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The US could learn new things from “Old Europe”

Adam and I just arrived in Copenhagen today.  Despite the gloomy weather (As I understand it usually bleak this time of the year) there is a sense of optimism coming out from the conference.   Because of our flight schedule and having to get our housing situated neither Adam or I have had the chance to really be involved in the conference yet.

However, I feel that there is something that I have already taken away from my short time in Copenhagen and that is the value of an efficient mass transit. Since I hail from the state that once was considered the “car capital” of the world I have not had much experience with mass transit until college.  I first experienced (what I considered at the time) the best mass transit in the US in the City of Seattle.   Now that I have experienced Copenhagen’s mass transit system I can safely say that it is far superior to anything in the US.

Why is this?  Why is the supposed most powerful country in the world unable to establish a mass transit system in its major cities?  For a long time the argument was that it was not feasible because everyone owned a car and it was cheaper and easier to drive yourself then to use the bus or train.  However,   as we have seen in the past fuel prices do not stay stable.  Now the argument is that the mass transit systems are so old and slow that no one wants to use them.  When people in the US think of trains they usually think of this.  While in Denmark when people think of trains they think of this.  If you had a choice which one would you rather ride on?

Things do not look much better for the buses.  In the Saginaw area (where I am from) most of the buses look like this.  I am well aware that link is a picture of a school bus.  That is because those are the only buses you see in the Saginaw area.  Compared to Copenhagen where most of the people travel by a combo of train and bus.  I know it is not really fair to compare Saginaw to Copenhagen.  But I use this comparison to prove a point.   The US is vastly inferior to the Europeans in mass transit.

Many people wonder what benefits mass transit can offer.  There are the obvious environmental benefits such as fewer cars on the road to release carbon dioxide.  But there are also some direct economical advantages to a mass transit system.  One advantage is that an efficient mass transit system makes a city more desirable to commercial traffic.  Obviously no one is going to want to go to a city that is notorious for being difficult to get around in.  Another advantage is that a mass transit system can provide many jobs for lower education workers who often are stuck in the city because of their lack of education and income.  By providing these people with jobs you keep them off the streets and away from crime.

This post by no means covers all the aspects of a mass transit system.  Obviously instituting such a system in major cities is an expensive undertaking.  However, I think people in the US need to become more open minded to mass transit and they need to push their elected officials to make it a viable mean of transportation.

Ben Roberts


2 Responses

  1. Ben,
    I’ve been writing about your trip a little, following your blog.


    Good luck. Have a good time.


  2. Thanks Jeff,

    If you want any pictures or have any particular questions to ask feel free to contact me at 12bjrobe@alma.edu . I will be more then happy to give you any information you need.


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