Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 4Topic 7
Focusing On Rapid Transit


By 1900, New York City had become one of the largest cities in the worlds. Manhattan had consolidated with Brooklyn and three other boroughs to form a metropolis with almost 3.5 million people. Within ten years, it would add another 1.3 million person, many of them immigrants. Much of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn seemed filled to capacity. The city needed more space, but people had to live near their jobs. A new transportation system was needed, but where to put it. Underground was the obvious answer. The first line opened in 1904. Within four years, the system was complete, although new lines and stations would be added over the years. It was an incredible achievement. The world's largest subway system--714 miles at last count--was built while the city went about its business.

What about your community--your town or city? What kind of rapid transit does it have? Buses, subways, light rail? Is it big or small? Do lots of people use or only a few? Whatever the case, you've probably noticed one inconvenient thing about it. It was designed by and for adults. How about designing a rapid transit system for kids? In this activity, you will get that chance.

Thinking About An Rtsk (Rapid Transit System For Kids)
There are a number of things to consider before planning your RTDK. These are: traffic patterns (that is, where do kids live and where do they want to go); population density (how many kids per square mile); cost (how much will it cost to build and how much will the fares be); the physical environment (rivers, mountains, earthquakes, bad weather in winter); and environmental issues (clean transport).

Traffic Patterns: As any good transit designer knows, the place to begin is the user. Where do kids live and where do they want--or have--to go? School, libraries, the mall, parks, beaches, sports stadiums? Keep in mind, seasonal changes in traffic. Kids usually go to the beach in the summer only.

Density: What about density? How many kids live in different areas of your community? Where are they concentrated?

Cost: Density is directly related to cost. Different kinds of rapid transit systems cost different amounts of money. In general, subways cost the most, followed by light (surface) rail, and then buses which use existing highways (sometimes, with lanes of their own.) Cost is also connected to how fancy you want to make your system. An attractive system with lots of cool extras (video games at every seat) brings in riders, but it also raises the fare prices.

Physical Environment: Are there major obstacles between where kids live and where they want to go? Are there earthquakes or flooding that would make a subway hazardous or impractical? How about the weather? Do you have severe winters or very hot summers? Stations and transport vehicles will have to be designed with this in mind?

Environmental Issues: You probably want to design a system that does not pollute: electric trains or buses that run on natural gas.

We have laid these things out in order of importance. But you should keep all of them in mind as you begin to design your system. Remember to study your community and check out all these things before you begin to design your RTSK.

Designing Your Rtsk
Before you begin designing your system, you might want to check out other rapid transit systems. You can find maps and other facts about rapid transit systems all over the country by clicking on http://4subways.4anything.com/.

Next, get a detailed map of your community. They're available at your library or you can buy one for a few bucks at your local bookstore or gas station. (There's probably one in your folks' car; ask them before you borrow it.) You might also want to get a map of the existing rapid transit system in your area. It's usually available on buses or rapid transit stations.

Now, that you have your map in front of you. It's time to design your system. Here are a couple of last things to keep in mind before you begin: first, you can design your system around the existing rapid transit system or you can pretend there is no system and start from scratch. Also, do you want to incorporate bikes into your system? Will the system be designed around them? will they be allowed on vehicles?

Drawing Up Your Rtsk
There are several options here.

1) You can take an existing map and draw over it (this saves time, but things can get blurry;
2) You can draw or trace a new map of your own (this takes time, but makes things clearer;
3) if you're good at computers, you can draw the map directly on one.

Whatever form you choose, do not forget to put in the following things: routes, forms of transport, station locations. In addition, you might also want to list schedule, rules and fares.

If you really want to get fancy, you can draw up what a typical vehicle and a typical station will look like (maybe even both internal and external views).

Displaying Your Rtsk
Once you have drawn up your map, you probably want others to look at it. Perhaps, you want to make one big poster to put up in your class or maybe you can make smaller versions and photocopy them. You might even want to draw a first version and let people comment on it. Other kids will probably have some ideas you never thought of.