A USC trustee was recently very forthright with me, “Let’s get real. Do you really think people on the (generally affluent) Westside (of L.A.) are going to take a bus?”
Thousands of USC alumni, and I’m sure the trustee included, outfit the backs of their cars with a radiant piece of metal or plastic. Often with some red, gold or black paint, it proclaims “Alumni USC.” These license plate holders are a status symbol if there ever was one. Whether on a Prius, a Rolls-Royce or an Accord, a USC alumni license plate frame tells the world you graduated from a prestigious university and you have enough money and care to boast about it. Visible to people driving in your exhaust or walking by your vehicle, it’s way more of a definitive symbol than a t-shirt that could just out you as a USC football fan.
But transit riders who shun cars on most occasions don’t have the luxury of signaling their collegiate accomplishments to the world. The problem of course applies to nearly every university that churns out a significant number of high-income gas-guzzling-types, but I focus on the university since I know it best.
I would guess a strong majority of present USC students experience envy every time they see “Alumni USC” frames. Sure, that sensation is bad. It’s also unavoidable in our capitalistic culture. I mean, “Let’s be real.”
So as Metro and other transit agencies around the world try to up their ridership figures and get people out of their cars, another consideration they should make is how to replicate license plate holders in a form of transportation that lets many share one huge vehicle. Wearing stickers? That’s too tacky. USC Alumni briefcases, backpacks and cell phones cases? Might be overbearing since you can’t leave them behind in the parking lot all day. A creative genius out there surely has some other ideas. I would love to hear them.