Freeways ain’t making us more free

It’s massively irresponsible and ultimately classist to strand your citizens who don’t or can’t own vehicles.

Adri Mehra

The unending legislative spawn of America’s car culture continues unabated.

Under the transit-starving tutelage of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration, the Minnesota Department of Transportation appears to be committed to the most expensive and invasive options possible for getting around, such as adding lanes (!) to the I-94/35W common-section behemoth.

Citizens seeking additional evidence of Satan’s presence over God in government need look no further than the prospect of an I-494 – a shudder-inducing third freeway ring in the metropolitan area and beyond.

Will there be any space or time to live, eat, breathe, play, or sleep if city lifestyle unequivocally demands that three or more of those be done in traffic?

And, despite the enthusiastic/plastic lip service from the moneyed mouths of Chevy-Suburban Democrats (who’d probably never let their spouse or kids ride the bus for imagined fear of rape or murder), I really feel that mass transit is only taken seriously by those who use it.

And I’m not talking about those of you with sporty red coupes who hit up the Metrodome via light rail so y’all can get tanked and avoid a drunken foray on the downtown 16 bus.

The “mass-transiteer” I understand and know all too well is the cat who transfers twice – once to get downtown, and once to catch an express bus to a suburb like Richfield or St. Louis Park – just to get to work at a major home improvement retail store.

How long is the one-way travel time for said commute via our glorious Metro Transit system?

Average trip time clocks in at least 75 minutes.

Double that for the ride home, toss in traipsing through the snow to get to transfer stops and you’ve got nearly three full hours en route to places that would take less than 45 minutes in cumulative drive time.

How am I aware of this? It might have something to do with the fact that I DID it for two and a half years.

It’s massively irresponsible and ultimately classist governing to strand your citizens who don’t or can’t own vehicles and grossly inhibit them geographically from earning a living wage, or even shopping for medicine or groceries.

Of the whopping seventeen major construction projects listed on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Web site, only three concern mass transit – two light-rail lines (the well-publicized Hiawatha Line and Northstar Commuter Rail) and one bus rapid transit (BRT) from downtown to Lakeville.

The light rail corridors are still awaiting final design approval from the federal government and the latter project’s Web site hasn’t been updated in nearly two years.

While commuters choke on carbon monoxide waiting for buses that rarely come on 9th and Nicollet, reconstruction of I-694 and I-35 for actual dinky towns like Little Canada is given financial priority and cute promotional taglines like “Unweave the Weave.”

Why don’t we buck up and face the reality that freeway sprawl is culturally and environmentally hazardous as well as unsustainable, instead of buckling up and driving away from the truth?

We’d all breathe easier. Literally.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]