Saturday, April 20, 2013

Twenty-first Century Transportation

Complex Problems Deserve Thoughtful Answers

Interstate 66 and Metro in Vienna.

"There are no simple solutions...Only intelligent choices"
-- Caterpillar Advertisement from the 1960's 

Recently the state of Virginia hammered out an agreement to deal with the transportation issues of the Twenty-first Century. While there are things to love about the agreement and things to dislike, two points should be considered. First, from the time of George Washington to the present, good infrastructure has always been seen as essential to the functioning of a robust and prosperous nation. You can see that in the attention men like Washington paid to canals, and later that which men like Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton paid to Railroads. Governor McDonnell's work on transportation builds on good precedent.

Second, and perhaps less discussed, is the idea that mobility is an essential component of liberty. Holding taxation low at all costs might decrease the ability of citizens to access employment choices and other resources necessary for their well being. People from all over the region, for example, travel to the University of Virginia Medical Center or Johns Hopkins for essential healthcare services.

One publication I especially enjoy is American Conservative. One issue they regularly address is the importance of a diverse transportation system. While some may rail about the cost of public transportation, it is important to look at the amount of money that goes into roads as well. With the mission being to provide maximum mobility at the most reasonable cost, transportation design might just get a whole lot more interesting. Good analysis must consider the total cost of a highway-only approach versus a well designed mixture.

When my Mother moved to Baltimore, she did not drive. She pursued graduate work at Johns Hopkins and a career at the Martin Company. Streetcars empowered her. A decade after she moved to Baltimore, traffic engineers removed the streetcars. Mom learned to drive. Now engineers are reconsidering the streetcar, or light rail equivalents. The end result could be greatly increased mobility (and opportunity) for urbanites. The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation [click to read] offers more insight into transportation planning for the future.

1 comment:

  1. "... good infrastructure has always been seen as essential to the functioning of a robust and prosperous nation."

    That says it in a nutshell, and it is what others have recognized over the years including President Ronald Reagan when he realized there would need to be a tax increase to cover crumbling interstate infrastructure. To paraphrase a familiar saying, if you build it, you must maintain it. Good article, Bob ... more food for thought on this subject.


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