Clogging the Stranger's social media feeds this morning was an op-ed posted yesterday on the Seattle Times' website that can only be described as a half-baked grouching about traffic, from a retired truck driver named Mark Minerich.
I mean, I own two cars. I hate traffic too. (That's why I bike and bus most places.) But Minerich's rhetoric is overwrought and his ideas are just plain bad. The Times' editorial section elevates them because... fuck it, why not? Also: Clicks!*
Minerich accuses the Seattle Department of Transportation of "stupid," "criminal" mismanagement. He is upset, as a driver, that he is often stuck in traffic.
"Traffic flow is like water," he says. "You can cut it off or divert it, but it will go somewhere... SDOT’s master plan is not only choking the rivers, it is filling in the tributaries."
Later, he blames SDOT's choices on "interest groups" including "bicyclists, pedestrian-safety experts, bus-route planners, streetcar-route designers."
The analogy to water is perfect for someone who thinks of car traffic as a state of nature: it's like water, or the air we breathe.
Using this level of thinking, we can agree that because winter is still cold, global warming is a hoax.
Traffic is not like water. It is man-made phenomena that can be unmade and changed. Traffic is made up of human beings using transportation devices. The ratio of humans to the size of the device (a car, bus, train, or bicycle) determines how much space is used up and how much traffic gridlock there is.
We could talk about urban quality of life and the environmental impacts of car traffic, but let's continue to indulge Minerich's myopia: Being stuck in traffic, and what to do about it.
Studies show that building roads to fit more cars does not improve traffic. The opposite is true: "Adding road capacity spurs people to drive more miles."
On the other hand, planning around the idea that "people should not need to own a car to access services, jobs, and recreation," as SDOT's master plan declares, by definition, reduces traffic. That's what less traffic actually is: less cars on the road. The plan prioritizes bike, bus, light, and streetcar transit and integration with light rail. These forms of transportation are more space-efficient.
Times op-ed editors, if you're reading this, please: Do better.
*Now, go read the Times' wrenching look at how the city evicts homeless people from where they've decided to sleep. It's great journalism. If it enriches your life, consider paying something for it.