by Stephen Carter
I have a modest proposal. Let’s eliminate the private automobile from the San Juan Islands.
Now, before everyone starts screaming that they need their automobile to get to work or to the grocery store, and how will they take their wine bottles to the dump, etc., I will add the caveat; first, we must make it possible for people to live without them. I don’t say we should eliminate emergency vehicles, farm tractors, and delivery trucks. Just the private residential automobile.
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t need to pay for car registration, insurance, repairs and tires, traffic tickets, and gasoline? What if you never again had to shell out $30,000 or more for a new car, or six or eight grand for another clunker with broken door handles? What if you could just walk on to a ferryboat without lines and reservations and there was a shuttle or a rental car waiting for you on the other side? What if there was a passenger ferry to Seattle from the Richardson’s dock like there use to be? Or a post office boat circling the island that you could hop on to like there is in Norway? What if Lopez was like the Greek island of Hydra, populated by donkeys instead of Hondas and Fords?
Government-subsidized asphalt roads are a ubiquitous and unremarked subsidy to automobile manufacturers and Big Oil. Without taxpayer-funded roads, nobody would buy their products. Why don’t we subsidize something better, like free public transit with electric vehicles? What if we developed a fleet of rapidly deployed shuttle vans with on-demand door to door service? Sure we would still need some roads, but wear and tear and traffic accidents would be less. Proposed expansions to the ferry system will only contribute to the destruction of island character and the ecosystem. A new approach to transportation is what’s called for.
I do not even think any draconian bans of anything are necessary. Simply cease planning around the needs of automobiles, and plan around the needs of people instead. Provide passenger ferry service to the islands instead of the money-losing car ferry service. Once public transport is so insanely cheap, easy, and convenient that only an idiot would buy a car – the problem vanishes. This is already a trend in cities among young people. The campaign to go car-less is even endorsed by Lopez Mechanical!
Horses, bicycles, walking trails and donkey carts could fuel a whole small-agriculture based economy. Even tourism could benefit from the picturesque character of retrograde Lopezians staggering from one country inn to the next or perhaps draped over the back of a donkey instead of getting a DWI citation. It’ll be grand! Your great-grandparents did it. So can we!