This morning I had to be up around six so that I could make it to Thurston Regional Planning Commission’s (TRPC) Transportation Policy Board Meeting. It was dark and chilly and the clouds didn’t want to let the sun rise. Jake picked me up at my apartment about 6:40. This was my first time seeing Jake drive. I was surprised by how fast he drives for someone who doesn’t regularly drive very often. I guess I thought of him as more of the slow-plodding driver because he doesn’t seem to be interested in driving. But maybe that’s the point: he’s trying to get out of the driver’s seat as quickly as possible.

The Transportation Board Meeting was very interesting. Before the meeting started the acting chairman introduced himself to us and asked who we were. I guess public meetings aren’t terribly public when they happen at 7:00 am. Everyone else in the room knew each other. As the meeting started the acting chairman announced that Jake and I were in the room and asked us to introduce ourselves. Then the meeting got down to business. I noticed they seemed to talk so loftily and progressively about what they’d like to see happen in the county. I wondered if they were talking this way for the Evergreen students studying sustainable transportation but later I realized that they can talk that way because the TRPC doesn’t really have any teeth to enact its recommendations. At some point during the meeting someone said that in retrospect it looked like the Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) had been allowed to be too big to be effective. Everyone in the room heartily agreed as though this was something they had all talked about many times before. The point is that if the UGAs were more restrictive there would be more dense development and less suburban-style sprawl. With denser development comes the ability to offer better public transit and more walkable neighborhoods. Of course, a mixture of uses (business, residential, institutional, light industrial, etc.) is also critical. Ecosystems achieve stability and resilience through the richness and complexity of their ecological webs. The greater their biodiversity, the more resilient they will be (Fritjof Capra).

After the meeting Jake dropped me off back at home so I could get ready for work. Unfortunately for my driving experiment, my girlfriend needed her car to get to her internship. Twice a week she drives up to Tacoma and in the afternoon over to Puyallup. This is to say I was unable to drive the seven-tenths of a mile up the hill to work. I had to hoof it, which is my normal mode when I’m not doing crazy transportation experiments. And you know what? It’s a pleasure to walk up that hill past all the blooming flowers. You might notice a rhododendron bush here or a few tulips there while driving, but I insist that flowers are best on foot.  

Once I was at the shop, it was just a matter of driving down to our facility by Capitol Lake again. It was still 1.3 miles and the journey still took about seven minutes. Traffic was “normal” (not too heavy, nor too light) and we were able to park on the street to unload the food. The free sixteen minute parking button on the parking meter was all we needed before parking the van in the back. After the job was over and we were done tidying up at the shop I walked back down the hill. You get such a nice view walking down 5th; you look out over downtown nestled between the Eastside and the Westside with the Back Hills rising up behind town. The view lasts longer on foot than in a car. 

In the evening my girlfriend and I went to go meet a friend for dinner downtown. At first parking looked like it was going to be a challenge but then a space opened half a block from the restaurant. Isn’t it terrible how impatient you can become when you can’t find a parking space where you want one to be? I start to panic: what will happen if I can’t find a parking space within two blocks of my destination?! Car culture can be so stressful!

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