An article in yesterday’s Birmingham News spoke of an engineering plan that will call for a four-lane elevated toll road over U.S. 280. The plan was approved by the Progress 280 group with the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday, with public hearings to take place at the end of the month. Here’s the links to yesterday’s and today’s stories:
- Engineer to show plan for raised 280, The Birmingham News, 8.17.2006
- Skylane toll plan offers `bridge relief’ for U.S. 280, The Birmingham News, 8.18.2006
A conversation with a long time resident this morning has me wondering why people would be more willing to pay to drive on a road than pay to have the ability to get additional work done during their commute. I was reminded of the benefits of a transit commute by a recent editorial written by John Saxon to the Birmingham News about his experiences in Budapest. Here’s a cached link to his letter courtesy of Google. Here’s a cached link to a response that the newspaper published. It goes back to the idea of civic pride, but there’s something to be said about always selling yourselves short. Nothing will ever result. This is also where I remind people that we have not always depended on cars in this city; it once boasted the nation’s second largest streetcar system. Read on…
The idea of building more roads to combat traffic issues in our region may not be a solution those that hope for transit oriented solutions would hope for. This city’s metropolitan area has expanded in part due to the ability for people to have their own space to listen to their own music, have their cup holders for coffee, put on makeup and shave in without offending others. The idea of convincing commuters to give up their freedom to go where they want when they want is daunting and most likely impossible currently as it would take a great deal of education and nudging (and probably as much money as the new road would take). I just wonder if the money spent on an elevated roadway could be better spent on improving the existing bus system, perhaps expanding it to provide bus rapid transit service on the same scale as an Ottawa, Ontario developed theirs as an integral first part of a larger solution to the problem. Or you could do something similar to the existing bus network that helps my fellow New Yorkers get from point A to point B.
It would be interesting to show the difference in cost for the building of a new 10-mile road vs. the development of a bus rapid transit system. In both cases it will be a matter of time and conditioning for users to adapt and change. If they are willing to pay for the privilege of driving on a road, then they should be willing to pay for the privilege to get some additional work done on the way to and from work without having to worry (most of the time) about who’s driving.
This is the part where I say how much I do love driving. There are times I hate my car, but I love driving. The ability to escape on the weekend is a great thing to have available to me. That said, I’d be willing to see ideas like Zipcar available to me. These programs are in place in several cities and provide ways for people to continue to live affordably if they can live with the idea of not having the car keys available at a moment’s notice. For those ready to say that I have no idea what I’m talking about since I own a car, my brother uses them all the time in New York and loves it. He also ends up with a lot more disposable income than I have because he doesn’t have the additional bills to pay (and he does make less than I do).
A developed transit system would allow for both of these alternative ideas to be developed and increase our quality of life in a way that simply cannot be discounted. I am not saying that a toll road is a bad idea, especially when you have one of the best in the business designing it. I’m just saying that rather than build our way out of a problem with a beautiful stretch of engineering (because whether you want to admit it or not, they are), let’s solve the issues we already have and reduce some of that traffic so I don’t have to install that ozone alert button in the sidebar.
Thoughts? Comments? Dance steps to the Time Warp? Post ‘em.