As an enthusiastic rider of public transit and regular reader of blogs, I was wondering how many people were combining these two cultural institutions. I am pleased to report that several types of public transit blogs exist to keep riders educated and entertained.
Wondering what a public transit blog really is? Well, it’s just a forum for sharing diverse information related to public transit either locally or nationally. As the examples below demonstrate, public transit blogs can be “academic” in orientation, sharing research with an intellectual bent. They can be news-geared and action-oriented, aimed at public transit advocacy in a local area. They can also be venues for celebrating the unique culture of public transit through the sharing of stories, photos, and random musings.
Whether you want serious news about public transit as a cultural institution or just silly stories about people on buses and subway trains, these are public transit blogs worth reading.
Maintained by Michael Setty, who is a transit planner and analyst, PublicTransit.us is part of his consulting business. This experienced professional follows national and international developments in public transit, collecting articles on research, theory, politics, and planning trends. Even if you’re a self-described transit geek like me, you’re bound to learn something new from this sharp public transit blog. This is not a humor site or a community forum. Rather, it’s almost like a clearing house for scholarly yet practical articles on public transit, well-organized by category and updated frequently.
With public transit news from around the country, this blog dates back to late 2004, when blogger Marcel Marchon began the site. In his own words, TrainBlog is about “passenger trains, railroads, transit, public transportation, passenger rail advocacy and related politics.” Offering a wide array of articles and links prefaced with personal commentary, this is a nice complement to PublicTransit.us. It also features a collection of spiffy photos some with crisp, pleasing composition.
I am practically addicted to this site, and I am still months away from a move to Chicago (from Milwaukee). Focusing on the deep subculture of the El, buses, and Metra trains in the Chicago area, this public transit blog is a true community forum that features daily submissions from riders all over the Chicago area. Although they do spotlight CTA policy changes, legislative developments, construction, planning, and other issues that affect users of public transit, the real heart of the blog is in its snapshot of life on trains, on buses, and in CTA stations. From condo-dwelling exhibitionists and earwax artists to random hair cutters and Bible-thumping sock puppets, the CTA Tattler chronicles the bizarre, offbeat, and often hilarious things that riders see, hear, and do. Readers will see tons of posts, consistent comments, and a combination of bemused, curious, admiring, critical, and just plain worthwhile information. You’ll even find CTA gift ideas and a grassroots system for CTA rider alerts. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I did not insist that everyone read the story about Gordita-eating trannies wearing macrame.
Atlanta Transit Blog
Maintained by Citizens for Progressive Transit, this site is aimed at information-sharing and activism within the Atlanta area, but they engage in discourse of national relevance. In their own words, they “strive to be an information conduit between our transit agencies and riders.” The Atlanta Transit Blog demonstrates what an organized group of citizens can do to improve the world around them: they hold events, share their ideas with administrators and politicians, and educate the public about developing (and redeveloping) Atlanta in a transit-minded way. The organization and their public transit blog provide a model for progressives in other cities who want to advocate for smart growth and change.
So, this is not exactly a blog about public transit. Rather, it’s a directory of personal blogs in New York City organized according to where the bloggers live on the subway routes. Everyone has a little icon next to his or her name denoting a home line. Traveling through the blogs is a way of virtually visiting the city, especially the boroughs that tourists do not always frequent, like Queens and Brooklyn. A similar site for Washington, DC is located at http://www.reenhead.com/map/metroblogmap.html. To me, this “blogs by subway” idea is a fascinating way of organizing information because it hints at the intersection between one’s physical presence and one’s online niche. How cool!
Overheard in New York
And lastly, although it’s not exclusively devoted to public transit, there is a great blog-like site (and book) by New York resident Morgan Friedman, owner of the www.overheardinnewyork.com site that features snippets of conversations (or sometimes very detailed stories) overheard and then reported by Morgan, his friends, and hundreds of fellow New Yorkers. Because the subway and buses of NYC see so much traffic, many of these quirky observations and entertaining tales take place in public transit contexts. The site eventually grew into a book project: Overheard in New York, which first came to my attention through an NPR report.
If you know of another good public transit blog, please add a comment to this article!