Wednesday, March 13

My Transportation Philosophy: Part II

This is, ironically, part 2 of a series of three posts. Part 1 can be found here: My Transportation Philosophy: Part I and the conclusion here: Part III

As I suggested in my last post population may be the underlying root of our transportation problems, but what is the purpose of transportation? That is a question that bears some examination because if there were no need for transportation (my unwritten secret #1 metric: eliminate the need to travel) then we wouldn’t need transportation planning.

The purpose of transportation is to move people. Where are we moving people? Between destinations. What are destinations? To borrow from Jarrett Walker destinations are intentions. We intend to provide for our families. This requires moving from one destination (our homes) to another (our jobs) and back home. We intend to provide a good education for our children. This requires moving our children from one destination (again, our homes) to another (the school we have chosen for them) and back. “Transportation” is really secondary to the intention. It is simply the conduit along which we move as we exercise our will.

When you have a large number of people attempting to exercise their individual wills you get a lot of conflict through congestion, crossing lines of drift, and time loss.
Again, to borrow from Walker, while we are travelling between our intended destinations our lives are on hold (not always, but I’ll get to that) and we feel the loss of time—the theft of our lives—as we pine away behind the wheel stuck in traffic. And so, when someone impedes our progress toward our destination, delaying our intentions, we feel as if they are wasting our time. As the minutes tick away while I cannot engage in my intended activities I sense my mortality more acutely and am driven by the urgency to reach my destination.
So how can our travels be less of a taking and more of a desired addition to our lives? How can we enjoy moving back and forth between our destinations? That is a complex question, but possibly a simple question to answer. It all depends on our motivation. There have been times in my life that I enjoyed a good long car ride. It allowed me to unwind from a stressful day, or to delay the return to work, or a stressful situation at home. Honestly, for me, sometimes driving has been an escape from the historical wretchedness of my life. 

But the reality is that being alone in the car was not what I desired, it was not my path to true happiness or enlightenment. It was simply the only avenue I had to relieve the pressures of my life at the given time. I was unaware that I had other options; or at the time had limited options for the relief I sought. It just so happened that I had unreasonably long car commutes at the time.
How many of us truly enjoy a half hour or hour long commute alone in our cars? We must not enjoy them too much because we do as much as we can to distract ourselves from the drudgery of driving by listening to the radio, talking or texting on our smartphones, eating, curling our hair (no, seriously!), or whatever else we find ourselves doing to take our minds of the boredom of driving the same roads day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day.
Time is valuable. And for many people, time is much more valuable than money. I can say for myself this is fundamentally true. I want the time to do the things I want to do. I don’t care as much about having only money to show for the time I’ve spent on this planet. Or burned up fossil fuels.

To continue my earlier sidebar: when I choose the bike over the car my life is NOT on hold. I'm actively engaged in transportation, not semi-actively (or downright detached) transporting myself along my intentions behind the wheel of a car. The time is mine and I do not feel its loss. 
You get my point? It’s no secret that we don’t find happiness in the act of daily driving. But what about freedom? We love us some freedom in this country. We like it even more if its fried and super-sized. But what is freedom in the context of transportation? Ah-ha! Part III will answer that question.

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