Most people have never truly pondered what it means to acknowledge a public good. By determining that something is a public good means that its existence benefits the public, and should thus be protected as such. Instead, what most people believe is that a public good is one that is exposed to the public, which is something entirely different. When something is exposed to the public, that thing is at the mercy of the public’s discretion, for good or for ill, and it becomes the potential private property for anyone who maintains access. Transportation is one of those murky ideas: while it benefits everyone for people to be able to traverse their communities, there are those who can only see profit out of every facet of human existence.
Long ago, people walked everywhere, and wheeled vehicles were for the wealthy. Now, fewer people walk everywhere, and those who have private motorized vehicles often reserve their strongest contempt for those without such. Despite seeming like an unquestionable part of the built environment, roads are over 35% of the social ecosystem, making their management more important. Public transportation, therefore, needs to be seen as a crucial item in the conversation about public goods because without it, some people would literally be trapped in their own neighborhoods. Without contending with the challenge of travel, the idea of a public good becomes distorted.
Privatizing public services has become increasingly popular as the division of wealth has concentrated, and many public transportation firms now have similar administrations to charter schools. This means that while there are public funds being dedicated to public transportation, the administration of the service is privately contracted, meaning that services can change, drop, or begin wherever the management feel service should be provided. Instead of acknowledging that the transit vehicle is the car for portions of the population, these charter organizations create intense struggles between communities for significance. After all, if bus routes fail to receive enough of the market, those residents could be locked out of effective social participation.
Public goods should represent the public less as a monolith, and more as an ever-changing kaleidoscope. However people are traversing their communities should be acknowledged by the decision-makers of the local governments, as well as their public transit providers. The market includes all people, which means the market should not lead to excessive exclusion.