At Crosscut, environmentalist Roger Valdez fleshes out an objection to Gov. Chris Gregoire's statement to the New York Times that we raised in Fizz yesterday: The notion that not building a freeway on the tunnel constitutes objectionable "social engineering" ignores the decades of social engineering that made it easy and cheap to drive everywhere. (Gregoire said that failing to build the tunnel would be tantamount to "telling people you no longer can ride in your car.")

Noting that "social engineering" traditionally has meant applying the principles of science to societal problems, Valdez argues that Gregoire and other tunnel proponents are engaged in a social-engineering experiment that's just as significant as tearing down the viaduct and not replacing it:
Washington is already engaged in a massive social-engineering project called the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project. It provides incentives to drive rather than take transit, and it channels billions of scarce resources into a highway transportation solution that, based on the governor's own policies, should be the last option. Whether she likes social engineering or not, the governor's stubborn support of the tunnel still picks winners and losers. The winners are people riding in their cars, and the losers are the taxpayers of Seattle — and the planet.

To quote from a short piece I wrote several years ago, titled "Social engineering is the taxes I pay so you can drive," what really constitutes social engineering is
Building, maintaining, and operating roads for cars, building housing far away from jobs, allowing people to pollute the air at will, subsidizing the burden that pollution creates on the health-care system, taxing people to pay for traffic surveillance, putting taxes into road maintenance instead of other priorities, permitting noise pollution, neglecting sidewalks, bike paths, and transit, and allowing continued dependence on foreign energy sources.

Those who cry "social engineering" at the first proposal that might inconvenience people who drive their cars everywhere neglect to mention---or notice---the social engineering that led to things like freeways and suburbs and cheap parking spaces and mandated parking minimums and streets without sidewalks and cul-de-sacs and big-box stores. In their view, a car-dependent society is the natural order of things. But it's not---no more than tearing down a massive freeway that has cut the city off from its waterfront for half a century.
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