Getting There: Watchdog weighs in on state of local transit, road endeavors
BY SCOTT SHENK
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Let’s close out the year with something completely different.
I asked lifelong Fredericksburg-area resident and unofficial transportation watchdog Rupert Farley to give his take on the state of transportation.
Rupert, semi-retired after an international career in real estate and building, has never been shy about saying what he thinks, and he often makes more sense than officialdom.
What is the current state of the transportation system in the Fredericksburg area and Virginia as a whole?
I’d call it a crisis state. It’s worse than what we had 70 years ago and worse than that found in some second-rate countries.
You can get around, if you have a car and gas money, but the system has abetted suburban sprawl; causing unforeseen consequences that have been financially ruinous, environmentally damaging and socially harmful.
What are the first steps to transportation reform?
Let the free market handle it.
With reasonable community development standards in place requiring every new project—industrial, residential or commercial—to pay its own share for schools, jails, transit, etc., much of the transportation burden would shift from the taxpayers to the customers of developments and we would have better communities.
The government focus could shift from providing roads and parking lots to funding transit links.
But that requires some legislative changes:
Kill the road and commuter parking projects in the VDOT pipeline, and direct those funds to public transit.
Allow congestion pricing: Variable tolls to cut down traffic, implemented only on corridors where and when the free movement of buses and streetcars is required. It is the cheapest and only sustainable way to reduce congestion.
Are there any facets of transportation planning you think are being done right—here or elsewhere?
Yes, some localities require new shopping developments to provide public transit.
In our area, commuter buses and the VRE are steps in the right direction.
We haven’t been so obtuse as to attempt an urban solution—public transit—on rural areas.
Unfortunately, we still keep trying to impose a rural solution—single occupant vehicles—on urban areas.
What is our long-term outlook?
Grim. Our planning is based on producing votes, not best practices.
Politics require public support of any change, but the auto and suburbia are such sacred cows that warnings from the experts are ignored and common sense does not prevail.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436