Following on from my post on what I’ll call “social justice capture”, I was interested to come across this piece on Grist (via @theoverheadwire). The author talks a bit about the new light rail in Seattle, mentioning that he found it to be an inferior route to the airport, largely because of the stops along the way. He then notes that residents of the neighbourhoods where the light rail runs felt differently, and fought for those stops. This gets to the root of who these systems are for – neighbours, or passersby? I think it’s pretty clear which approach gets you to a system that has higher ridership and adds more value, but too many times those of us who live in the nice parts of town just want express routes to get us to a handful of places.
The article also talks briefly about the tension between smart growth and social justice, which centers around gentrification. This is an area where we simply do not have a good model (rent control/stabilization programs don’t work very well), and I can’t help but think that’s because a lot of us have limited experience with being on the wrong end of the gentrification stick. I’m hoping to write a bit about some thoughts on a good model soon.