Friday, February 26, 2016

Disney Dreams

Saw this tweet last night:

@iankennedy7 At this #downtowncolumbiamd transportation demand management meeting and someone legitimately just called for a #monorail. #HoCoMD



In a 1997 article in the Washington Post about Robert Tennenbaum's book, "Creating a New City: Columbia, Maryland", reporter Anna Borgman notes:

Public transportation was considered essential (Rouse hoped for a monorail system), and Columbia's planners expected many residents to use bicycles and scooters.

Most of us think of Disney when we think of monorails, unless we have lived in a place that actually has one. We think of Walt Disney the man, the seemingly limitless horizon of the 1960's, Tomorrowland, and it feels nostalgic and a bit dated. The world of tomorrow--yesterday. Plenty has been written about the connection between Rouse and Disney. There seems to be a consensus that both men were visionaries of their time, admired eachother, perhaps.

And yet when plans for a new park in Symphony Woods were on the table, critics were quick to blast the Inner Arbor design as a Disney-fied nightmare, a sort of theme park house of horrors. We can't seem to decide how we feel about Rouse and Disney here in Columbialand, The New American City. In fact, the only part of that phrase we probably all agree on is the American part.

Some fear anything "new". Some look around at how dated Columbia is beginning to look and laugh at the idea that it's new. Some long for a transformation that speaks of its newness. As to "city", well, that's a word that makes many long-time Columbians nervous. No matter how often they see it, they are perpetually in denial. Surely their suburban utopia was never meant to be a city...

Monorail. I think it's an appealing concept. It's also probably wildly expensive and we may not have the density to support a viable system. Whatever public transit system we commit to in the future, I hope it does have an element of fun. I truly believe that for public transit to catch on in a bigger way in Columbia, that it will have to appeal to our imaginations and be fun to use in addition to being convenient and affordable.

Disney Dreams. Rouse Dreams.

What are your dreams?


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