Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nothing but trade-offs

Two of my all-time favorite pieces from the New Yorker are (1) the famous cover depicting the mock "New Yorker's view map of the world"; and (2) the more recent cartoon of two cavemen sittting around a fire with one saying to the other: "Something's just not right -- our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet nobody lives past thirty."  This is also a cute joke and I use it all the time in classes and other presentations.

But I suspect that Timothy Egan's "What We Can Learn From Carmageddon" in this morning's NY Times is no joke. We closed a segment of I-405 for a part of the weekend and there was more biking, more walking, more transit use and more good old-fashioned stay-at-home fun.  Here is the punch line:

No, the big lessons of Carmageddon are not about transportation. They are about something else, something less easily quantified. They are about the small salves in life that make a day easier, or even memorable. When millions of Angelenos decided to hold a block party, or go to the park, or ride a bike, or play soccer, or spend half a day at the farmers market, or take advantage of free admission at some museums, they found a city far removed from that awful commuter stress index.

Most of us do not want to move back in the direction of the cavemen existnce and most of us understand that we live lives involving complex trade-offs. Permanent freeway closures would make that very clear very quickly