We have to tackle our car culture
I applaud US Representative Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, and LivableStreets Alliance executive director Stacy Thompson for framing a new discussion about mobility in “Transportation projects as a bridge for all communities” (Opinion, Oct. 18). While their motives are honorable, they are not unpacking why mobility has become so expensive, complex, and divisive in our society: It’s the car culture.
Until Americans are given real incentives to ride trains, buses, shuttles, and future forms of shared transportation, people from all economic brackets and geographies will never break the bad habit of jumping into their own cars first.
Thomas H. Friedman
Social justice approach is not what he’d call progressive
It was with some amusement that I read the social justice warrior approach to transportation issues in “Transportation projects as a bridge for all communities.” The problems noted in the op-ed are real enough, but the few details offered are questionable. For example, I use city buses a lot, and while they certainly could be managed better, I would be very surprised if public transportation from Mattapan took longer than driving from Randolph or Wellesley, and highly suspicious of any study that argued otherwise.
But what bothered me more was the following passage: “We need to prioritize projects that promote the safety and well-being of our communities. As an example, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association 2018 report, pedestrian deaths on our nation’s roads are the highest they have been since 1990. We need to require that state and local governments put safety before expediency.”
Looking at the charts in the cited report (which notes, by the way, that pedestrian deaths have risen here but declined in neighboring states with appropriate legislation), it would appear that the rise in pedestrian deaths is a function of drivers distracted by cellphone use. There is a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature designed to correct this problem, but the segment of the political spectrum calling here for putting “safety before expediency” has, in the Legislature, been blocking such bills for years and continues to do so.
We need to think bigger about how we get around
I’m a staunch supporter of progressives Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu, and Stacy Thompson, but they had it dead wrong when they wrote that “instead of chasing after new, capital-intensive projects, we need to consider how best to maintain and improve our existing infrastructure.”
If Democrats want to accomplish anything besides griping about the state of the Republican Party (which is certainly worth griping about), they need to think bigger. A modern efficient electric train would halve the number of cars on I-93 traveling northbound, which move at a turtle’s pace all the way to Manchester, N.H., between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m. every weekday. An electric bus traveling in the breakdown lane would do the same for less money.
At a time when the planet is crumbling beneath our feet, it’s time to act boldly. Civic stasis is the domain of the office of Charlie Baker.
Correction: Because of an editing error, a previous version of this letter misidentified Manchester, N.H.