Near the end of Marx: A Very Short Introduction:
Suppose I live in the suburbs and work in the city. I could drive my car to work, or take the bus. I prefer not to wait around for the bus, and so I take my car. Fifty thousand other people living in my suburb face the same choice and make the same decision. The road to town is choked with cars. It takes each of us an hour to travel ten miles. In this situation, according to the liberal conception of freedom, we have all chosen freely. No one deliberately interfered with our choices.
Yet the outcome is something none of us want. If we all went by bus, the roads would be empty and we could cover the distance in twenty minutes. Even with the inconvenience of waiting at the bus stop, we would all prefer that. We are, of course, free to alter our choice of transportation, but what can we do? While so many cars slow the bus
down, why should any individual choose differently? The liberal conception of freedom has led to a paradox: we have each chosen in our own interests, but the result is in no one’s interest. Individual rationality, collective irrationality.
Any one who has been downtown during this sunny week could not have missed seeing or being caught in the sorry state of our city's bus service. The traffic is impossible, people wait and wait, and the mentally ill, who have been deprived of health and social services by their rich but heartless society, are provided a large audience by the buses that are so slow to come. All of this is not accidental. The experience of public transportation is made to be unpleasant, made to be a mess, to be miserable, to consume time and nerves. The reason for this is found in the fact that all paths to forms of collective rationality are consistently underfunded by a political system which vastly favors individual rationality. This has been the state of things for nearly 100 years. And yet nothing can challenge the evidence that shows individual rationality ends with collective irrationality. The result of this kind of politics? Though it's automobiles that are clogging our roads, voters are in the habit of blaming buses for poor service.
This is why none of the numerous plans (A, B, C, E) to save Metro are at all meaningful. Saving Metro is not the real problem; saving metro only keeps us where we are today—stuck in a bus system whose main function is to send frustrated people to the imagined peace and mobility of automobiles.
If we were serious about public transportation, we would not be trying to just save Metro (what a pitiful situation) but to improve its dependability and enhance its prestige. And this is exactly what's happening in Denver now:
.@DenverInfill shows off the city's new Union Station Transit Center http://t.co/gSMRdyhGOO pic.twitter.com/uWJId0PE1Q
— Streetsblog Network (@StreetsblogNet) May 14, 2014
This city is showing that it better understands the democratic value of increasing civic pride in public transportation.