Are Muni Riders Good for Business?

"N" Scale
Photo by Brandon Doran

Are transit riders good or bad for business?

StreetsBlog points us to a report from Columbus, Ohio, where businesses actually don’t want bus riders on downtown commerical streets. The Columbus Dispatch reports that “downtown developers have complained that COTA passengers waiting for transfers … and buses lining the curbs make the area less attractive for retail stores and their customers.”

Some businesses in downtown Columbus claim that bus riders who transfer downtown don’t shop, and that “large numbers of people waiting for a transfer can be intimidating for someone walking down the sidewalk.”

StreetsBlog and the Columbus Dispatch rightly point out the class and race implications in these reports.

Having never been to Columbus myself, I can only guess that maybe the negative attitude toward transit riders comes from the city’s relationship with public transit. In San Francisco, Muni is a must, whereas in other cities it might be cast as some kind of “second-class” transportation. As one of the commenters observed, maybe the problem is with the businesses if these retailers don’t cater to the many people who pass by their storefronts — are they only selling stuff that car owners (and not transit riders) want to buy?

Maybe I am being naive, but I think we live in a town where easy transit access to your business is a good thing?

3 comments

  • Hell yeah it’s a good thing!

    Hell I almost never shop in the Richmond because the 38 is unbearably slow. No transit = no sale!

  • Fannie S

    Yes. Being transit accessible in San Francisco is definitely helpful with return customers.

    And, in my experience, riding MUNI (buses) has opened my eyes to a few business places that I would never have paid attention to if I had been driving a car!

  • badedukation@yahoo.com

    If I were opening a business in San Francisco, without question I would consider the available MUNI lines around it as a huge positive factor.

    My guess is that the perception is “public transit riders are poor people”. The nastier implication is that public transit riders in Columbus are predominantly black and the business are feeding off of long-standing racial stereotypes and misconceptions. Sad but probably true. “We want middle-class white people with enough disposable income to own an automobile as our customers and we don’t want them scared off by hordes of black people in front of our store.”

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