The cost of the new extension of Metro mass transit trains out to Dulles Airport has ballooned and will continue to do so. A well-designed bus system would be as efficient but cost vastly less.
Buses are cheaper than trains, with volume sources for parts and no need for expensive rails. With dedicated lanes, a bus line would never have traffic jams. As in rail stations one could pay on entering the station not the vehicle. Buses could be triple length, like the segmented tractor-trailers that use Western highways, and so much cheaper that we would have many of them. One even has a choice of fuels, from gasoline to natural gas to electric batteries, and improvements can be incorporated quickly, unlike hard-to-adapt custom trains.
Twenty years ago I read an article in Scientific American about Curitiba, Brazil, a city in need of mass transit but with no money for rail. They designed a bus system for city streets, like a trolley car system but with no tracks or overhead power cables. If they could do that twenty years ago we could easily create a nice cheap bus system.
We Americans are too fat’n’happy to be satisfied with such a solution even as we rail against our wasteful national habits. I don’t mean to be a scold though since I was too fat’n’happy to raise the issue.
What if I had become a crank and sent photocopies of the article to every politician in the Metropolitan Area for the last twenty years? Might have come to nothing, at the expense of a little time and a little ego, but might have saved me more money in taxes in the long-run. I’ll never know but I should have tried.
In this spirit that I offer a tribute to Grover Norquist. Norquist is the head of Americans for Tax Reform, which has committed most of the right-wing leadership of the United States to a brutally simple pledge never to raise taxes, ever.
Though he attacks the slightest deviation from his orthodoxy, in interview Norquist is patient and tolerant, unconcerned with petty issues like comfort or dignity. I have seen him face down extraordinary mockery from liberal television satirists without raising his voice or losing his smile. His eyes are on his prize with a focus we would laud if it aimed at world peace or animal cruelty. He is the Dalai Lama of lower taxes.
I say with all sincerity, I hope to be the Grover Norquist of my own life. I hope that I can stare down all the no voices with such unflappability that I will make yes of them.