GOOD

Get On the Bus

For proof that buses can solve most of our mass-transit problems, look no further than Bogotá.

Is there any less sexy form of transportation than the bus? To the degree that Americans have paid attention to them at all, we have traditionally regarded city buses as a form of third-class transportation, a necessary evil, a kind of welfare on wheels. It's not that we have an innate aversion to mass transit. Consider that in Brooklyn, where I live, we so completely identified with our early-20th-century streetcar system that we named our beloved baseball team the Trolley Dodgers. Then General Motors rolled into town, bought up the trolley lines, ran them into the ground, and replaced them with diesel-belching buses. Suffice it to say that no one ever nicknamed a sports franchise after the local bus system. Even in New York City, where 2.5 million people ride the bus every day, it is a much-unloved form of transportation.And yet, an updated version of America's most boring way to ride may very well be the fastest, cheapest way to solve some of our nation's most pressing problems. You want to reduce traffic congestion, cut carbon emissions, and make America less automobile-dependent? Then it's time to get on the bus.


It's hard to believe until you've seen it for yourself, but the city bus can, in fact, be a sleek, fast, efficient, and first-class way to get around town. Unfortunately, you can't find that kind of bus service in any U.S. city. You've got to travel down to Bogotá, Colombia, and ride the TransMilenio bus-rapid-transit system. That's right: A city in a country that most Americans associate only with Pablo Escobar and Juan Valdez is now running the most modern, high-tech bus system in the Western Hemisphere. As you step aboard your first TransMilenio vehicle, it hits you pretty quickly: When it comes to buses, the United States is a Third World nation.The city wants to do everything it can to encourage ridership on the TransMilenio, and it goes out of its way to accomplish that. The TransMilenio, like most top-notch bus rapid transit systems, has its own dedicated lanes. Fares are collected before passengers board, reducing wait time at each stop. Smaller "feeder" buses travel through neighborhood streets picking up passengers for free and delivering them to more centralized stations. The stations also include free guarded bike storage. The TransMilenio vehicles, meanwhile, are extra long, clean-burning, and have low floors that meet the platform for fast boarding and alighting. Real-time information systems let passengers know exactly when the next bus will arrive, and centralized traffic controllers keep buses running on time. On the TransMilenio you are never stuck behind a slow-moving car: Private motor vehicles have been relegated to their own lanes.

Some TransMilenio bus lines move so many passengers per hour that people call it "surface subway." But unlike New York City's Second Avenue subway project-which has been under development, off and on, for 80 years and will take tens of billions of dollars and decades more to complete-Bogotá's then mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, got the first phase of TransMilenio up and running in just 18 months. TransMilenio immediately produced dramatic increases in bus speeds, reliability, ridership, and economic opportunity for people living in neighborhoods far from the jobs in the city center. Along with the construction of extensive bike networks and new public plazas, Peñalosa's TransMilenio is a cornerstone of Bogotá's rapid transformation from a traffic-choked mess to a model of sustainable urban development.It's hard to imagine that Americans would ever love the bus. But experiencing something like Bogotá's TransMilenio system makes you realize that the bus can be truly lovable-even kind of sexy.

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics