Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Interstates, freeways, and failed towns

Urban decay in Meridian, MS
I started walking from the Meridian train station towards my hotel, following Google Map suggestions. I was almost there I thought. I even saw the destination! But a problem. Between me and the hotel was I-20/I-59 interstate with no underpass, bridge, or an alternative way to cross. I had to call an Uber just to cross this street. I came to the conclusion that these Interstate roads and freeways are the new rivers. Rivers used to be the major transportation medium to travel inland. But rivers also segment a village, or naturally become the border of a village. Now, these freeways and interstates are doing the same. You drive fast on them. But they segment an otherwise decent town.

Most of the US cities have notoriously horrible public transport. I can walk a long distance in flat lands, especially when I am not in a high elevation (I am not acclimatized to elevation). 18 km is my usual weekend walk. Now, what irritates me is, USA does not have a public transport in many towns such as Meridian - but it also has ruined those towns - making them impossible to walk, by segmenting them with streets that cannot be crossed by pedestrians. My hotel was surrounded by I-20/I-59 and MS19. None of them had a way to cross. Essentially it felt like living in an island. Even Google Maps was suggesting me to cross the I-20 by feet to reach the hotel. Apparently, Google wants me killed by speeding vehicles or arrested for jaywalking in a major interstate. How did even these locals agree to let an interstate ruin their town like this? I get it everyone drives in the USA. But isn't walkability an important feature of a town? It is dystopian. As an animal, humans should be able to walk and run freely, without relying on vehicles for everything. Driving just to cross the street or go to a shop a few meters to a couple of kilometers away - isn't it sad?

Meridian was a textbook example of a failed down. Almost everything was decaying there. The two Uber drivers (yes, had to get them just because I cannot cross the I-20 between my hotel and the train station) - both told me there is nothing actually to do in their town, "Sorry, I don't think we have much to see. Maybe go hike Bonita Lakes Park." But they were happy that other notable cities (such as New Orleans) are a quick drive from there!

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