On my daily work commute I take Minneapolis - St. Paul Metro transit and last Friday I get on the bus and smell a burnt chemical smell, very strong. After my 30 minute ride my lungs hurt and my lungs were still irritated the next day. And the goddamn bus windows did not open. This is a barrier to transit usability; no one will ride the bus when there are constant irritations that are worse than sitting in your car, controlling your environment and being able to breathe air. Air breathing, yes, that is something that I consider an important usability factor as well as working windows, doors that open and everything else that make the wheels of the bus go round and round.
When I ride my transit system I see a consistent breakdown of basic maintenance, wheel chair lifts broken, lights out, navigation signs broken, fare collection systems broken, AC non-operational, buses broken down by the side of the road. This makes me think that there is a skimping on system maintenance which means further trouble in usability and ridership, no one wants to ride a bus without its parts working because this is what it really means: when will the bus catch on fire or crash because it has not been maintained? After looking at the I35W bridge broken in the bottom of the Mississippi River today I can see what "deferred maintenance" and the lack of a rigorous program to keep things fixed will do to transportation, it will cause death and disaster. And the people in charge of that bridge were put in place by the same guy that put in place the bosses of Metro Transit Minneapolis - St. Paul.I have written about general transit comfort human factors and transit usability but this is a bit different, when a wheelchair access lift does not work or takes 5-10 minutes to work correctly it impacts the transit usability of all the people including the driver because the schedule is impacted as well as a perception of a bad system. Broken seats, non-working windows, broken hand holds, brake lights not working, this means they have put this bus on the street in a substandard condition. Safety is a usability issue, when I see some buses crash I will not use the system, even with my 75% discount. And when I see too many parts of the system broken I will not wait for the inevitable safety problems, I will abandon mass transit. And this is what I think is happening to Metro Transit, a cheap Charlie attitude from the top that will cost far more than a replacement light bulb, a seat cushion, a brake lining or even a couple of spare buses. This cut costs at any cost attitude will cost lives and make the transit system unusable. Can this be the reason for the lack of transit system maintenance?