Albany: At the October Save the Pine Bush dinner, Gregory Rosenthal
spoke about the Car-Free Lifestyle Guide to the Capital Region.
Last summer, Gregory Rosenthal, author, singer, song-writer
and pianist, self-published a book on why we should ride the
bus. He began by speaking about his history. He grew up in
Niskayuna, is 23 years old and is currently a graduate student
at the University at Albany studying public history.
In Niskayuna, everyone drives cars. It is a wealthy, affuent,
suburb of Schnectady and is very automobile centered. “You
are very far from the main thorough-fares and any bus routes,” observed
Mr. Rosenthal. In Niskayuna, when you turn 16, everyone gets
their driver’s license, and oftentimes, parents will
also buy thier child a car.
When he was 16, he got his licence, drove his father’s
mini-van, got into a couple of accidents, and noticed that
he could not tell the difference between red and green lights.
But, he continued to drive.
Then, Mr. Rosenthal went to college in Los Angeles. For the
first time, he rode a train, a bus, and a sub-way. Mr. Rosenthal
realized that growing up in Niskayuna, he was “sheltered
from mass transit.” He met people on mass transit that
he never would have met if he drove a car.
He noted that the highway in Los Angeles, I-5, goes over
underprivileged communities and that people are literally driving
over the people we really need to see, and people who really
need to be seen.
This is what Mr. Rosenthal discovered in California: he belives
we can learn a lot about society by riding mass transit. He
was sitting with people who are going to their jobs (Mr. Rosenthal,
being a college student, was just joy-riding), and there is
a great disparity, yet unity, with people on mass transit.
There is a whole sociality to it, that Mr. Rosenthal is beginning
to understand that is out the purview of people who only ride
Mr. Rosenthal came back to the Capital District and has ridden
just about every CDTA route. He felt that he had so many great
stories about riding the bus, and that he had had so much fun,
that he had to write a book. The book was quickly written and
he found a great group to publish his book in Amherst, Massachuestes,
called “Collective Copies”, who work as a team
to publish books on the environment.
The book begins with arguments about the two potential differnt
kinds of bus riders - the people with a choice and the people
without a choice. From his obeservations, he believes that
most people who ride the bus do not have a choice. His review
of the census data shows that 25% of the households in the
City of Albany do not have a choice; they have no access to
a car. In all of the cities of the Capital District, there
are tens and tens of thousands of people who live their lives
According the Mr. Rosenthal, we learn more about why people
don’t have cars when we ride the bus with them. Its the
minimum wage. He notes that there is a disporporionate number
of people of color on the bus, a disporportionate number of
women, and of women with children on the bus. This tells us
a lot about the issues in our community. When we just drive
our car, we can read statistics about poverty in the Capital
District, but we do not see the face of it or the multi-faceted
complexity of it as families have to get from home to work
to a second job and take their kids to recreate and do all
of this in the very limited system, the bus system. And it
is very hard. Mr. Rosenthal noted that he was almost late to
his speech today because of riding the bus. It is a stuggle,
especially if you have a family and a job.
And then, there are people with a choice, like Mr. Rosenthal.
But, he has the choice not to drive a car. And the power of
that choice is that he can choose to be in solidarity with
the people without a choice. Because he can choose to ride
the bus, joyfully, compassionately, and in solidarity, he feels
empowered because he can see and understand the people without
a choice. This is going to alert him to issues in the community
and that maybe he can do something to help. Mr. Rosenthal observed
that if one is just driving in one’s car, one is perhaps
going to live more selfishly. Cars are private vehicles that
take one just where one wants to go and no where else. He considers
cars to be a segregational force, just like housing can be
segregated. Segregation by transportation can be just as incidious.
The problem with segregation is that we do not see what is
going on elsewhere so we don’t know we need to act.
Mr. Rosenthal encourages people to ride the bus by dedicating
an entire chapter to how to ride the bus. Mr. Rosenthal has
a lot of fun riding the bus. But, he notes usually people’s
first experience riding the bus is horrible. He includes such
things as how to find the right route, how to figure out which
bus to take, how to find out about schedules, and how to get
support. In another chapter, Mr. Rosenthal describes how to
use the bus to visit nature, such as the Pine Bush.
This book is a must-read for people intrested in restoring
the cities, poverty, racism, classism, global warming, the
environment, and many other issues. The Car-Free Lifestyle
Guide to the Capital Region is for sale at Market Block books
in Troy, the Book House in Stuyvecent Plaza, and the Open
Door bookstore in Schenectady.
Published in the December 06/January 07 Newsletter