7526Re: PRT anti-transit Disinformation
- Jul 17, 2004It's hard to convince people of the advantages of transit if they've
never experienced a good system. Heavens, living in Minneapolis, trying
to use non-automotive means of transportation as much as possible, I'm
often stymied in attempts to get around without a car, and after ten
years of car-free living in Portland, I'd become pretty ingenious.
Judging from my 2001 trip to Los Angeles (where Richard gave me some
excellent hints about getting around), that quintessential car city has
better public transit than the Twin Cities do. Express buses running
every 15 minutes on a Sunday are just unimaginable here, where the MTC
pats itself on the back for running 3 buses per hour on weekdays one of
the most useful routes.
As I travel around the area with newly sensitized eyes, I can see that
what hindered the development of sustainable transit in this area was
the rapidity and efficiency of the freeway building program. Because
the area acquired so many freeways so quickly, there are now a number
of "island" neighborhoods that are or could be terrific walkable
neighborhoods, but they are utterly inaccessible without a car. In
addition, some idiotic urban planners let the big box stores knock down
existing commercial structures and set up suburban-style shopping
centers and fast-food outlets in the city--but only in the poorer
neighborhoods, where developers could get away with throwing up
structures that are ticky-tacky even by the generous standards of that
sort of building.
Judging from the bicycle and pedestrian traffic jams that I encounter
on the lakeside paths in good weather, Twin Cities people are not
averse to cycling or walking, although they are understandably averse
to riding the neglected bus system. It's just that wherever they go,
they inevitably run into barriers.
Meanwhile, we've got a city council member, a Green no less, pushing
PRT as the salvation of us all. Ken Avidor is valiantly fighting that
bit of idiocy.
The one bright spot is that the new light rail line seems to be
attracting riders, despite its limited area of service, and that city
officials are making favorable noises about connecting the downtowns of
Minneapolis and St. Paul with light rail, which is a great idea, since
the route would run through the University of Minnesota's main campus
and non-affluent and immigrant neighborhoods, thereby negating the
talking point that rail critics used in Portland about rail systems
being toys for suburban commuters at the expense of inner city
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