Our oppressed (rush-hour) masses
By Anthony Mauger
In the Washington metropolitan area, discrimination against commuters is widespread. Consider Metrorail. Why are fares higher during peak hours? The only possible explanation is that at those times Metro has a captive ridership for whom access to the workplace is essential. Many journeys taken at other times don’t involve that level of necessity. As a former Londoner, I can report that in that city’s Underground, fares are the same at all times, as in fairness they should be. Here, a commuter can pay much more to stand in crowded car than someone else traveling at another time pays for a seat.
Car commuters face another type of discrimination. This comes in the form of numerous “no entry” and “no left turn” signs intended to keep them out of residential areas. What law enforcement terms “cutting through” really is just “taking a short cut.” What’s wrong with that? Doing so enables drivers to spend less time on the road, thereby saving them time and producing less greenhouse gases. The more streets we close to commuters, the more congested are those we let them use. Residents may say that they don’t want commuters on “their” streets, but they need to understand that the streets don’t belong to them. They belong to everybody — except, apparently, commuters.
When the intercounty connector opens in Maryland, it will be a toll road, and the plan involves different toll prices at different times of day. Guess who will be victimized most by the intended toll structure?
Commuting is an inescapable part of the lifestyle of most working people. For many, it is an ordeal, being stuck in traffic or standing in a Metrorail car five days a week. We shouldn’t be adding insult to injury.
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