Here are two letters in support of maintaining the transit parking system that has evolved over the past few decades.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
This letter is in response to the question you posed toward the end of the June 20 column in Local Living, “Is it indeed worthwhile for the region to devote so much prime space to warehousing cars?”
I should preface this by saying that I walk to the bus every day to get to work in Silver Spring, so I am not defending any personal interest. However, there are some peculiar circumstances that make this mode of commuting favorable: (a) I happen to live a short walk from a bus line that terminates another short walk from my office; (b) I am single, so I don’t have a spouse or any children whose agendas I must plan around; and (c) my office subsidizes transit such that the entire cost of my commute is covered. Were any of these circumstances to change, I could easily see that calculus being altered sufficiently for me to prefer driving.
People who live in the suburbs do so because they don’t want the hassles and stresses of urban life, and a big part of those hassles and stresses is parking. Suburbanites tend to have families, and time and convenience are at a premium.
They may have errands to do before or after work, and they probably have children to take to one place or another, and so being constrained by bus routes and schedules, not to mention subject to the whim of delays, is not conducive to their lifestyles.
They might be willing to take a train downtown, but adding a walk and a bus ride and all the additional time and rigidity this entails is a bridge too far.
And this is simply not going to change.
It is the job of government to meet the needs of its citizens, not to dictate what lifestyle they should lead and use the levers of public policy to coerce them into a lifestyle that does not suit them.
Many elites today seem to believe that their self-evident virtue gives them the right to impose their values on others in the name of health and the environment. This is profoundly undemocratic.
Right-thinking people have been demonizing the automobile since at least the 1950s, but that has not diminished Americans’ desire for the convenience and autonomy they can get only with a car.
That they should now be arm-twisted into having to take buses or ride bicycles because some bunch of urban planners has decided that’s better and will now deny them sufficient parking is wrong.
It is time to apply the lessons of tolerance we’ve learned so well in other areas to urban planning: People should have the choice of what kind of life they want to lead, and the necessary services for all lifestyles should be provided. Public policy should not be used to effectively convert suburbs into urban areas against the will of their inhabitants.
Jim Cohen, Bethesda
DG: I begin my defense by noting that the sentence before the one Cohen quoted was, “But this is the long-term issue.”
Cohen’s letter offers excellent insights into why things are the way they are, and he rightly bristles at the sort of social engineering that would punish travelers for taking advantage of the options that government and private industry made available.