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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 14th, 2007

Drivers prefer going it alone

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WASHINGTONMore people than ever are driving alone to work as the nation’s commuters balk at car pools and mass transit.

Regardless of fuel prices, housing and work patterns make it hard for suburban commuters to change their gas-guzzling ways.

This story reports from the national US census data. It is probably in every US paper this morning – this one just happened to be at the top of the Google alert.

“Housing and work patterns” are, of course, driven by infrastructure. It is the interstate freeway system that has bored out the centre of the US city and spread out the population all over, and concentrated commerce at the intersections. And the US is still building and expanding that system, despite the evidence  that it causes or contributes to inner city decay, ill health, death of urbanity, loss of green space and all the rest.

Amazingly the BC Liberals do not seem to be aware of any of this. Or worse, they are and they just don’t give a damn. For they are now proposing that we too use the excuse of the needs of truckers to get to the port on time to destroy the livable region – which they condemn as being “out of date”.

The interstates were funded by the gas tax. They were supposed to be “strategic” – to make it easier for Ike to move his troops across the country (though for the previous 100 years the railway had done that pretty effectively). “Interstate commerce” is a federal responsibility, so that gave them constitutional coverage. But overwhelmingly the traffic on the interstate is local commuters. Single occupant, large cars and “light trucks” (!) used for commuting – and every other journey purpose. And as a result the US saw “white flight” to the suburbs, and the spread of low density urban development and their own waistlines. And America became a homogenized, corporate sponsored, no place. Wake up in a motel just off the freeway, look out of the window and wonder where you are. Because it looks like every other place you stopped at on your way there. A place so foreign that Hollywood now shoots its films in Canada, so the backdrops will look like real places. (The back lots of the studios still look like other planets, but computer generated graphics take care of that.)

We, the residents of this region, chose to take another direction. Gordo and Kevin did not bother to ask if we wanted to change, and, as far as they are concerned, it was a “done deal” before they even started going through the motions of the EA and its required public consultation. If you think that they have the right idea, take a drive down the I5 and see how Seattle is doing. Are you sure that is a model you want us to follow? It didn’t work there, so why will it work here?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 14, 2007 at 11:26 am