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Scaredy-Cat Paranoia Over Public Transit

by Kate Trainor on April 30, 2008

ScaredyCat Scaredy-Cat Paranoia Over Public Transit
We live in a dangerous world, rife with child molesters, lunatics, and gunmen ready to fire. There are slobbering, murderous wretches lurking around every corner, and kidnappers lie in wait for the woeful children who travel without the protection of an armored S.U.V. At least, this is the hook that the fear-mongering media has baited—and many mothers believe it.

Countless parents are convinced that they must adopt this paranoid, pessimistic outlook to keep their kids safe from harm. Some are so assured of it, they’re arguing that New Yorker Lenore Skenazy should face child-abuse charges for allowing her 9-year-old son to take the subway by himself. (Video after the jump.)

Since when does a kid taking the subway make the news? Since Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, left her born-and-bred New Yorker child (read: precocious, street smart), Izzy, with $20, change for call on a payphone, a subway map, and a Metrocard. Izzy had been begging Skenazy to let him take the subway alone, and she finally caved. When Skenazy wrote about the episode in her column, parents nationwide decried her actions as abuse.

What the masses see as irresponsible parenting, I see as a natural progression in the relationship between child and parent (and, of course, a hurrah in favor of public transportation). Skenazy had to let go. She had to trust her son, after giving him the tools to get himself home (a trip he’s probably made millions of times before). In my mind, Skenazy would be less of a parent had she stifled her son by trying to shelter him. (If she doesn’t reel him a little freedom now, he’ll still be suckling at mom’s proverbial teat well into his teens.)

I’ve taken millions of trips on the New York City subway and would argue that riding the train—full of people (most of them regular folk, not freaks) during daylight hours—is safer than walking home from school in a small town (as I did, from the time I was in second grade). I’d rather encourage my child to take public transit (safe, in most large cities), walk, bike, or skateboard than put him under constant surveillance, and urge him to grow fat and paranoid due to my own disproportionate fear. Are there sketchy strangers out there? Absolutely. But the likelihood that they’re going to abduct your child is nil to zip. More likely, someone you know—your dog walker, your ex-husband, your postman—is the sketchy sonofabitch who’s offering little kiddo dangerous candy. On a subway train full of New Yorkers, someone so brazen would be seen—and sucker-punched.

Source: The Today Show.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 J.C., Sr. February 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm

I think I already commented on my expeience with The VA’s shuttle bus to and fro Newington and West Haven, Ct. VA’s hospital. It is great and well used. But if I want to take a public bus to the VA (a distance of 4 miles) I have to take an hour long bus ride to Hartford and then another hour long trip back to Newington. I see many mini buses similar to the VA’s riding around My town, usually empty who’s only destination seem to be to and fro McDonalds. C’mon people. A little coordination or planning would go a long way here. That is only one example. I’m sure many other people have similar examples. And we are only a cell phone call away.
P.s. Carectomy, Keep on trucking, er, biking your good news and encouragement.


2 Kate February 20, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Thanks, J.C.! Carectomy appreciates your feedback and encouragement. I did read your previous post about taking the VA’s shuttle bus and applaud you for trying it out. It’s disappointing that it was so inefficient, but, sadly, as you say, that’s the case in a lot of suburbs–and cities, as well. I come from an uber-urban place where the transit is stellar and takes you just about anywhere, at any time. I’m now living in a smaller city where there’s major sprawl and sub-par transit. It’s really a struggle to rely on transit and my own two legs, all of the time. So, I can relate. I’m hopeful the sprawl will stop and that city government will invest more in mass transit systems that are efficient, fast, and affordable. Also, what’s up with the stigma that only poor people take the bus? Have others noticed this, too?


3 Mark R. February 20, 2008 at 9:30 pm

As someone who drive a pickup when not riding my bike and lives in a suburb of Austin. All I have to say is Austins bus service (capmetro) is broken. If you are one of a hand full of people that work down town or go to UT it might be great for you but if not your screwed. The majority of the Buses around here are empty, compared to our neighbor in San Antonio (Via bus svc) Cap metro in Austin is 2-3 times more expensive to operate with less riders and routes. There is no cross town service, limited service to some of the major employers in Austin or its suburbs. It just sucks. I gave up on cap metro 6 years ago when I tried to find a route to work. Cap metro would have taken me 1 hrs aditional and 15-20 miles out of the way just to get from home to work which at the time was 20 min. by car.
I’ve been to Paris and the subway system is awesome and wouldn’t want Paris with out it. But The idiots around here know nothing about public transportation, and until they figure it out I’ll ride my bike or drive my truck.
Kate, in my opinion the reason for the “poor people ride buses stigma” around here is because on Ozone action days when the buses are free they are full with homeless people riding all over the place. other than that they are mostly empty with the exception of around UT or downtown.


4 J.C., Sr. February 21, 2008 at 2:30 am

Kate. Thanks for your feedback. But I want to apologise for not expressing myself clearer. The VA system is super eficient and should be copied by other groups. It’s the public buses that make it almost impossible to get to the VA stations. As Mark would put it. The system clearly is broken. I’m old enough to remember it was the car (chicken) culture that broke the bus and train (egg) system.


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