I am reading Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities. It is a revelation, and I’ll have more to say about it when I finish. He cautions about using the traditional categories of “choice” riders, those who are not riders but might be if they were better served, and “captive” riders, those who have no choice but to ride public transit. The equivalent is “rich” and “poor,” in that order. I agree with his caution.
But I realized that the categories should be flipped. Choice riders are those who have chosen to live in an area where transit is available, and have chosen not to indebt themselves and their family by owning, maintaining, and operating a motor vehicle. Captive riders are those who have chosen to live in the suburbs and exurbs where they have no choice but to own a motor vehicle, because there is no other way to get around, and no place worth going to, in any case. They are a captive of the choice they’ve made, far less free than someone who lives in a place with transit.