Monday, January 12, 2009

You will be the butt of jokes if you fail to think big

Americans pride ourselves on thinking big and following through on those dreams. Nobody would argue that it's anything but a point of pride to have the tallest building, the longest bridge span, etc.

That mindset is present even when planning the less sexy segments of our public infrastructure. Unfortunately that's mostly only true for asphalt projects. From Jon, commenting on The Overhead Wire:

the urban ring should really be subway, too bad boston spent all their money on the big dig back when subways were still being built.

this is what gets me, a transit oriented city like boston (nyc, chicago, philly too) has for the most part the same subway system that it had 50-80 years ago. for any new expansion they have to settle for buses when grade separated rail is whats needed. they need to be ambitious now and plan some subway and fight for the federal transit money to pay for it.

Replace Boston 50-80 years ago with SF 40 years ago and you have the situation as I see it.

To the extent that there is any big-thinking going on here, it's poo-poohed by the inbred pool of political power. The most we seem to get are proposals to push BART to the edges of the state or the world's slowest BRT. Our much-championed Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) is a "consolidation of service" (Muni's euphemism, not mine) not a plan for a truly effective transportation network. Heaven forbid we move the region or even the densest city outside of Manhattan away from a 1:1 parking ratio.

What if this is stimulus is our chance to make game-changing capital improvements, along the lines of the Market Street tunnel, and we blow it? We'll look like fools, and more than likely do it anyway decades late and for billions more.

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