Sunday, May 1, 2016

This May Day, Think about our Asphalt Socialism

Pedaling Revolution
Happy May Day!

And here's a seeming paradox for you.

A Transportation Revolution will not be Motorized! Revolutionary Forces will need to end our commitment to Asphalt Socialism and reintroduce Market Forces. While cars may look like a paragon of American individualism, in many ways they participate in a profoundly Soviet system.

"The Market" and deregulation too often introduces new problems, it's true. Transit deserves more subsidy, not less.  Just and effective markets need oversight in order to ensure they produce the outcomes we desire.

But right now our "transportation market" is all effed-up because it has too much invisible subsidy that has led to problematic outcomes. Free parking, underpriced gasoline, and our transfers from housing to road building all need to be curtailed and even to end.

Over at LoveSalem, they're teasing the May 17th showing of Bikes vs. Cars.

The 17th is the night of our election, unfortunately, so at the very least attention will be divided.

But the film deserves more attention and discussion than it is likely to get.

From the film's blurb:
BIKES vs CARS depicts a global crisis that we all deep down know we need to talk about: Climate, earth’s resources, cities where the entire surface is consumed by the car. An ever-growing, dirty, noisy traffic chaos. The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic.
I have mixed feelings about the frame of "bikes vs. cars" and the idea the people biking are so imperiled that they're quitting the bike left and right.

On the one hand, a century ago, there was a kind of war on non-car users, and car users won. There is a symmetry today in saying that there needs to be a war on cars, that there is a bikes vs. cars battle and that we'd be better off if cars lost. Car pollute, their geometric requirements rob cities of life, and they kill as many people as guns each year.

The former New York City Transportation Commissioner is also using the same basic trope of war or conflict in her new book, Streetfight.

It's an easy, common rhetorical move right now.

It seems, though, like it might move too far in a direction that minimizes conversation and debate, and focuses instead on fixed, entrenched positions. "Share the Road" has been found too irenic, but there's probably a middle position of negotiation more fruitful than fight or share.

In any case, if you are reading here, you probably have already thought of these. But here are some local things that can be done to help curb Big Car and our autoism. There's a lot that can be done locally to move towards a more efficient transportation system that actually offers a realistic and robust menu of transportation choices for people. The time-tested American system of pricing and markets is perhaps counter-intuitively behind many of the needed reforms. If you stop and think about the 20th century, the institutional drift towards a whacky system of subsidy and socialism is kindof amazing. In this particular area, revolutionary forces need to be more market-oriented, not less.

Locally we can advocate for:
  • Paid parking and reduced or eliminated parking minimums in our development code
  • Slower speed limits and traffic calming
  • Addressing the "negligence gap," the fact that drivers who kill people too often get off with a small fine and traffic ticket
  • #NoNewRoads - Push for "fix it first" and for new capacity through improvements for people who want to walk, bike, and bus. 
  • Increasing the gas tax and add a carbon tax, and reducing the road and transportation burden on our property tax system.
  • Unlocking the State highway fund so it can fund more things for people who want to walk, bike, and bus.
  • Supporting upzoning (even dezoning), density, and more neighborhood scaled commercial areas. When people aggregate and provide a density of customers, it is easier for businesses to co-locate in walkable neighborhoods. When businesses are near, it is realistic not to drive.
  • Asking Council for faster implementation of the recommendations and projects in the Downtown Mobility Study, the Commercial-Vista Corridor Study, and push for walking and biking excellence in the current Maple-Winter Bike Boulevard Study, State Street Corridor Study, and West Salem Business District Action Plan
  • Pushing our MPO and local electeds to incorporate greenhouse gas modeling in transportation and land use planning
  • And, of course, "No Third Bridge."
You might think of other things. Big Car is a problem, but there's a lot of things locally we can to work towards taming it.

The Progressive Film Series is showing Bikes vs. Cars will be Tuesday, May 17th at 7pm in the Grand Theater, 191 High Street NE. Admission is $5.

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