Reasonable, not selfish
March 20, 2002
With regards to you editorial in your March 16-17 Aspen Times Weekly, “Thinking globally … and acting selfishly,” sometimes I think The Aspen Times editorial staff doesn’t even believe what they write.
The claim that we are all a bunch of selfish jerks because we enjoy the convenience and dependability of the automobile, like all other Americans, is ridiculous. In addition, it is hardly surprising that there is a dichotomy in that people complain about traffic but still drive and don’t support light rail.
We love to complain but we also love our cars and the unprecedented ease and convenience that they have brought us. In fact, some of the most vocal opponents of the automobile seem to drive everywhere they go.
The editorial quotes an Aspen City Councilman (me) as saying: “The car has won!” While I believe that statement was taken out of context, it is essentially true that the car has won in the court of public opinion, in that people believe it to be the safest, easiest, cheapest and most convenient way to get around.
Public transportation is, of course, necessary and useful, but it does not work for all of the people all of the time. People often need to use an automobile and it does not make them anti-environmentalists because they have to get their kids to hockey practice or go shopping at Wal-Mart.
That the evil automobile is destroying our valley is simply nonsense, and The Aspen Times knows it. Today oil is cheap and plentiful, and as the technology improves cars will become even more efficient and less polluting.
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Should oil not be available, the free market, not the environmental whackos, will dictate a change in the technology and driving habits. That the citizens of this valley, and Americans in general, choose the convenience and economy of the car over the tremendous expense and inefficiency of light rail is not an indictment of them, it is a testament to their good judgment and sense.
It is possible to drive a car, even an SUV, and still be a good person who cares about the environment. Americans have had a love affair with the automobile for almost 100 years now, and the passion has not waned. Not because we are a selfish people, but because the automobile has brought tremendous benefits, freedoms and many conveniences to this great country.
There is a vocal minority of extremists here that wants us to live in a fantasy land where nobody drives cars and everyone rides around on a train holding hands and singing “Kimbaya.” That is simply not a practical vision of America, and it is not going to happen.
These rail advocates claim, in words but not deeds, that if you drive you are evil and destroying the planet. Perhaps the editorial staff of The Aspen Times, Jon Busch, and Ramona and Jim Markalunas (check out the “I’ll take the train” bumper sticker on the Markalunas car that should say, “I’ll take the train … but until you build it I am going to drive everywhere!”) can just move to Portland. Then they can all ride light rail to their hearts’ content and just leave the rest of us alone.
The balanced mainstream approach to transportation planning that I have always advocated takes into consideration the needs of both the economy and the environment as well as the unique development and commuting patterns of the Roaring Fork Valley.
I remain an unabashed supporter for continued investment in our highway infrastructure, including a bus/rapid transit plan, and in the technological innovations that will reduce auto exhaust pollution.
That does not make me an extremist, and it does not make, as The Aspen Times claims, my arguments and position “spurious.” In fact, it makes me reasonable and in agreement with the majority of the people who live and work in Aspen.
Aspen City Councilman