Op-Ed: There Are No 'Captive' Transit Riders

Alex Baca argues that the dichotomy of "captive" versus "choice," while somewhat distasteful, is also incorrect. Transit can always stand to lose existing ridership through poor service.

1 minute read

July 3, 2017, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Bus Stop

Bikeworldtravel / Shutterstock

We often hear about "captive" transit riders forced into the bus or train by the lack of a car. According to Alex Baca, "captive" versus "choice" can lull transit agencies into the complacent belief that improving service isn't necessary. 

In reality, Baca argues, "There are very few circumstances under which individuals truly have one choice, and one choice only. More likely, people—even the most destitute, and even the most disadvantaged—are choosing between a bad option and a worse option."

"Someone whose bus is consistently late might save up or take out payday loans to finance a car. They might bike or walk to work. They might spend more money on a cab or rideshare. Moving or quitting their job, while seemingly drastic, may become preferable. They may depend on familial and social networks for rides or access to cars."

There's also a class element. "'Captive' riders are disadvantaged. 'Choice' riders are privileged, and privileged by transit agencies, whose officials often talk in terms of attracting them away from their cars to ride transit." Meanwhile, the so-called "captives" get no such consideration.

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