Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Public Transit & the Science of Networks

Often, aspirant professionals are directed to “network” as a catchall for meeting and mingling with the right people in order to achieve career advancement. Social networking sites such as facebook and myspace have given new light to the idea of staying connected.

And, the field of study known as “network science” offers a wide array of explorations and explanations concerning “how everything is connected to everything else.”

So where does the light rail fit in discussions of networks?

Attending those Metro public hearings reminded us about the interconnected relationships between bus, light rail, and call-a-ride services. Many travelers depend on multiple forms of transit that are linked to various routes, hubs, and destinations. In short, public transportation in the Metro East and St. Louis constitutes an extensive network.

The light rail, no doubt, is an important link or a useful connector in that larger network.

For instance, passengers are exposed to people who work and play. Some passengers ride the trains to get to the baseball games; others ride the trains to connect to the busses which will take them to their early morning shifts at the hospitals, restaurants, and factories.

Also, students are exposed to other collegiates in the area. Since the metro serves as a convienient form of transportation for students from campuses such as Fontbonne, Forest Park, all the way out to Scott Air Force Base, students will more than likely meet students with diverse backgrounds and multiple disciplines along their routes.

And so we view public transit as a vital cultural network as well.

Viewing the light rail as an integral part of this larger cultural network means that we are taking into account more than just the ways that this form of transportation connects passengers to places. Instead, we have come to recognize that how travels along the light rail can put people in touch with new and diverse ideas.

No comments: