8
4) Public schools: fistream.info/work/videot/oqeCbJjXnV62xqc
5) Police reform: fistream.info/work/videot/iamdicjRhGObqH0
6) America’s role in the world: fistream.info/work/videot/iZaEq7LbaGqZrqc
7) Transportation: fistream.info/work/videot/Y7t8k9WnhoXcynk
8) LGBTQ rights: fistream.info/work/videot/rrOmqbbVqJeaqmA
9) The eviction crisis: fistream.info/work/videot/fJFvsrWuZHuWtps
For Jonathan English’s research comparing Canadian and US public transit: www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-08-31/why-is-american-mass-transit-so-bad-it-s-a-long-story
For research on suburban commutes from the Brookings Institution’s Adie Tomer, Joseph Kane, and Jennifer S. Vey: www.brookings.edu/interactives/connecting-people-and-places-exploring-new-measures-of-travel-behavior/
For more of Vox’s coverage on public transportation: www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9118199/public-transportation-subway-buses
For more historical maps on how the federal highway system transformed cities: iqc.ou.edu/2014/12/12/60yrsmidwest/
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  • I can make a cross-country travel with ease using public transport in China. The railway system is really world-class, in terms of size.

    Dennis WuDennis Wu2 tuntia sitten
  • Just drive

    RawboneRawbone3 tuntia sitten
  • Maybe Americans just love the freedom of driving. You get to go anywhere you want any time you want.

    whitefangvwhitefangv3 tuntia sitten
  • quebec city is exatly like the first cities you described, they even built un-crossable highways preventing pedestrians and cyclists from going anywhere. all public transits are well over 1 hour travel + 1 hour wait to reach your destination, we are litterally taken hostage. want to go shopping, what takes 15 min using a car, takes the entire day using public transport.

    Little BastardLittle Bastard6 tuntia sitten
  • Half of detroit just disappear s in the before and after

    Ethan PinellaEthan Pinella10 tuntia sitten
  • *me laughing in New Yorkian

    Harrison MuntnerHarrison Muntner13 tuntia sitten
  • america is the land of wasted potential

    puytqiggsgfpuytqiggsgf15 tuntia sitten
  • Anyone tried this on cities skyline?

    wh3resmycarwh3resmycar19 tuntia sitten
  • As a German who lives in one of the biggest cities. It is baffeling to see how little space there is for pedestrians and how bad US public transport really is. I mean I can be faster in paris by train than any other option(messuaring door to door communte)

    Auno94Auno9420 tuntia sitten
  • ride a bike jesus, it's the fastest, cheapest, healthiest, most environmentally-friendly and enjoyable way to get around.

    Nikola SirovicaNikola Sirovica21 tunti sitten
  • Electric cars in the mix? Also, cities might be slowly dissolving as real estate becomes too expensive and remote work becomes more accepted

    Peter KuzminPeter Kuzmin21 tunti sitten
  • Americans are lazy to use Public transport . Even in India nowadays its becoming the same case . Each and every house has a 4 wheeler

    Clem AloyClem Aloy22 tuntia sitten
  • Hold on. The example you showed, Charlotte vs Toronto ignores a couple of basics: The first is density, which, in this case is like 5:1, The 2nd is region: Charlotte, NC is in a historically sleepy area, far eclipsed by Toronto. The second example you chose, Chicago, is where I grew up (3100 North). I remember it as a pleasant 1/2 hour bus trip to the loop for a dime, courtesy a private company, the Chicago Motor Coach Co. As I lived near Sheridan Road, the El wasn't feasible. This was 1939-53.

    John LeachJohn LeachPäivä sitten
  • Public transportation has two jobs. The first is to get me to where I need to go in a reasonably efficient manner so I mostly don't have to drive. The second is to keep as many cars as possible off the road (because people are riding the bus) so that driving isn't a hassle when I do drive.

    qwertyuiopqwertyuiopPäivä sitten
  • Sigh* Toronto as a benchmark...... The bar is sure set rock bottom.....

    ssj4davidssj4davidPäivä sitten
  • I am 32, and have been living in Toronto since I was 18 years old. I have never had a car because the Toronto public transit system is one of the best in the world. Not perfect, obviously, but still a really good system. :D

    You Know NothingYou Know NothingPäivä sitten
  • I take Toronto’s transit everyday, it’s terrible. These cities must be really bad then

    Jake McGaugheyJake McGaugheyPäivä sitten
  • I'm in TORONTO and we use ttc (public transport) all the time

    Cool slothCool slothPäivä sitten
  • Toronto got a shout out? *What it doo babbbbyyyy*

    JustMoseyinAroundJustMoseyinAroundPäivä sitten
  • The answer to those questions is very simple: the automobile and energy capitalists force you to spend more on vehicles and gasoline by creating inconvinient infrastructures such as the interstates crossing the cities downtown built in the 50s. It's exploitation in capitalism. (But I can imagine people in the US will disagree and defend the capitalists who exploit them...)

    Tor BaiTor Bai2 päivää sitten
  • 2:55 add Syracuse, NY to that list. In the late 50's early 60's a prodominently black neighborhood was razed in favor of a highway running through our city.

    Brandon MitchellBrandon Mitchell2 päivää sitten
  • Because the government doesn’t care about us, next

    Terrell LittletonTerrell Littleton2 päivää sitten
  • They want u to buy a car.. that's it

    Kartikay BhardwajKartikay Bhardwaj2 päivää sitten
  • Sorry I was too harsh to TTC, really should forgive the rush hour shut down after watching this.

    MabelMabel2 päivää sitten
  • Build more lines that loop the city like beltways. When I was in Beijing, I could take trains that loop around the city.

    MayangoneMayangone2 päivää sitten
  • All ontario transport is good except London it is worse than all of the states

    space_skelotonspace_skeloton2 päivää sitten
  • Whats good for gm is good for USA lol

    davidemmygdavidemmyg2 päivää sitten
  • Public Jet Skiis are an under utilized form of public transport

    Crunchy BunsCrunchy Buns2 päivää sitten
  • He only showed the transit for Toronto and not GTA. So that map is mainly downtown areas served by TTC, if you add in YRT, things don't look as nice and gridded

    Peng JHPPeng JHP2 päivää sitten
  • This is why I wish we’d abolish zoning laws, they’ve destroyed this country.

    TheZombaslayaTheZombaslaya2 päivää sitten
  • A combination of different things I think more train routes also better bus systems with more buses and more stops and more express buses would solve a lot of transit issues in like 99 percent of major cities in the us you could easily link all the suburbs with rail systems

    Nick CarrterNick Carrter2 päivää sitten
  • 4:19 This guy is the real Johnny English

    Viraj VoditelViraj Voditel2 päivää sitten
  • I was an exchange student, stayed in SC. I was surprised that I didn't find any public transportation. The only one I found was only school bus 😂

    Black FridayBlack Friday2 päivää sitten
  • Slow down with Toronto’s transit system. It still has major service issues, that frustrate people who don’t have vehicle access. Don’t be fooled by this video. Toronto is big, expensive, and hard to get around. Even on the best transit day. Toronto transit might look good on paper, but it needs more subways, and less bus routes. Ask anyone who lives here. The Kingston road 12 bus is the worst run bus route on the face of the earth.

    George Henry JrGeorge Henry Jr2 päivää sitten
  • Come to Tokyo....Problem Solved :D but one problem....no young people wants cars...ouch Toyota Honda Nissan

    Ryo MurataRyo Murata3 päivää sitten
  • I don't understand why Chicago can't build a sort of "north-south" rail line beginning at O'Hare that cuts through multiple existing lines.

    Y OY O3 päivää sitten
  • Americans: Because public transport is communism, they deprive you of your freedom of driving and dictate where you from where you go

    RayRay3 päivää sitten
  • And racist city planners destroyed mostly black families neighborhoods.

    Rey NoldsRey Nolds3 päivää sitten
  • I think people in these comments don't realize that the US can't simply imitate Japan or European countries. When you don't have the requisite density, it just doesn't make sense to establish a transit system that is similar to those countries. When your average density is 1000-3000 per square mile, a light rail or subway is just a waste of money. This is why this video point to Toronto as an example. You can't build transit with density and you can't build density without transit. Thus, the most practical and the most politically feasible solution would be to promote density along existing transit lines (through rezoning, etc.). And as density increases along these transit lines, you could slowly accumulate enough political support to invest more in their expansion. Meanwhile, buses are easier to expand but must be paired with light rail or subways to become useful. In Chicago's case, there is actually a bus route that leads you from Avondale to Ellwood Park that requires you to transfer once. However, even with a very short layover, it would take an hour and 12 minutes. Compare that to driving and it is very obvious what choices people would make. So unless there is a transit network anchored by efficient light rail, simply funding buses more would not increase transit usage in any meaningful way.

    Shang LiShang Li3 päivää sitten
  • As somebody who doesn't have a car or a drivers license I am all for making cities/towns more transit orient.

    Tora BlackTora Black3 päivää sitten
  • Every Vox video- govt sux Every Vox Video - lets make it bigger.

    David WarshawDavid Warshaw4 päivää sitten
    • Not bigger. Better. If you have a government that isn't influenced by special interests from large companies then good things can actually get done.

      gijs _kgijs _k3 päivää sitten
  • In Moscow when people have to wait longer than 2 minutes for a metro train they start to complain... We literally have seconds countdown on metro stations. And live minute countdown on bus stops. There's also live GPS tracking of every bus and most buses are EVs in 2020. And you can pay for public transit directly with Apple pay or Google pay. And Russia isn't even a first world country... I love America but I'm not a fan of this car culture.

    Sasha ArugulaSasha Arugula4 päivää sitten
  • The suburbs don’t want public transit because they think it will bring poor people into them. That’s why Georgetown in dc doesn’t have trains that run through it

    MaxMax4 päivää sitten
  • Kanye said this already

    The Moon Vibez37The Moon Vibez374 päivää sitten
  • Looks like Vox haden't more reasearch on how bad USA's public transit to the System in Toronto. Despite it having more destintations than the USA it's equally bad when it comes when it comes to other forms of transit such as buses and LRT systems in and outside its area. Inconisitant schudules and delays are pretty common due to the high traffic or other circumstance may ruin your experance using it's transit system.

    LeChienNLeChienN4 päivää sitten
  • The American railway system is also very bad. Not sure why that's the case, but if the Republicans want to favor rural areas and look back to the good old days, then building a cheap and reliable railway system for the whole country like Americans did back in the 1880s should get their approval?

    Cosmia's StashCosmia's Stash4 päivää sitten
  • Main reason is billionaires who has stakes in businesses who stand to lose billions if not their entire businesses because of public transportation becoming the main form of transit for the population. Simplest solution to fix public transportation is getting money out of politics and actually having politicians working for the people and not corporations.

    JozhJozh4 päivää sitten
  • Someone's gotta pay for it. If only it were as everyone makes it out to be.

    hasbeendrummerhasbeendrummer4 päivää sitten
  • For someone who lives in Charlotte and that's not how our transit system works.

    CommunisThanosCommunisThanos4 päivää sitten
  • would you say the Japanese has the power to make that happen? Afterall they don't even know what a real delay is.

    Kodi MariusKodi Marius4 päivää sitten
  • I would love to take public transit to work. Instead I have an hour commute in and out of New Orleans. The difference in wages and cost of living causes people to live far from work.

    Kik RothschildKik Rothschild4 päivää sitten
  • I don't ride the bus anymore because half the time I get harassed by someone.

    AdamOrnellesAdamOrnelles5 päivää sitten
  • no one: me: hey that's buenos aires (argentina) at 3:14

    Azul AndradeAzul Andrade5 päivää sitten
  • please help for pasta 1-2 dollars (Visa 5168 7574 1094 8998). I live in a hostel.

    UA ПЛАНЕТАUA ПЛАНЕТА5 päivää sitten
  • "America" is a big neoliberal experiment. Cannot be worked well.

    Thiago FaveroThiago Favero5 päivää sitten
  • The only thing I'm grateful for in nyc

    Maria GonzalezMaria Gonzalez5 päivää sitten
  • Here in Seattle instead of making it convenient to use a bus we made it inconvenient to use a car: expensive parking and $500 tabs.

    iohiniohin5 päivää sitten
  • I live in Toronto and I can confirm public transit is amazing

    Toasted DoritosToasted Doritos5 päivää sitten
  • 1:29 that's Argentina lol

    Leandro GomezLeandro Gomez5 päivää sitten
  • I lived in Fairfax(which is basically suburb of Washington DC), worked in Tysons and used bus almost everyday. Believe me or not I’m never seen full bus. Average waiting time was 30-40 minutes. So whatever this video proposes is nonsense. Unless it’s convenient enough(like high speed trains in Tokyo) there’s no way people would prefer buses over personal cars

    Beck MalBeck Mal5 päivää sitten
    • *Japan

      Beck MalBeck Mal5 päivää sitten
  • Because anything public in America is "socialism"

    Paulo RitoPaulo Rito5 päivää sitten
  • I wish I spoke other languages so I could live in countries that actually have infrastructure

    Kevin MurphyKevin Murphy5 päivää sitten
  • Brisbane has the same issue

    Puneeth BedrePuneeth Bedre6 päivää sitten
  • 1.5$$ trylion MADNES

    stara Basistastara Basista6 päivää sitten
  • move to Toronto, got it!

    victor kimvictor kim6 päivää sitten
  • In Madrid happens the same.

    Chico PercebeChico Percebe6 päivää sitten
  • Suburbs, another american failure

    likejeppylikejeppy6 päivää sitten
  • Highways were chosen over railways to divide whites from non whites

    emanuelgoldstein1984emanuelgoldstein19846 päivää sitten
  • When you live in Singapore...

    Roland OwenRoland Owen6 päivää sitten
  • lol....you expect dem to do something abt this.....dem n rep is just different side of same coin....only capitalist lapdog....usa is so fckd up

    1 21 26 päivää sitten
  • As a local Chicago resident. I live in the suburbs but we don’t have a problem commuting because we lived 5 minutes of a drive from a train station but a convenient commute to another suburb would be nice.

    Shin KizawaShin Kizawa6 päivää sitten
  • In Madrid we have great public transit, you can move by blue bus (only the city) or green bus (the whole community/state) the metro you can go anywhere by metro if you are in the city and cercanías train for the whole community/state basically it doesn't matter where you live cause in every town almost there's either a train or a bus to the city or to order parts of the suburbs, plus it's really cheap

    Diego Hernando IzquierdoDiego Hernando Izquierdo6 päivää sitten
  • What public transport do you have? Us: no

    Diego Hernando IzquierdoDiego Hernando Izquierdo6 päivää sitten
  • reminds me of malaysia before the MRT is constructed.

    Maximilian LeeMaximilian Lee6 päivää sitten
  • The city of Almere, Netherlands, has the best public tranpost in the world. The are seperate lanes for Pedestrians, Bikers, Cars, Buses, Trains and even boats. The city is very well connected with Busses and they come almost every 5 minutes, Never late. They have a big screen in the busses that tells you the 5 next stations, and also at what time it'll arrive there, and they also say the next station out lout just in case you're visionaly impaired or just not looking on the screen. its very easy to get into the bus too, you dont need to physically pay the driver, you just swipe a card and thats it, takes less than 2 seconds to do.

    MrBlueberryMrBlueberry6 päivää sitten
  • People in the Netherlands: what about a bike?

    Kaat V.S.Kaat V.S.6 päivää sitten
    • @Maximilian Lee I live in south america and ride everywhere withing 10 km of me, that's excuses

      Phil DfPhil Df12 tuntia sitten
    • look at the square km of total Netherland and square km of US. you can only bike so far if everyone lives in apartments and dense.

      cherry316316cherry3163164 päivää sitten
    • @Maximilian Lee Yea these people have never been outside of their country. No way to ride a bike safely even in places like Prague, London, Rome etc. There are no bike lanes, drivers aren’t used to bicycles. You have to be on your toes all the time.

      Jan van RiebeeckJan van Riebeeck5 päivää sitten
    • if only all US cities are bicycle friendly and has low security concerns eg theft & robbery

      Maximilian LeeMaximilian Lee6 päivää sitten
  • *Laughs in Filipino with the worst public transport with Jeepneys*

    Jericho InalisanJericho Inalisan7 päivää sitten
  • As someone who lives in Chicago I usually just take my bike on the train.

    Ernie AllenErnie Allen7 päivää sitten
  • Public transport in the Philippines: Hold my beer

    Jervis GonzalesJervis Gonzales7 päivää sitten
  • I guess the world considers Americans to be the richest people, but I have heard that you are not so rich, and many of you complain about poor lives. Really? Please, break this myth.

    inyazserg Sergey Larininyazserg Sergey Larin7 päivää sitten
    • Heavy taxes make things expensive in inmer cities

      Joshua RamosJoshua Ramos7 päivää sitten
  • Hasn't covid shown compact cities are a dead idea. Public transit is spread disease. Globalists want to push people into congested cities where they are dependent on govt transportation and everything else. Most people don't want that. Cities are backwards.

    America SupporterAmerica Supporter7 päivää sitten
    • ... I've seen it all.

      Stalin JiménezStalin Jiménez4 päivää sitten
  • Public transit spreads disease and is a threat to public safety and health.

    Yuul SelvYuul Selv7 päivää sitten
  • All of a sudden i wont complain bout Dutch public transport anymore.

    BasBas7 päivää sitten
  • a good example is Beverly, Massachutes for good transport

    PG_TacticalBear ,PG_TacticalBear ,7 päivää sitten
  • This lady lives like 4 minutes away from me Probably not a good idea to put a map of where you live online 😂

    ricardo ugaldericardo ugalde7 päivää sitten
  • I was on holiday in Toronto last year, and it was like being home, easy and not confusing

    HeseitsHeseits8 päivää sitten
  • I read about urban dwellers in Europe who use public transport for daily commutes but in a small group share one car. Each family simply signs up in advance for a particular weekend in order to take a trip to the mountains, etc. Sounds ideal.

    Castor DenstonCastor Denston8 päivää sitten
  • Driving isn't just the most convenient option. In plenty of places in the U.S. its the only viable option!

    Goofus MaximusGoofus Maximus8 päivää sitten
  • Indians:- why someone even made this video

    aditya kothiyaladitya kothiyal8 päivää sitten
  • Definitely a problem. Must be solved. More public transportation locally, then more railway transportation nationally.

    Ilya MatviyivIlya Matviyiv8 päivää sitten
  • Racism & Classism

    refusedonerefusedone8 päivää sitten
  • well the only thing that chicago needs is the so called RING. Thats the same way any European city made their transit happen. They have the SAME way of subways going outwards FROM downtown (back from the 18 and 1900s) then in the 50s 60s they added...A RING. Connecting all OUTWARDS leading subways with ONE single connecting subway.

    fa elgerfa elger8 päivää sitten
  • I am fascinated bij the flourishing cities in the fifties being destroyed. I'ts not even the highways alone, it's also many of the blocks that were all buildings that are now waste-/grassland...

    G SG S8 päivää sitten
    • Yes. Seen Cincinnati being butchered like that made me sad and mad at the same time.

      Stalin JiménezStalin Jiménez4 päivää sitten
  • I figure the characteristics of American make them refuse to use public transportation unlike countries in Asia like Japan and South Korea. Since Public transportation requires to share space and it's on a fixed schedule, which doesn't apply to the freedom value Americans are seeking for

    wangbohai Wuwangbohai Wu8 päivää sitten
  • After watching this I'm so grateful to live in Singapore. In my opinion Singapore has the best public transport infrastructure (transit hub). I've been to Hong Kong and Thailand (Bangkok) and though the transportation there is quite convenient, it is not as convenient as in Singapore. I won't complain about the slight delayed train ever again.

    Varideas Fit IdeaVarideas Fit Idea8 päivää sitten
  • Lol in Poland cities in EU , local goverment pays only up to 50% and fares are 50%

    Michal ZiobroMichal Ziobro9 päivää sitten
  • Bus every 30min? Lol in europe we have bus tram every 3 mins and most do not want to ride bus and prefers car

    Michal ZiobroMichal Ziobro9 päivää sitten
    • We here have a electric bus-tram, a bus, a tram, and a metro.

      BorsMannBorsMann8 päivää sitten
  • Thats a blatant lie. The 97 Yonge Blvd. bus comes once an HOUR not every 5 min. You got to walk to Wilson or Yonge St. if you want to catch any frequentish bus and even then like 7 buses come in 10 min then nothing for 30 min.

    Mathew SpitzMathew Spitz9 päivää sitten
    • There are so many inaccuracies in this video, the Chicago map is missing a few stops and misspelling some of the stations.

      Transit XanTransit Xan8 päivää sitten
  • Even if you built public transit people would still use their cars.

    LIAM McAULEYLIAM McAULEY9 päivää sitten
  • look differently? hmmm

    Everett TidburyEverett Tidbury9 päivää sitten