My Letter to N&O Regarding I-40 Congestion

Below is a letter to the editor that I sent to the N&O following their story on I-40 congestion that failed to address any alternative transportation options. They responded that they would consider publishing it if I cut down the length in half. Three reasons that I do not want to do this: 1) I did not spend much time at all on it and do not want to put it in print if I horribly missed something; 2) I do not think that I could that many cuts and still have a good piece; and 3) I can put it up here and probably have the same number of people actually read it (and I like you guys better). But go ahead and try to edit it down if you want, or even use the ideas to write your own LTE.

The News & Observer gave front page prominence to a story on the dangers and congestion of I-40 through the Triangle. The attention on our area's traffic problems was sorely needed, but the paper completely ignored solutions to the problems of I-40. There was a tiny mention of the possibility of more lanes through the area but nothing on a real long term solution that allows resident to be able to get from their jobs to their homes without sitting in traffic.

This lack of planning for a solution has helped create the mess that we are in now. The Triangle has never attempted to seriously control growth or provide alternatives to using the area's highways. In this era of high gas prices and global warming, the area needs to seriously address their transportation needs. What is needed is not a couple of more lanes; the solution will need to be more comprehensive.

In order to get a handle on the traffic problem, the area needs to realize what other cities have as they have grown: the solution to traffic is not more roads but alternatives to using roads and control of sprawl. These alternatives fall into essentially two varieties: the walking and biking option that requires that development be dense enough that housing and workplaces are close together, and the rail option that requires less density (but still some density around stations). The addition of these alternative transportation means also have other quality of life benefits, such as not needing to sit in hours of anxiety creating traffic.

The snub of alternative transportation is especially concerning due to the fact that the TTA is still attempting to gain traction for its attempt to open a Regional Rail Line that would run from Durham through RTP to Raleigh. The line would do a great deal to draw cars off of I-40.

The negative responses to the Regional Rail Line invariably center around the fact that people do not think that the Triangle is large enough or metropolitan enough for a rail system. But to me these naysayers seem a lot like the people who declared with confidence in the 1960's that the area did not need an interstate: too shortsighted and ignoring the transportation reality of a growing area. Let us hope that the planning directors do not ignore the need for alternative transportation the way that the N&O did on Sunday.

Comments

Don't cut it.

Given how much space the N&O gives to Rick Martinez shilling for the oil industry, the least they could do is publish a thoughtful letter like this. We'll spread it without them.

Here's my take. Caveat: I haven't read the N&O article

The N&O's front page coverage of I-40 congestion completely failed to address the lack of planning that's left us in the mess that we are in now. The Triangle has never really tried to control growth or provide alternatives to highways. With gas prices and temperatures rising, the area needs to take a comprehensive approach.

To get a handle on the traffic problem, the area needs to realize that the solution to traffic is not more roads but alternatives to using roads and control of sprawl. Development should be dense enough that walking and biking are true alternatives to most driving. Light rail is an another option—one that requires less density—yet there was no mention of the Regional Rail Line that the TTA would run from Durham through RTP to Raleigh. Either choice (or both!) will improve traffic problems, air quality, and quality of life in the Triangle.

Opponents of Regional Rail and planning for density say that the Triangle is large or metropolitan enough for a rail system. But to me these naysayers seem a lot like the people who declared with confidence in the 1960's that the area did not need an interstate: too shortsighted and ignoring the transportation reality of a growing area. Let us hope that the planning directors do not ignore the need for alternative transportation the way that the N&O did on Sunday.

199 words will get you in, try this

The N&O gave front page to I-40 problems. The attention was sorely needed, but ignored solutions. There was a hint of more lanes but nothing on long term solutions allowing Triangle residents to get from jobs to homes without sitting in traffic.
Lack of planning has created the current mess. We have never seriously controlled growth or provided transportation alternatives. With costly gas and, global warming, we need serious solutions more comprehensive than a few more lanes.
The area needs to learn from other growing cities: not more roads but alternatives and control of sprawl. Walking/ biking requiring dense development with housing and workplaces close together and, rail, allowing less density (except around stations). These alternatives provide other quality of life benefits, like not sitting anxiously for hours in traffic.
Snubbing of alternative transportation while the TTA is still gaining traction for a Regional Rail Line is especially concerning as the Line would draw cars off I-40.
Naysayers are like those declaring with confidence in the 1960's that we did not need an interstate: shortsighted and ignoring the reality of transportation in a growing area. Let’s hope that planners do not ignore alternatives as the N&O did on Sunday.

I Like this one

Admittedly it is much better than my original, but at least you kept a couple of words that I used.

The problem is

that some forms of alternative transportation are 100% unrealistic in today's society. Most people will not walk or bike to work. Most mothers (if not all) will not bike to the grocery store with their children to do shopping.

The regional railroad is certainly nostalgic, but also unrealistic. Most human's desire the ability to move independently at will ... not on someone (or something) else's schedule.

I suggest a massive automobile catapulting/burning festival. Someone could erect a couple of large ramps on a large piece of open space in Orange County where volunteers could drop off their Volvo's, Subaru's and BMW's. Pour on some gasoline, light a match, then watch them fly into the sky as they are catapulted into a big scrap metal pile. We could offer free bicycles or horses as an incentive!

Will is important, but it's certainly not all

Most human's desire the ability to move independently at will ... not on someone (or something) else's schedule.

I'm sure you could name five examples of normal humans in everyday life supressing their own will for reasons that involve someone else, a few other people, or society at large. We expect people's will to give way for the greater good all the time. What you say about will is absolutely true, but you need to convince us that it's true.

Example: say we're talking about doggie bags. Not the kind you get at the end of dinner, but the kind you use to pick up after Daisy. Most humans desire to leave a pile of doggie doo right where they found it, and not to reach down and pick it up. Yet pick it up we do, because it wouldn't be very nice to leave it for someone else to step in. Many (most?) municipalities require you to pick it up. And that requirement is not controversial.

If "yeah, but people aren't gonna wanna" isn't good enough for dog crap, why do we accept it as a conversation stopper with regards to density planning?

Everyone should go to Europe before claiming impossibility

For all of those claiming that alternative transportation is impossible in modern society need to travel to Europe (especially western Europe). Cities such as Amsterdam hold millions of people on the scale of Carrboro. People bike, walk, and take the trolley everywhere. And it allows for a much nicer living environment with more parks, museums, and actually more open space despite more density. We have a society especially built for a car. Problem is that we cannot continue living that way, what with the global warming, massive amounts of other pollution, and having to buy oil from foreign governments and all.

Dont shorten it!

I think your piece is plenty fine the way it was written. I hate the whole 200 word limitation. Its as to say if you can't say it in 200 words, your opinion is not worth merit.

Keep it.

Be just, and fear not.

Our children need to know that some people fought back, when others collaborated.