Public transport as public space: fostering everyday equality among strangers
|Crowd standing next to the first electric train in Wynyard Station, Sydney, 1932. Source: National Library of Australia|
Before the development of buses, trains and streetcars in the nineteenth century, people were quite unable to look at each other for minutes or hours at a time … without talking to each other.
By causing all classes of society to travel together and thus juxtaposing them into a kind of living mosaic of all the fortunes, positions, characters, manners, customs, and modes of dress that each and every nation has to offer, the railroads quite prodigiously advance the reign of truly fraternal social relations and do more for the sentiments of equality that the most exalted sermons of the tribunes of democracy.
boxed us up into a straggling mass and killed our natural Instinct to be polite. We have to scramble and fight for the means of getting home and the man who steps aside and says: 'After you,' is the man who walks and finds his late arrival hard to explain.