Thursday, February 23, 2006

Carfree? Are you nuts?

The Weekly Standard, a cauldron of American right-wing blather, hates the idea of going car free.

They seem absolutely incensed that anyone in the United States would imagine a world beyond the personal automobile. What we see is a lack of imagination that our cities could ever be organized in a way that does not include the strip-malls and parking lots of today's American landscape.

Here is a sample of their breathless rhetoric...

Families rely on cars for many of the same reasons working class people do. Families have dozens of short errands that require a "trip-chain": that is, a trip to drop off the kids at daycare might also include a trip to the drycleaners, a trip to the bank, and a trip to the grocery store. No transit schedule can accommodate these needs. Nor can carpooling.

We wear this article as a badge of honor. Upsetting the close-minded is the job of visionaries, eh?

What do you think?


Off the Grid said...

See, here's my situation: I don't live in a city; I'm rural, and i prefer to stay that way. I would gladly give up my car for a good transit system, but it's never going to happen. I can't even get dsl! It sucks having to run a car, a terrible waste of money and resources, but I simply don't have a choice but to own one.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, aside from some utopian fantasy in which an electric shuttle whips through the community every 60 minutes, do I get to keep my car?

Because it I didn't, it looks like I'd have to move. I'd hate living in a city for many different reasons that I won't go into here.

Brian said...

Rural people may need cars for quite a while. But innovative solutions do exist. In Sweden, one can take the inter-city rail to hundreds of local stations, and then proceed to a bus that delivers people to neighborhoods far from cities. Each of the transit stations has shops and farmer’s markets at the station so getting groceries and then walking them home or riding a bike with baskets is easy.

In the USA, living carfree in rural areas is indeed difficult. But for the most part, this movement is about redesigning cities so urban people can retire their vehicles and life a life free of the stress and expense of private car ownership.

Thanks for your comment.

Chaplain Longstocking said...

yawn. the main argument that this Weekly Standard author uses to prove her point is old, tired, and baseless: namely, that people who care about the livability of our cities and the survival of the planet are elitist snobs whose main purpose is to implement state communism and deprive the "common man" of mobility and choice. this thinly veiled red-baiting is a lot of bunk. we're not talking here about confiscating anyone's internal combustion vehicle; we're talking about creating viable alternatives to pollution, congestion, and alienation.

one of the WS author's main arguments in favor of unchecked car sprawl is that "Europeans seem to like their cars as much as Americans do." try telling that to Londoners, who recently implemented congestion pricing in their inner-city core. these smart folks realized that the key to reducing traffic wasn't to raze historic buildings and create more roadways, but to create practical incentives for alternative transportation. far from being the "political suicide" that some expected, it's been a great success. congestion is way down, public transit use is way up, and businesses haven't been adversely affected. (see the San Fransisco Bicycle Coalition's newsletter at the charge raises funds to improve the city's transportation system. and those with disabilities, alternative fuel vehicles, bikes, taxis, and public service vehicles are exempt from the charge.

and if you want to argue economics, hasn't this WS author ever heard of diminishing returns? sure, the car is helpful, and in our current situation is sometimes necessary. but how does that translate into more cars=better lives? the "choice" that the WS author gives us - between car dependency and social and economic immobility - is a false one. the antidote is a little creativity.

ultimately, it's just sad that this WS author lacks the imagination to envision anything other than Concrete Nation.