Sunday, February 08, 2009

Greetings from the Venetian causeway

When the Sheila and I travel, we do it in style. And so we decided to take a few days off in Venice. Not, not Venice, Italy. Not even Venice, California. We're actually in Venice, Florida, which is on something called "the Sun Coast" by the local tourism authority (ie the gulf coast roughly between Tampa and Fort Myers) and happens to be the subject of George Packer's devastating article called "The Ponzi State" in The New Yorker. It's a great if depressing read.

As readers of this blog know, I'm interested in public-transportation issues, especially when I travel. And this bit of Florida is a vivid, terrifying illustration of sprawl gone wild, where cars are necessary for just about everything. And everybody here seems to go for gas-guzzling SUVs, which doesn't help. It took us what felt like forever to drive down from Tampa to Venice on US 41, which looked more scenic than I-75 but turned out to be a traffic nightmare (on a Saturday afternoon) and an uninterrupted parade of strip malls and car dealerships with overflowing lots. This snake is biting its own tail, clearly. The only public transportation we could see consisted of the appealingly named SCAT (Sarasota County Area Transit) buses, which seem to carry only the darker-skinned people trimming hedges and working in drugstores. This all makes Los Angeles look really advanced. Packer quotes some local people who seem to realize the necessity of improving local transportation, including Tampa's mayor, but from here, the task looks positively herculean.

Venice itself is charming and actually quite walkable, so that's what we did today, saving the trip to the Smugglers' Cove Miniature Golf (which the Sheila is dreading, but nothing can keep me away from a putt-putt experience) for tomorrow.

1 comment:

Mason said...

I'm originally from Dallas and, while it doesn't sound as public-transport-challenged as Venice, FL, it's always a shock going back there after living in NYC.

It has been really informative reading your blog the last couple of months for me... Thanks for being the curator of my NY cultural life! Looking forward to your voice in the Post!