Cars and Grand Canyon
made for each other

Sounding Board Editorial #5 (March 2, 2008)

Dennis Foster

     The park service has issued an Environmental Assessment for its transportation plans at the Grand Canyon.  The editorial in the paper was standard stuff, calling for a "world class" transit system for this "world class" site.  While I have opined on this at quite some length, and even authored a guest editorial on the park's current plan, I welcome the opportunity to spout off once again on this topic. The editorial ran on March 2.

I suppose that we all have our moments of fantasy, whether daydreaming of tooling around intergalactic space on the U.S.S. Enterprise, or plying oneís way along the rim of the Grand Canyon in a speedy, clean and efficient light rail system.  Alas, these idle notions really are just fantasies and are not likely to ever come true.  Well, not unless someone actually does discover the secrets of warp drive.  We can keep our fingers crossed on that score.

In the meantime, we will have to content ourselves with visiting the Grand Canyon by car, except for the 25 percent that come by bus or train.  How awful to have to use the lowly automobile!  Of course, when you really sit down to think about it, the automobile is probably the greatest invention ever made.  Sure, the internet is pretty cool, and so is not getting polio.  But, youíd be hard pressed not to at least include the automobile in the top five inventions of all time.  Hmm, I wonder where parking meters would fit on that list?

The funny thing about the Grand Canyon is that it isnít at all like Disneyland.  It isnít small and contained Ė it is larger than our smallest state!  And, most visitors travel to the park, not through the park.  Congestion and frustration with the infrastructure at the park is a signal to improve roads and parking, not a signal that hundreds of millions of dollars need to be spent on a train ride through nowhere.

Dennis Foster has a Ph.D. in economics, teaches at the university level and is an avid Grand Canyon hiker.

A couple of ancillary comments:

Parking meters.  This aside refers to the current issue of putting parking meters up in downtown Flagstaff, basically to deter employees from using up the spaces.  I wrote on that topic, in this venue, earlier.

The Disneyland comparison.  This is a funny one.  The Daily Sun editor has often argued that Disneyland is an appropriate model to follow at Grand Canyon.  As noted above, I disagree.  However, most of the environmentalists that immerse themselves in this issue would be appalled at this comparison.  Consequently, it strikes me that the newspaper's commentary on a mass transit system resonates with very few readers.  Also, officials at the park have said, for years, that they don't want to turn the Grand Canyon experience into one akin to Disneyland.

The train ride through nowhere.  My attempt to associate this with the famous "Bridge to Nowhere", in Alaska.

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