This week City Weekly published an article attacking the Utah Transit Authority. With CNU 21 in town, I don’t think the article’s timing was coincidence. I finally got a chance to read the article and would like to provide my criticism. However, I hope that my criticism doesn’t alienate City Weekly and would welcome the opportunity to give City Weekly my perspective on the issues at hand.
First off, seeking a critique of mass transit from Randal O’Toole is a lot like seeking advice on contraception from Rick Santorum! His assumptions are grounded in the thinking that cars are a necessity, while transit (or at least transit for those who could be driving) is a luxury. Those of us, who have studied books like Suburban Nation or watched the PBS documentary Designing Healthy Communities, understand the damage that auto-oriented environments inflict on us and understand the benefits of moving away from automobile dependence. Public transit is the necessity; relying on cars to travel everywhere is the luxury! It is an unfortunate reality that funding constraints have forced UTA to cannibalize its bus system in order provide rail service. However, a transit system, which only serves captive riders and never evolves to serve the needs of choice riders, will accomplish little in terms of improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions, and all the other things that are necessary for people to develop more sustainable and healthier lifestyles. Rather than attacking UTA for having to make tough choices in the face of a constrained budget, it would be much more productive to demand that our political leaders provide more funding for transportation alternatives. I find it absurd to criticize UTA for spending a few billion dollars on infrastructure, while overlooking the much larger sums of money spent in recent years in support of auto-oriented infrastructure in order to keep up with the traffic demands of the sprawl resulting from shortsighted land use policies. Calling UTA a net air polluter in light of the relatively massive amounts of air pollution produced by the automobiles along the Wasatch Front is definitely the pot calling the kettle black! In the future, I suggest the author consult sources that are based on sound research rather than selecting a source that will support an anecdotal slant on the topic.