By Community Matters
“Shareable” is an online magazine that describes what it means to live in a happy place, sidewalks being key according to the author of a recent article. Given we have sidewalks here in Lakewood but we are also due rail – high speed rail – does that mean we’ll be even happier? Here’s an excerpt:
“The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore experience fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. That’s a chief cause of the social isolation so rampant in the modern world that contributes to depression, distrust and other maladies.”
So, to extrapolate on this principle – that “designing a neighborhood for happiness” means sidewalks, and sidewalks means spontaneous encounters, and spontaneous encounters leads to smiley faces and less trips to the therapist – what means the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plan to run 14 high speed trains per day through Lakewood and DuPont? Spontaneous combustion?
Without sidewalks, where would we be? And if WSDOT’s plan succeeds, that’s a good question. Where will we be?
Cut-off from civilization, alone in the world, we can walk those sidewalks right up to where they’ll end – and watch the trains go by.
Now if you think Jay Walljasper is ‘out there’ – in his article on the reason for “happy towns” – he has a following, at least in terms of far-fetched foolishness: WSDOT.
In the Washington State Amtrak Cascades Mid-Range Plan, there are a number of foibles but here’s one example: “Of every $1 billion invested in rail, an estimated 20,000 new jobs would be created curbing global warming and supporting cleaner energy.”
No, seriously. That’s a quote. ‘Open your wallet. Save the world. Ride Amtrak.’ Makes you want to get on board doesn’t it?
The truth however, which is normally preferable when you’re talking money of that magnitude, is likely more in keeping – certainly more down to earth – in the research of the Cato Institute. These scholars and analysts conduct independent, nonpartisan research on a number of public policy issues. Because the Cato Institute accepts no government funding, they can tell it like it is.
So, according to Cato, here’s how it is with regards WSDOT’s outrageous contention of curbing gas emissions.
“Amtrak has virtually no impact on reducing traffic congestion, pollution, or energy use. Even a doubling of train ridership would reduce energy consumption and traffic congestion by less than 0.1 percent. It is estimated that Amtrak removes barely 2 percent of lane capacity – considerably below the threshold required for construction of a new lane, much less a new freeway or toll road. Growth in traffic is dependent on economic growth, business expansion, and suburban growth, which Amtrak has virtually no capability of affecting.”
The excerpt above can be found in its entirety at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-266.html but for now it is worth noting that it is entitled “Amtrak At Twenty – End of the Line for Taxpayer Subsidies”.
Now that is a good idea, especially given the amount of money we taxpayers underwrite this losing proposition called Amtrak. More on that in the next article. Happy now?