Jeff Delong shares this article with us about the woes of Washoe County’s (Reno/Sparks area) Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). The RTC is funded mostly through sales tax revenues, which have taken a major hit during the recession. They have had to cut service by 20 percent and may have to have more cuts if new streams of revenue are not opened up. One of the potential new sources of revenue being considered is “diverting money earmarked for road projects.” The fact that there has been money set aside for roads but not for transit tells you a lot about an area’s priorities. One thing it says is that the community views transit as an option, or possibly a “lifestyle choice,” but they view cars as a necessity. Really, it should be the other way around: new roads should be an option, and transit should be funded first so that people, if they decide they can’t afford a car, have something to fall back on. Many of the people who ride buses don’t choose to do so because its more eco-friendly, because they like to socialize with new people or because they like to multitask by reading or working while traveling (all of which, I have found, are major advantages to transit), they do it because they can’t afford a car. According to Triple A, the average car owner spends $8410 per year to own a vehicle (quoted from Chris Balish‘s How to Live Well Without Owning a Car). That is an expense many can’t afford, or would at least be better off without. But by cutting bus service, and by having a built environment that is not walkable, you are forcing people to drive. Thus, instead of having the whole community pay a few cents per year to support buses, you are forcing everyone, including the poor, to pay over $8000 a year. How are the poor, no longer able to depend on buses, going to get to work, or the grocery store, or anywhere else? Are you saying that you have to be able to afford a car to be a member of your society? Reno, on top of apparently not caring for it’s poor, is also entirely unwalkable. It was essentially a little nothing town before the advent of the car, and especially before I-80 came through and made it so that the city could experience a weekly influx of gambling addicts from northern California. According to my grandma, a resident of Carson City, a small and very walkable town, there used to actually be open land between Reno and Sparks! Imagine that! But they have sprawled to the edges of their valley, not concentrating development in any real pockets, and now, instead of focusing on clustering and responsible development, they are pushing to the southern and northern fringes of their valley, hoping to continue the sprawl model. It is not sustainable; it will fail. When oil is too expensive for addicts in Sacramento to make a regular trip up to Reno, the valley will shrivel up to a sustainable size. Who knows; the “Biggest Little City in the World” may become the Biggest Little Ghosttown in the World.
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