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?”