The sub-heading on the recent Denver Post editorial regarding the mix of drivers and other users on city streets was titled “We support transit solutions that take cars off Denver streets…” and then spent the rest of the article explaining why the opposite was true.
In the first paragraph they say that Denver “society is dependent on vehicles and will continue to rely on cars” as if our choices of where to spend hundreds of millions of transportation dollars won’t effect how people choose to get around. We’ve spent billions over seventy years to make driving not just the easiest way to get around Denver but often the only way; of course we’ve become dependent on cars. If we spent those hundreds of millions making transit and biking the easiest way to get around, guess what? People wouldn’t continue to rely on cars.
So the question becomes, do we want to be a city that is forced to rely on private automobiles, with their expense, pollution, and congestion? Or do we want to be a city that provides a transportation system that works for everyone, saves us money, and keeps our air cleaner? City council has already proclaimed for years that they want to move us away from streets clogged with commuter traffic to sidewalks filled with people. Most of the official city and neighborhood plans call for the same thing, but the Post seems incapable or unwilling to imagine a city that works well for everyone instead of just automobile drivers.
The Post seems to imply it’s somehow poor planning to create a transportation system that moves more people for less money in less space. They say it’s unrealistic to ask Denverites to get out of their cars and onto transit. I counter that what is unrealistic is trying to stuff ever more cars onto our streets. There’s a problem with physical space, in that there’s no more to be had. Traffic is gridlocked because everyone is in their own car, refusing to get out, and has never been asked to look for another way. Is this civic pride? Trying to stuff size 12 traffic into size 6 streets? Like the cliché middle-aged jock that still “fits” into his high school letterman’s jacket, the Post thinks that Denver can continue to stuff cars into our limited street space without making any changes to our transportation mix. Denver can try, but the city will look just as ridiculous as that jock with his beer-belly hanging out over his jeans.
This is Part 1 of a six-part response to the Denver Post editorial of February 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of WalkDenver.