Better service would improve millions of Americans’ lives.
In America, nobody loves the bus. Lots of people ride the bus — we took about 4.6 billion trips by bus in 2019, more than by any other mode of public transportation. But at least 4.5 billion of them must have begun with a deep, dejected sigh of resignation.
Buses are hard to love. Bus systems across the country are chronically underfunded, leading to slow, inconvenient and unreliable service. In New York, America’s most transit-friendly city with by far the nation’s most-used bus system, terrible service regularly causes people to lose jobs, miss medical appointments and squander many hours, sometimes in rain or snow, just waiting.
People have said for years that the bus could be the next big thing in transportation. Now we can make that a reality. With the proper investment, city buses might be transformed into the sort of next-generation transportation service that technology companies and car companies have spent billions over the last decade trying to build — a cheap, accessible, comfortable, sustainable, reliable way to get around town.
How might we come upon this transportation nirvana? Not through some great technological innovation or a grand infrastructure project. The holy grail is right there in front of us; it’s been right there for decades. All we’ve got to do is buy more buses, hire more bus drivers and, in some places, give buses special privileges on the road. All we’ve got to do is care enough to build bus systems that work.