It is difficult to get people to think in other directions. Nothing new about that. But it is sad when the plan for a new “transit friendly” suburb more or less fall because the inhabitants “don’t see any value in it”.
Have you heard about King Farm? It is a neighbourhood built to be transit friendly with light rail and easy to access to transit points and further transportation to the city centre on the outskirts to Washington DC. When reading about it, I found it quite nice; easy to walk in, comfortable access to light rail, stores within easy reach and so on. In other words, a really good neighbourhood that doesn’t require full access to a vehicle. US EPA had this to say about the neighbourhood.
But now it seems like the plans for the public transportation options have run into a speedbump. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and several other green Internet sites, the residents of this public transportation orientated suburb see no or limited value in public transportation as most people will drive anyway.
What could a transit system give the local area. ANY local area (let’s not harp on Kings Farm but look at the bigger picture). Greater mobility is one thing. Not having to be restricted to driving, or being driven, people of all ages could easily move around. Commuters would have easy access to the DC area, and metro transit points. Wouldn’t that be good? Light rail and buses are also both clean and safe, and not to expensive. That it would be unsafe for pedestrians and drivers is false. If cities all across Europe and many places in Asia can handle this kind of system, why wouldn’t it work in the US? Gothenburg is a shining example with rail AND buses everywhere, and few accidents (The picture shows how a normal stop looks here. Safe and effective). Drivers and pedestrians have to be responsible and watch were they go/drive, but they should do that anyway. In my opinion this argument, so often heard, is just another lazy excuse.
Habits are difficult to break. It is no wonder why some of the people of Kings Farm see little value in other options. Driving is what they have always done. It is what they are used to. Having the possibility to walk is one thing, but why use the BRT or light rail when it is dirtier, cost more and are less comfortable then the family car. If you have never tried taking the bus or light rail it is difficult to consider other options. After all, why change a winning concept? Especially if the ones who WANT to commute greener have access to the metro a bit away. It is possible of course that this is a loud minority speaking, those living close to the rail who don’t want to have the inconvenience of a construction site and then loud and noisy vehicles 24/7. But let’s disregard that for a moment.
Good planning with the consent of the residents, as well as openness and simply sticking to the plan is vital. By adding a green boulevard were the rail is to be drawn you give the resident’s a green haven. Removing it to build another brown path will never be popular, even if mass transit was the norm. But habits will have to be changed if we shall ever reach a sustainable society. People will have to start to commute greener, by train or buses, or even better with muscle operated transportation sooner or later. This project was a good try, and hopefully something to learn from. The transit system will hopefully get more accepted with time, and who knows, it may even become a norm when people get used to it.