Thursday, February 23, 2012

A House Divided

In the news today, SEPTA's head, Joe Casey, is blasting the House Transportation bill. The problems with this bill are well known.

Now, the bill is in one sense obvious political posturing. It is impassable in every sense of the word--no Democrat in their right mind would possible vote in favor of it. It is a transportation bill as the ultra-regressive Tea Partiers would see it. It completely ignores major changes in transportation demands occurring among younger Americans. It would benefit one constituency and one constituency only--the Tea Party's core constituency--to the exclusion of all others.

But, in another sense, it is denial. Active denial. A willing ignorance, a nostalgia that we can return to the 1950s.

The reality? We can't. The United States passed peak oil availability in 2005. Vehicle miles traveled, unsurprisingly, peaked at the same time. We just lived through one oil price shock--in 2007-8--and are ramping up to another one. This is something the new generation gets, in a very visceral sense, and whenever possible they're choosing to live where there's no need for a car to get through the day.

This is our voice, a voice missing from the Tea Party and this boondoggle bill: we want, and demand--to the point that many cities now have powerful lobbies for them--bike lanes. We prefer taking mass transit. We usually have more than one thing going on at a time, job-wise, and time is precious. Too precious to be spent driving an hour or more every day.

And those of us who have decided to learn about how our transportation system works, who want to work for it, also know that our roads far, far overbuilt relative to how much we can spend maintaining it, while everything else is utterly opposite.

We know that the only way to reduce driving is to make driving less necessary and less convenient. And so the House transportation bill is utterly antithetical to our needs.

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