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Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research, Berkeley
Transportation a Fundamental Right
After reading all the comments and editorial opinions about bus-service cuts, one question keeps recurring: Has any qualified transportation expert ever attempted to identify which of our various travel options might be considered natural or fundamental rights and which are not?
Nature still does a remarkable job of equipping human beings with a pair of legs, but not with fins, flippers, wings, or wheels. A peek into the foreseeable future indicates nothing that might be considered a trend away from past practice.
From time to time somebody will take the state Department of Motor Vehicles to court, claiming that revocation of a drivers license constitutes a violation of one's constitutional right to travel. In two cases California courts turned the plaintiffs down, ruling that a drivers license is not the equivalent of one's fundamental right to travel. In a third case the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state court's denial for the same reason.
Streets, roads, and the Interstate Highway System are public works projects intended to benefit everyone. In the case of citizens who don't drive, should that benefit be limited to the trickle-down effect of enhanced economic activity or should it be of a more transportation-related nature? Growth patterns after World War II and completion of the Interstate Highway System forced many to rely on motor vehicles in order to access much new development that was approved by local and county planning commissions and elected officials who apparently gave no thought to the needs of those who don't drive. Is this forced dependence on automobiles an appropriate alternative benefit of public works road projects? Forcing anyone to rely on a mode of transportation so dangerous that it requires an insurance policy seems more like a violation of one's right to life.
Why do we continue promoting smart growth with incentives, tax breaks, and other stimulants and subsidies? Let's replace the New Urbanist rhetoric ("sustainability," "creative class," "world-class transit systems") and other euphonious appellations with terms that relate more directly to the rights of those who cannot, should not, or choose not to drive — then just prohibit all development that is not at least as accessible and functional for non-drivers as it is for those who drive.
Art Weber, El Cerrito
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