The fifth and final big idea for Columbia's next 50 years is transportation. And in this arena, as in all the other ones, discussed this week, we need to look beyond what's already going on. And even what's already being talked about. That there's any discussion about whether or not there should be more east-west connectors in Columbia-- yes, as many as there can be! A backbone of a trail connecting Howard County General Hospital to Blandair? Yes, and hopefully beyond! And should the Baltimore and Washington Metros converge in Columbia? Yes, but those are things currently above Columbia's community pay grade. Columbia can advocate but those details need to be handled by state and federal decision makers, and right now they seem balky at handling mass transportation issues closer to their cities of origin, much less the Howard County suburbs and exurbs.
So for Columbia to develop a new transportation plan that works for it, it needs to focus on what it can control-- which is itself. And so what can it do?
Create more connections to all the local mass transit lines. Maybe Columbia isn't the place where the Metros meet, but it can play the matchmaker. For example, there should be a Howard Transit route that runs from an MTA Park and Ride to Laurel where people can pick up the Metrobus. Or to Burtonsville. Or run a bus to the UMBC Park and Ride in southwest Baltimore County. How about something from the Long Gate Park and Ride to Westminster or Frederick?
Make transit within Columbia faster and more energy efficient. One way to accomplish this: gondolas. Yes, electric cable cars that travel through the air. These can create direct routes to get point to point within Columbia, thus bypassing the loopy nature of Columbia's roads. Not sure what advice I offer to those with fear of heights, but I'm afraid of heights and I'd ride in a gondola.
Gondolas are, IMHO, the better alternative to cable cars or streetcars. They're even being considered as a solution to the problem of the Metro not going to Georgetown. And they are being used effectively already elsewhere. Why not here?
And thus brings to an end this week's travels of the landscape of things that could be in Columbia, but are not. I've raised a lot of specific ideas in Columbia, and there are other broad areas about which I haven't even addressed or barely scratched the surface.
None of these initiatives require technology that doesn't exist. Some of them are big lifts and require political will or resources that currently don't exist. But without planting the seed, nothing can grow.
And if one of these specific ideas ever become reality, to be, this will be a wild success. The greater point to make here is this: that there are many larger conversations with having in Columbia. And the current quality of the community conversation here is very low. The ideas very small. Clutching onto the familiar rather than seizing the opportunity to create.
Let's all be better as a community as we select leaders for our villagers this spring.
Let's be careful out there.