Photo by Chris Henchey

Written and produced by DAVID FREUDBERG in association with WGBH/Boston

Broadcast rights through April 30, 2012

Earth Day An ideal series for listeners concerned about gas prices and the environment

Richard Rodriguez
Richard Rodriguez, Chicago Transit Authority president

DePaul Univ student riders
DePaul University student riders

M.P. Carter
M.P. Carter, Memphis Area Transportation Authority

Robert Cervero
Prof. Robert Cervero, UC/Berkeley urban planning chair

Larry Hanley
Larry Hanley, Amalgamated Transit Workers president

Betty Turner
Betty Turner, Bank of America, Natalie English, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce

Matt MarylMatt Maryl, Apollo Alliance

John Inglish, Utah Transit Authority CEO

Our love affair with the car has dramatically shaped the American landscape. But along with personal mobility, we endure lengthy stop-and-go commutes, urban sprawl, smog and greenhouse emissions, and the drain on our wallets as we fill (and refill) our gas tanks. In two sound-rich hours, listeners will learn the emerging role public transportation may play in alleviating these problems, now and in the future.

Gas prices continue to fluctuate nationwide and are up markedly from last year. The last time oil prices spiked (2008), ridership on public transit surged all over the United States because commuting by car had become too costly. Transit ridership has again increased. At the same time, a new wave of young people are now flocking to transit, many citing environmental reasons and a desire to read, write, listen and watch on portable technology -- instead of fighting traffic behind the wheel. 

Breda plant
Transit vehicles factory (Pittsburg, CA)

But transit faces an uphill battle. In many systems, the recession has inflicted both service reductions and fare increases. In Chicago, for example, nearly 20% of service was cut in 2010, yet ridership declined less than 1%. Many people depend on buses and trains. A third of us, including low-income and elderly Americans, lack access to a car. Will federal aid come to the rescue, or will transit be trimmed further in budgetary belt-tightening? What should be the split between funding for highways and for transit services? Congress is expected to weigh in this year. Does transit contribute to job creation? What are the consequences for climate change, in which transportation is a major factor? And how might auto-centric cities adapt?

Amid the ambience of trains, cars, buses and subways, Passengers features many American voices: motorists filling up at the pump near a freeway in California, commuters waiting on a light-rail platform in Charlotte, students in Chicago who use their hand-helds to monitor when the bus is coming, and an Arlington, Virginia commuter who took a city-sponsored "challenge" to find out if he could get around for a month without a car. We also hear from transit system officials, urban planning researchers, business advocates, environmental experts and others.

2 Ways to download the audio:

  1. “Humankind: Passengers” at PRX

  2. Our FTP site:
    First hour—.wav file (596 mb):_
    password: heretothere

    Audition only: First hour .mp3 file (68 mb):
    password: onthemove

    Second hour— .wav file (596 mb):
    password: goingplaces3

    Audition only: Second hour .mp3 file (54 mb):
    password: goingplaces4

Free to Stations

To reach the Executive Producer:
David Freudberg, 617-489-5130,