Second, there are also “carfree by choice” households that chose not to make Investments in cars, and thus are “captive riders” from a practical point of view. We are able-bodied, of sound mind, with driver’s licenses, and could theoretically afford to buy and maintain a car, but we choose instead to go on European vacations, or pay off our debts, or do any number of other things with the money. We are everywhere, but we tend to be concentrated in walkable cities with good transit.
There is nothing that says that a major expansion of infrastructure will require any of it to be highway infrastructure. You might just as well say that since we have a canal system originally designed for an 1820 population of ten million, we have to dig more canals. There may be good reasons to build roads, but the fact that our roads were originally designed for a smaller population is not one of them.
The housing problem is about access: access to jobs, but also to shopping, to government and private services. It’s also about access to education, to social networks and to the levers of government. If you don’t believe that last one, compare the cleanliness of streets in the South Bronx with those on the Upper East Side.
The troubling part is that McDonald seems to have no clue that roads and transit compete with one another - or possibly to be deliberately ignoring this fact. If we add a lane to the Tappan Zee Bridge (and everyone knows it’s going to be at least three lanes), that makes it easier to drive, and lowers the demand for transit. In other words, as long as the government keeps widening the roads and bridges the farebox recovery ratio will never warrant the investment in transit.
Someone’s got to say it. Our predecessors have played the Grinch with transit and city streets for the past 50 years; if we don’t learn to play the Grinch with roads and multi-billion dollar bridges there’s not going to be anything left to play with at all.
An “adverse traffic demand response” just means lower traffic volumes. Well, ahem, one man’s “potentially adverse traffic demand response” is another man’s problem solved! It’s only a problem if you’ve already built a bigger bridge and you need the tolls to pay for it. If you reduce traffic volumes instead of building a bigger bridge, well, you just saved us five billion dollars.
You can do the same thought experiment with any place. No matter how sparsely populated it is, just subtract some roads while keeping the rail and/or bus network constant, and eventually the place “supports transit.” Take Wyoming. Now imagine it without interstate highways. Would that be enough to support restored passenger service on the train lines? How about if we turn all the roads to gravel?
Sounds harsh, but we have essentially done the converse: let transit degrade to its equivalent of gravel roals while investing billions in the automobile equivalent of high-speed rail–interstates. Then we mumble about how sparsely populated areas can’t support transit, but it is only true under our highly artificial and unsustainable arrangements.
When the government does try stimulus, what does it build? Roads and bridges. When Americans feel that things are looking up, what do they buy? SUVs and McMansions. If we have a recovery, that’s what we’re going to get. Roads and bridges, SUVs and McMansions, tar sands and electric cars. Parking required at the apartment building, parking at the train station, parking at the office park.
The Piscataquis Village project is clearly in the quadrant where short errands can be done by walking, but longer trips have to be done by car. Residents and workers will all therefore be expected to have cars and use them on a regular basis. This makes me suspicious that, as on Roosevelt Island, people will be tempted to drive their cars into the village and colonize the Really Narrow Streets for parking “just this one time,” or “just because I have a mobility impairment,” or for hundreds of other reasons. People are always creative at finding reasons for the rules not to apply to them.