What Does It Mean to Provide a Range of
The root of our land-use problem—some call it sprawl—is our over-dependence on the automobile. Cars, of course, are a hallmark of the personal freedom that Americans treasure. Cars are associated with the horizon, and the alluring idea that you can saddle up any time you want and head for the sunset. More than a century after its “closure,” the frontier is still a powerful idea.
Watch this video from TED Talks where Bill Ford speaks on the topic “A future beyond traffic gridlock”
As with most things in life, the only thing wrong with cars is their excessive use. Since the 1950s, we’ve designed our communities in ways that give us no choice but to drive for every trip. These trips have grown longer and more frequent to the point that, in many busy metropolitan areas, driving has become a kind of tyranny. It’s not only the heavy traffic and the wasted time. It’s that motor vehicles are responsible for one-third of the climate change problem and for most of our dependence on foreign oil. Add to that the emphasis that the new economy places on efficiency—surrounding a single person with a ton of metal, glass and fuel is hardly efficient—and you begin to see the broader picture.
One way to deal with the car problem is to widen the market by offering viable choices. In urban areas, for example, people can rely on transit for many trips. Placing destinations closer together—even within walking distance—is another solution. Biking is another popular alternative in many cities.
Research shows that “half of all non-drivers age 65 and over—3.6 million Americans—stay home on a given day because they lack transportation.”*
What Providing a Range of Transportation Choices Is NOT
Dependence on a car in everyday life
Endless traffic jams
Haphazard transit funding
Infrequent or unreliable routes
Solely focused on transit, but includes walking and bicycling
Unsafe streets or sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists
Investing transit money in extending highways rather than repairs or transit
Benefits of Providing a Range of Transportation Choices
Gives people the opportunity to opt out of traffic congestion, air pollution and excessive energy consumption
Builds more sustainable, competitive communities
Avoids isolating an aging population far from destinations
Prevents car dependency
If the Twin Cities transit network continues to expand, many people can arrange their lives in ways that reduces the need to drive.
Challenges to Providing a Range of Transportation Choices
Lack of funding for transit projects and operations
Lack of a level playing field in road and transit projects (it’s far easier to fund and approve road projects)
Acknowledging hidden subsidies embedded in the economy that support driving (foreign policy, state patrols, emergency rooms, insurance, road construction costs funded from general tax revenues, etc.)
Political rivalries between metro and outstate forces
State constitutional provisions that favor one kind of transportation funding (roads)