There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A cold shower view of social conservatives embracing transit

Jarrett Walker, an international consultant in public transit network design and policy, comments today (actually, tomorrow since he's in Australia) about the article I blogged about yesterday. In one paragraph he showers enough cold water on the idea to shrivel any remaining enthusiasm:

Dense, walkable settlements may be the precondition of strong, interconnected communities, as Schoengoeld writes, but they are also the precondition for daily confrontations with difference and diversity, and American social conservatism, at least in its practical and (for a time) effective form, has always been predicated on the notion that "we" are a bunch of good people under threat from "them." It is an ideology rooted in the outer-suburban and rural experience where life is lived in cars, and where diversity and difference manifest themselves mostly on television. Adapting this ideology to an urban world will require throwing out much of what is most comforting about social conservativism today, notably the tribal sense of belonging that comes from associating mostly with people who are just like you.
Perhaps we'll never end our tribal fixation. (See this post.) But maybe -- just maybe -- we might broaden our view of who belongs. As I learned from watching "Angels in the Outfield": It could happen.


wburg said...

Considering that I got a similarly cold response from a couple conservatives that I floated that article past the other day, I tend to agree with Mr. Walker's assessment. American-style cowboy conservatism is very much based on the right to never have to deal with anyone outside of one's own tribal group or economic class, even if that level of segregation requires massive government subsidy.

wburg said...

And thanks for the link to the Human Transit blog: his next post mentions why "transit-oriented" projects like Laguna West fail (because it's impossible to build TOD without transit.)

John said...

I agree with you about "Human Transit" blog. He's got some finely honed ideas, and he does not appear to be -- like I am -- easily swayed by wishful thinking.