Metrolink is Southern California's regional rail system linking several counties. The 15-year old system with 7 lines, 54 stations, and 388 route miles serves over 40,000 passengers in the Southland. Metrolink says its mission is "to provide the people of Southern California safe, reliable and environmentally friendly commute option." Sure, but can it also serve as an interesting venue to host a 4-year old's birthday party?
One birthday boy in particular loves trains and is a fan of a popular TV series featuring trains. His mother told me that their family trips were often planned around using rail transit to get to destinations in Central and Southern California. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than to invite his friends -- accompanied by parents of course -- for a trip on a commuter train? Children that age are probably more used to birthday parties where they are entertained by clowns or magicians. Would these children, growing up in Southern California's car-centric culture be entertained at a party where the view through a train window was the main attraction?
The solution to so-called "automobile dependence" within the contemporary planning community is almost alway more mass transit: more trains and buses. But is this realistic, particualarly given current strategies and approaches to providing mass transit? Most investments in mass transit are patently unsustainable, requiring huge investments in capital and dramatic reductions in mobility (measured by travel time) to achieve ridership goals.
Proof of mass transit's unsustainability is obvious to anyone willing to look at it objectively:
In 1956 Pres. Dwight Eisenhower shepherded the Interstate Highway into existence, fulfilling a decades-long aspiration to link the nation with highways that could move both people and materiel as efficiently as those he had seen in Germany. Later, he would warn us against the military-industrial complex, but with a bit more foresight he might have warned against the asphalt-industrial complex, as well.