March 26, 2013

Public transportation as a tool for social segregation

Contemporary hypocrisy prevents elite members from building a prison-like dome over The Kind-of Sketchy Parts of Town, because that would have a disparate impact against groups whose shortcomings pile up collectively like a garbage heap in those parts of town -- blacks, Mexicans, drug addicts, crazies, whoever.

In the good old days, it was OK to talk about hoods, bums, "the ghetto," and so on. Shoot, if black hoods tried to mug you on the subway, you could just pull out your gun and blow them away, no questions asked. Disparate impact was not a major theme of daily public life, so you could isolate the shithole parts of town and not have to worry about race hustlers and civil rights lawyers teaming up to sue your ass.

Now, in order to build a wall to keep out group A, you have to wall off groups B through Z as well. Those kept-out groups are so all-encompassing in terms of race, sex, income, education, politics, and so on. Really anyone outside your own little neck of the woods. Hence you can't be the target of disparate impact lawsuits, reputation-poisoning charges of racism, etc. You just, uh, prefer a little more local flavor in your lifestyle.

I've only gradually come to understand this by getting around without a car for nearly two years now, which ain't so bad where I live. However, I have noticed that it's practically impossible to reach a range of places I used to frequent in a somewhat well-to-do area. It's not even Georgetown, where very rich and powerful people try to keep the hordes at bay by not allowing a metro line into their area. It's a barely upper-middle-class area with the mainstays of Stuff White People Like -- Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, large park with joggers and doggie-walkers, etc. Nor is it a racial island, since there's no real race problem in the whole metro area.

If it were rich whites trying to keep out poor blacks, I could understand. But it's more like the SWPLs trying to keep out everybody else, including the middle / upper-middle-class people in my neighborhood, who are also white, educated, law-abiding, liberal, indie-coffee-shop-supporting, outdoors-loving, etc.

On the whole, they're not so different from the SWPLs, except for one thing -- SWPLs organize. They're control freaks, where most people around where I live aren't so micro-managing and engineering toward their own and other people's lives. Like I doubt the parents around here would lobby the school board to ban peanuts, or chauffeur their kid around from lacrosse practice to $100-per-hour test prep sessions.

That trait goes overlooked because it's usually correlated with other, more visible traits like race, income, education, etc. But here where the metro area is fairly homogeneous and egalitarian on those measures, this personality difference leaps out at you. All else equal, the OCD control freaks will take over a society. And the more that trait increases over time, the more we'll see not just this or that area walling itself off, but every one of them. Some weird containerization of half-human cargo.

The most important strategy seems to be getting the out-group to stop driving cars and rely on public transit instead. Remember, the SWPLs are happy to drive their SUVs and Priuses around their community, but if other people drive cars too, they could drive them right into SWPL country. Could we put up toll booths? Too much hassle for us every day. How about a wall with some kind of ID-based entry? Nah, smacks too much of gated community racism. Well then, I guess we could just cripple the out-group's control over their own automobiles.

Public transportation networks do not arise organically, they are centrally planned and hence shaped by whoever has the most influence. In a not-so-third-world-looking place, that means the control freaks. They may have a bus route or two go through their area, but it will not go very far outside, which would expose them to invaders hopping on. And it allows the true believers to ride on public transit without having to sit next to the public.

More, there will be few or no transfer spots near the SWPL stops. It will be hypothetically possible, if you look at the network, to get from point A outside of SWPL country to point B inside. So most of those kept out may not notice so easily, and jihadist activists will have a tough time arguing that the control freaks are aiming for social segregation. The thing is, it's going to take at least an hour and a half for what should be a more direct 15 to 20-minute car ride. And you'll have to make multiple transfers, perhaps even use different modes of transportation, stand around waiting for the next vehicle to show up, exposed to the elements, and winding all around the area.

In short, it's meaningless to talk about "access to public transportation." It's about the accessibility of point B, using public transportation. But by talking about access to public transportation, the SWPL control freaks get a chance to moralistically preen, so concerned for the plight of the common man, while deflecting attention away from the configuration of the public transit network that is designed to keep the common man in his place. It's win-win.

Even better, in the rare event that someone does notice how public transit has been used to achieve social segregation, it makes it look like a policy wrought by bad politicians. SWPL control freak residents thus get a huge cover-your-ass payoff out of the deal too.

The eco-friendly, carbon footprint talk is just rationalizing bullshit. It's all about locking the out-group members onto pre-determined paths that will effectively never allow them into Our Quirky Community. Letting them drive cars is just leaving way too much up to chance for the control freaks to tolerate it. The various measures to raise the price of owning and driving a car are part of the whole thing, but really you want them to just abandon the car altogether, and that means you need to give them an alternative, suitably sugar-coated.

I want to stress that this is not an understandable case of law-abiding middle-class whites wanting to keep out violent black hoods, and just having to take a more indirect route to doing so in these overly sensitive times. Even in homogeneous, egalitarian metro areas, we're going to see the SWPL control freaks colonizing the more desirable areas and walling everybody else out. It is more of a prelude to the disintegration of civil society than to a clash between opposing race-and-class factions.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:40 PM

    Here in my car, I feel safest of all

    I can lock all my doors, it's the only way to live

    In cars

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  2. Santiago Chile used to have a completely decentralized public transit system of busses. Mike Munger and Ross Roberts have a podcast about it here.

    I was about to say that the nicest areas of a city typically have good access to public transportation, but then I remembered working in Hyde Park for a while. The east branch of the CTA Green Line used to terminate closer to where I worked, but it closed for renovation in 1994 and was never reopened in part due to protests by community organizations. Stops even further east than that closed in 1973 and 1982. Arthur Brazier, who marched with MLK in the 60s, was involved in closing the stops. But none of the stops were actually in Hyde Park itself. They were in Woodlawn, which is south of Hyde Park, and considerably more ghetto (at least now). I've heard some people say the south branches of the Green Line are the worst parts of the L, others that the west branch of the Blue Line is, but the Red Line is the longest (and goes furthest through the south side) and goes 24 hours, so it probably has the worst reputation.

    There are buses in Hyde Park (which I used when I missed the Metra Electric train), but it's not as good as the L, because the L trains connect at the loop (except for the Yellow Line, which stems from the northern terminus of the Red Line). The buses are also crowded near rush-hour, which I guess is more efficient but often that means you have to stand and can't sit and read (unless you have an e-reader).

    Nowadays I work close enough that I can walk/bike from home, a definite improvement.

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  3. Chile's system was private, not public. Most people these days equate mass transit and public transit.

    I'm not so suspicious of private mass transit, like airlines. Airlines must piss off SWPL control freaks, allowing any yokel from flyover country to land right in San Francisco, New York, Portland, etc. They're what bring in the hordes of tourists.

    But as long as the tourists can't make their way from the airport into Our Quirky Community, then they're out of sight and out of mind. Like, if you're already keeping out your fellow urbanites, how could tourists hope to reach you?

    "I was about to say that the nicest areas of a city typically have good access to public transportation, but then I remembered working in Hyde Park for a while."

    The Georgetown area of DC is almost impossible to reach by mass/public transit. Ditto the rich parts of the Upper East Side in New York. In Barcelona, the metro doesn't go into Sarria-Sant Gervasi, which is the tony area.

    Sure, you can probably take a bus to these places after spending 3 hours winding around, transferring, and waiting for the next vehicle, but that effectively insulates the area.

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  4. Sorry, I said "public transit" like the Brits might say "public school" or "public house" aka pub: open to customers.

    The IRT East Side line is apparently the most used rapid transit line in the U.S "Its average of 1.3 million daily riders is "more than the combined ridership of San Francisco and Boston's entire transit systems"". That's related to it being the only line serving the Upper East Side. The Second Avenue Subway is under construction now to further serve the Upper East Side.

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  5. C'mon, have you ever tried to get up to the Met by public transit when you were visiting New York? It takes forever.

    Here's the subway map:

    http://images.nycsubway.org/maps/calcagno-2010-06-28c.gif

    Remember, accessibility means nothing, so the fact that so many people ride the 4,5,6 trains does not tell us how easy it is to get to the elite parts of the UES. Look at the map, point to a spot at random not already in the neighborhood, and see how long / how many transfers you have to make.

    The short version: you can get there with only one transfer if you're coming from the Financial District up through Midtown. Everybody else has to pour into that area first, and then do backtracking / re-winding to get to the transfer spot in the east 50s.

    Also look at how long you have to walk to make the transfer -- it's not like you leave one train and remain on that same platform for the next. You're walking a block or so away!

    Don't be fooled by the colors. The blue A and C trains coming in from the UWS have to head downtown, switch to the E (at least on the same platform), and zip back uptown.

    Same with the orange trains -- only the M train gets you to the 4,5,6 trains. If you're coming from the UWS or the LES, you have to head toward Midtown and transfer first to the M (at least on the same platform).

    Forget about making it from a red train, which connects the ghetto south Bronx and ghetto far eastern part of Brooklyn.

    The only one that isn't a bitch is if you're on the yellow N,Q,R line. But then that effectively starts in the Financial District and goes up through Midtown.

    Hardly anyone will be starting off there, and the yellow lines don't connect with the blue or red lines at all, and effectively not with the orange lines -- only the M, which again only serves midtown, not the farther-away orange areas.

    The yellow lines also reach down into the rich parts of Brooklyn, but otherwise you won't be starting off on these lines outside of the Financial District and Midtown.

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  6. Actually, don't quote me about the same color trains being on the same platform. You may have to go downstairs or upstairs to switch from the A/C to the E.

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  7. And then there's what we mean by "Upper East Side," which spans the tony area in +/- the east 60s (Barneys, Bloomingdales, etc.) through a borderland with Spanish Harlem. The higher you go into the 80s and 90s, the more you're in not-so-prestigious frat dude transplant territory (at least that's how it was in the 2000s).

    There are currently two stops on the green line at either end of the really rich area, at 59th and 68th. Now look at the Second Avenue Subway's map -- it'll bypass this key stretch altogether, with stops at 55th and 72nd, moving the possible points of invasion even farther away from the core.

    And the new line will only have 3 instead of 4 stops in East Harlem. The closest stop now is 7 blocks across the border, at 103rd, but on the new line the nearest stop is getting pushed back to 10 blocks away, at 106th.

    ...Again, assuming you actually make it to a green line train in the first place.

    By the way, here's the bus map, where stops are marked by circles with crosses inside:

    http://mta.info/nyct/maps/manbus.pdf

    Same story. Near total absence of stops in the high 50s to low 70s on the East Side, virtually no way to get in the rest of the area either. The only stops are on the blue 15 route, which just mimics the 4,5,6 subway lines, starting at the Financial District and going up the East Side into Spanish Harlem. And I see few to no bus stops from other routes that would let you easily hop onto the 15 route.

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  8. Going through all this gory detail brings up an important final point --

    Millennials need to show a lot more skepticism when they come across apparent examples of elites drinking the kool-aid in their personal lives. Some bus routes and subway lines cut through the UES, but in reality it couldn't be more insulated from public transit.

    In general, wealthy powerful control freaks are not about to let anyone else into their neighborhood, certainly not the poor dangerous scum, but not even their counterparts who are slightly less wealthy, powerful, and controlling. After all, if those other people really had what it takes, they'd be here with us in the east 60s, not wherever the fuck they actually are.

    Similarly, elite New Yorkers aren't about to vote in a mayor who'll go soft on crime, they'll look the other way when cops frisk blacks disproportionately, and they'll destroy someone else's kid to get their own kid into the Ivy-track preschool.

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  9. Anonymous3:01 AM

    SWPLs control the bus and subway networks is rather a nutty proposition IMO. These things are planned to meet existing needs and to serve businesses. And networks are really persistent over time, and don't vary that much historically in frequency of different parts of network use. SWPL communities are hardly multigenerational and long term cohesive.

    No surprises if some SWPL people take advantage of gaps in the grid to place their communities (so long as it does not actually impede them earning a living, which is relatively hard to do), but who cares right? You don't even want to spend time with swipples. Unless they are occupying desirable real estate...

    Car zoning, that has - everywhere - a relatively high amount of control within the public, so wanting cars and being territorial and controlling about parking spaces, that seems like an optimal way for relatively rich control freaks to keep people out.

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  10. No one said SWPLs control the networks. The control freak mentality tends to correlate with wealth, education, white race, etc. So where there's variation in those things, it looks simply like elite whites run things.

    Then you settle in a place where mostly everyone is white, minimal inequality, etc. It's the SWPL types who emerge as the control freaks. I'm using that as a shorthand for white, liberal, elite, wants their quirky neighborhood to themselves.

    Networks are only persistent where they've existed for a long time, and require lots of stuff to stay put, like tracks. But most of the country doesn't have an old subway or metro system.

    Bus routes come and go all the time, and there's no path-dependence there -- no tracks that once invested in, people want to stay put. Just tell the driver to follow some different route.

    Light rail systems allow a good test -- strong path-dependence, but they're all new and trendy. Where do they go? Nowhere near the SWPL heartland. That would probably be a more interesting series of case studies, since it's an ongoing social-technological change.

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  11. Sure, SWPLs do occupy desirable real estate. We're not talking down-and-out gentrifiers, but people who've colonized an area with great parks, shop-lined streets, etc.

    Their attitude isn't to have these be public treasures, but to keep them to themselves -- "Keep ___ Weird" -- even in the absence of any real threat from poor/dangerous blacks/Mexicans.

    Car zoning and parking regulation is part of raising the variable cost of driving, but like I said that's too chancy. What if the scum don't mind paying higher costs? They could still get into our area, then.

    The surest way to achieve social segregation is to get the out-group out of cars altogether, and have them use SWPL-insulating public transit instead.

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  12. I've never been to New York (or northeast of Pittsburgh, for that matter), so I'm probably generalizing too much from Chicago. When I think of which parts of Chicago are least accessible via public transportation, I think of the crappy neighborhoods on the south side (Hyde Park is kind of anomalous in being a nice place right next decay, as well as having its own internal bus loops). That's also where land is cheap enough that parking is relatively available, though I don't know how many own cars (it's apparently a very small minority in New York that even have licenses).

    "Remember, accessibility means nothing"
    I'm confused by that, since it sounds like you're emphasizing that it's inaccessible from poor parts. Judging by the map, all of the IRT East trains extend to the Bronx. The 5 closely tracks the red 2, diverging to the northeast north of 180 street. However, the service to Brooklyn apparently doesn't extend to evening & weekends. The 4 however, includes both the Bronx and Brooklyn 24 hours a day, and even extends past what's shown on the map to replace the red 3 after 11:30 at night. It seems hardest to get to Queens from most of the Upper East Side. Staten Island goes unsaid. Between 59th and 68th there is the 63d Lexington Avenue stop, but that's on the east-west F train.

    Good point about the bus. The entry Sailer contributed to "Stuff White People Like" was "Not the Bus".

    When someone says "light rail" and/or SWPL, I think Portland. Apparently though, Portland has a smaller percentage of its residents using public transportation than my own Chicago. That's irrelevant to which parts of Portland are best though (knowing little about it, to me it's all Portland).

    The Upper West Side and East Side are both often referred to as bastions of the elite. The West side is talked about more, presumably because it's oriented around the culture industry rather than finance. Would you say the nice parts of the Upper West Side are more accessible via public transit?

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  13. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Another common technique is to limit the variety of businesses that may open in a neighborhood, namely the type of businesses that sell prole products.

    One time when I was walking home from a Trader Joes, I witnessed a conversation between two "Juggalo" types, one with a stroller. One mentioned to the other that they needed to pick up some items and asked if Trader Joes might have them. The other replied, "Fuck no, man! Fuck that place! They don't even sell cigarettes or soda pop." This indicates that Trader Joes is the right kind of business to allow, in that their establishment doesn't provide cigarettes, soda (except hippy soda with real sugar instead of HFCS), malt liquor, lottery tickets, money orders, video poker, candy (except high quality Swiss chocolate), or any other products that attract proles and all the externalities that they bring. In my city, people are particularly opposed to the openings of 7-Elevens and Wal-Marts. Another poster mentioned Hyde Park, which is an interesting example, as I recall reading that that the University pushed through zoning and regulations that eliminated almost every form of prole-attracting business, including convenience stores, big box stores, liquor stores, pawn shops, movie theaters, and fast food restaurants. Such is one of the many measures that Hyde Park takes that allows it to remain a fairly safe neighborhood even while surrounded by slums.

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  14. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Periods of falling crime involve the creation of transportation infrastructure, for instance the national highway system in the 50s. The highway system allowed the middle-class to live farther away from their jobs, so they could all move away from the city and segregate themselves in the suburbs.

    the equivalent is air travel, which became big towards the beginning of 1960-1990 - just as mass production of cars happened in the Jazz Age. High crime sees the creation of new forms of transportation, or improvement of existing forms; falling crime makes economic success dependent on utilizing that transportation.

    I'm guessing that the elites are simply going to build a lot more airports all over the place. This will allow those who have enough money - or those who know how to fly - to commute ever greater distances to their jobs. the result is that such people will move out of their existing towns to far-flung, rural parts of the country, where new suburbs and cities will spring up.

    obviously, a huge portion of the country is going to end up getting fucked when this happens. when the highway system was built, it was still accessible to most people; airplane travel isn't. Most don't have the money to travel airlines regularly, nor the time or connections to learn how to fly themselves(learning to fly is not exactly the same thing learning to drive, afterall).

    During the New Wave, those who didn't have cars, or were cut off from the highway system, were the ones experiencing most of the crime. Therefore, I expect that beginning around 2020, the rise in crime and suicides will be truly epic.

    Do the elites see this coming? Well, I've always wondered why so many actors were obsessed with getting their pilot's licenses...

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  15. "Similarly, elite New Yorkers aren't about to vote in a mayor who'll go soft on crime, they'll look the other way when cops frisk blacks disproportionately"

    Looking back on the recent election, I wonder what the demographic breakdown turned out to be. The next 4 years could prove interesting in NYC.

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