Photo Essay: An Ode to Public Transit

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 8:10pm

7 trains passing in Jackson Heights, Queens.

7 trains passing in Jackson Heights, Queens. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

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.

Streetcar intersection in Lisbon.

Streetcar intersection in Lisbon. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Subway station in Prague.

Subway station in Prague. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Subway entrance in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Subway entrance in Jackson Heights, Queens. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Subway terminal in Coney Island.

Subway terminal in Coney Island. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Train cleaning crew in Coney Island.

Train cleaning crew in Coney Island. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

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.

Train to Judah, San Francisco.

Train to Judah, San Francisco. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Train driver in mirror in San Francisco.

Train driver in mirror in San Francisco. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Boarding a train in Chennai.

Boarding a train in Chennai. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Bus stop at Eastern Market, Detroit.

Bus stop at Eastern Market, Detroit. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Double decker subway tracks in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

Double decker subway tracks in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

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.

Pedestrian tunnel, Manhattan.

Pedestrian tunnel, Manhattan. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Boarding streetcar in Lisbon.

Boarding streetcar in Lisbon. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Performer in Berlin.

Performer in Berlin. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Hanging out the train doors in Chennai.

Hanging out the train doors in Chennai. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

Lining up for the train in Medellin.

Lining up for the train in Medellin. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily