Ross: A bullet train is great, but affordable housing is much better

Aug 17, 2023, 8:56 AM

bullet train affordable housing...

HUZHOU, CHINA - AUGUST 04: A Hangzhou Asian Games themed Fuxing high-speed train arrives at Deqing Railway Station during the first trial run with passengers on August 4, 2023 in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (Photo by Xie Shangguo/VCG via Getty Images)

(Photo by Xie Shangguo/VCG via Getty Images)

Faster than a speeding bullet and full of people who want to be somewhere else.

The Democrats in Washington’s congressional delegation will push for a $198 million dollar grant from the federal government to plan a bullet train linking Vancouver, BC, Seattle, and Portland.  A train so fast it would get you there in about a third of the time it takes now.

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The funding request says, “Providing a fast and efficient transportation system would allow people to live in less densely populated areas and work anywhere in the megaregion.”

Wait a minute, we’re building a bullet train so people have the option of living even farther away from where they need to go? Isn’t that the exact opposite of responsible environmentalism?

Now, I am not going to dismiss the idea of a bullet train because if I do, in fifty years, when it’s whisking people back and forth, Feliks Banel will replay my commentary and chuckle about it. And I am not going to give him the satisfaction.

What I will say, however, is that along with finding ways to move people much faster to more distant destinations, we should also give them the option of moving more slowly to closer destinations.

I would like to see a study into why we all need to travel so far. The main reason seems to be that too many people can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work.

So before building a big new commuter system, how about making it cheaper to live closer to work? Affordable housing shouldn’t just be about homelessness, it should also serve the thousands of people who would rather not face the stress of rush-hour driving.

Of course, the ability to drive anywhere, anytime is a sacred American freedom. But there are some of us who would like the freedom not to drive. There are some of us who would like to walk to work, or to the library, or to school, or the produce section. And not have to worry about express lanes, toll lanes, bike lanes, collector-distributor lanes, zipper merges, and the whole Monopoly-board highway system we have to navigate.

And as for the bullet train, if China can build one, then I’m sure we can too. But let’s remember, the bullet train between Beijing and Shanghai serves a population of 47 million people. The Portland-Seattle-Tacoma-Vancouver population is about 9 million.

At this point, anybody who needs to commute to Portland just needs to move there.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: A bullet train is great, but affordable housing is much better