Transit: uniter or divider?

Today’s post on Infrastructurist about the D-Train Murder had a line that caught my eye:

Cramming the population of a city like New York into a maze of underground cars creates a forced melting pot that’s a perfect breeding ground for class and race divisions.

There’s no question that the NYC subway is a forced melting pot — but it’s the assertion that it’s a breeding ground for class and race divisions that I take issue with.  In fact, I’ll say it’s the exact opposite.  Most (all?) of the above-ground city is actually divided by race and class.  It’s the subway where we all come together each day; the subway is perhaps the only place where people from all races, classes, and neighborhoods really mix.  In my experience, that is not cause for further division; rather, it’s a uniting force that gives us shared experiences on a human level.

One of the commenters on the Infrastructurist post summed it up nicely:

I think the necessity of sharing space with strangers is what makes cities the diverse, creative, wealth-producing places that they are. Far from being a necessary evil, it is the most distinctive feature of urban life. The elimination of this feature was one aspect of modernist city planning, but we reject that now. So we want mass transit for the type of civic interaction it creates, not just for sustainability and practicality.

Well said.

(Photo my moriza on Flickr)

7 thoughts on “Transit: uniter or divider?

  1. The more I think about it, the more I think that this is actually one of the most important things about cities. It makes me so happy to ride the subway with the crazy mix of New Yorkers, especially after being away in other, less people-ful, places.

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  2. The more I think about it, the more I think that this is actually one of the most important things about cities. It makes me so happy to ride the subway with the crazy mix of New Yorkers, especially after being away in other, less people-ful, places.

    Like

  3. i see it even just down here in DC… especially when the Metro crosses the river into Virginia.. people aren’t “forced” into these diverse settings as often, and I think because of this, so many people that i see, think of that homeless guy on the train (who happens to be mumbling to himself) as some dangerous, crazy-person… I’m usually the one talking to him…

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  4. i see it even just down here in DC… especially when the Metro crosses the river into Virginia.. people aren’t “forced” into these diverse settings as often, and I think because of this, so many people that i see, think of that homeless guy on the train (who happens to be mumbling to himself) as some dangerous, crazy-person… I’m usually the one talking to him…

    Like

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