There's been a lot of discussion in the press lately about the spectacular crash of an overnight gambling bus on the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx. What I've been trying to wrap my head around for the past few days is the concept of an overnight gambling bus, and what it says about the failure of planning in the country and the region.
First of all, it clearly shows that anyone who says "Americans won't take transit" is full of shit. Sure, these are Chinese-Americans, mostly first generation immigrants, who don't want to spend a lot of money on anything but gambling. They live in the densest, most transit-rich part of the country. They're gambling addicts, driven by their addiction.
That said, they live in America, and I'd imagine that many of them own cars. But here they are sitting on a bus for eight hours in the middle of the night. They pay the full operating cost of the bus, which makes a profit with no more subsidies than any other commercial vehicle.
Mode choices - a single trip or a habit - are not inherent in American culture, or in the topography. They're a response to economic incentives. These people have a burning desire to gamble, and the only time they can do it is at night. They're exhausted, and they don't have the energy to drive hundreds of miles. In these circumstances gambling itself doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but the bus does.