The Washington Post

has done it again. They wasted front page, above the fold positioning and two full inside pages in Section A on another counter productive story on commuting. All the color, graphics, an expensive poll and lots of data wasted.

The two experts quoted told it as it is: “… transportation systems are breaking down … not able to provide minimum level of service …” (VDOT) “… nothing we can do … (when) people are making all the wrong choices…” (Federal District)

There was nothing in the story to help commuters start to make the right choices. There is data that some have made changes to improve their own commuting situation. Think how bad it would be without those intelligent changes.

When the reporter asked what we thought of the poll results we said it was just what you could expect from uninformed citizens. We then suggested that both government and the media shared the blame for not informing the public. They did not print that.

See our column “The Commuting Problem” 17 Jan 2005 at and community scale news coverage that is much more to the point available at Search for “Living Here, Working There.”


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  1. Will Vehrs Avatar

    Here’s the link to the gateway Post story:

    I read through the survey–that must have been exhausting. I wouldn’t have much faith in much after the 20th question.

    One question they didn’t ask that I think is much more important than many they do:

    How supportive is your employer of alternatives to your private vehicle as a means of getting to work or to working from home some or all of the time?I believe very strongly that some employers set up work expectations that make using public transportation an impediment to success in the organization.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Once again Ed Risse holds up his own opinion of what the “right” choices are.

    People are smart enough to make the best “right” choice that is available to them at the time those choices are made. Those choices are infinitely complicated and once made they may take years to undo, or revise.

    In many cases those choices have been eliminated or curtailed by deliberate government actions in ways that result in the situation we have. Low to moderate income people do not have the choice of living in Arlington or Montgomery County without seriously affecting the quality of their accomodations.

    Dozens of road and bridge projects have been eliminated or postponed since the 1970’s at the behest of anti-road and anti-tax advocates who use the resulting failures to prove that roads don’t work.

    Yet Metro is increasingly exhibiting all the same symptoms of congestion that the highways have. Trains are backing up trying to get into the stations, unloading is delayed by overcrowded cars. Capacity is overtaxed in one direction and wasted in the other. It is nowhere near paying its own way and never will be. Just consider the responss to the survey on why people don’t use Metro.

    Transit based development has been a windfall to land speculators of epic proportions, but it will require endless subsidies both for train operations and living expenses.

    Faced with high capital costs, high infrastructure costs, high tax costs, and deteriorating conditions some people have chosen, perfectly reasonably, to flee the city, while others have chosen to embrace it. Some people have moved to the country and found it not to their liking and returned. Some people elected to remain in the city and were ultimately driven out by bad conditions.

    My own commuting situation appears patently crazy, but it exists the way it is for multiple reasons the primary ones of which are purely economic. Ed Risse and others have no possible way of knowing which decisions are good, which are bad, and which are just necessry to survive.

    More than two thirds of people have made adjustments to cope with commuting and it is still not enough. More than half favor extensive and expensive transportation solutions, in contrast to Risse.

    When officials people sit around and agree that people are making all the wrong choices and yet more and more people are doing it, maybe there is something seriously wrong with the official’s perception of what is right and what is wrong. Remember, these are the same people that propose solving Metro problems by removing the seats!

    The survey askes a lot of subjective questions but very few comparative questions: even so, the results are clear. Metro carries less than ten percent of commuters: if non commuting trips were included the value would be much lower.

    Most people pass up public transit. City dwellers do enjoy a shorter commute, but no mention is made of the costs they pay for that privilege. City residences are as likely to own a car as rural dwellers and their transportation costs are higher.

    Meanwhile we have thousands of miles of roads that are little used or lightly used. 25% of commuting trips are against traffic now. Increasing that to 50% would increase the main arterial road capacity substantially, and at the small cost of relocating some job opportunities.

    Risse can wring his hands about bad decisions all he wants, but he cannot repeal the laws of economics or change peoples desires. Any attempt to do so by draconian land restrictions will only cause further economic loss and dislocation such as we are already seeing.

    We will need to make chnages in where and how we live and work, but those changes are enormously expensive and they take a long time. We have been changing our patterns for a hundred years and we are not done yet. In the meantime we need roads and lots of them.

    We have road capacity where people are not, but we restrict housing to prevent them living there. We have housing where jobs are not, but we restrict jobs from moving there.

    Traffic jams and congestion boil down to too many people in the same place and time. The solution is to spread out more, not cram more people together.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane, VA

  3. E M Risse Avatar

    Mr. Ray Hyde’s Commentary:

    Having reviewed a number of Mr. Hyde’s Commentaries as well as e-mails he has sent S/PI directly and letters he has written to community news papers, it is clear that there are many points upon which he and S/PI agree. It is also clear that if the time were taken to differentiate facts from impressions and assumptions that many of the remaining differences would disappear.

    What would be left are personal preferences. In a democracy with a market economy those preferences are sorted out by the market and at the voting booth. From what we have been able to determine of Mr. Hyde’s preferences they are not those most valued in the contemporary marketplace. That is fine so long as the true costs are equitably allocated and Mr. Hyde is willing to pay the full cost of his choices, especially his location choices. This is an issue we address in the second response to his posts on our column “The Mother of All Dysfunction” of 14 February 2005.

    Mr. Hyde’s ever more lengthy expositions of his views are laced with Business-as-Usual excuses, wild non sequiturs and demonstrations of profound geographical illiteracy. This makes it difficult to respond intelligently or to sort out fact from myth and fiction. In an earlier response to Mr. Hyde, Jim Bacon observed that Mr. Hyde was essentially alone in the opinions he expresses about the relationship between transportation facilities and the spacial distribution of urban activities. It appears Mr. Hyde now believes his only course of action is to filibuster. Our friends in the blogging business note that one of the shortcomings of this form of communication is “items” such as those generated by Mr. Hyde’s.

    Like a Brown-headed Cowbird, Mr. Hyde has adopted a habit of laying an egg after each one of our posts. We assume his intent to be similar to that of the Brown-headed Cowbird. You may check our past posts and following his entry we have documented the scope of his misconceptions by citing a few of the opening sentences in his “commentary.”

    For this post, we only need only point out that Mr. Hyde’s quarrel is not with E M Risse but with Euclid, I. Newton, A. Smith and E O Wilson. As J. Ray noted “If wishes were horses, beggars might ride.” Much of what Mr. Hyde observes is correct but lacking an overarching understanding of human settlement patterns he come to unfounded conclusions.

    Mr. Hyde insists that the location decision he has made is smart and in his self-interest. What he wants to achieve is a physical impossibility without Fundamental Change in human settlement pattern that he admits would be a good idea. Such a Fundamental Change will not occur so long as his view is held by enough citizens to constipate the political process and the roadway system.

    Mr. Hyde is a bombastic and hyperactive poster child for why New Urban Regions face a mobility crisis. He makes a bad decision and then wants others to bail him out. His “bad decision” is rooted in the Fallacy of Composition. (What is good for one is not good for all.) In this case the fallacy is best stated as the corollary: What would have been good for one is not good for anyone when done by many. Mr. Hyde is firmly in the grip of the Private Vehicle Mobility Myth which we have articulated in past columns.

    In our next column we will deal with the failure of the Interstate system. Mr. Hyde has chosen a place to live where the most direct route between his postal address and a full service grocery store is an Interstate. He invested in a home that requires use of an Interstate to get to work or to a VRE station. Need we say more?


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