Now, where were we?
Move the Bowie Baysox to Howard County and introduce the world to the Columbia Crabs. Replace the dumbest parts of the Mall with a stadium. Who says no? They could keep like half the dang mall.
This tweet was the inspiration for yesterday’s post. The responses it got will be my jumping-off point today.
Commenter A: Could be a nice compliment to Merriweather Post Pavillion too.
Commenter B: Decent public transportation would help.
Commenter A: I don't believe Bowie has anything that Columbia doesn't as well as far as public transportation goes.
Commenter B: I went from Lutherville to Merriweather Post on transit for a Phish show. No sh**, it took 3 hours and I had to walk the last half mile.
Commenter A: It'd be cool if the Camden Line ran on weekends too. It wouldn't get you directly into Columbia but a lot quicker than a bus from the Baltimore area would get you.
Commenter B: I took light rail to the airport and then a bus to Columbia Mall.
There you have it. The first thing that came to mind for Commenter B was transportation. I was not expecting that. But his opinion was clearly shaped by a long and arduous trip to Merriweather.
If Columbia has places and experiences that are a draw not only locally but regionally, how will people get here if they don’t have a car? Do we tend to forget that those people exist? Clearly Mr. B. had the resources to buy a concert ticket and the persistence to plot a route to the event. Who else wants to come to town and is finding it difficult if not impossible?
I have a feeling, although that’s all that it is, that there is an assumption locally that people who travel using public transportation are just not “our people.” (And let’s not forget all the racist dog whistles about how buses bring “those people” from Baltimore.)
But, if Columbia is to aspire to becoming a regional cultural center (see article by Mary Carole McCauley in the Howard County Times) that comes with the assumption that we will be drawing people from around the region. (The same would be true for yesterday’s proposed stadium for the “Columbia Crabs”.) Are we looking at ways of making it easier for them to get here? Environmentally-friendly ways like public transportation?
It’s possible that we are working on this already. I need to do more research on this one. But I wonder if some folks make the assumption that if you ride the bus you don’t have the money to spend on concerts, theatre, or sporting events. I think it would be helpful to consider that there are people out there who have the money for those things precisely because they do use public transportation.
Owning a car and all the expenses that go with it is a costly undertaking. Using public transportation is not. Increasingly, younger people are making a concious choice to go car-free. Is Columbia “open for business” to them? Can you get here from there, and can we do a better job than three hours plus a half mile walk?