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creeps_and_weirdos.jpgChevrolet
appeals to one of the most basic levels of need — safety — while
insulting transit riders everywhere. Image via Dead Horse Times

When I find myself complaining about city subway or bus service —
while waiting too long for the bus or watching helplessly from one
train as the one I need to transfer to leaves the station — I try to
keep in mind that, maybe above all else, the relative ease of car-free
mobility is the reason I live in New York. Jarrett Walker of Human Transit
might say that, by having the choice to make my home in such a place, I
have reached the self-actualization level on the Transit Hierarchy of
Needs.

Drawing on a post from The Dead Horse Times, Walker explains that by applying Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
to public transportation, advocates might come to a better
understanding of "what’s really important" when it comes to growing
transit ridership while meeting the needs of those for whom transit is
mostly a means to the most basic ends.

We transport planners are sometimes cast as narrow-minded because we
obsess about travel time. But we obsess about it because human beings
do. When an urbanist such as Patrick Condon suggests that I should want transit to be slower so that it will foster better communities, I sense a problem that Maslow’s pyramid might elucidate.

Where in Maslow’s pyramid would we locate our need for speed? You
might argue that it depends on the purpose of travel, but the vast
majority of our travel is about the three lowest levels of the pyramid.
These levels — Physiological, Safety and Love/belonging — are what
motivate us to work, and work is one of the great drivers of transit
demand.

More directly, the anxious basic lower-level needs are why we often
feel "we just need to get there." You’re waiting for a bus or train
because you want to be home where it’s safe (Safety). Or you want to
get home to your partner or child (Safety and Love/belonging). Or
you’re hungry — a Physiological need.

When we engage in conversations about what makes a great city, or
for that matter a good life, we have to remember that outside the
sealed windows of our salon or charrette or network of likeminded
blogs, most of our fellow citizens are working on more fundamental
needs, and are motivated by those needs as they travel in the city.
They’re buying food, or earning their rent money, or getting home to
their families.

In a somewhat related post, Second Avenue Sagas fears that New York’s "new" digital subway signage is already 10 years behind. Also on the Network today: Twin City Sidewalks on how Sesame Street is a bad model for public space; DC Bike Examiner on instances when transit isn’t "green"; and Soap Box LA on the new era of cooperation between cyclists and LAPD.

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