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In Praise of Light Rail

by Dennis Marsoun

March 3,2004

Looking at the places where people have settled throughout history, it becomes quite apparent that transportation, or trade routes, have defined where people live.

A s Charlotte begins to develop a permanent plan for mass transit, and create corridors for growth, the City is merely following an age old pattern.

Mass transit rises in value when it equates with individual comfort and personal economics. For example, when you could take the train and be home in 30 minutes, why would you want to drive and take 45 to 60 minutes to do the same thing? Not to mention that parking your car for 8 hours is likely to cost anywhere from 2 to 8 times the cost of a round trip ticket.

Also remember that very few trains get cut off by angry drivers, or drunk drivers, or semi’s following too close.

So, why is there such a concern about a light rail system here?

I think because for some it somehow represents a significant threat to individual freedoms. The funny thing is that light rail will give us more freedom, such as additional time, more stress-free travel, time to talk with others, time to read, time to think.

In my travels, I frequently use light rail. As bad a reputation as the subways of New York have had, they are an essential way to move through the city.

In Chicago, you can travel from O’Hare or Midway to the city with ease, going from your concourse to North Michigan Avenue in 30 minutes. Try that in a cab. Also, from the loop you can quickly find yourself at Wrigley Field. If only you could get a ticket for a Cubs game.

In Cleveland, the Rapid Transit takes you from the airport and runs you into town and out to the eastern suburbs.

San Francisco’s BART provides quick, easy transit around the city and even under the bay to Oakland, though I have to admit, that is much scarier due to the San Andreas Fault.

Even Atlanta has MARTA. My travels there made car rental unnecessary, depending on how far off the line I needed to go. Any thing that eliminates driving in Atlanta is a good thing in my book!

To the people who think that we do not need mass transit because we have cars, I would like to ask if they think that we do not need police because we have guns. That’s kind of a crazy comparison, but think about it.

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