The End of the Line

George Chasse, freeway and asphalt devotee, argues loudly that ValTrans isn't necessary because everyone could car-pool. The Politburo in Communist Russia could not force its people to car-pool. Even if the Russians had cars.

Is it any wonder that the most common sentiment regarding the billion-dollar ValTrans vote is one of confusion?

Watching the thoughtless argument for and against ValTrans in this Arizona desert recalls the grizzled Walter Huston dancing a furious jig in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre as he laughs maniacally at prospectors Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt.

"Nuts, nuts am I? Let me tell you something, my two fine bedfellows; you're so dumb there's nothing to compare you with.

"You're dumber than the dumbest jackass. Look at each other, will ya?
"You ever see anything like yourself for being dumb specimens?
"You're so dumb you don't even see the riches you're treading on with your own feet."

The "riches" of Phoenix are different from the qualities found in other towns. We are a community of wide open space with a premium placed upon freedom of movement and opportunity. Physically, the city is the third largest in America. While most cities are compact, Phoenix sprawls forever toward the horizon. ValTrans advocates cite the success of rapid rail in Vancouver, a town with only 44 square miles compared to the 420 of Phoenix.

For better or worse, we have created a new style of American city. Yet we now think that the square peg of mass transit, a technology engineered specifically for the problems of congested urban cities, can be shoehorned into the round hole of Sunbelt excess.

Well-intentioned do-gooders like columnist Neal Peirce visit Phoenix and moan that we have large yards with walls and therefore no one knows his neighbor.

I don't want to know my neighbor. I'm sick of my neighbor.
I fled the East. I left behind the elderly Italian women hanging out of the windows who watched every movement on the street like crones of prey. Let the East Coast keep its tenements, its condominiums, its beehives of human noise.

Phoenix represents space. Maricopa County is bigger than some states.
People enjoy Phoenix because of the space and the freedom created by cars.
I grew up back east riding buses. I missed appointments when buses were late; I've cursed myself when I was late and the bus was on time. I've sat jammed so close to people on buses that there was no sense of privacy or decency left. I've been attacked on buses. I've sat next to the insane on buses and waited for our conversation to begin. My grandmother and I moved from one end of a state to the other like white-trash Okies upon the Greyhound.

Our mayor thinks Valley teen-agers ought to date on city bus lines. Unlike Goddard, I once took a sixteen-year-old lady out on the Newark city bus. She was dressed in a semiformal and the experience made no small impression upon her. One does not get lucky upon the bus.

I have never ridden a Phoenix city bus. And I don't intend to start. I hate buses.

Yes, we have a problem with cars here in the Valley, but the real problem is the cars that are coming.

Mayor Terry Goddard was elected by a reform movement that expected he would lead the battle against unrestricted growth. Instead, Goddard has added 60 square miles of leapfrog sprawl through annexations increasing the size of Phoenix by 17 percent. The Valley cities have bought huge farms in rural Arizona so that water can be shipped across the state for the millions of new residents we hope to lure to the Valley.

The subliminal message here is that somehow we can accommodate all of this growth if we just have ValTrans.

ValTrans is an $8.4 billion Band-Aid.
The mayor and council have never stood up to the very real problems of growth. The mayor and council have never said no to further development. Instead, Terry Goddard wants us to spend $8.4 billion. Terry Goddard wants to spend more money on ValTrans than was spent on the Central Arizona Project and the new freeways combined.

All we have to do to please Monsieur Goddard is to spend the next thirty years tearing up Valley neighborhoods with construction. And let's dump 1,500 buses--think of them as wounded elephants--onto Valley streets that are not wide enough to accommodate them and regular traffic.

Who is this big-spending, pro-growth visionary one ought to ask. Why, he's the doofus who thinks teen-agers ought to date on buses.

But don't think Terry Goddard is all alone on this one. True, his ideas on courting mark him as a clear eccentric, but he's just the wackiest member of the family of social engineers who believe mass transit will work in Phoenix. These people are easy to spot. They're the ones who righteously believe that YOU should take the bus. And they fully intend to join you. Someday. Sometime in the future.

This newspaper should support mass transit for greater Phoenix. But it cannot.

I have never ridden a Phoenix city bus. And I don't intend to start. I hate buses.

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