Sunday, December 11, 2011

Losing Bill Fulton to D.C.

It's not often that I see an LA Times story about someone I know. So when I saw this one about William Fulton, it definitely caught my attention. We're not BFFs or anything like that, but I did take one of his classes at USC, for the Master of Planning degree, and it was definitely one of my favorites. The class was called "Smart Growth and Urban Sprawl: Policy Debates and Planning Solutions". Although I'd say Fulton is generally in favor of the kinds of land use policy I advocate for here, he was also willing to bring dissenting (i.e. pro-sprawl) views into the course, which made it that much more intellectually rich. One of his books, The Regional City, co-written with Peter Calthorpe, is also on my list of top 5 favorite planning books (see my profile for this blog).

As the article explains, Fulton has a medical condition that is eroding his sight. This has made it difficult for him to live his daily life as mayor of the City of Ventura, CA, which does involve some driving. He has decided to move to Washington D.C., where he has taken a job with Smart Growth America, a great advocacy and technical assistance organization that I also happen to give money to. DC's robust transit system will allow him to live a "normal life" without a car. In Washington DC 38.3% of workers went to work on transit. In the City of Los Angeles the figure is 11.2% according to the 2010 American Community Survey (1-year estimates).

It's kind of a sad indictment of the state of transit in Southern California that we would lose a guy like Fulton, who has written so much so well about our area, to Washington DC. But I have to admit, compared to the DC Metro, which I once had the privilege to ride, no system in Southern California comes close for citywide coverage and being able to live that "normal life" without a car. At least, not yet.

Many people face disabilities during their lifetimes, certainly as they reach their golden years. It is critically important for quality transit to be there to give people that independent "normal life", not just in a handful of American cities, but in all of them. Dignity should not depend on a set of car keys.

1 comment:

  1. " Dignity should not depend on a set of car keys." Great line.