Car and Driver fired me. Editor Csabe Csere sat down in my kitchen and said he had to "let me go.” The magazine could no longer afford my services. No surprise there. Car and Driver had become a pale shadow of its former self. Like Detroit’s carmakers, Csere and his team had refused to recognize reality. The internet had arrived, the game changed, they didn’t. The magazine got thinner and thinner, making my paycheck seem fatter and fatter. I was sorry to see it go (the paycheck). But what the Hell. Here we are. Now what?
Now I’m ready to take a shot at making trouble on the net. I know some of you guys hate my ass because I occasionally shit on your beloved cars or make cracks about the Winston Cup or whatever. So if you don’t like my writing, stop reading. But if you stick around, I’ll tell you exactly what I think. And I’m ready to hear from you, love or hate. And yes, I’ll respond to what you write. What do you think this is, a magazine?
Let’s get one thing straight. I did not work with the original Henry Ford on the first Model T. Yeah, I’m old. But I’m still ready to kick some ass on this kick ass site. What you’re going to read ain’t going to be cute, proper or civil. That’s the way I like it. Always have. Some things never die– even if you want them to.
Like the private automobile. Despite becoming Public Enemy Number One for self-serving, self-appointed, sanctimonious “policy planners,” the automobile remains this country’s life-blood.
To be sure, anti-pollution standards have reduced choking emissions. Seat belts, airbags, crush zones, etc. have reduced death and injury. And hybrids make part of the process someone else’s combustion, somewhere else. But what’s so different today from when Daimler first did his thing? Traffic.
Every day of the year, millions of miles of American roads jam up with workers heading for their stores, factories and cubicles. Meanwhile, countless Mr. or Mrs. Moms clog-up the side streets in their cars, minivans, SUVs and CUVs; ferrying children, groceries, dry cleaning and God knows what from one side of their suburban sprawl to another.
We’re wasting millions upon millions of barrels of increasingly rare and expensive petroleum products doing fuck all.
Yes, I love cars. But like any person who likes to drive fast cars, I hate congestion. I don’t see the point. So what’s the alternative?
Mass transit is a pipe dream. Outside of New York City and Chicago, there are no truly effective rail systems. After a flurry of high speed rail hype, both Washington and private investors have lost interest in commuter rail. Buses only serve a small percentage of the population. Bicycling? You’re kidding, right?
Moreover, as car-friendly suburbs spread like kudzu, there are no simple routes linking the geography of nowhere to center cities– never mind with each other. And we keep building these damn communities; “suburbs” where the disturbing lack of sidewalks mirrors the distressing lack of rail connections.
Despite the understandable anger of the environmentalists, there is no substitute for the millions of private vehicles rolling across our nation. The plain truth is that “the people” aren’t interested. The most they’ll consider is telecommuting– but only a day or two per week. They like their co-workers. They like their cars. Congestion is nothing more than background noise to their everyday life.
Yes, the automobile of today is safer and more efficient, available in every size and shape, from tiny smarts to stupid limousines. But the same basic old world engineering sits under the slick bodywork. It’s like the weather; everyone complains, but no one does anything about it.
So Americans continue to lead the way into a dark future of more emissions, oil use and wasted time. And here comes the third world, as India, China and other Tiger nations of the Far East start producing millions of private cars for a wildly eager population.
I have messed around for much of my adult life with these machines called “automobiles.” Like many car nuts, I too wish we could reduce the traffic and create communities around industries and commercial areas where populations could walk or use public transit.
But quite the opposite has happened– is happening. Industries are moving away from major cities, forcing workers to use private cars for work and their children’s education and economic survival.
And so it goes– until the underlying economics of private transportation changes. And then someone, somehow, will provide a solution. But until that day arrives, the world’s most powerful economies will be saddled with the private automobile, whether they like it or not. As my experience with Car and Driver taught me, nothing ever changes– until it has to.
Brock Yates' column appears on www.ttac.com every Monday.
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