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"THE DESIRE NAMED STREETCAR"
By Ed Driscoll · October 20, 2003 11:16 AM · The Future and its Enemies

Reason's "Hit & Run" Blog looks at "The Top 10 Reasons to Forget Light Rail".

Or as James Lileks recently wrote:

Heading into the office today I was startled to see the poles - ten per block, tall and gray, ugly lumps hanging from the wires that laced the poles together. The final step of the light-rail project: the electrical wires are back.

And so the bad idea finally showed its ugly mug. The ads for the light rail system are cool - they borrow 30s / 40s rail iconography, which is clever. The stations are quite impressive, including the immense, lovely, and utterly nonfunctional assemblage across from the Metrodome. Fifth street downtown has been screwed beyond belief - from three lanes to one until you hit the Government Plaza, at which point the street is closed to thru-traffic. Brilliant. But I think some people believed that the trolleys would just . . . move on their own accord, gliding on the rails. No one reminded us that weíd have to string wires in the sky again. And so the intersections now have these latticework constructs, these anal-retentive dreamcatchers, these tic-tac-toe puzzles pasted over your view of the sky. Wonderful.

Eight hundred million.

As I have said elsewhere, somewhere, I am not opposed to mass transit. I see the double-segment busses trundle past at rush hour, filled to the gunwales, and Iím glad: congestion would be worse without the busses. And even if the effect on congestion was limited, Iíd still support it; people need to get around. When I was a poor college student I took the bus. When I was an entry-level 20something downtown drone I took the bus. I believe in dedicated bus lanes. I think poor people should get vouchers to take them to jobs in the outer burbs.

Eight hundred million dollars for a trolley that goes from the bar district to the Mall of America!

I keep thinking of some old guy coming downtown for the first time in years, looking up at the poles and bright string, and shouting: what are you doing? Do you know how pleased we were to see the sky when the wires came down? Thatís why we welcomed the busses, you idiots! They were air conditioned, they went everywhere, they pulled over to let people out, they didnít clog traffic - now youíre bringing back the old ways? Whatís next, four-aisle supermarkets? Radios without FM? Black and white newspapers? TVs without remotes? You idiots!

The Desire Named Streetcar, indeed.



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