Wow. Six months after I started this thing, I have reached post #100. Not that there is anything particularly significant about that. It is not as significant, for example, as the point that I will eventually reach at some stage in the (distant) future where the database space allocated to Paste Magazine is all used up, and I have to stump up the cash for some more storage space (or find a different service provider).
It is a nice round number, however, and it’s rather like the fact that there’s nothing particularly significant about reaching, say, the year 2000, given the way the Gregorian Calendar came about, apart from the fact that all the numbers change, you have to get new chequebooks that don’t have 19 pre-printed on them, and the media spend months convincing impressionable Americans in the mid-west that they need to stock up on duct tape in case the computers all self-destruct the moment the clocks change. Anyway, to mark the occasion, I think it’s time for a good, old-fashioned, rant.
I have the vaguest memory, way back in the distant past that was the 1980s, of watching Ben Elton’s TV show (this when he was still “cool”, before Maybe Baby and all those shabby musicals). For some reason I remember only two of his routines, and they’re both about transport (I wonder if this reveals something deeply wrong with my psychological make-up; the inner trainspotter clambering to get out, perhaps).
One routine was the “double seat, double seat, got to get a double seat” running-for-the-train one (for some reason, thanks to this early childhood memory, I still think (adopt Ben Elton voice) “why do they put them on here, they are completely empty” every time I walk past the first class carriages at a mainline station to get to standard class).
The other routine I remember was a response to some new Tory road building initiative. It was quite a well thought out piece that used a metaphor that was something to do with rubbish bins that ultimately made the point that you can widen the roads all you like, but it doesn’t solve the problem. In the end, you just end up with a jammed 6-lane carriageway instead of a jammed 3-lane one.
Unsurprisingly, it looks like he might have been right, with the announcement of a £7BN road-widening scheme to tackle congestion. It’s all very well trying to appease the road lobby with this kind of stuff, but people have to understand that it’s never actually going to solve the transport problem. Like Ben said all those years ago, you just end up with a road twice as big that’s jammed with traffic. Alistair Darling even admits that it is “only a temporary solution”, although he seems quite happy to spend the money anyway, even though the roads are probably going to be totally congested again before they are even finished.
So why not put that £7BN towards improving the shocking state of the public transport network, and actually try to make some kind of long term difference to the underlying problems of the UK’s transport infrastructure? Perhaps if public transport actually represented a real alternative form of transport that was quick, comfortable and efficient, as well as being better for the environment, you might actually be able to convince people to leave their precious cars at home and use it. Maybe then we wouldn’t have to go throwing our weight around in the Middle East quite so much in an attempt to keep the oil going for a few more years. If we carry on like this, though, we are going to run out very soon.
And then we really will be going nowhere.