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The Daily Wildcat

79° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Mailbag: Oct. 4

This is in regard to Andrew Shepherd’s article on Tucson driving printed Sept. 28.

I couldn’t tell if your opinion piece on Tucson driving was satire or a real expression of what you feel. If it was satire I missed the wink and grin to let me know. If not … where to start?

Firstly, don’t refer to yourself as an environmentalist. It’s offensive. That’s like writing 500 words on why Fuddruckers is awesome and casually mentioning halfway through that you are a vegetarian. Being an environmentalist and writing phrases like “”evil Sun Tran”” can’t coexist.

Tucson doesn’t have traffic problems any worse than most other comparable cities. Where else have you lived that makes you think it’s bad here? What Tucson doesn’t have is a major system of limited access highways that let you zip around the city at 70 mph. That is a good thing. Pick up the excellent book “”Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do”” by Tom Vanderbilt, in which he demonstrates why additional roads always generate extra traffic to fill them. Imagine there was a beltway-style highway around Tucson. You would find yourself driving 25 miles to Krispy Kreme for a doughnut because it just doesn’t feel that far at 70 mph. Instant traffic ensues.

The secondary effect is worse. In such a city, new stores all locate on the periphery of the city where land is cheap and possibly outside the city limits so taxes are lower. Wait 25 years and there is no store within walking or biking distance from where you live. Life requires a car for even the smallest purchase.  

The major beef of your point is that the design of Tucson streets makes it frustrating for you to drive. I suppose that implies more frustrations would make you more likely to combine trips, take the bus or walk. As an environmentalist, you would agree any of those options are better. So what you really want deep down is more crosswalks, more busses and slower drivers. Since you are an environmentalist yourself, I dare you to refute that logic.

I agree with you on the potholes. They are a nuisance. Of the major cities I’ve lived in, Tucson has the bumpiest roads. Ironically, I think this stems from the lack of major highways. No major highways means all trips get taken on surface streets. There seems to be a boatload of federal money to build interstate-type roads, but the major source of funding for city streets is property taxes. Tucson has successfully avoided incorporating most new housing developments in the city limits, so don’t look for the tax base to grow much soon.

Finally, the speed issue; the most irksome thing about Tucson driving is people who drive under the speed limit. On Fifth Street, the speed limit is posted at 30 mph. This is an UPPER limit on the legal speed, not a lower one. That is, 32 mph = illegal, while 28 mph = legal. I did not realize this for many years after I got a driver’s license. You may be aware that close to 40,000 Americans die in automobile accidents every year. Driving faster than is appropriate is listed as a factor in about half of these cases. The posted speed limit represents the fastest speed deemed safe under IDEAL conditions. I occasionally drive slower than the maximum because sometimes I deem the situation unsafe. This could be sun glare, an erratic driver in front of me, kids playing near street, etc. If you see someone driving under the speed limit, take a clue and look around to figure out why.

Daniel Cormode, physics graduate student

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