Anyone familiar with The Simpsons should know the potential dangers of listening to a slick city folk preaching the benefits of light rail lines as a way to better the daily lives of the community. However, I beg you to hear me out on this one as I promise to provide evidence and reasoning rather than merely the false advertising of a catchy tune.
Given its profound success, the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail system in Portland, Oregon should be considered a diamond in the rough of this country’s ugly urban transportation systems.
After its “maiden voyage” in summer of 1986 the MAX has been anything but stagnant and old-fashioned as more lines, stations, and trains are continuously being planned and implemented. As you read this post tracks are being laid throughout the city in preparation for two additional lines that will ultimately connect the four quadrants of the city into one scheduled and on-time mass transit option.
Because of this top down push for alternative fuel sources, less and less of the citizens of Portland are finding that they need a car. On a weekend stroll through the city center the environment is filled with more bikes, trains, and people than the honking and exhaust from cars.
Today, I pity the fool who drives into portland for the first time expecting to navigate the distance traveled by map. When those in power advocate for pedestrians by establishing wide and defined bike lanes and implementing webs of mass transit, less room exists for cars and the problems they create.
In a developmental sense the construction of Max lines catalyzed economic development in parts of the city previously considered “the other side of the tracks.” For those familiar with the satirical antics of IFC’s Portlandia, many of locations they film have only developed their unique characteristics through the secondary benefits caused by the establishment and spread of the MAX lines. Where Giuliani increased the police force to get his way, others optioned for increased citizen mobility to clean up the streets and provide opportunity.
Price structure for unlimited rides start at $81 per month and $891 per year (this figure does not even include the numerous free zones located in the busiest areas of the city). For the price of filling up an SUV these days, in Portland you can cover all of your transportation needs for the month and still have money left over to enjoy the locally roasted coffee and brewed beer. Trust me, it’s a great way to green your life and fatten your wallet.
So why isn’t light rail finding roots in other places throughout the country? The answer is as simple as the fact that effective light rail systems require innovative foresight to look outside of the car and into societal flows. Unfortunately where we stand now our priorities are too locked within individualized ownership of property to want to share the road and the vehicle.
As mentioned in my last two posts (Part 1 /Part 2), the sooner that we view our cities as functioning organisms that require unrestricted arterial access for increased nutrient flow, the sooner we can all excise the aggregation of industrialized platelets clogging up the lines of traffic. In this way I am asking you to view and advocate for electrical mass transit systems as socialized vasodilators to expand the channels of transport instead of buying that new electric vehicle to beat out the rest of us.
If only we spent time on synthesizing a little blue pill for that instead of, well, you know…
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet