We’ve been down this
road before, buckaroos, but let’s make a U-turn and take another look.
An on-line discussion
about an alleged car-parking “problem” in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, spurs
this ramble. (See
One person got things
rolling by posting a wish that Montpelier have more parking spaces – slots
closer to destinations, like shopping, workplaces, eateries, and such. The
goal, of course, would be to make life “easier” and limit walking (a
time-honored form of exercise) by building a parking “garage.”
Most Americans who
drive a private car, SUV or truck have been in one of these concrete, asphalt
and steel things. I hiked around inside the one at Fletcher Allen Health Care
in Burlington,Vt., a couple of weeks ago after a medical appointment inside. I
hiked for a good hour before finding my car.
Parking garages are
huge white elephants, expensive to build, expensive to maintain, unpleasant to
look at, and, as others have noted, a crutch for our car-centric culture.
“It would be
preferable to find ways to reduce cars in the city, not give them comfy
subsidized nests that preclude other, more desirable, uses,” a reader wrote.
His conclusion: “I
subscribe to the idea that Montpelier doesn’t have a parking problem – it has a
walking problem. It’s easy to find a place to park and shop if you are willing
to hoof it a bit. And, you might even drop in on some other store on impulse.
Cool! Walking to a store in Montpelier is a lot more fun than playing dodge ‘em
with cars in some soulless sidewalk-less big box asphalt desert.” Wow, well said. I started thinking
about cars, congestion, air and noise pollution, and stormwater runoff about
the same time my wife and I moved to Conyngham in 1989 after three years in the
Adirondacks. Watching motor vehicles plying Route 93 in the Nescopeck Creek
valley was the anecdotal-enriching experience.
Today, I see the same
heartless expression of America on wheels in northern Vermont. This time it’s
Vermont highway 2A.
Try this yourself
sometime soon (it’s more fun than watching tee vee): With clipboard in hand,
stand or, better yet, sit at a good place to observe a local highway (Route 309
would qualify nicely) and keep a tally of those passing vehicles with more than
one person inside (the driver). If my own experience watching the flow of
steel/rubber/plastic/glass is the same as yours, what you’ll record is this: Only
one of every 100 or so automobiles passing your vantage point is carrying more
than one individual.
I’m not sure what
car-buyers these days learn from their dealer-of-choice about their auto’s
emissions. And just this morning I sat in a niece’s new Toyota Prius. Nice car,
you bet, and the electronic gizmos are astounding. You can find out for
yourself what your own vehicle emits by burning gasoline. Go to
I drive a car too,
but I’ve also been a committed walker (for fitness, transportation and fun) for
a long time. But here’s the glitch: Parking is only an alleged “nightmare” if one chooses
to limit his transportation options to one: The private automobile.
Arguably, the private, family car and the
infrastructure needed to keep motor vehicle fleets on the move are among the
biggest reasons out there for the ongoing decimation of our country’s natural
heritage. McMansions these days come, more often than not, with a three-car
Done right, municipalities
can have a high quality-of-life rating and be more walkable, more livable, more
fun to be in, and better for the air we all breath – motorists and walkers and
bicyclists alike – if we stop trying to make things bigger and better for cars
and cars alone.
observation: Just days ago, I sadly found another road-killed owl. This time
the species was barred owl. Over decades of birding and observing nature, I
have now recorded these six road-kill owl species: barred, barn, eastern
screech, great horned, burrowing and western screech.
Our ongoing societal
desire to make things best for cars is to blame.