09 November 2006

Dreaming on Amsterdam Ave.

It's freakishly warm today in New York: 58 degrees before 10am. Perfect for walking, and I managed to get on the road early enough to walk a mile and a half of the way to work, stopping at Levain for a whole-wheat-raisin-walnut roll for good measure. Such a nice way to begin a Thursday.

While waiting to cross 96th Street at Amsterdam, I was still close enough to sleep to feel like I was dreaming all the cars whooshing by and that stepping several feet off the curb wasn’t going to result in my being hit. This is not a new thought, but it’s a persistent one these days: why is a vehicle that takes up at least 25 times the space I do, a vehicle carrying only one person to boot, given so much room? Still dreaming, at the corner of 96th & Amsterdam, I squinted down the avenue and almost saw the cars replaced by bicycles. And wider walkways. Maybe a light railway down the center, whisking people quickly to work.*

This morning on WNYC, Brian Lehrer interviewed the third Senate candidate in Virginia, Gail “for Rail” Parker, who ran on the Independent Green ticket. Despite being a former Air Force officer and businesswoman, which you’d think would appeal to a fairly conservative electorate, Parker won only 26,000 votes. Those are votes that might well have gone to Webb or Allen, had Parker dropped out of the race, as she hinted she might do last week, if one of the candidates would endorse her plan for a light-rail system for Northern Virginia. If Webb had, it might not have taken 36 hours for Allen to concede.

But neither the Republican nor the Democrat were interested. It could well be that Gail for Rail is a loon, and her endorsement was seen as a liability. She certainly hasn’t mastered the balance between staying on message and letting your interviewer get a word in edgewise, if the Brian Lehrer appearance was representative of her style. But the idea that Northern Virginia, which sends thousands of workers into Washington DC every day, on crowded and crumbling highways, and too few Metro trains, doesn’t need a true transportation solution, one that would incidentally improve the local air quality and serve as an example for how other suburban areas around the country could “reduce their dependence on foreign oil” (in quotes because it’s the phrase everyone with microphone and political aspirations is saying these days), it’s puzzling why one of candidates didn’t pick it up to get her off the ballot.

*I love to drive, by the way. I don’t own a car, but before I moved back to New York I did, and I loved it. They just don’t make sense in Manhattan.

The pic comes from Vision42, a group who envisions light rail taking over the length of 42nd Street. Please please please Mayor Bloomberg.


Post a Comment

<< Home