Being from a big city, I would rarely drive or be driven anywhere growing up. With all the traffic and hassle of finding parking, it was almost always more convenient to take the Metro, or the bus, or ride my bike. So began my lifelong love affair with public transit. It’s been with me at my highest and lowest points, from the triumph of making the last bus after sprinting from a party at three in the morning to the dejection of crying drunk in a Metro station because the next train is in twenty minutes and I just want to be home.
At least in cities where most people use it, such as D.C. and New York, it is the great equalizer where everyone intermingles whether they want to or not. Speaking academically, it is a near-universal solution to a significant number of society’s problems, when implemented correctly: a Harvard University study found that the single strongest factor for an individual’s ability to escape poverty is the number of jobs accessible via public transit in 90 minutes. Better transit implementation and usage has been correlated with positive economic mobility, urban economic growth, reducing asthma rates, cutting carbon emissions, reducing obesity rates and much more.
Not only is public transit a unifier within a city, but between cities. My experiences on the subway in New Delhi and New York are more alike than apart; on both you see the unique human experience of people in transit. Toddlers standing on the seat staring out the window, school kids playing games to entertain themselves on the long ride, a tired worker trying to ignore them and take a nap. A smile on a person’s face as they pass a busker performing Boogie Wonderland in the Broadway Junction subway stop. I did this photo essay somewhat coincidentally: because of my fascination with public transit, in almost every city I visit I take some photos of the public transportation there and the people onboard. I have collected sixteen of these photos, in New York, Chennai, Detroit, Lisbon, Medellin, Prague, San Francisco and Berlin. It is my ode to public transit and the people that ride it, the heartbeat of any city.