Magazine article E Magazine

Stranded in the Suburbs

Magazine article E Magazine

Stranded in the Suburbs

Article excerpt

At Connecticut's Weston High School, in a small town where cars rule and pedestrians are in danger, the most important rite of passage is getting a driver's license. "Having wheels" in Weston, as in many other suburban towns, means freedom from dependence on the dreaded soccer mom.

Weston's two-acre zoning, paired with a near-total absence of public transit, results in an inefficient series of residential cul-de-sacs with three-car family garages. Despite proximity to commuter rail run by Metro North, most commuters drive to work, citing a lack of parking at train stations. Longtime residents are frustrated by the increasing gridlock. "The congestion gets worse every year," says Remy Chevalier, a longtime Weston resident and an editor of Electrifying Times magazine.

A Weston entrepreneur, who asked not to be named, is interested in running a private shuttle between residents' homes and the commuter train station, citing the environmental and economic benefits of carpooling, which dropped from 13.2 percent of the U.S. commuting public in 1990 to 11.2 percent in 2000. "I'm not looking for the town to subsidize this," he says, adding that politics have crippled previous efforts by residents to tackle the suburb's transportation problem. In the late 1970s, Chevalier envisioned shuttle bus stops at the town center and the beach. "It was a simple idea, requiring minimal funding, that town officials complicated into impossibility," remembers Chevalier.

Weston is hardly unique in its transportation standstill. "Traffic congestion in small towns across America is increasing 11 percent per year--twice the rate in urban areas," says a spokesperson for the American Public Transit Association (APTA), citing the significance of city-to-suburb corporate relocation in the last 50 years. …

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