Saturday, May 1, 2010

Alliance with Auto Addicts?

Wired ran a great post entitled "Why Progressive Transportation Policies are Good for Gearheads" back on Earth Day. I think they make a fantastic point, and wanted to share the article with you.

I see no problem with driving for recreation. Hell, I enjoy a good drive up a windy, deserted mountain road as much as the next guy- especially if I can wheedle my mum's car keys away from her. (Subaru Impreza STI...) Nobody in the transit advocacy world is trying to take away the thrill of a good drive on the weekend.

What we do want to do away with is the dull, traffic-choked commute the other 5 days a week, and really, who's going to argue with that? I'm all for a world in which automobiles are unashamedly souped-up toys, built for the express purpose of having fun tearing around remote roadways in the drivers' free time. Good transit networks actually promote that- by reducing traffic congestion, and reducing the amount that drivers have to pay for gasoline and maintenance just to get through the daily grind. Most people would find that they can afford to buy a much nicer, much more impractical automobile if they only drive it when they want to drive it. (Also, Zipcars are pretty awesome for such impromptu trips, though Riverside doesn't have any sporty Zipcars yet.) A transit-rich world will be a better one for the driver and non-driver alike because, let's be honest, who actually *enjoys* driving around town and on traffic-clogged freeways?

UPDATE: Hey there Streetsblog network! Thanks for stopping by!


Chewie said...

It is good conciliatory rhetoric, and the kind of message that would probably be most likely to appeal to a broad range of people.

But to make a "cars are okay if we don't use them for everything" argument, you really have to start getting into fuel economy, road safety, and parking policy.

I will always have a problem with cars as long as they contribute to air pollution, gobble excessive land for parking, and endanger other road users.

So even if I can concede that cars are useful for some things, especially moving around a rural area, I still want efficiency, cleaner energy sources (not to mention lower life cycle production/disposal impacts), safe road environments, and priced parking.

JN said...


On this one, we disagree. I don't have a serious problem with recreational driving in the same way I don't have a serious problem with snowmobiles or jet skis. The small subset of the population that engages in the relevant activity, and the relatively little use that these sorts of vehicles see, make their contribution to pollution and global warming of much less concern.

I think that the majority of Americans aren't car-lovers. I think that, if most people were afforded convenient mobility through an extensive transit network, they'd never drive again. However, the small subset of the population that really, really loves their cars- the guys who change their own oil, tweak their own fuel/air mixtures, own their own engine computer transponders and truly enjoy driving for the sake of driving- have the potential to cause serious problems for transit advocates.

I don't think "cars are okay if we don't use them for everything." I think cars are okay if we let the tiny subset of the population that truly enjoys them use them, and even then make it so they only need use them for recreation- much like many racing cyclists now use their bikes, but backwards. The reduction in absolute number of cars, and the reduction in the trips that the few remaining cars would take, would pretty much negate the unpleasant impact on the environment that they have.