Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don't Forget

From [transport-policy] Re: From Rhetoric to Reality on Transit

Don't forget that rail transit - not the automobile - was first responsible for allowing outward development. People have a natural inclination to travel, to expand their horizons, and to avail themselves of more opportunities.

It is my firm belief that much of this worship at the mass transit alter is oriented towards a hope that we will turn back the clock and go back to living in very narrow corridors of human habitat, while leaving the rest untouched. That is, it is designed to restrict our choices, not expand them. The automobile is the uber enemy of the enviro-transit crowd simply because it is the primary vehicle (excuse the pun) that allows us to transcend our otherwise normal limits.

Of course, there are a few - you, Sandy would be in this category - that simply love mass transit and dense cities in their own right. That also puts you in the reasonable category, as you, while loving this lifestyle for yourself, don't necessarily wish to impose it on everyone else and you recognize the impossibility of doing so.

Common sense will eventually prevail. The automobile thrives more than ever despite clogged roads, high energy prices, and ideologues bent on killing it off. Until something better replaces it - such as teleporters or flying cars - it will continue to thrive in some form. You can't turn back the clock. The era of mass transit is long over - it was the dominant form of transportation for a mere few decades before being passed up. But we can thank it for starting a trend - outward development - that the automobile has successfully and thankfully continued.

Don Hagstrom

--- On Tue, 12/2/08, Sandy Smith wrote:
From: Sandy Smith
Subject: Re: [transport-policy] Re: From Rhetoric to Reality on Transit
To: transport-policy@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Tuesday, December 2, 2008, 12:25 PM

Since I've been invoked in this discussion, yes, I definitely agree.

The problem for us today is that our built environment has always been shaped by the dominant modes of transportation.

William Penn's original vision for the capital of his "holy experiment" could only be described as "faith-based planning" in light of the technologies of the day. Most people got around on foot and required face-to-face contact to carry out their business. It would have been highly impractical at best for Philadelphia' s city blocks to have only one structure on each, as Penn had hoped for his "Greene Countrie Towne, which will always be wholesome and never burnt." So reality trumped vision, and the leading 18th-century American city was a crowded collection of houses, shops and churches that extended no further west than seven blocks from the Delaware River.

As the automobile collapses distance, it allows dwellings to spread across the land in a manner that Penn would no doubt have approved of. This, however, has the unfortunate (to me) side effect of making it difficult at best to negotiate the terrain by any other means.

Those cities that have relatively high levels of transit service -- and patronage -- all more closely resemble Philadelphia in form than they do Salt Lake City -- or even my hometown of Kansas City, which -- like Los Angeles to a lesser extent -- is actually a transitional metropolis, shaped both by pedestrian-oriented and auto-oriented transportation. (Rail transit falls in the former category because its passengers are drawn from locations not directly next to its stations, and the passengers must use some other means to reach the station, walking being the most common.) And even those pedestrian-oriented cities have had to make some accommodation to the cars in their midst -- and often have suburbs that are as auto-oriented as anything west of the Mississippi. (By living a true urban lifestyle, I have self-limited the pool of employers I may work for in this region, as some large local employers -- Wyeth Labs,e g. -- are located beyond the pale of public transportation. )

It really pains me to admit this, but efforts to Phillify the Salt Lake Cities of this country are a bit like putting toothpaste back in the tube.

---------Sandy Smith, Exile on Market Street, Philadelphia- -------
SandySmith80@ / http://mysite. sandy.f.smith
AOL IM: marketstel

"The voice of the intelligence. drowned out by the roar of fear. It is ignored by the voice of desire. It is contradicted by the voice of shame. It is biased by hate and extinguished by anger. Most of all, it is silenced by ignorance."
--Dr. Karl Menninger

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