Beto O’Rourke is causing a sensation today for doing something rather ordinary: he decided to board a Bolt Bus from New York to Boston rather than pay for a plane ticket. If booked on the day of transit, a plane ticket on average would cost upwards of $400. A one-way Bolt Bus ticket to travel between the two cities is around 35 bucks.
Let me preface by saying I know nothing about how polluting jet planes and their fuel are or are not. What I do know is that a rather sizable portion of the American public (i.e. voters) cannot afford to fly on an airplane these days, and that public transportation options like buses have been demonized for years as beneath the dignity or social class of Americans of means. That is exactly why Beto O’Rourke’s decision to take the bus matters so much.
Campaigns often have privately chartered or owned travel-buses at their disposal. John McCain criss-crossed America in one back in 2008. But O’Rourke has decided to actually get on a bus whose fare of 40 dollars does not give him much in terms of privacy or plush seating. Instead, he’s spending a whole lot of time with everyday voters whose economics, social class or busy lives prevent them from being particularly active in politics today.
Frankly speaking, America’s national mass transit network is a bit of a mess. It will be years, perhaps decades before our country embraces high speed rail networks like are found in France, Turkey, South Korea & Japan. In the meantime, we do have a rather extensive highway network that could be used for hauling Americans to and fro, if our government decided to invest in a national bus-way system. In any case: flying isn’t the way the 99% get around anymore, (and airport security lines are a real nightmare).
1 in 4 Americans cannot afford to take a summer vacation, and 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense—say like buying a plane ticket on short notice to go to a funeral or attend next of kin ailing in a hospital on the other side of the country. Those Americans often have to use alternative means of travel and lodgings than previous generations (which is partly what AirBNB’s business model is all about). While his campaign isn’t highlighting these economic facts, the reality is Beto’s decision to hop on a bus is a meaningful way to connect with everyday people who feel like politics is an elite-level game that no longer serves American public.
Good for you, Beto.