Preface to "Interview with the Commuter"

by Ann Rude.

The commuters are the people who live outside the city, but buzz back and forth repeatedly, weekdays, weekends, weeknights, weekend nights, (bees, with car phones instead of antennas), spewing air pollutants all along the way, sending noise decibels to others who didn't request them, "changing" the countryside, and "changing" Madison and its neighborhoods as well, everyday, every week, for the worse. Making Madison more and more unsafe for children and adults alike. More polluted, more congested, less livable.

We need to face the facts: these are the folks who already chose NOT to bike, bus, walk or roller blade to work. They started the problem when they decided, innocently enough, to live out in the country, but still hold on to their job (or jobs) in the city. They don't mind driving everywhere they go, as long as they can continue to have their houses in the county, and all the benefits that go with that. They may work here, but that's it. They chose (and still choose) to live elsewhere, and, unfortunately for city residents, they don't pay their way here any longer, even though they are taking advantage of, and using, City of Madison property and other resources during the work week and other times they need or want to come here. More folks are joining them, everyday. The statistics clearly show it.

I don't need to say much about why these folks choose to live and work miles and miles apart. They may believe it cost less for them to live in the country (they are probably right). The air is fresher out there (at least for now). Its quieter out there (not always, but usually), you can see the stars better (if you ever get out of your car, or maybe you have a car (or SOV?) with a skylight), there is more privacy, and there is not so much traffic.

To tell you the truth, I believe it will take much, much more than "information and persuasion" to turn things around.

These are the folks who buzz through our city, some saying: "get the [ ] out of my way you fool headed bicyclist", or "get off the road you idiot", or [you fill in this one]. They are the folks who complain about Madison's parking "problem" and Madison's congested (by whom?) city roads and streets, and Madison's crime, poverty, and mental illness problems. [The city deals with these problems, in its school system, its hospitals, its police force, its transportation budget, and its property tax system.]

On to the Interview .