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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Do We Really Need Public Transportation?

Uploaded: Oct 15, 2013
It's a provocative question – and in this, our entrepreneurial Bay Area, we have to answer it. The startup mentality is a major force in the region, and it affects attitudes toward public transportation. An old guy like me can learn a lot about the Bay Area's fast-changing political culture by reading Nathan Heller's [article in the 14 October New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/10/14/131014fa_fact_heller.

Be patient, for this long feature focuses mostly on startup funding and culture. Near the end, Heller briefly touches on public transit. He contrasts a notoriously crowded San Francisco bus route, the 30X Marina Express, with its entrepreneurial competitor, [Leap http://uptownalmanac.com/2013/05/startup-looks-replace-shitty-ass-muni-bougie-ass-shuttle-bus. To ride Leap, all you need is a smart phone and six dollars. You get leather seats, a guaranteed place on board – and less contact with the public. The latter is part of its attraction, for better or for worse.

For me, all this raises questions, serious ones, about a generation – reared in suburbs like mine, Menlo Park – with little patience for the abrasions of urban life. This includes general contempt for the inefficiencies of public process. And it embodies the widening chasm in our society. Still, the entrepreneurial culture is full of vital ideas – that need to be harnessed.

Do you use public transportation? Either way, how important is it to you? I'd love to hear from everyone.

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