Monday, January 2, 2012

Back From Break, SEPTA's Holiday Trolley, and Transit & Sustainability

Over the holidays, I enjoyed a lot of tea, but I did not write about much of it, because I needed a break. Because I did not post over the holiday break, I want to share one picture from during this time period which captures both a little bit of the holiday spirit, and also shares something of personal importance from my life.

Here is a SEPTA trolley, decked out in Christmas lights:

There are a lot of SEPTA trolleys, but to my knowledge, only one of them is covered in lights like this one. All of the trolleys flash "Happy Holidays" on their signs, alternating with the route number, but I liked the unique touch offered by this one trolley.

These trollies are not directly related to tea (beyond the fact that I rode one of these trolleys to and from World Tea East back in September), but they are directly related to another topic that I am passionate about: sustainability.

Public Transportation And Sustainability:

The U.S. used to have trolleys or streetcars in nearly all of its larger cities, and many smaller ones as well. Unfortunately, the streetcar systems were completely dismantled in most cities, and mostly dismantled in others, such as Philadelphia. The southern end of West Philadelphia is one of the few neighborhoods that kept its system mostly intact. The trolleys branch out and follow the major streets, going away from the city. Travelling towards the downtown, the trolleys come together at 40th street and enter a tunnel, becoming a subway, which travels downtown, ending at 13th street, and connecting with the major north-south and east-west subway lines, with free transfers.

Now, thankfully, much of the U.S. is starting to think about rebuilding these systems. Philadelphia recently restored one discontinued line, the Girard avenue trolley, and some smaller cities have rebuilt trolley systems, such as Little Rock Arkansas' River Rail Streetcar, run by the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. Pictured here is another type of transit, a regional rail station, featuring heavy rail lines that can carry large volumes of passengers over moderate distances:

Public transportation, whether bus, trolley, or other rail, promotes sustainability because it can reduce car traffic, which not only reduces energy use and pollution directly, but also provides indirect benefits: with fewer cars on the road, the remaining cars can get to their destinations faster. Public transit also allows riders to relax, getting to enjoy their commute or travel time, talking, looking out the window, or reading, rather than having to focus on the road. By looking out the window on buses, street trolleys, or elevated trains, people learn more about their communities, including learning about businesses located on or near transit lines. People also can converse with fellow passengers, and get to know regular riders.

Public transportation is like tea:

Public transit thus helps to reduce stress levels and also helps to connect people to each other and their communities. In this respect, I think it is a lot like tea, and I think that many of the same people who enjoy tea because of its relaxing properties and potential to bring people together might enjoy riding buses, trolleys, or trains for the same reasons.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite NYC bus rides is from The cloisters in extreme Northern Manhattan to the subway at 23rd St., about 100 blocks. You go through many, many ethnic neighborhoods, people watching and shop watching like crazy.

    Then there is the Park, the sophistication of Columbus Circle on down to Times Square, etc. It's wonderful.

    When we lived in Philly we used to take the purple buses from th Art Museum and get off and on all over town. I'm a big fan of buses and trolleys. Europe has maintained most of theirs - much smarter. In Germany they do another smart thing - they have their bike lanes on the sidewalk - much safer for the bikers.