Elitist bottleneck (or “How Lynchburg sees us”)

Check out this editorial from the Lynchburg News Advance. If it doesn’t make you feel shocked by the yawning divide between the Charlottesville bubble and most of the rest of Virginia, you either commute from outer Fluvanna or you’re a tougher bird than I am.

It’s one of those conversations that happens on two completely separate planes, simultaneously. On one plane, you have Charlottesville transportation planners, attempting to avoid the construction of a Western Bypass around 29N. On the other plane, you have Lynchburg and other Southside cities practically screaming for improved traffic flow between their towns and Northern Virginia.

What’s interesting to me is how dismissive this editorial is of mass transit as a potential solution to traffic on the stretch of 29 north of Charlottesville. "Mass transit improvements are a worthy goal in overall transportation planning, but how will they help the business traveler driving from Danville to Northern Virginia?" it asks. "How will they help the truck driver trying to get his goods from Greensboro, N.C., to Gainesville? They won’t."

True, but they would certainly help those of us who live and work around Charlottesville and need to make lots of short trips up and down that "bottleneck" stretch of 29. Remove a chunk of that local traffic, and you ease the situation for through-travelers. I imagine that’s part of what the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), our local transportation body, is thinking when it tries to move mass transit forward and resists calls by the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce for Governor Kaine to replace the MPO with a more bypass-friendly group.

It’s a political fight, for sure, but it’s part of the culture wars too. "Mass transit" is one of those terms, like "diplomacy," that sounds lovely to some people and impossibly naive to others. I think it’s a shame how these issues become so divisive.

What do you think, readers? Are you itching for a bypass, or pining for light rail?

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