CIBO newsletter twists my position … sigh

This week’s edition of the Council of Independent Business Owners newsletter directly misreports my position on the future of automobiles and transit. This is a particular disappointment because CIBO’s newsletter is usually pretty even-handed, and so readers might assume its accuracy in this case.

The writer states: “Councilman Bothwell has been very vocal on this issue both at this hearing and through the local media. He advocates against cars and wants a trolley system. He has said on several occasions that cars use gas that is too expensive and people will not drive. Unfortunately, Mr. Bothwell sees life from both a Chicken Little “the sky is falling” approach and also, at the same time, advocates for the City to look at expensive “pie in the sky” items. Bothwell’s reality just doesn’t match up to true world experiences. Just a few pointers for Mr. Bothwell…
– Americans love cars…we like to hear them..we like to smell them..we like fast ones..we like pretty ones.
– Americans park cars..on the street..in parking lots..in parking garages..and everywhere else.
– Americans will buy more cars – gas cars – diesel cars – electric cars – hydrogen cars – 4 wheel cars – 3 wheel cars – probably not 2 wheel cars. We’ll buy motorcycles for that – even great big motorcycles.
– No matter how you want to change Americans and the people who drive cars – we ain’t changing.)

Just a few pointers for the CIBO editorialist:

• I don’t advocate against cars. I point out that global oil supplies have plateaued and prices are rising with demand. Experts are telling us to be prepared for $5 gas by 2012. When gas hit $4 in 2008, Asheville transit ridership went up by 25 percent in weeks. Whether CIBO’s writer believes it or not, Americans change very rapidly in response to new information.

• One person’s “pie in the sky” is another person’s rational approach to change. Many Americans love cars, but many Americans eschew auto ownership. Most cities of any size use park-and-ride to limit the need for downtown parking. Buncombe County has two new park-and-ride lots north and south. This isn’t some kind of new idea I cooked up, it’s happening.

• I have not actually advocated building a trolley or downtown circulating shuttle (though they are almost certainly a good idea) – I have advocated STUDYING the use of a circulating shuttle, before we sink $14.1 million into an overpriced parking project. When I make personal business decisions, I weigh all of the options (of which I am aware) before investing. I would suppose that most CIBO members do the same, but I could be wrong.

• I have pointed out studies from other cities that show that trolleys are affordable for cities our size and do more for local economies than parking decks. Again, looking at options that might benefit our city.

Some people prefer to make up their minds first and then twist events to fit their own version of reality. Maybe that makes them feel “independent?”

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One Response

  1. Of course they did. However, with that being said Cecil i will never use the transit system in this town unless ti can match the speed with which I can get from downtown to the Arden area in my car. For that reason I want more bus service or a rail line to the south side of the city.

    My health issues require me to be able to get home in a hurry in order to rest. As it stands right now the bus service to the south end of town is too far apart for me to do that. Even though a large portion of the trips made by route 6 are standing room only we cannot get more trips.

    My husband exclusively used the system for three months and he wound up walking many times because the bus would be too full and the last buss of the day is so full they would often refuse to take on more passengers leaving people stranded to walk. Ridership is low because of the poor scheduling.

    MARTA in Atlanta works and they are seeing an increase in ridership with the increase in gas prices. People will park and ride. But MARTA can get you from one end of the city to the other in a matter of minutes from a rail station. Asheville is much smaller and yet it takes an hour or more to get from South Asheville to the Downtown bus station. That is nuts.

    What the city, county, Henderson County, the City of Hendersonville, and any other adjoining counties need to do is follow the model of MARTA and build a real transit system. Of course this is most likely never going to happen since there seems to be a real inability of local governments to work together up here. Understand however, that is why the counties and cities down there created the independent transit authority that has no single supervisory government.

    Each serviced government has to contribute to the funding of MARTA and the transit authority has autonomy. If they want extra funding they have to ask for it and justify it. They are also free to apply for grant monies since they are an independent entity serving multiple municipalities. It is not perfect but it is functional.

    MARTA also runs trains until 2 and 3 AM thus assisting in the reduction of accidents related to alcohol consumption and driving. Yes that means there are intoxicated people on the trains but at least they are not driving the trains or their cars. There are also many other functional transit systems that run busses long after 6PM. There is no way that I could work in Asheville, get off work at 5, stop and grab dinner for my kids and get home on our bus system. Fix that problem and the fact it takes an hour to get to south Asheville and I will ride the bus. Until then I am driving and I want a place to park my car.

    I do support the trolly idea because if you can get the people that live inside the Asheville City School District to ride them rather than drive there might be enough parking for those of us that don’t without building any more parking decks.

    When I see a person pull out of their home and drive two blocks to their job and park in one of the few parking facilities that are downtown in the last available space I get frustrated too. Especially when I was nice enough to let them out in front of me in the line of traffic and I have to drive around for 20 minutes looking for a parking place after they took the last one. When I do get inside the place of business whose smiling face greets me? The person I let out and who took the last available parking spot!

    I think there are a lot of transportation issues that need to be addressed and there are going to have to be multiple solutions. We need more parking, a trolly system, better busses, rail stations, and even eventually a multi-county transit solution with Henderson and Haywood Counties at least. I would love to see Madison included in it too.

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