Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When Traffic Becomes News

Britches, meet too big:

"...The city doesn't appear to have the infrastructure or processes in place to handle the number of simultaneous events that are happening downtown," she said.

This isn't news because the traffic was bad; it's news because people's expectations didn't match reality. The new expectation has to be this: if you chose to live in a city whose cultural life is rich enough that large simultaneous events are scheduled in the same area, don't expect to drive up to your destination and park outside the door; if you try it, you'll get stuck, so you're going to be walking, or taking a shuttle, or biking. Basically: expect to arrive sweating. I may be contradicting myself, but I don't think it's the city's job to match reality to expectations. I think it's to provide leadership about -- and certainly to change -- the expectations as well.

Here's a new thought about public transportation: maybe it's not capital-intensive, building streetcars or subways. Rather, maybe it's temporary transport, like flash mobs, shuttling people from one parking area to the event area on the weekends. Riders have to pay for it, of course.


Nana Anne said...

Just curious since this blog posting shows up completely out of context; where are you talking about and what are you trying to say?

coffeehound said...

Some context: I've been using this blog to collect thoughts about Austin, Texas, as a place to live, now that I live (temporarily) in Portland, Maine. Sometimes these run to the comparative: Austin vs. Portland. Other times I compare Austin to some ideal city I imagine in my head. In general, they're intended to point to signs of a collective realization that Austin isn't Shangri-La. Which is admittedly selfish -- these signs have probably been evident for a while. It's just that given my relationship to the place, one that's in flux, I'm seeing them more.

This particular post was commenting on an article from the Austin paper that -- well, you can read it yourself. Austin has long touted itself as a cultural center, a place where ideas get made and people get entertained, but it's gone about doing this in a way -- in my mind -- that ignores certain realities that were going to catch up with the city one way or another. As in, parking.

Various forms of public mass transit have been debated in the city for two decades, but nothing ever gets done because it's a car-hugging culture in an oil state with a strong construction lobby. Hence the idea about flash public transit: it's low capital intensive but serves the same purpose, to move massive amounts of people from one place to another. Only you don't do it in special huge events like a music festival; you build a regular plan for something that runs weekly. The city could probably run it without a referendum.

As for expectations vs. reality, maybe I should just do another post, but am I answering your questions?