Nothing Says “Love” Quite Like Public Transit

If you thought that goDCgo couldn’t tie any topic in to transportation, you would be wrong. Because we’re coming in just under the wire with our take on romance in honor of that most anticipated and/or dreaded of holidays—Valentine’s Day. Your roses may be wilted, but as far as we’re concerned, love is still in the air.

So, how does transportation have anything to do with romance? Glad you asked. Kaid Benfield of Switchboard NRDC recently produced a compelling article in which the quality of public transit figures significantly into what qualifies a city as one of the most romantic in the world, a list which includes Prague, Paris, Venice and Rome. Among the attributes that figured into his “ten most romantic cities” list, Benfield included “lively, walkable diverse downtowns” and “extensive and well-used public transportation.” The reason, he explains, is that “people fall in love with these cities, and in them, because they are so conducive to nourishing the human spirit.” You are becoming intrigued, aren’t you? But not convinced? Read on, friends.

Jim O’Grady of Transportation Nation published his Valentine’s Day piece (in a timelier manner than goDCgo) with an article entitled “Love Can Happen Anywhere—Even on the NY Subway.” Evidently, fairy tales abound on public transit—or at least they did for the two couples who were interviewed for the article. One couple reported that after a chance meeting on the subway platform, followed by drinks, “they began spending weekends together. Four months later, he moved into her apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. In March 2010, they married.” Intense.

Explaining the phenomenon of love on public transit, O’Grady concludes, “And why not? Mass transit mashes up anywhere from four to seven million people a day in New York City. Surely some are bound to recognize, in the artificial moonlight of a subterranean cavern, the one they’ve been waiting for.” Yes. Naturally. Why not date someone against whom you have been “mashed?”

But public transit doesn’t seem to do it for Americans, and I’m betting that “romance” would never make it onto a list of adjectives describing our local transportation options. Project Transit is a website devoted entirely to marketing the softer, fuzzier side of public transit. Their mission statement reads, “While car manufacturers spend millions of dollars glamorizing driving a car…, we want to show the romance in taking a train, hopping on a bus, or riding the subway. Utilizing public transportation makes a lot of sense…it allows valuable time to reflect on your day, and drink in the sights and sounds of the city…”

With the majority of area residents still commuting to the District by car, I reckon it’s high time for someone to revamp public transit’s image. Notes Brian Merchant from regarding the emergence of Project Transit,

It’s a fine idea—and taking public transit does have an air of romanticism about it that’s been sullied over the years. Why does taking a train across the French countryside to Paris seem so romantic, but riding the J train into Manhattan seems vulgar? Both offer amazing views, an intimate proximity with other people, and a unique opportunity for reflection-on-the-go. Public transit surely needs a facelift in the collective American consciousness.

Yep. Food for thought. We hope we’ve inspired you to go into your next public transit encounter with a new frame of mind and to open yourself up to the possibilities for adventure, self-reflection and the occasional googly-eyes from a mysterious stranger. Just for kicks, here’s a taste of the kind of rich life experiences you too may have while “riding on the metro, “as interpreted by 80’s New Wave music icons, Berlin. Click the link to enjoy!


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