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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 05-01-08, 07:57 PM   #1
bmclaughlin807
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Gas prices too low?

Duh! As if most of the people in here haven't been saying that for a long time!

http://money.cnn.com/2008/05/01/news...rss_topstories

I'd post it here, but it's a pretty long article.
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Old 05-01-08, 09:03 PM   #2
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Cheap gas prices have also lulled Americans into a cycle of buying bigger cars and bigger houses further away from their work - leaving them more exposed to rising prices, some experts say.
That seems to sum it up.

I wish people on the radio and tv would stop talking about the price of gas. I haven't bought any in a while and it hasn't directly affected me. Other than the rising price of food... which might be an incentive for me to lose some weight!
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Old 05-01-08, 09:18 PM   #3
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I say let the price keep rising. It will change this country for the better, in the end. It's gonna hurt a lot of people to start. But, we really have been "lulled" into this way of life. I sense a resurgence in downtown populations.

People driving less is always good for the environment.
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Old 05-01-08, 09:34 PM   #4
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Some of us here in Columbus are banking on high gas prices to start bringing some rail projects into the city.
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Old 05-01-08, 09:45 PM   #5
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politicalgeek: Can you explain that a little more? If not here, PM me? It's always nice to have ammunition when people talk about how bad high gas prices will be for "everyone." Not that it's gonna be all peachy, but yeah...
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Old 05-01-08, 10:20 PM   #6
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We have had a streetcar proposal out there for about 2-3 years. It is backed by the mayor and several local organizations, but receiving heavy criticism. Columbus is still very, very car oriented and our CBD has suffered for it with the flight to the suburbs.

The mayor has been pushing hard the last few years to really change the status quo: redevelopment of our downtown, alternate transit options, pushing bikes and pedestrians pretty hard. We should actually see the city bikeway plan in another week or two.

The streetcar itself is 2.8 miles, running through what could arguably be called the backbone of our city. This intial line would connect Ohio State University (50k students), a fairly dense urban population, our convention center and our local, state and federal government centers. A lot of the criticism comes from the view that: a) there is nothing downtown, b) it is a novelty c) the money could be better spent and so forth. This of course while the state department of transportation spends 2.8 billion in road construction, development and repair.

The advocates for the street car hope that it is a starter line and grows to include commuter and light rail options to the suburbs and bedroom communities. The sad thing is that the levy to do this very thing was put on the ballot and defeated several years back. I hate to see gas go up for its impact on the economy, but changing our status quo with the car culture here would go a long way to improving our economy and our development. Light/Commuter Rail would be rather easy to implement, as we have a number of existing freight lines and right of ways that connect downtown to the outer suburbs. We have a convergence point of these rail lines (at least the majority...the convergence comes from the historic train station that was torn down). Our transit authority has suffered with poor bus service in recent years and, despite working towards improvement, still is haunted by those memories.

A few links:

Columbus Map
Official Columbus Streetcar Page
Unofficial Streetcar Page
One Fantasy Map of Future Rail
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Old 05-01-08, 10:27 PM   #7
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high fuel prices also drastically increases prices for food, clothing, bicycle components, tires, tubes, and everything else related to our sport.
sitting around praying for fuel prices to go through-the-roof thinking it will make everything perfect is not thinking things through.
we also have 170,000+ gas stations nationwide that could/would turn to abandoned, ugly, virtually-uninhabitable blight if fuel prices skyrocket.
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Old 05-01-08, 11:10 PM   #8
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...we also have 170,000+ gas stations nationwide that could/would turn to abandoned, ugly, virtually-uninhabitable blight if fuel prices skyrocket.
I know a couple of convenience stores that no longer sell gas. They seem to be doing fine. The protective rails around the old pump islands at one such store are great places to lock up my bike. At another, they have a small selection of locally grown produce. The veggies are stocked oddly on shelves instead of in a fancy supermarket style produce section, but it seems to work. I think a lot of favorably placed convenience stores could survive not selling gasoline by serving their local neighborhoods as markets.
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Old 05-01-08, 11:12 PM   #9
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I know a couple of convenience stores that no longer sell gas. They seem to be doing fine. The protective rails around the old pump islands at one such store are great places to lock up my bike. At another, they have a small selection of locally grown produce. The veggies are stocked oddly on shelves instead of in a fancy supermarket style produce section, but it seems to work. I think a lot of favorably placed convenience stores could survive not selling gasoline by serving their local neighborhoods as markets.
+1 Especially if more and more people aren't using their cars to drive 30 miles to Cosco twice a week.
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Old 05-02-08, 03:11 AM   #10
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high fuel prices also drastically increases prices for food, clothing, bicycle components, tires, tubes, and everything else related to our sport.
sitting around praying for fuel prices to go through-the-roof thinking it will make everything perfect is not thinking things through.
we also have 170,000+ gas stations nationwide that could/would turn to abandoned, ugly, virtually-uninhabitable blight if fuel prices skyrocket.
If they can't survive selling other items they were poorly placed to begin with. Most convenience stores make very little on gas sales, they depend on the beer, cigarette and munchies sales. It will be no different than the abandoned buildings from various businesses along the old US highway system that were abandoned when the interstates went through. Prices are going to rise whether we "pray" for them or not. Not all of it is due to just the cost of oil. Poor economic policies are starting to come into play along with Americans inability to save, as well as the conspicuous consumptive lifestyles.
Speaking of abandoned, ugly virtually-unihabitable blight...I give you WalMart and others...as the poster child of suburban blight!

The time has come to pay the piper...

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Old 05-02-08, 07:07 AM   #11
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A lot of the criticism comes from the view that: a) there is nothing downtown, b) it is a novelty c) the money could be better spent and so forth. This of course while the state department of transportation spends 2.8 billion in road construction, development and repair.
That's my main criticism - I think it would be an expensive novelty that people would take a ride on when they went to visit the Short North, with not much other purpose. The really isn't much of interest downtown - there's a vicious cycle where nobody lives downtown because there's no shops/restaurants there, and the shops & restaurants don't open locations there because nobody goes downtown. Housing is still waaaay too expensive, even with the 10-year tax abatement. I would love to see a citywide light rail system sometime, but looking at that "fantasy map" shows 250+ miles of rails; it would billions and billions of dollars and decades to build it. I think the money might be better spent expanding COTA so that those of us that work 2nd & 3rd shift could actually catch a bus if we wanted to - there is ONE bus stop within walking distance of my house, and it picks up and drops off once a day, twelve hours apart. (Granted, I live on the edge of town, but not THAT far out).

As far as gas prices, they're still lower than many places in the western world, but it still hurts. I can't afford to live near my work because housing there costs 3X what I am paying here, and because of the flagging economy I couldn't sell my house without taking a huge loss anyway. I can't get a job near home, because there's very few businesses out here. It's not as simple of a proposition for those of us who live in Midwestern cities - when you're surrounded by nothing but farmland, they just keep building OUT instead of up. It's not unusual to have a 30-mile commute one way and never leave the city proper.
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Old 05-02-08, 07:27 AM   #12
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We have had a streetcar proposal out there for about 2-3 years. It is backed by the mayor and several local organizations, but receiving heavy criticism. Columbus is still very, very car oriented and our CBD has suffered for it with the flight to the suburbs.

\snip
I am car lite, only using the car to leave town for vacation or trips, while my wife uses it to travel for doctors appointments further from the city center.

I think this Street Car idea of Mr. Coleman's is only slightly more worthy than the Skybus idea was. Here are my criticisms of the project:

1. The streetcar does not go from residential areas to areas where people work; sure it passes through the short north but everyone who lives there either works away from the city center (where the street car won't go) or is already walking distance from work.

2. The street car will overlap a couple of major bus routes, most notably the #2 and #8's. These bus routes are actually useful i.e. they go from residential areas to places people work (and go to school). I don't know if you have been on these buses very often, but they are rarely standing room only. Okay sure there are gobs of students on between the five stops along OSU's campus, but they should be walking anyway. Other than that one stretch these buses are rarely completely full.

3. A street car represents a major capital investment with basically no flexibility. Once the lines are laid that money is spent and we can never get it back.

4. Street car rails are a hazard to bikes, High street is an excellent biking street right now, why would you want that to change?

5. Mayor Coleman and President Gee (of OSU) are trying like hell to leave their marks on the city and university respectively. In my opinion this blinds their judgment. They are looking for capital improvment projects that the city will be saddled with for a long long time, irrespective of whether they represent a sound investment or not.

6. It is still a question as to whether COTA will be a part of this project (doesn't that tell you something about how good of an idea it is?)

---

What I would rather see is the city increase the funding of the bus system, add some routes, add some buses to under served routes, and decrease fares. These represent improvments to public transportation in Columbus that leave the city with flexibility to adjust routes to match the demand of the public (who after all are the point of public transportation).

Overall the civic leaders of Columbus have two huge chips on their shoulders called: New York and Chicago. I fear for the fiscal stability of our city until our leaders come to grips with the fact that our city has far less financial flexibility than our larger cousins.
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Old 05-02-08, 07:51 AM   #13
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I have some of the same questions.

I views this as a starter line. One that could lead to greater investment in improved mass transit.

As to biking: 1) There are rubber infills that help prevent the danger to bikes from the rails. 2) I would rather see bike boulevards as a concession as well as marked lanes.

I think the inflexibility is a great thing. It's permanent. You don't have the uneasiness boarding a bus and trying to figure your way out.

You also have the potential to free up the buses to serve the areas you are talking about. Besides the levy is just kicking in for COTA to increase expansion.
-----------------

Not to get this too far off, I thought it was interesting that a good majority of those surveyed by CNN are changing their vacation plans due to rising gas prices.
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Old 05-02-08, 07:57 AM   #14
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I know a couple of convenience stores that no longer sell gas. They seem to be doing fine. The protective rails around the old pump islands at one such store are great places to lock up my bike. At another, they have a small selection of locally grown produce. The veggies are stocked oddly on shelves instead of in a fancy supermarket style produce section, but it seems to work. I think a lot of favorably placed convenience stores could survive not selling gasoline by serving their local neighborhoods as markets.
Its my understanding that gas sales is a break-even product for convenience stores. It would definitely
be a lot less of a headache to stop selling it. (as long as people keep shopping there)
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Old 05-02-08, 09:07 AM   #15
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Sorry to keep knocking this off topic. But I'm pretty strongly against the street cars and have trouble sitting down when people harp on how great an idea they are:

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I views this as a starter line. One that could lead to greater investment in improved mass transit.
What if it isn't a starter line though. What if they install it and it turns out the only people using it are the people who used to keep the #2 bus at least partially full between downtown and campus. That represents money taken directly from COTA and fed into this pet project of Coleman and Gee. And then we are stuck with it.

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As to biking: 1) There are rubber infills that help prevent the danger to bikes from the rails. 2) I would rather see bike boulevards as a concession as well as marked lanes.
Are these the rubber infills I saw along San Diego's street car lines? I was unimpressed that those would help a biker. They looked pretty slick when wet to. I also would like to see more bike facilities, maybe we could spend some of the money saved by not installing the street cars on items such as this. Except that wouldn't look all shiny and trendy, and Coleman and Gee wouldn't be able to bask in the glow of gentrification.

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I think the inflexibility is a great thing. It's permanent. You don't have the uneasiness boarding a bus and trying to figure your way out.
What bus have you been on that you couldn't find your way out of? There are two doors, take the one closest and go through it. Like magic! Is it more that you are scared of riding the bus because of the people on it? Do you not want to ask certain people to move out of your way?

I'll grant you the COTA routes are damn confusing, but maybe with a portion of the money saved by not building the street car lines we could pay to have the routes redesigned in a better way. Try doing that with a Street Car system that isn't working as planned, it will be as expensive as building a new system.

I think the inflexibility is a horrible thing.

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You also have the potential to free up the buses to serve the areas you are talking about. Besides the levy is just kicking in for COTA to increase expansion.
This is the one point you make which I agree with. However the same can be acomplished by just buying more buses for COTA. And those buses can be used on any of the routes they serve.
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Old 05-02-08, 09:18 AM   #16
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They are buying more buses. The money isn't coming off of the COTA levy, but generated by user fees. Yes the current routing is confusing, that is what I was referring to. 26 different buses you can choose at one point in downtown. How does that help one navigate the city?

I think each city is different and each idea should be considered in great detail. Improving mass transit, in any way, shape or form, can greatly stem the effects of rising gas prices. I don't want to seem like I am celebrating gas prices, just the potential it has for pushing us to a breaking point.
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Old 05-02-08, 09:33 AM   #17
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They are buying more buses. The money isn't coming off of the COTA levy, but generated by user fees.
But if the street cars suck users away from COTA (which is what I think will happen) then that hurts COTA's routes (and ridership numbers). I think this system will end up being just a novelty for the college students, allowing them to travel between campus and the short north without having to be exposed to the less well off people in Columbus.

Edit: It should be noted that most college students are not paying property taxes to the county (at least directly) and are not paying income tax to the city; I certainly don't think the city should undertake an improvement that benifits them exclusively.

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Old 05-02-08, 09:46 AM   #18
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...What bus have you been on that you couldn't find your way out of?...
The problem isn't finding the door of the bus. It's that most new riders are confused by constantly changing bus routes. Especially so when routes change by time of day or when several buses with the same bus number run the route with different variations. I agree that streetcars have many failings, but one nice thing is that everyone sees the tracks all the time, they know where the streetcars go, and the routes don't change every couple of months.
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Old 05-02-08, 09:49 AM   #19
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Keep in mind the fees are proposed at $1. In the end I think COTA and Rail can co-exist peacefully.

How is that major cities like DC, Chicago, NY, LA, Boston area all have rail and bus multimodal systems while heartland America tends to live up to the Cowtown USA image? How much better off would our cities be if many had these multi-modal systems in place that allowed a family easy access to work, school and play?
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Old 05-02-08, 10:18 AM   #20
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That seems to sum it up.

I wish people on the radio and tv would stop talking about the price of gas. I haven't bought any in a while and it hasn't directly affected me. Other than the rising price of food... which might be an incentive for me to lose some weight!
For the most part I agree. However, if you're on a fixed income and drive only as needed to leave
town to go to the city using older paid for vehicles, that are well kept comfortable and safe,
then todays cost of fuel IS a show stopper. If you're among the fixed income or poor crowd
then you gotta keep driving what may be a well kept swell vehicle that is kind of a gas pig.
You really have no choice to do otherwise. There is no money left to do otherwise.

The old saw of...Well, just buy a better gas mpg car is insane in that it ignores the WHOLE cost
of buying and owning a vehicle. Gas is just one part of the total cost!!
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Old 05-02-08, 10:34 AM   #21
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The problem isn't finding the door of the bus. It's that most new riders are confused by constantly changing bus routes. Especially so when routes change by time of day or when several buses with the same bus number run the route with different variations. I agree that streetcars have many failings, but one nice thing is that everyone sees the tracks all the time, they know where the streetcars go, and the routes don't change every couple of months.
It took a handful of mistakes, misunderstandings, and one missed appointment, over a one week period, before I was comfortable with my understanding of the light rail system in San Diego. Seemed only less confusing than Columbus buses because of the number of trains and relatively small area covered. Even so I didn't really understand where the different trains might be going, but was at least confident in my ability to correct any mistakes I made and to at least end up a reasonable walk from where I needed to be.

Based on that experience I wouldn't count organization as either a plus or a minus against any one particular mode. It seems to be more a function of the people running the system.

Also a question for those of you in San Diego: Do they ever check to see if you paid your fare? After the first two days I stopped paying to ride, guess I should thank all you good San Diegan taxpayers for supporting me for that week.

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Old 05-02-08, 10:40 AM   #22
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Keep in mind the fees are proposed at $1. In the end I think COTA and Rail can co-exist peacefully.

How is that major cities like DC, Chicago, NY, LA, Boston area all have rail and bus multimodal systems while heartland America tends to live up to the Cowtown USA image? How much better off would our cities be if many had these multi-modal systems in place that allowed a family easy access to work, school and play?
Isn't Chicago in the heartland?

The difference is that Columbus' (I can only speak for Columbus as it is the one I have knowledge of) city budget is orders of magnitude smaller than New York's, Chicago's, etc.. Those cities can afford to install a new leg of their rail system and then tear it out in a decade if it isn't working. As a taxpayer in Columbus I don't feel that my city can saftely absorb such an outcome.

Add to this that Ohio is squarely in the rust belt (That loud sucking sound you guys in Chicago and New York hear, that's the sound of jobs leaving Ohio) and i don't think any city in this state should be starting large questionable capital projects unless they are flexible enough to allow for (cheap) major design changes (or complete dismantling ) within a decade.

Look the fundamental mistake that Coleman and those who support this idea are making: It is not the subway system that makes NY a cultural and financial powerhouse of a city; it is not the ell which makes Chicago a cultural and financial center for the midwest. These places are this way because the world has accepted them as such. No light rail or subways or shiny scarlet and silver whatevers is going to convince the world that Columbus is a cultural center or a place where major financial players go to do business.

So lets stop messing around. Let's spend our money carefully and wisely. Let's work hard to improve public transit in a way that actually improves public transit.

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Old 05-02-08, 11:00 AM   #23
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Columbus, like many cities, had a rail system in place. Ohio had interurban lines. Then we subsided cars with cheap gas, cheap roads and tore the tracks up. Where are we now? 8-9k is the usual figure given for the cost of car ownership. it's all variable based on type of car, location etc. But with gas prices, how is this affecting our lower and middle classes? Having a system in place that continually subsidies car ownership is only going to do more harm to our economy.

Note my original reply here wasn't related to street cars, it was rail in general. The tracks are there for us to use commuter rail and has been proposed in the past. There are many cities this probably applies to.

So let's think about this: take a 25 mile one way commute from the suburbs @ $4/gallon with a car that averages 25-30MPG. You're looking at $6-8 a day, $30-40 a week and $120-160 a month. That doesn't include insurance, repairs and other related costs.

A monthly unlimited pass on a multi-modal network would be around $80-90. You can essentially allow families to have their cake and eat it too. Access to lower cost of living and housing costs in many suburbs, access to better schools, access to jobs along the transit lines AND reduced monthly living expensive by setting them up as a 1 car family. It's an oversimplification, but it works.

So what is better long term: free way widening, new roads and auto-centric infrastructure or investing to allow a multimodal system to grow?
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Old 05-02-08, 11:27 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by politicalgeek View Post
Note my original reply here wasn't related to street cars, it was rail in general. The tracks are there for us to use commuter rail and has been proposed in the past. There are many cities this probably applies to.
Ohh, that's a different question. Certainly there should be commuter rails, which by definition should go from residential areas to commercial and industrial centers. But that isn't what has been proposed with light rail in Columbus. In particular this rail proposal goes from what is basically the cultural center of the city (OSU's campus) to the physical center of the city; while a noble undertaking if the two are separated by tens of miles or other physical barriers, it is otherwise useless.

I'll whole heartedly endorse a plan to bring commuter rail and intercity rail to Ohio. In particular I think a route connecting the 3 C's would be a wonderful and useful idea. I for one take trips to Cincy from C-bus at least once a month for business and would love the option of rail for this. But my understanding is that light rail is unsuitable for such things.

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Originally Posted by politicalgeek View Post
So let's think about this: take a 25 mile one way commute from the suburbs @ $4/gallon with a car that averages 25-30MPG. You're looking at $6-8 a day, $30-40 a week and $120-160 a month. That doesn't include insurance, repairs and other related costs.
I don't see how light rail gives any advantages over buses for alievating these expenses from people. yet I do see lots of advantages to using buses over light rail. Add to this that the proposed light rail by the mayor will not have any affect on the people you outline above and I again reiterate that this is a bad plan and should be fought against by us tax-payers with sense enough to admit that Columbus is not New York.

Last edited by bike2math; 05-02-08 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 05-02-08, 11:34 AM   #25
politicalgeek
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They tried with the North Corridor project a few years back ('99?) but it failed at the ballot.

Ultimately this gives us a smaller line with minimal investment, near proven success in the 22-23 cities that have done it, connects a vibrant part of our city, possibly frees the bus system up to serve other areas. Keep in mind that it would run along our convention center, where many have proposed a commuter rail station to be placed..essentially reviving the old Union Station...so that last mile connectivity becomes less of a stumbling block.

Frankly, I don't care where it happens, I just want to see more efforts put towards multi-modal transit options. I don't mean to sound anti-car but, in evaluating the investment, does continued funding of highway and road projects, to the degree that we have in the US, make sense when you could see drops in car use by 10-15%? Even our freight carriers are gearing up for an increase in multi-modal options. Using trains for long hauls and trucks for the last mile connection.
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