Accepting a Deadly Daily Commute

Responding to the New York train crash that killed six this month, Sam Tanenhaus reflects on how commuting got so dangerous and why we don't demand better.
February 21, 2015, 7am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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The February 3 collision between a Metro-North commuter train and an SUV in suburban New York was the deadliest incident in that rail line's history. An article by Sam Tanenhaus for The New Yorker links that morbid scene with the daily brushes with death that have always come with a hard commute.

There is a sense of disillusionment with the mid-century infrastructural ambitions of Robert Moses, whose aged creations still make up the backbone of suburban New York City. City problems have come to the country, and safety is a concern: "Today those roads—the actual ones—are still charming. But they are also treacherous: the twisty access lanes, the narrow shoulders, the cryptic and poorly placed signage."

Tanenhaus speculates on America’s fixation with the open road and getting out into the country. That story begins with trains, which predate the auto era in a long history of risky transit. He characterizes dangerous commutes as a public health problem, one we accept as inevitable without questioning that might be.

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Published on Sunday, February 8, 2015 in The New Yorker
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