The time has come, the time is now. Ellis you are an urban man. For today, my son, you turn six years old. You have grown up in the city and now is the time for you to fly. You see, our local transit system, Metro Transit, allows you to ride the trains and buses for free from age zero to five. Now now that you are six, it is time to start paying for your rides. Yes, for your sixth birthday, you are getting your very own transit card, and with it, the keys to the city!
It will be another 10 years until you can drive an automobile, but that can wait, because you will be able to explore your city and get to countless important places long before you learn to drive. The city is yours, so go out and get it. Well, actually, I’m not quite ready to let you ride the bus or train alone. Then again, I’m not sure you will get behind the wheel of my car the day you turn 16, either! But this is a watershed moment. For now, Ellis Urban, you are an urban man.
It’s not as if you don’t know your way around a transit system. When you were one week old your mother and I took you on your first light rail ride. Before you were one, we occasionally took you on the bus to daycare. When you were barely learning to walk, you rode the T in Boston, and when you were barely learning to talk, you were so thrilled about the L in Chicago that you asked for more. Let’s not forget the cable car San Francisco. And Amtrak. And steam trains. You seem to enjoy it all.
So go my son, use your transit pass to explore your city. You don’t need two tons of steel to do so. I can see you taking the train to Twins games with your friends or with your cello case to go to music lessons, and taking the bus to visit grandma or grandpa. Most of all, I look forward to riding the train and bus with you as we already have so much – it is nicer that way because I don’t have to focus on driving and we can talk. With this transit pass you are free to go. May it serve you well.
This ties in with a posting on StreetsblogLA in which the editor takes his son for a ride on the new LA Metro Expo line to Culver City. When my daughters were in the single-digit age range (the 1960's) all we had in my area (Southern California's San Gabriel Valley) were RTD buses. They did get to ride streetcars, but only at Orange Empire Trolley Museum or on rare visits to San Francisco. I was very proud of my younger daughter when she and one of her middle-school friends took the bus to a shopping mall several cities away by themselves–very unusual for children of suburbia.