From beyond the grave, Walt Crowley gets to the heart of why normally cynical folks like me can muster enthusiastic support for a Roads & Transit package that quite frankly, has some details that warrant little enthusiasm. In a posthumous guest column in today’s Seattle Times, Crowley looks back at our region’s transportation history and argues that we are at a tipping point that could herald the end of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Age.
The RTID package does not satisfy the true believers on either side of the great lanes-versus-trains debate that has divided the region since the 1960s, but its approval would irrevocably tip the balance in favor of transit and other non-ICE Age modes of transportation, such as bicycles, ferries and electric vehicles. Personal transport per se will not cease to exist — it is too ingrained in our culture and economy — but petroleum-powered cars and their insatiable appetite for oil, concrete and real estate will no longer set the pace for future mobility and development.
[...] Passage of the roads-and-transit plan will not instantly unclog highways nor usher in some modern version of a 19th-century City Beautiful utopia overnight. It will, however, mark a tipping point not unlike the predicted thawing of the polar ice caps, a one-way threshold of no return. We will always need roads and highways, but once the momentum of transportation investment steers away from the gas-powered automobile in favor of transit and other alternatives, there will be no going back.
These two paragraphs represent Crowley’s thesis, but he supports it with a ton of historical perspective, so please read the whole damn thing before popping off in the comment thread. In Crowley’s memory, please lets try to have a reasoned debate for a change.
Speaking of which, a memorial service for Walt Crowley will be held Tuesday, 4 to 6 p.m. at the Museum of History & Industry, 2700 4th Ave. E., Seattle. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Walt’s honor to HistoryLink.org.