A rant on bus stops
Hey, Chris. This is a policy blog, whether you mean it to be or not.
The major issue in homelessness is not the lack of housing. It’s the refusal of society to say no. No, you can’t camp in this city. No, you can’t shit in the streets. No, you can’t panhandle aggressively. No, you can’t shoot up publicly and leave your used needles lying around. The fact that we are not going to allow you to destroy our city by doing these things is not our problem. It’s your problem. You can solve your problem by not doing drugs, getting help for your mental problems, getting a job, and sharing rent with others so inclined until you can afford a place of your own, probably in a lower cost community. This is not going to happen because the people we have elected allow the homeless to wallow in their victimhood rather than accept personal responsibility for their self destructiveness.
More rants like this, please. Enjoyed the Quito creativity coverage and saw similar things with my own eyes, including the clever, committed vendors who hop on, sell their sundries for a mile or two, and hop off to do it again on the next bus. Boo to bureaucrats who shut down fun, safe, and friendly entrepreneurial ideas that crop up around bus stops and public transportation (and everywhere else). Please minimize your burdensome, nitpicky rules, and instead foster more warmth and friendliness in our cities.
I still don’t understand why people live in and tolerate such places. In a sane society, they’d either take it over from the inhuman lizards or abandon the abominations our large cities have become.
San Antonio TX has some nice bus benches on my side of town.
I agree with “high regulation”, but I’m not sure “low trust” is the right way to frame this. The Soviet Union was high reg / low trust and their bus stops were probably fine? I’m not sure I’d call china high trust either. Those countries just have high regulation / strong government models.
I think the the US has high reg / low govt power. Regulation means all sorts of requirements, but low govt power means it’s really hard for govt to build stuff while meeting those regulations.
If the US was high reg / low trust but had a government system that empowered it to a) act without endless community input, b) worry much less about litigation, and c) use coercion to control citizen behavior, we’d have much better bus stops. The problem is that neither the America left or right aren’t aligned in that direction.
Really interesting piece, thank you for sharing! Found the trust/regulation slant very thought-provoking. We recently visited Washington DC for the first time and commented upon the number of places in the city we came across benches, seating and tables which would be undoubtedly have been pinched, broken or graffitied here in the UK immediately. So your words ring true here too.
Baby boomer here. It is real simple
We were gifted the best nation in the world by the greatest generation who ever lived
We have thrown it all into the toilet. Me Me Me Me Me Me. That is all it has ever been about. Greedy. Narcissistic Self Unaware.
We have gotten the leadership we deserved and the results have been predictable and disgusting
Third World, and proud of it. Unredeemable in every way.
Thanks for showing the real LA, not the Beverly Hills version people see on TV. And, yes, we can't have nice things in the U.S., as my Danish husband noticed.
When I was working on my book on walking (published in 2019), the state of bus systems and what they say about societal values in the U.S. became depressingly apparent. There are so many situations that stick in my mind, but the big one is seemingly minor: the difference between the Twin Cities' bus system (hard to find information, difficult to navigate, unreliable, poor maintenance) and its bike share program (shiny, well-maintained, comprehensive maps at every bike station). I think the bike share was a public-private partnership, but it should NOT have to be this way!
Such an interesting framework on trust versus regulation, and high versus low. A classic 2x2.
I'm seeing this in my own upstate New York village, where there was a big fight over whether to build a dog park. The bottom up solution was owners letting their dogs run loose in an isolated corner of the park early in the morning. Lots of socializing, nobody was bothered, and people and dogs had fun.
The top down solution was building a fenced dog park. But county regulations required that the dog park be a certain size, which meant that it had to impinge on other uses, namely soccer fields. This set up a confrontation between soccer parents and dog owners.
After much acrimony, the dog park got built, but it is heavily regulated, locked up, and it's required that dog owners pay a fee and get a dog-park license or face high fines. Out-of-towners are barred. Posted on the gate is a list of 24 verbose rules written by lawyers.
Unsurprisingly, nobody's using the dog park. It's a double negative: It takes up space that could be used by soccer players, and it is deserted. Dog owners are returning to the ad hoc bottom up arrangement.
We had low trust and high regulation. Now there's even less trust and more regulation. Neighbors are at each other's throats and we have a white elephant sitting in the park.
Thank you, Chris, for giving me a framework through which to see sad events in my own hometown.
Hi Chris, I just want to add: this new bus “shelter” is from LADOT, which is different from Metro. I didn’t learn the difference between these two agencies until recently, and I noticed (from a glance) that this wasn’t mentioned in Twitter threads.
This nuance doesn’t negate your rant (a bus stop in LA is a bus stop in LA), and I’m still thinking about your points. I especially liked how you paired “regulation” and “trust”.
However, as a resident of LA, I believe knowing the difference is important for the sake of a constructive and better future. It helps to know who to complain to. :-)
My takeaway from La Sombrita is that it’s sad and lame that one of the highlights of this project was avoiding “costly new infrastructure or permitting.”
Thank you for providing my first exposure to the trust/regulation matrix. It's an excellent way to understand the otherwise baffling differences we see in other societies' infrastructure choices. In the US we seem - sadly - to have settled on the worst of all choices.
Chris, Check out the new Terminal A at Newark Internationall. It’s awesome.
This is a great, if profoundly depressing piece Chris. Like you, we love LA and when we left in 2014 after living there for over a decade it seemed like the city was finally beginning to get to grips with the beginnings of a half decent public transport system. London, where we live these days has many faults (don’t get me started) but public transport is not one of them...
Before I left the US 11 years ago, I volunteered in homeless shelters in Oregon, I was also much involved with the local Occupy camp in late 2011 which was mostly homeless people.
It was sobering, many had serious mental issues, of one kind or another.
In the shelters most were older and I could see that many of them would likely never work again, Younger, stronger people did not need the shelters as much, but some of those who had been on the streets since they were kids, never seemed to have had a job..
When I came back to Oregon from SE Asia last year, the homeless situation had gotten much worse. ( that said, in Eugene we still have nice bus shelters. federal EBT then gave many about $290/month for food and low income and homeless could get Oregon Health Plan. There were also other efforts.
The single largest problem appears to be the cost of housing (?). Many homeless are working but cannot afford a place, I have read that it is about half of them working but that data is from a few years ago.
For instance, if a couple break up, often neither of them can cover the rent so they may lose the place.
People are attempting to address this, in salt lake city there were successful efforts to house veterans and in Seattle the feds are funding a large housing program. Oregon just passed a $120 million allocation for homeless services and housing,
But, is this enough......??