Maybe I should have titled this post, “Liberal Hypocrisy” or “More of the Liberal Do What We Say, Not What We Do”.
GorT lives in the very blue Montgomery County, Maryland (a/k/a MoCo). Also the residence of two other primary residents of the Castle during their younger days. Since 1978, the county has always had a democrat County Executive (the first County Executive was a republican and served from 1970 to 1978). And as far back as GorT can remember, the legislative body, the County Council, has always been a majority, if not super majority, democrats (7 members prior to the mid-1980s and 9 members since). In fact, since 2006, the council has been 100% democrats. I tee up this information to put this post in context.
Since the late 1990s, the county has been pursuing a “smart growth” transportation and development plan. One can google it, but the basis of such a plan, is to create high-density developments around mass transit in order to prevent “suburban sprawl”. It hasn’t worked overly well. Often, the issue faced is the reluctance of Americans to want to live in such a setting. Yes, there are those that would enjoy such a setting, but many still wish for private yards and gardens, the freedom and independence a personal car provides, etc. So urban planners bent on this course of action, regardless of what their citizens want, began intentionally allowing congestion on roadways to increase. Road improvement and expansion projects were put on hold or scrapped (evidence of this dates back to the 1960s in this area, where one could see 3 additional bridge crossings between northern Virginia and MoCo and the eventual “de-mapping” of these projects. The opposition were largely environmentalists that spread fear of “sprawl” from any road project that created an additional crossing. The “nudging” of people’s choices in lifestyles had begun.
This is continuing today. Even at the presidential level, you can see the “nudging” in very clear terms. The “smart growth” projects continue in MoCo. The White Flint Mall in Bethesda is set to be closed and demolished (likely) later this year with a major project for dense housing and retail shops possibly with green space, although a few local community associations are questioning the plan. The development board has largely opposed any post-project analysis of its traffic analysis assumptions. GorT, himself, testified in front of the board asking for just that and was dismissed. So when the county allows for added dense development and the residents decide that they need to drive because $11 of Metro fare plus the 2+ hours of commute time (assuming one lives in the dense development that’s within walking distance to the station) might not compare well against an hour and a half commute time and 2 gallons of gas and the freedom to divert to take care of personal business on the way to or from the job (this comparison is a White Flint to Springfield, other comparisons will vary). And there’s the rub – higher gas prices start making the expensive mass transit more comparable. However, higher gas prices also raise the costs of the mass transit operation.
So the conundrum: there is another project starting with the sector plan for a neighborhood near GorT. The neighborhood is not near any Metro station but a MARC train station is at the center of this plan. The area within walking distance to the MARC station is largely 1/8 to 1/4 acre lot homes with a few older, small apartment buildings. The main streets are already over the severe congestion numbers that the development board uses. The MARC station is about 1/4 mile from one of these main streets down a side street that is populated by small, niche stores. The plan includes putting in 75′ residential and retail buildings. The mass transit is limited and with the already congested streets, bus options don’t improve the quality of life. The MARC trains are not light rail, rapid Metro transit and run on a less frequent schedule. The public in the area, remember the demographics, is largely against this dense development. I tend to agree that it makes no sense – but that is a side issue. Here we have proponents of creating dense growth areas in order to prevent suburban sprawl but yet they oppose such a thing in an established neighborhood. In their established neighborhood.
Smart growth may work in a utopian environment where the slate is clean to start with and mass transit systems are developed and built to accommodate lifestyles. But retrofitting established neighborhoods with residents who already have established careers, entertainment and shopping preferences is difficult at best and largely insurmountable, in my opinion. The evidence continues when one looks at the “Purple Line” metro project between its potential to wreck a popular walking and bike path and a local country club’s golf course (regardless of use, it is green space).
So how do liberals support the “smart growth” development in their communities? Not well. So why should they accept the “nudging” for higher gas prices when all it does is worsen their quality of life? And why do they keep electing officials bent on pursuing a course of action with which they don’t approve?