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Where the Rich Use Public Transportation…

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2021

I ran across this quote while reading about what makes Tokyo work as a city:

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.

It’s a great quote and the piece attributes it to the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Gustavo Petro. But he never said it (even though the vast majority of the results on Google say he did). The original quote (from 2012) is from another former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, and it reads:

Una ciudad avanzada no es en la que los pobres pueden moverse en carro, sino una en la que incluso los ricos utilizan el transporte público.

That roughly translates in English to:

An advanced city is not one where the poor can get around by car, but one where even the rich use public transportation.

Peñalosa, who made public transportation a central issue during his two terms as mayor, provided his own English translation in a 2013 TEDTalk:

An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.

I’m not sure if Peñalosa ever actually said the exact quote at the top of the post. The misattribution to Petro seems to stem from a tweet that went viral in 2012, an episode that foreshadowed how easily pithy information spreads on social media but also how difficult it is to correct misinformation once it’s out there. I expect this post to do almost nothing to change that, but one must tilt at one’s windmills.