All I Am Saying Is Please Stop Saying This Saying, Now

“the perfect is the enemy of the good”. Sounds great, right? But recently, this has been most heavily applied to:

1. The Nueces/Rio Grande “Bike Boulevard” project, in which the infrastructure proposed will make automobile traffic skyrocket.
2. The Red Line, which is carrying a few hundred people a day and actually prevents light rail from being built in the one corridor which every other city in the country would be using to carry tens of thousands of people a day.

In the past, it’s been applied to situations like Shoal Creek, too. Other flavors commonly applied are “this is a good start” or “you have to start somewhere”.

Folks, I’m not even going to link the voluminous reams of reportage I’ve done over the years on the Red Line and the Shoal Creek Debacle – check the category links on the right from the main page. This is more of a general complaint: not everything you do is progress. It might seem obvious, but frankly, that’s the only reason that’s logical that so many people have pulled out these stupid sayings for the three disasters above.

Let’s look at this another way. Suppose your goal is to drive a delivery truck to New York City. Assume you’re not incredibly familiar with Texas roads – so you just decide to wing it. If you drive to Houston, have you made progress towards New York? Sure. If you drive to Dallas, have you made progress to New York? Sure. Both those directions are generally towards New York (not perfectly, but you end up closer than you started). Not perfect, but progress, right?

Now how about if you drive to El Paso? Are you closer to New York now? You did something. You moved the truck quite a bit. Even though it wasn’t perfect. Have you made progress? Well, as long as we define “doing anything” as “progress”, you have, but this is kind of stupid, right?

That analogy matches both the Nueces/Rio Grande debacle and the old Shoal Creek debacle. We went the wrong way, but we can recover – although all of the investment in going the wrong way was a waste. The Red Line, of course, is even worse. What if you drive your delivery truck to Arizona and then it breaks down in the middle of the desert? Are you closer to New York now? Are you in serious danger of never making it to New York? Well, you had to start somewhere, right? Why not drive out into the desert – that’s somewhere, isn’t it? You made progress. Sure, not only are you very far away from where you started in the ‘wrong’ direction, you’re likely going to have to buy a new truck. And you might die. But you moved – that was progress, right?
Capital Metro's Red Line - Phase 3
(image by mlhradio on flickr)

In my observation during my ninety-eight years on the Internet, exactly 99.4% of the time when people use either “the perfect is the enemy of the good” or “you have to start somewhere”, they either have no idea what the hell they’re talking about, or have a completely different goal in mind than you do – and are trying to make you think otherwise.

For instance, Capital Metro doesn’t care about delivering rail service to Austinites – they care about their survival as an agency and employees of such. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pushing so hard to continue developing commuter rail at the expense of urban rail that actually serves more of their constituents (whose elected officials have had no interest in holding their feet to the fire).

The Enb. (Yes, I’m busy).