Monday, May 16, 2005

Nova explodes.

I read a Washington Post article this morning about the commuter bus that brings workers into downtown DC from Front Royal, Virginia. (Front Royal is about 70 miles west of the city as the crow flies.) The bus leaves at 5:00 AM and takes about 90 minutes to get into DC. In the evening, it heads out just before rush hour starts in earnest, and usually gets them home by 6 PM after a 2-hour ride. Here's why these iron road warriors do it:

"Even if there were no bus, Coulliette and Wieck said, they would not move from what they describe as bucolic bliss. Wieck and her husband live on an eight-acre spread they bought for $99,000 three years ago, where a burbling creek lulls them to sleep and bears eat apples from their tree.

When Coulliette and his children moved to the area last year from Charleston, S.C., he searched for a place in Ashburn in Loudoun County. Then he found he could pay far less for a bigger home in the mountains near Front Royal. Now they have a house on an acre so wooded they can see neighbors' houses only in the winter, when trees are bare."

I live in the zoo--Fairfax County--that these people have to slog through every day. I live 7 miles from work. My morning commute takes 20 minutes and my evening commute takes 18 minutes (on good days). The bucolic bliss that they've described is available still in isolated pockets much closer to DC--Clifton, Vienna, Great Falls--but the prices reflect it.

Everyone wants what these people have, just without the commute. Part of me admires what they're doing, especially since they take the bus. That's 3.5 hours of reading, and not supporting ExxonSaudiBPChevBinLaden. I just hope their kids aren't paying the price. If you can get home by 6 every night you're probably okay.

What do you think?


At 1:41 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Where you live, how much you pay for it, and where you work are a good set of those interchangable options. It's hard to live where you want and have a good commute just like it's hard to live where you want, do what you want and get paid what you want.

There are people I know here who spend 4 hours a day driving to and from work. There are at least 3 of them, and they all come from the same place (Conifer), and none of them car-pool. It blows my mind. I don't care how idyllic your babbling brook is - if you spend all of your hours at home eating and sleeping, it doesn't seem like a fair trade to me.

We call the compromise suburbia, and for now I'll take it.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

As someone who has lived in both the zoo (Fairfax) and the rural backwater (Western Loudoun), I wanted to say a word about Charles’ post. Essentially, I think redhurt got it right: what is the point unless you have a lifestyle that can take full advantage of those surroundings. I hope, however, that I can raise the stakes a bit (even if in so doing I have to show my less-than-egalitarian hand). I would just say that this impulse to live in “bucolic bliss” without the means to preserve the very quality that was attractive in the first place is disturbing - especially in Virginia. When White, upwardly-mobile people make a bit of money (usually in or around DC), they feel it their reward to move to a less-urban setting. The trouble is, they haven’t amassed enough wealth to buy more than five or six acres(in this case it was eight acres, which means it is a case of “the new exurbs” as David Brooks would say, not suburbs - although the former may be even more destructive than the latter), thereby encouraging sprawl. This leads to hyper-sub- or ex-urbanization – the desire to leave behind the city, but not its comforts - coupled with a refusal to accept that they aren’t of the position in society whereby they are afforded the privilege of living anywhere but the city. The result is that the upwardly-mobile feel entitled to a “slice of the American dream,” only to ruin other’s American dream and a vibrant history all at the same time. The creation of suburbs or exurbs is destructive to both the Black wage earners that they hate enough to leave behind and the wealthy landowners who have self-consciously preserved a way of life that is now four centuries old. Maybe if people would accept their lot in life a bit better, what was rural and attractive could continue to be, maybe cities would be vibrant and diverse, and maybe the great wash of suburban homogeneity would rot. Or, maybe that’s just my hope.


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