A while back, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe tweeted this dreamy video from 2009 touting the wonders of light rail for Kansas City. Just get light rail, relax, and all your troubles will go away.
It starts off with an animated scene of a commute from home to the bank, post office, work, lunch, groceries, and gas.
As if that's all we do.
We could add drop kids off at multiple schools, then drop them off at multiple after school activities, go to the gym, the cleaners, shopping, the vet, the drugstore, visit friends, a park... No two days are the same.
Who goes to the post office or bank any more?
Why is it a bad thing to freely move about and visit multiple business on your own schedule, wherever they may be?
"Limited walkability", they say. Limited numbers of people walk these days, I say. Especially walking with a weeks supply of groceries. In Tampa. In the summer storms. Dreamy.
"The average resident spends 6 weeks a year in a car", they say.
"Independence, some time in the future". It's implied independence from driving your personal automobile.
In the future, all will be much better. You'll be spending even more than 6 weeks waiting for the rail, and waiting for transfers, and walking to your final destination (there's some unlimited walkability), than driving. See, those rail things, they go where they rail goes, when the rail goes, not when you go, nor where you want to go. There are few cars "sometime in the future".
Do you have a light rail station planned for your driveway?
"What would your life be like in 2020 with alternate forms of transit?" See, it will "draw development together", they say. That bank, grocery, post office, lunch, etc. all miraculously will move along the rail.
What about my bank? It's not there. I may have to take the rail.
Wait, rail doesn't go there in 2020. But we have a plan for 2040!
Parking lots are built over for new development.
Who will now drive into the planned development zone if they can't take that government approved light rail that won't be in their in neighborhood until 2040 and there's nowhere to park?
But downtown now is beautiful. You can walk, you can ride a bike, it has trees, it has beautiful people, single lane roads and manicured medians, and handsome old men and sidewalk cafes. It does not have lots of people, its not too crowded. Not too much hustle and bustle... don't want it to be too busy and noisy and disturb the mixed used development residents, with pre-planned ratios of seniors and cool young adults.
Exciting? Not exactly.
No rail video would be complete without obligatory references to green roofs (not too many backyards I guess), solar panels, and healthy living. Sustainability for the environment, it is the right thing do.
In this dreamy world, no one ever is waiting on the rail. Or getting off. Or getting on.
"Independence?" For who? Sometime in the future?
If anything, its a new dependence -- on a transit system. It's schedule, not your schedule. It's destinations, not your destinations. Rail planners master plans, not your personal plans.
Of course, they never mention costs or funding for their plans for sometime in the future. As if its a dream.
All that's missing is Floyd the barber, Juanita at the diner, and Andy and Barney keeping the streets free and clear. And sustainable costs or funding. As if it's magic.
Just like taking us back to our dreamy home town America.
UPDATE: I should note that Kansas City rejected light rail in 2008, but they are ever persistent since this video is from 2009, and they recently were granted TIGER funding for a 2 mile streetcar with stops about every 2 blocks. More limited walkability.