John Rennie Short, University of Maryland Baltimore County – Public Transportation

How do we get more people on the bus?

John Rennie Short, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, examines how public transportation fits better into the future of our cities.

Professor, author and renowned public speaker, John Rennie Short is an expert on urban issues, environmental concerns, globalization, political geography and the history of cartography. He has studied cities around the world, and lectured around the world to a variety of audiences.

John Rennie Short is Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland (UMBC).

Before coming to UMBC in 2002, he was a Professor in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. From 1978 to 1990 he was Lecturer in the University to Reading UK. He has held visiting appointments as Senior Research Fellow at the Australian NationalClick for link – John Rennie Short featured in this article University, as the Erasmus Professor at Groningen University and as the Leverhulme Professor at Loughborough University. Among his research fellowships are the Vietor Fellowship at Yale University, the Dibner Fellowship at the Smithsonian, the Kono Fellowship at the Huntington Library and the Andrew Mellon Fellowship at the American Philosophical Library.

He has received research awards from the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic Society and the Social Science Research Council. Dr. Short’s main research interests are in urban issues, environmental concerns and cartographic representation. He is the author of over 30 books, 20 invited chapters to edited books and over 40 papers in such journals as Area, City, Environment and Planning, Geoforum, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Journal of American Planning Association and Urban Studies.

Public Transportation


We are falling behind in the quality, reliability and even the very safety of our transport infrastructure especially out public transport systems.

Why has the U.S. let its public transit slip so far?

At least four reasons can be cited for the decline in the quality of urban public transportation.

The first is the early and continuing embrace of the private car as a form of urban transport. With cheap gas and low-density suburban sprawl spread, public transport became less viable. New suburbs and cities were built around the private automobile.

Second, mass transit systems that had been owned by private companies were abandoned or effectively dismantled in the late 1940s and 1950s. As a result, many mass transit systems were taken over by municipalities. This led to a high-cost, low-revenue system dependent on the vagaries of federal, state and city funding. Meanwhile, car drivers were not charged for the social costs of their accidents, pollution and congestion.

The third reason is that all infrastructure ages and needs costly maintenance and continual improvement. And there are many other claims on government such as pensions, schools, Social Security and a large military. Our infrastructure chasm is a quiet, slow-moving but relentless crisis.

Fourth, there is a deeper tension. The decline of our cities’ infrastructure is one expression of loss of faith in the public realm as a place of beauty and efficiency and an embodiment of “our anger and our pessimism.”

However, we may be at the cusp of a generational shift in attitudes to the car and mass transit. Millennials lack their parents’ and grandparents’ love affair with the automobile.

Cities and cars were never a good fit, something more people appear to be realizing. Urban public transport may come to be seen as a more desirable and more sustainable way of getting around the city.

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