Planners must update their 1950s mentality
Incredibly, recent stories about spending millions on the Skyway and the Scajaquada Corridor project don’t mention the advent of new automobile technology. At the Department of Transportation presentation at Buffalo State, a DOT official told me he hears laments from commuters about the minutes a true parkway through Delaware Park would add to their commute. I hear the same from Southtowns residents, worried about how a Skyway-less commute would increase travel time. Thus we maintain, or tweak, 50-year-old designs for the sake of commuters.
Haven’t DOT officials or commuters noticed that Volkswagen expects self-driving cars on the market by 2019, and General Motors and Ford by 2020? Within 10 years, even human-driven cars will have advanced technology to guide you from Point A to B in the quickest time.
So why are transportation plans driven by 1950s mentality? Within a few years, technology will enable us to maintain our Buffalo mantra, “We can get anywhere in 20 minutes.” We should be concentrating on optimizing unique assets such as the Outer Harbor and Delaware Park. Rather, we argue about the speed limit on the Scajaquada. If current plans proceed, we will live with this infrastructure – a hulking bridge blocking Canalside from the Outer Harbor and a highway through a world-class Olmsted park – for another 50 years.
Thirty years ago in our Policy Studies case studies at the University at Buffalo, professors challenged us to consider all factors, including those on the horizon. Before construction begins on any automobile-centered projects, remember how different commuting will be in a few years.
Rev. William J. Weiksnar, ofm, J.D., Ph.D.
St. Patrick Friary