I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to post here, since the weekend goes so fast and I’m actually at one of my satellite locations in Pennsylvania. But I wanted to give one more (fairly) newcomer’s impression about Our Fair State, and give you and idea of where I’m coming from, politically.
I used to be registered as an independent in Pennsylvania, although I would tend to vote for the more liberal candidate. Then, after the 2000 election (or whatever it was), as the Republican party got more and more conservative, I felt the only way to fight their hard-line fire was by having a strong party to oppose them, so I registered as a Democrat – first in PA, and then once I moved here. And I’m happy to say that the Democrats are finally showing a little of the backbone I’ve always dreamed of them having. I thought Reid’s closed session maneuver was magnificent, and like how the terms of the debate in Washington is changing.
Now, that’s all national stuff. On a local level, I have to confess – I’d vote for anyone, Democrat, Republican, or Satanist Party of America, who would let me make a left turn on Route 1. One of the biggest shocks of living in NJ is that, after a year and a half in Edison, I still feel like I don’t know how to get anywhere. I know a few different ways home from the train station, but my brain just doesn’t connect these routes with my home. I don’t have a visual map of any kind – it’s almost like some form of teleportation – just make a left, a right, a left, keep going, a right, and ping! I’m home.
There’s a ton of traffic out there, and I know that it’s not just a problem in New Jersey. There are more and more cars on the roads everywhere in the Northeast, on roads that in many cases weren’t built for that sort of capacity. Solutions to this problem fall into three different categories:
Civil Engineering: Widen the roads, adjust traffic patterns, that sort of thing. These are the most common solutions. This, of course, means giving more space to our roads – space that is almost certainly being used for something else. New public transportation might also fit into this category, or the next, depending on what’s being proposed.
Technological: Change what it is we drive on the roads. Smaller vehicles need less space. The Segway is an example of this – although since the President and then Gob on Arrested Development have made it a laughingstock, it certainly won’t take off like its inventors intended.
Sociological: This is, in a certain way, the most drastic sort of solution – but it leaves no physical footprint at all. If we were to shift into a 24 hour lifestyle – with almost every job having a second and third shift, with almost every workspace shared by one or two other people – there’d be no more rush hour. Or rather, there’s be three rush hours, each cut down by a third, and traffic would unjam as the roads operate at the proper capacity.
That last idea may be a crackpot solution – it’s certainly a Rube-Goldbergesque way of solving a specific problem, turning every aspect of our lives upside down to stay out of traffic jams (and maybe make a left turn on Route 1). But I can’t help think that we’re almost at a tipping point, and our current car and road system won’t be viable much longer without some changes. Maybe those changes are coming – with higher gas prices, people might drive less, or combine trips when they do. Traffic certainly isn’t Public Enemy Number One – but I hope someone comes up with some options while we still have some room to maneuver.
(Cross-posted at Laughing at the Pieces)