I haven’t ridden the thing yet, first, ‘cause I have this thing about busses, second, that unless one is incapacitated, like too drunk to walk, downtown Raleigh is as walkable as you’ll find, and finally, that free is really free via the bicycle. But forget me, the R bus line, by reducing the “necessity” of driving a car everywhere one must go, rain or shine, night or day, in a dense, urban grid, is the best, smartest idea Raleigh has had in, gee, I dunno, a generation.
But here’s the predicable Greek Chorus, “whaaah, whaaah, whaaah,” from the car set: “It’s not free! It costs me money and I don’t ride it.” Listen up, ya babies, let’s talk about “free.” How did it somehow become written in the sky and implicitly understood by every mother’s child that the motorist is exempt from some normal standards of responsibility with this century-long free ride to foul their path with zero or minimal responsibility to clean up the mess their fiendish contraptions leave? Every time I go anywhere, I have to breathe your exhaust fumes, dodge your oil spills and jagged heaps of broken car that litter nearly every intersection and never seem to get swept up – not to mention never getting a chance to relax from the mortal danger waiting at every turn via inattentive drivers futzing with their music, phones, hair, yada, yada. So tough tits.
In the face of endless whining by the automobilista, it is time to begin educating y’all and extracting from you the true, full cost of your filthy, lazy ways, for the purposes of justice, for the betterment of the world, to get you to abrogate the damage your habits cause—but mostly to simply silence the worst of the offenders with some pesky facts that seem to have been kept from them.
There are details that are impossible to miss: schmutzy air and smears of petroleum caused by shoddy maintenance. But there’s also details no one knows or at least wants to talk about, for instance, owing to the copper in semi-metallic brake linings and Raleigh’s refusal to deal with roadway run-off, our little Crabtree Creek, and Raleigh’s out-feed into the Neuse River are among the most jeopardized waters in the state. Copper is nasty stuff, a potent biological inhibitor, especially when it accumulates in waterways. Hey, why do you think Cupric Oxide is the active ingredient in toxic marine bottom paint? To dissuade barnacles from latching on to boats, capisce? Copper in the water is also partially why Raleigh pays a big, fat fine every year to the US EPA for our idle, blinkered refusal to clean up our waterways. Pay me now or pay me later.
Part of being a grownup is taking the initiative to make right that which your actions cause, even by accident. Not here, where the blithe disregard for personal behavior reaches past the local to the entire continent and the world. Look at the sides of roads, the ditches. North Carolinians are among the worst that you will find for tossing crap out of their cars. From the particular to the general.
Raleigh is years behind most leading urban areas when it comes to alternatives to the automobile. Most every region I’ve lived at least attempts mass transit. The “competition” hasn’t always succeeded but even the attempts are better than the anemic, unreliable services in this place. One morning trying to be a good citizen, my best effort to ride the TTA Red Line to RTP went awry. The driver inexplicably exited onto US1 South and would have taken us on an unplanned junket to Southern Pine had I not walked forward and queried her as to where exactly we were going.
“I don’t know,” she wailed, nearly weeping. When it happened a second time, I vowed to hitchhike if necessary.
So. ‘Bout damned time for an auto reduction policy via a leveled playing field. First of all, go ahead and install the tolls on 540. Toll roads are a fine, proven way to generate revenue for roads I don’t use, but they don’t spread the pain out where it will exact the greatest benefit. In addition, a gas tax, that’s right, a dime, a quarter, on each and every gallon of the oily, poisonous gick, the proceeds to go to mitigating the mess cars leave everywhere they go. The way it works now, revenue the city gets from me and others who refuse to drive (which ain’t much, I’ll admit—lifestyle choice) goes to paying for y’all’s mess and I am over it. Fair is fair. Level the costs and obliterate the free ride the car has had for too long. If fairness were to become the standard instead of the subsidized, ubiquitous hustle that has gone on so long as to be unrecognized, we might actually begin to see some substantive changes in how we get around and some actual environmental improvements, for the better of all.