Friday, April 3, 2009

Not In My Back Yard!

I was reading an article @ Mass Transit News' website and stumbled across an article about how California's planned HSR (High Speed Rail) corridor to San Fransisco is under fire from some of the people it is designed to serve....damn NIMBY's.

When I rant, I generally try to at least have a positive conclusion, or a solution instead of just talking about the problem with no answers. This time, a good old fashioned rant is what is in order. Let's just put things in perspective here for a minute. President Obama has initiated transportation funding the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades (if ever). California has been able to see a HUGE chunk of that money ($8 Billion). Other states would KILL for that much stimulus money to launch their own projects. The scale of this project is unprecedented, and will be a GIANT leap forward in developing our national transportation infrastructure. The project can provide a competitive and sustainable alternative to Californians who feel their only efficient travel options right now are cars or planes.

Apparently, just about everybody in California was on board for the project. Then...somebody made the HUGE mental leap that the right-of-way was going to have to go somewhere, and that somewhere was going to be near some homes. These homeowners people quickly forgot about all the benefits of the project and suddenly became the worst kind of people in my book, selfish Americans. A very specific kind of Selfish American, the NIMBY*.

The NIMBY is, in my mind, the greatest roadblock to progress in America. No public improvement can be made without a NIMBY raising a stink and using various arguments including my personal favorite: "I don't care about the greater good, what about my property value?"

Through years of exhaustive research I've been able to isolate two types of NIMBY:

The Direct NIMBY, and Indirect NIMBY.

The direct NIMBY is someone who would be more directly affected by a project, for example, a new light rail line that goes through their neighborhood and they do not want the construction hassle and noise associated with this new development A direct NIMBY is more the out of sight, out of mind, as long as the project doesn't immediately disrupt their happy little bubble, they will generally not complain too much about a project.

The indirect NIMBY is generally the more hard line of the two. The indirect NIMBY does not wish to expend any effort (including financial effort) to support any sort of project. Meaning, even if this new light rail line does not come within miles of the indirect NIMBY's house, this NIMBY is against it because they do not like light rail, and they see public money, and in turn their own money going to support this project, and that is just not right in their mind!

Of course, this posting is a pleasant mix of sarcasm , humor, and a dash of truth. Don't lose sight of the message , however. We as a nation are presented with a great opportunity, I can only hope we don't squander this opportunity for the greater good by bowing of the demands of a very vocal, and selfish minority.

*Disclaimer: I'm not ignorant to the fact that the government can screw people when working on projects that will require construction on or near some one's property. From a personal perspective, I have a co-worker who had the town she lived in offer her $1.00 (that's right, a dollar) for property damage associated with digging a new sewer line through her property. That's not where my concerns lie with property owners; I understand the concept of fairness. My concerns lie with people who really won't be losing that much (maybe they have to deal with a little more noise, or maybe their pretty views from the back deck will be obstructed) but are willing to hold up a huge project whose benefits for the greater good well outweigh the inconvenience to the minority.


nathan said...

I'd love to have some light rail come through my back yard. Stepping out of my front door and onto a train without my coffee getting cold on a Winter morn sounds delightful.

East Busway Blogger said...

Preaching to the choir. I am pretty lucky to have the busway out back.

dhd said...

You know the first thing that came to mind on reading this was the conspicuous lack of a busway station in Edgewood... which I thought you might mention given the name of your blog :-)

East Busway Blogger said...

I'm a little selfish myself (but I guess you would call me an IMBY, not a NIMBY). I have pretty ready access to the busway, and that's where the name came from.

You bring up a good point however, better access to the busway (the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a rapid transit system) is certainly worth being evaluated.

dhd said...

Actually my (totally unsubstantiated) understanding was that Edgewood residents specifically requested not to have a busway stop. I've heard of this sort of thing elsewhere, where suburbanites fight against mass transit coming to their neighborhoods on the basis that it will bring "criminals and undesirables" from the city. Of course there is always an unspoken racial aspect to this...

East Busway Blogger said...

I wouldn't be suprised. Edgewood has its very "uppity" contingent.

I think there is also an unfair stigma towards BRT. When they first built the MLK Busway, there was opposition in the East End, because they felt like it was a "poor man's" LRT. That they were not the rich South Hills and therefore didn't warrant the same levels of service. There were certainly racial undertones to this I'm sure.

However, when you look at levels of service, there is nothing wrong with pure BRT like what we have (whether I would get on a bus or LRV, I still get Downtown in the same amount of time.).

I've said the key to a good rapid transit is grade seperation, whether it uses rails or road is immaterial (other than public perception).

The biggest argument in favor of an LRT on what is the current East Busway is to expand a unified system (i.e. create an LRT that runs from the South Hills all the way to Swissvale).

Mark Winston said...

There is a third type of NIMBY that should get some consideration: The Robert Moses'd NIMBY:

These are the people who are pushed out of their own homes by public works. There are not many of them anymore, and most public works forums give them a voice (most, not all), but we can't overlook that it can be very traumatic to have to relocate involuntarily, even if given many months/years notice, and especially if you've lived in your current home or neighborhood many years.

Moses'd NIMBYs are often renters (it's easier to displace poor people and landlords are less likely to put up a fight since they're being compensated for their right of way), and very often poor, and pushing them out of their home often forces them out of their neighborhood (especially considering that transit projects often gentrify a neighborhood). This can also cause their rent to go up substantially if they want to find a place of the same quality or area as before, or if they were rent-controlled.