Thursday, April 26, 2012

A bad sign

A quick follow-up to my previous post: When I first spotted this pictured advertisement on a Pittsburgh bus, I didn't think much of it. But then I read it, and realized that there was an attitude fundamentally wrong behind it. It's nice to say things like "Don't litter" or "Don't engage in loud or rowdy behavior." But what alarmed me was the final message: "Inconsiderate behavior can result in the loss of your bus stop!"

It took me a moment to process that. What the Port Authority seems to be claiming here is that the actions of one person can be used to justify punishment of the group of people who use that bus stop. That seems insane. I don't know if this has ever been carried out, or if this threat is empty.

But what portends for worse is the phrasing. It's about "your bus stop" and "your bus." A long time ago, I distinctly remember someone explaining proudly to me that in Pittsburgh "everyone rides the bus." It's not just for the poor and disenfranchised, as in some places, but for a diverse cross section of the population. It seemed to be quite true at the time. I have been away for many years. I don't know how things have been changing. But it is a bad sign if bus riders are being separated from the rest of society, as a class, and then treated like children whose "bus privileges" may be taken away arbitrarily. This is supposed to be everyone's bus, and everyone's bus stop. Can you imagine the city threatening to close a road because some driver littered? Why should buses get this kind of treatment?

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