There are wonderful things about raising a kid who rides public transit. I love that H. is out in the world, interacting with all kinds of people, all the time, and not just with the people we decide and arrange for her to have contact with. It's a pleasure to watch her skills at navigating public spaces grow. She's a pro at riding an escalator safely (yes, that did take teaching), knows just what to do (and what not to do) in a train station (wait back from the yellow line, stay close, NO RUNNING!, take a BIG STEP to get on the train).
She behaves reasonably well on trains and buses. We have pretty firm standards on what is and isn't acceptable that she mostly meets. There was a while there, right around 18 months, where I avoided taking her on transit because it was so difficult to keep her moderately contained for even a 10 minute ride. I thought perhaps we'd never make it out the other side. But it got better, and now, it's just a normal part of our days. One of the best things is that no matter where we're going, getting there is half the fun. The bus/subway/train ride is part of the adventure and the things we see out in the world give us lots to talk and think about. I can also see peeks into a future when she'll be able to ride trains and buses herself, and I can see that time will come way before her 16th birthday.
This is all great. But, and you knew there had to be a but, there's one thing that makes me wish for a nice, big, hermetically sealed car, preferably with tinted windows:
The ride home.
After a lovely trip out, say to the Science Museum (87 or 88 to Lechemere or Green line to Science Park), or Drumlin Farm (Commuter Rail to Lincoln), or South Station to watch the trains come in, H is tired, possibly cranky, and we still have to get home. Depending on where we are, getting home can take a long time (up to an hour, sometimes even longer), and that's a long time to ask a tired (or getting there) toddler to keep it together in a public space. She also knows the fun stuff is over, and is less enthusiastic about getting home than she was about getting wherever we were going in the first place. She still works hard to follow the "train rules," and we use all the tricks (e.g. toys & snacks in the bag just for the ride home), but any parent will tell you that sometimes the "tricks" just aren't enough, and then we become those people with that kid on the train.
I know other people's kids sometimes melt down after a big day, but they get to keep their tantrums private, in the confines of that nice car, with the kid strapped in and the windows rolled up. Every now and then, on that train or bus ride home, I wish I was one of them.