This headline is just too precious:
Suburbs aren’t a wasteland — they even have brie out here
Bless your cotton socks, sweetheart. You mean they have cheese in Bellevue? Really? Really? I would never have guessed that cheese- expensive cheese- could have made it over the I-90 bridge. Simply amazing.
Child care, not soaring fuel costs, led to my recent, brief stint telecommuting, and the experiment was rewarding from a financial, parenting and policy standpoint.
Good news: I saved a half tank of gas!
Bad news: Reports of the demise of the automobile are greatly exaggerated.
I have discovered my car, my suburban lifestyle and I can coexist.
Good for you. Do you want a medal? (And who exactly is saying the automobile is dead? Lynne doesn’t let on. From seeing the run on Prius’, my only guess is that the automobile she’s referring to is the H2 or Frank Blethen’s ride, the Porsche Cayenne.)
That’s likely to be disappointing news to many. The New York Times recently published essays from writers expressing the national angst over skyrocketing gas prices. The mood was funereal.
One was titled “Goodbye to the Great American Road Trip,” and needs no further explanation. “Ghosts of the Cul-de-sac” announced, a tad gleefully, a mass exodus from the suburbs and exurbs as people escape their cars for city living.
The difference between our area and many areas of the country is that Seattle has held up much better than lots of other markets. Big subdivisions outside D.C. are vacant, and the Las Vegas exurbs are imploding just as quickly as they were built.
Blog postings on the subject ranged from expressions of schadenfreude to something more venal. Suburbanites are stereotyped as gas guzzlers commuting to McMansions, the values of which are dropping like granite countertops. One poster predicted rising gas prices will scatter suburbanites like rodents. OK, I like cheese — particularly soft brie — but comparing us to rats? Not as bad, however, as the poster who crowed that the rise of gas prices was for commuters, “the chickens coming home to roost.”
There’s something to be said for folks living with the decisions they’ve made. You know, free markets and what not.
I get the fear and pessimism. We’re all reeling, and relief is not forthcoming. The World Petroleum Congress is meeting this week in Madrid, Spain. But the Saudis and other OPEC oil ministers are more likely to concur on the best tapas than agree to lower the price of crude oil.
Lynne’s idea of relief is cheaper gas for people who don’t want to change their behavior. Totally off the table is relief in the form of driving less. That’s Commie bullshit!
Barring a change in price, we’re going to have to change the level of demand. It has already started. Cruising is down, making the drive along West Seattle’s Alki Beach doable in less than two hours. Farther from home, driving on empty is up. AAA reports a 7 percent increase in calls from Southern California motorists running out of gas.
How are people lowering demand? By cruising less, and by being irresponsibly driving around on empty. Amazing sacrifices, America. Simply amazing. I want every one of our boys currently holed up in Tikrit and Karbala to know that we’re doing our part.
Yet, the rise-and-fall-of-the-suburbs-type prognostications march on unchallenged. But jumping on the for-sale signs littering the landscape as symbolic of an American shift to living next door to work is premature. Right now, empty houses are more about the subprime-mortgage fallout than gas mileage.
Uh, ok. Then riddle me this one, Lynne: Why are housing prices stable in transit-oriented development? I saw plenty of “For Sale: Price Reduced” signs in Kent’s East Hill, but not so many in SE Seattle, where light rail is coming in 2009.
The urge to blame someone — who better than affluent suburbanites and their cars? — is understandable, but a waste. Smart public policy will fail if its relies on emotional attempts to lure people back to the city or offer a bike for every garage.
I agree with Lynne. I’m all for guilt-trip reduction. Let’s add buses and build more rail out to the ‘burbs. Telling someone to ride Metro for the sake of the polar bears is bullshit, and will never work. People will only ditch their cars if the train gets them to work faster than driving.
Better solutions are to continue efforts belatedly launched around telecommuting, fuel-efficient vehicle standards and increasing funding for public transit.
Of course we should have seen this coming, whether we live in the city or a rural hamlet. Demand for fuel-efficient cars has resonance now, but Congress and Detroit automakers made sure we were slow getting to this point.
There are fewer American institutions that move slower than Detroit’s car industry. Toyota is eating GM’s lunch on hybrid technology, while Honda is releasing (to a few hundred handpicked customers) a car than runs on hydrogen.
Now we’ll have to dig into our collective pockets to pay for light rail, buses and additional lanes on our highways.
Uh, ok. Two out of three ain’t bad. Demand is way up on Metro and Sound Transit, that’s for sure. But more highway miles? Really? As gas prices rise steadily year after year, I wonder why we would want to invest billions in a product that’s losing it’s market share.
The need is dire. State transportation officials often present worse-case scenarios to get our attention, but one prediction is untenable at the lowest and highest ends. By 2030, the portion of Interstate 90 running through Issaquah will slow to 30 miles per hour as a rising population runs into stagnant road planning. Traffic is expected to increase from 43 percent to 72 percent in this area.
Similar predictions can be made about roadways from Mercer Street in Seattle to Route 202 on the Eastside. In the languid days of summer, it is easy to agree our problems will be eased by getting out of our cars, selling our homes for close-in condos or simply busing ourselves across Lake Washington. When the water sparkles like clear gems, as it has the last few days, I, too, am vulnerable to such fantasy.
You mean, if we do nothing for twenty years, I-90 will be jammed on the freeway through Issaquah? (Isn’t I-90 already jammed through Issaquah?) Yeah, like I trust the highway-building clowns who got us into this mess to get us out of it.
But it’s nice to read that Lynne’s thinking outside the box by maybe, just maybe, taking personal responsibility for her commute.
Then I snap out of it.
The suburbs aren’t dead.
Lynne Varner 1, Strawman 0.
They’re more vibrant than ever. Technology has pushed the work-at-home concept and large employers such as Microsoft have turned the burbs into employment centers.
That must be why Microsoft hired a fleet of buses and vans to get their employees to and form work… because they’re all telecommuting. Right.
City dwellers aren’t the only ones interested in doing errands on foot. Planning for suburban communities includes retail, employment and entertainment options that operate as mini-Seattles.
Good for you. Want another medal? The Distinguished Cross for Stating The Obvious?
More creativity, less blame, can give us four-day work weeks, telecommutes and a viable school option across the street rather than across town.
Less blame, absolutely. Don’t blame me for laughing at you when you’re stuck in traffic, burning seven dollar Saudi vintage, when I’m not, all because you don’t want to change your behavior, ever.
Gas-guzzling suburbanites and sweaty bicycle-riding urbanites unite!
I prefer a policy of detente, but any move by you towards a rational, evidence-based transportation policy will be welcomed.