While I thank the Record for airing the debate, I'm not thrilled with the way they broke up my paragraphs in the print edition, which messed it up somewhat (the online version is the way I wrote it). Also, I object to the headline they put on my piece, as I neither say nor intend to say that the public will never give up their cars. I myself bought my first car at 40 and would prefer not to own one. A better headline for my piece would have been "Rail transit will not solve urban congestion."
However, reading my column again, it would have been better to put the last four paragraphs first, which would have clarified where I stand on transit. I want better transit; I want density; and I want a city that makes it easy to get around on transit - but from my analysis of the proposal, I think LRT will not only fail at achieving those goals, but will take us backwards.
Anyway, that's not the point of this post. If anyone is interested in the Jane Jacobs reference, I thought I'd supply it. She has a lot more to say about why LRT became a fad and why it's wrong. Luckily, parts of the book are available on Google books, here.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
[Paul Martin] told me that he intended to announce a program of federal grants enabling municipalities to install light-rail public transit. Now it was my turn to demur.
I told him that unfortunate experiences already showed that fixed transit routes were expensive failures when they were not preceded by evidence of sufficient demand. Underused routes not only are a drain on transit systems but are ill-suited as contributors to the needs and convenience of users. In the past, designers of transit systems had usually chosen to locate rail routes by observing which bus routes were most heavily used, a pragmatic method that worked well in Toronto and elsewhere. After it was apparently lost to transit engineers' memories in the 1960's, Toronto and a number of other cities, among them Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago, tried rail routes justified by other goals and these have been unable to pull their weights, literally or figuratively. They don't have enough passengers.
I asserted that a prudent program to promote transit must be flexible enough to encourage experiments with routes, should that be what a city wanted to do, and possibly experiment with bus sizes, before settling on fixed rail routes. Why not specify grants for transit? I wondered aloud. Why specify from on high what form the transit must take?
... [Mr. Martin] pointed out that the mayors of every large city had asked for light-rail transit grants. I told him that I had attended the meetings where they arrived at this unanimity; they reasoned that asking for light-rail grants was politically more realistic than asking for other kinds of public transit equipment or more general transit help, such as grants for operating costs, the most desperate need in some municipalities.
Mr. Martin perfunctorily conceded that flexibility might be worth taking into consideration. Again I saw that our points of view were different. What he could contemplate as attractive bonanzas for clamoring cities and perhaps for complaining corporations producing rails and streetcars, I feared as foregone fiascoes.