I’d like to respond to the Letter to the Editor by Nathan Bousefield, published on April 18th under the title “Need to change how we work”. In it, Bousefield asserts that if, instead of spending money on improving road and freeway capacity, we spend the money on mass transit – trains and buses – we’ll see a more significant impact on relieving road and freeway congestion.
In his letter, he focuses on one sole aspect of traffic: commuting to and from work. That’s the fatal flaw in his position.
People drive all the time for all kinds of reasons, to go to many different places to do all kinds of things.
Who’s going to take a bus, or a train, to go get a pizza? Or pick up some home improvement materials? Or visit grandma? Or see a movie? Or go to a restaurant? Or hit the mall? Or visit Vasquez Rocks or the zoo? Or take their kids to school? Or go to the beach? Or the mountains? Or skiing? Or to go grocery shopping?
Ain’t gonna happen.
There’s a reason “rush hour” is an all-day condition, including outside of normal “commute” times. The only time the roads are clear is WAY deep at night, when people have finally gone home to sleep.
Mass transit works fine in some places, typically older cities that were designed and built in the era before personal transportation became available: NYC, Chicago, Boston, DC. But those cities that boomed after the personal car became common developed along a different paradigm, centered on a less structured and less centralized environment that exploited the freedom of movement afforded by cars, and a centralized mass transit system won’t work.
Why would I spend at least 45 minutes using a bus system – in addition to having to walk to a bus stop, not one of which is at all close to my house – to go to the mall, when I can hop in the car at my front door and be there in 10 minutes? And then have to reverse the process to go back home, lugging my purchases with me?
Further, this is Southern California, the epitome and birthplace of the “car culture”. You are what you drive. Who wants to be “that guy who uses the bus”?
Nope. As I said, this is just one more example of the socialist utopian fantasy of turning people into ant colonies. The same “logic” that’s brought us the not-so-bullet-train-to-nowhere boondoggle. It’s nonsense.
©Brian Baker 2017
(Also published today in The Signal)