Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Beyond Hellscape

Yet another job which looks fascinating but for which I am completely unqualified, this announcement from County Council Member Christiana Rigby:

Interested in helping @HoCoGov develop a strategic vision for Complete Streets and equitable transportation policy/planning in Howard County?

Apply to be a Planning Specialist in the Office of Transportation @CommuteHoward! 

Just in case this position is right up your alley, here’s the link for more information.

I continue to be mesmerized and appalled by how marooned we are in Columbia/HoCo surburbanland. A recent drive down Little Patuxent Parkway, in the blocks where HCC and the Columbia Flier building are located, shows multiple disconnected islands awash in parking lots. Without cars none of it makes sense. 

In a recent exchange* on Twitter, Ms. Rigby states:

Car centric design and attitudes creates a deprivation for residents-AND it doesn’t have to be like that.

I agree with the first part of the sentence, but I’m beginning to despair about the second part. Undoing the car-centric infrastructure of Columbia/HoCo seems as large an undertaking to me as laying transatlantic cable or building the transcontinental railway. Are we determined enough to undertake it? Most likely we will continue to have pockets of walkability and a bus system for those who have no other choice. 

And for plenty of people that’s enough. 

I was surprised at some of the pushback I got on my post about sidewalks. 

Why would I want a sidewalk when it means I have to be responsible for it? 

It’s a burden on homeowners to shovel it when it snows. 

I had never thought about this, which shows some naïveté on my part. I grew up in a world where sidewalks were a given. I assumed they were a public good, a part of life. In fact it’s more complicated than that and clearly, at least in Howard County, there’s an element of choice involved.

What will we choose for the future? Will we work towards more walkability, better public transit, safer streets that support bicyclists? 

I’ll leave you with this quote from Jerome Alexander Horne, transit advocate:

The suburbs are not a good place to raise children. Being trapped in car centric hellscape doesn't allow for the types of spontaneity, independence or cultural immersion that can happen in more urbanized areas for young minds.

Something to think about.

*I would very likely not have seen the above exchange on Twitter had it not been for a shout-out from Wilde Like High School student Alex Horn. I am indebted to him for the inspiration for this post. - - jam

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