Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Sense of Urgency

To “urge” is to make “urgent,” creating a sense of “urgency,” compelling action that makes a difference so that a problem can be solved now (immediately) -- and not 20 years from now, which of course means that nothing will be done until then, or ever.

The solution in 20 years is the same solution for right now -- that people have to stop the single occupancy vehicle rush hour and actually share a ride with somebody, or share the sidewalk, road, etc. Many cities are finding out that you just can’t build “it” and the people will come -- because they have to drive their car or take the bus just to get to the rail station, and then take the bus again once they get off at the other rail station. And there is no provision for that.

One of the things that does make rail work in large population areas with high densities, is that most people don’t need to take a bus to and from the rail station -- but can/will walk to it. In many popular rail cities, people don’t know what it is like to take a bus or drive a car -- because they can take the rail, and then walk to and from the station.

So when one has a rail system fed by a bus system, or cars, it’s usually because personal transportation is superior rather than just a nice alternative. At some point, one really does have to address the traffic congestion -- and not simply create another alternative that is “underutilized” -- which is the problem of the single occupant vehicle, and beautiful (costly) mass transit systems people won’t/can’t use.

With the rail, one solves nothing and so has to build and fund all the others (which also won’t work unless they address the critical problem of underutilization of present resources) -- in addition to the request for even more money to extend the rail system because under its present limitations (20 years from now), it’s totally useless and that is why people don’t use it. And so the congestion get perpetuated 20 years further into the future as the age-old, “irresolvable” problems.

The problem is not the lack of capacity; there is plenty of capacity -- underutilized, and there is never enough resources when everybody demands it at exactly the same moment. It’s really a resource management problem -- or a lack of thinking of how it could be done otherwise -- beyond all the familiar ways we know doesn’t work, and doesn’t make a difference.

There’s no “urgency” to solve the problem right now -- which means there really isn’t a problem or people would. One of the great revelations of this was how one person could manage the transportation problem during the last bus strike because he was totally dedicated to doing so. That’s what the previous mayor saw as the great urgency of his tenure and solved it from day to day -- personally packing those vans.

Now they want to spend $73 million to improve traffic and communications during a disaster. Why don’t they improve communications on a daily basis -- so that a disaster never arises because the routine can handle whatever challenges it presently faces.