By on January 30, 2008

traffic_jam221.jpgCar 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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201 Comments on “Brock Yates: Traffic. Deal With It....”


  • avatar

    I’m honored to be one of the first readers to say, welcome aboard, Mr. Yates. I’ve been an avid reader of Car and Driver and your column for as long as I can remember and it’s good to have you “back.” I wonder: how far will the corn ethanol hullabaloo go on before the realization that it solves nothing catches on?

  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    Welcome aboard, Brock. I look forward to your thoughts. Apparently we agree on a lot so far. 

  • avatar
    pb35

    Let me be the first to say Welcome, Mr. Yates. We missed you.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Damn.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Welcome to TTAC!

    And non, I didn’t know you before. Got into cars and car mags just as C&D was sinking low, so I never really read it (that was 4 years ago).

    As you correctly point out, the car is not the culprit in all those choke-inducing pollution fumes we endure. The people are (duh!).
    As far as I’m concerned, we could very do with far less suburbs, and communities built around actual train stations, or at least having more apartments, less lawns, and less strip-malls.
    This is not the way America has chosen for itself. It prefers “communities” (if we can call suburbs that, given the disturbing lack of social communication and support, beside kids’ birthday parties where moms get to see what it takes to keep up with the Joneses) based on 5br houses for families of 4.

    As for traffic, there always are solutions. I have an agreement with my boss: I’m at work at 7:30 and leave either at 4:30 or after 6pm. 20mn of commuting. Should I leave during rush hour, it would be 45mn. And that way, I burn less of that precious dino juice idling in traffic. But shh, don’t tell the secret, other people may find out.

  • avatar

    Double damn.

    Welcome Brock. Good stuff.

    Watched a two hour show on the History channel last night entitled “Crude”. Scary stuff. Especially if “peak oil” is already behind us. This could get very costly….very quickly. Supply and Demand, aka Mother Econ, doesn’t care whether or not you believe climate change is caused by man or not. No more oil means no more oil. Double scary stuff.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Good to read you again Mr. Yates. Just yesterday I noted how thin the latest issue of C/D is and how Csabe’s full column tribute to Pat Bedard makes your ungracious exit that much more appalling.

  • avatar

    Welcome, Welcome. Have read your columns for along time and almost always agreed with you. With regard to traffic, look at old pic on New York from the late 1880s on and you see traffic, with horses and horse shit everywhere. The more things change the more they stay the same (except for all the horse shit).

  • avatar
    Matthew Neundorf

    Mr. Yates,

    Welcome to the fold sir. A pleasure to have you here, piss, vinegar et al.

  • avatar
    rheath2

    Man, have I missed your stuff Mr. Yates. I’m looking forward to many more articles on here.

  • avatar

    C&D has less and less to offer.

    Every edition is the same. Here’s the last one, the current one and the next one in a nutshell:

    Pollution control and mileage improvements are for pussies, safety measures are nanny-state Big Brotherism, and boy does that new German car have the grunt to go like stink in the twisties.

    Every freakin’ month, the same crap. A bunch of crabby old men trying to impress each other with their labored writerliness.

    C&D and the other mags have the smell o’ death. TTAC and Autoblog are breaths of fresh air.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Mr. Yates -

    Welcome! I look forward to your material – it is sad what’s happened to Car & Driver, but TTAC fills the void for me.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Welcome aboard, Dude. You won’t likely become a millionaire writing here but it’s a very entertaining place.

    If it’s traffic you hate, move to a small city in Central or upstate New York. They built good freeways years ago and then the morons in Albany stopped any growth from happening. 20 miles to work? How does 20 minutes sound? Just don’t look for any new buildings.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    Welcome Mr Yates! I had the fortune to see you at a couple One Lap of America events in Tulsa 5 or 6 years ago, the diablo on the dirt track was something I’ll never forget.

    I’m hoping the One Lap event is still yours, and will be continuing?

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Welcome back to The Assassin!

    As a 25-year C&D subscriber, thier shabby treatment of one of the best commentators out there was the final straw. When my subscription runs out, they’re done.

    Good to have you aboard. Keep the piss and vineger coming.

    Even when you piss on Formula One. Which reminds me, what do you make of the latest shenanigans?

  • avatar
    tdoyle

    The year 2008 just got a lot better…

    C&D is still my favorite car rag, winning out over the other Ann Arbor pub years ago.

    But I let my C&D sub run out awhile back because the breadth of information and entertainment from the paper rags just isn’t there anymore.

    Brock, we love you man!

  • avatar

    Welcome Mr. Yates, good to have you here… looking forward to reading more.

    Note the photo chosen to illustrate this bit is my daily Nemesis: Interstate 5 here in the Puget Sound region. Sigh.

    –chuck goolsbee
    arlington, wa, usa

  • avatar
    geeber

    Welcome, Mr. Yates. I look forward to your contributions.

    I still have my copy of your 1983 book, The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry.

    The scary part is that most of it is just as applicable to what’s left of the Big Three today as it was 25 years ago.

  • avatar
    Brock Yates

    Thank you for all your comments. I am looking forward to writing for TTAC. Keep the comments coming, whether you love or hate me. Either way you'll be hearing more from me on this site.

  • avatar
    Brock Yates

    Hey tulsa_97sr5, the One Lap of America still belongs to me. You can check out our website at http://www.onelapofamerica.com. Come along if you’d like, it’s great fun.

  • avatar
    Billy215

    Cannonball!!!!!!

    Welcome! Glad to read you again.

  • avatar
    dougw

    Well, Mr. Yates, it appears that you have found a new venue for your narrow-minded and Cro-Magnon diatri………JUST KIDDING! I figured you were getting glazed eyes from all the lovefest comments so far.

    Great to see your current thoughts on a regular basis. Exciting development for TTAC. I hope you enjoy the process as much as we will.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Mr. Yates:

    I may not have always agreed with your articles, but I did enjoy reading them and they are missed.

    I had just renewed my Car & Driver subscription a few months before your “retirement”. Thankfully, my subscription ends in a few more months and it will not be renewed.

    I’ll keep checking in to read your comments, even if I do or do not agee.

  • avatar

    Glad to see you on-line. Great start and will be a great year. Keep ‘em coming

  • avatar
    Steve_K

    Is there any way I can get C&D to stop sending me magazines? I haven’t paid for a subscription in quite a while…

    Welcome, Mr. Yates.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The author complains that our cities are badly designed and so we really need to drive cars all the time. There is an easy solution to that. Jack up the gas prices to 5-6/gallon and those distant suburbs will suddenly become less attractive to a whole lot people. There will be a strong demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods, like the inner cities, and for good public transportation systems. Cheap gas and cars have more or less destroyed America’s cities. In many sprawled out cities, like San Antonio, TX, you need to drive like 3 miles to buy a damn cup of coffee or a soda six pack. If you want to walk fine, but there won’t be even a sidewalk, and that’s well within city limits! That’s not the way things really should be.

  • avatar

    Brock,

    Welcome. Loved your column in th Wash Post Mag. I think I protested when they dropped you. I don’t agree much with your politics. I’m a dem, and I wear Birkenstocks. (But so did Ariel Sharon.) But I love internal combustion. I don’t want to own a Prion, I want a Porsche.

    As for traffic, the US needs a population policy–stabilize it. Otherwise, any efforts we make on behalf of the environment–including the driving environment–are going to be running in place at best. We’re growing by roughly four New Jerseys a decade; we’re projected to grow 50% in the next 50 years, 2/3s of that due to mass immigration, and unless that’s stopped, the roads are going to be increasingly sclerotic. But it’s not PC to worry about population.

    I hope you’ll check out my website, motorlegends.com, where you can see the world’s only menorah made out of Porsche valves, and find out about Richard Nixon’s biggest mistake (had to do with LBJ’s Buick, “Hannibal.”

    Best, –David

  • avatar
    SWA737

    Brock,

    Welcome aboard!

    Like many other readers of this site, I’ve been a fan of yours since I was too young to drive. And like many of them, I’ve also been disappointed with the direction the paper car magazines have taken of late.

    The only paper ‘enthusiast’ publications I still pay for are a few airplane and fishing ones.

    Looking forward to more from you on TTAC.

  • avatar
    coupdetat

    Meh. Far-flung suburbs are on their way out. I’m willing to bet within a generation or two, walkable cities will be back because of lifestyle and resource issues. The current model of sprawl development isn’t sustainable on many different levels.

    Energy prices now aren’t high enough to make a big dent in people’s budgets, but they have nowhere to go but up. Market forces will force mass transportation and the city model back upon people whether we like it or not.

    For those who choose to live 50 miles from where they work in order to get a yard and a big house, I feel bad for you guys. I live in a college town now and once I graduate from medical school I will NOT be among the sad saps who wastes 10% of my life trapped in a car.

    Oh and thanks for the hybrid flame-bait. It kind of shocks me just just how many people try to play that angle to get some responses.

    Brock, I’ve always felt that your editorials were lots of whiney doom-and-gloom and nothing’s changed. But glad to hear your opinion anyways.

  • avatar
    ZCline

    Welcome Brock!

    I moved out from New Jersey, where its pretty much mandatory you own a car, to Portland, OR, and I haven’t driven my vehicle in about a month, and haven’t filled up my tank since 10/17 (yes, I know the exact date). Part of that is due to my telecommuting job, but another is due to the easily “walkability” of downtown Portland, as well as our wonderful and growing light rail and bus system. Even if you live out in the suburbs, you’re only a $2 rail ride into downtown. Especially wonderful for you if you don’t mind the rain, but its been very mild this winter …

    Yes, I just wanted to brag about my lack of driving, and Portland ;). Its amazing how I love to visit this site, and still love cars in general, and yet rarely drive, and generally don’t enjoy it when I do (Mr. Brock is correct, the main reason is traffic).

  • avatar
    crc

    Mr. Yates,

    It is absolutely great to have you here. Looking forward to a lot more.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Hey Mr Yates, it’s fantastic news that you’ll be writing here!

    TTAC may not (yet) have the status of C&D, but one thing is certain: your readership is now international.

  • avatar
    shabster

    Pleased to see Mr. Yates writing for this site.

    Mr. Farago, not sure if the mild uptick in the use of the f-word and the s-word is really a step forward.

    Regards.

  • avatar

    Found your book on detroit fascinating 20 years ago and am angered that they did not rectify their short coimings the. I am looking forward to reading your articles here on TTAC.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what I can say that many others haven’t already said. As an eleven-year-old in 1986, everything you wrote in C&D was a must-read for me each month. I’m thrilled that you’re here, and I’m sure your commentary will thrive in the sincere, free-thinking environment this website embodies.

  • avatar

    Thanks adding to an already fantastic staff, Mr. Yates. I’ll be building a car specifically for One Lap in the next few years, so I’ll see you then :)

    I can’t wait for the first back-and-forth in the comments. This site eats up too much of its readers’ time due to the actual, hearty content generated in the comments. Now it’s going to get even worse…for the better.

  • avatar

    shabster :

    Mr. Farago, not sure if the mild uptick in the use of the f-word and the s-word is really a step forward.

    I think Brock is just kicking out the jams a little, after not being able to swear for… a long time.

    I’m sure he’ll calm down. Or not.

  • avatar

    Uptick in shit and fuck as a step back? Why bother replacing words with other words when the meaning is the same (or, even, insufficient)? Being afraid of the 4 letter words is just as bad as being afraid of 12 letter words, imho.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Brock Yates. THE Brock Yates….wow.

    The Truth About Cars has come of age.

    Congrats Brock! Glad you are aboard!

    -ted

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    I don’t agree much with your politics. I’m a dem, and I wear Birkenstocks. (But so did Ariel Sharon.) But I love internal combustion.

    Wow, now that’s conflicted. You poor tortured soul ;-)

  • avatar
    MRL325i

    Welcome! Just don’t make fun of BMW e46′s and e30′s. That is all.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    Meh. I say we’ll drive ‘em until we die. I’m anxious to see what the so-called government watchdogs do when gas is $15/gallon and John-n-Jane Q. can no longer afford to drive their 43 mile commute to work.

    Sorry if it sounds a bit gloomy. Not on my best today.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Welcome.

    I think gridlock is here to stay…only because politicians at the municipal and provincial levels have absolutely no vision of the future and are unwilling to do anything even remotely daring. Sprawl has been a hot topic in and around the Greater Toronto Area for about 20 years and it just keeps getting worse, with the bedroom communities getting further and further away. The local paper was recently extolling the virtues of small town east of Toronto as good ‘commuter’ town. I’ve driven there on a clear day, somewhat over the speed limit, and onramp to offramp it was an hour. Add getting too and from the highway, and traffic, and you are easily looking at a two hour journey one way. It’s ridiculous.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Welcome Mr. Yates.

    I quite reading C&D in the ’70s, so I can’t really say I recall any specific articles you wrote. I do remember that I didn’t love you, or hate you.

    For those who think higher gas prices will drive everyone back densely populated city centers and and possibility of mass transit, you have to consider land prices too. Land is still cheap here in the USA. It’s cheapest out on the outskirts of nowhere, where cows are grazing.

    It’s wildely expensive to knock down an old relatively small building in Chicago and put up an new bigger building to house more people. The rents necessary would easily buy a house out in the ‘burbs. Guess what people are going to choose.

  • avatar
    mdaffronte

    Mr. B. Yates,

    Back when() I was involved with road rally and autocross I was a avid reader of yours and enjoyed your unbiased opinions on various makes and situations, I am now begining to return my intrest to auto’s and am glad you are on the internet and hope to follow you once again, into joy and tantrums, and yes the need for alternative fuels is a necessary evil of our love of the automobile, and we do have to get back to some of the old solid engineering that proved its self so well, along with melding our new technololgies.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Keep in mind that not all of us live in the cities OR the suburbs. Out here in rural America you’re often forced to drive to the next town over or farther for a decent job. For over 6 years I commuted 40 miles a day to work until I finally landed a job close to home. Now it’s 4.5 miles one way and I can’t wait for warm weather so I can bike it. If my posts end abruptly this spring, figure I’m a red greasy spot on the bumper of some hick’s SUV. :)

  • avatar

    # jazbo123
    (me) I don’t agree much with your politics. I’m a dem, and I wear Birkenstocks. (But so did Ariel Sharon.) But I love internal combustion.
    jazbo123
    Wow, now that’s conflicted. You poor tortured soul ;-)
    (me again) not really. Part of being human is learning to live with contradictory stuff. I don’t let my environmentalism interfere w/ my enjoyment of internal combustion.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    Not surprised that C&D is hitting tough times, it’s turned into ‘Oil Sheik & Millionaires monthly’. I like the occasional review of exotics, but when the whole magazine is like that it’s like a meal made completely of spices.

    Motor Trend is far better nowadays, Angus Mackenzie has done an excellent job.

  • avatar
    Joe C.

    Good to have you here, Mr. Yates!

    We still have a lot to learn from you. I look forward to reading your direct, no-BS reviews right here at TTAC.

    Agreed: Public transportation rarely works as intended or promoted.

    Until and unless smart highways and automated cars can keep us all moving at the same speed, we’re doomed to sit in traffic.

    But, where’s the fun in that?

  • avatar
    AGR

    Friday night Red Ball Garage, Cannonball Run just cropped in my mind.

    You are correct we are wasting precious resources multi taking in vehicles and going nowhere fast. It would be interesting if the era of “cheap gas” evaporated, how many changes would start occuring in a hurry.

    Who has the “political genitals” to raise the price of gas?

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Hello and Welcome!

    Good article.

    I have a way to reduce traffic and increase the demand for better mass-transit and better-designed cities.

    Reduce the number of drivers on the road. Eliminate all incompetent drivers. After all, 49% of all drivers are “below average” in ability.

    So let’s eliminate half of those. This year.

    I propose the following:

    1. Tougher driving tests that test not only knowledge, but also competency.

    2. Everybody takes a road test once every 10 years.

    3. “Competency points” for infractons such as driving next to somebody else’s vehicle when there are openings in traffic, not letting traffic merge, not accelerating quickly enough at entrance ramps, or driving too slowly in the left lane.

    If we can even eliminate just the worst 10% of the drivers on the roads, I think we will clear up many of our traffic problems, requiring that we burn less oil too, becasue all traffic will flow more smoothly.

    Those newly-non-drivers will have to find another way to get where they are going. Or not. Mass transit, carpooling, telecommuting, or living closer to work and school are all options.

    This will further reduce our dependance on oil.

    Eventually, when demand increases, somebody will see the market for more mass-transit options, and they’ll figure out how they can provide that service and still make a buck on it.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Welcome Brock,

    It will be fun having you aboard.
    I realized years ago that “agreement” has little to do with whether I enjoy another person. I look forward to agreeing and disagreeing with you.

    BTW, I always appreciated the warm and respectful way you have mentioned your wife in print. Too many “tough guys” out there are afraid to let the world know they can love a woman. Glad you are a bigger man than that.

    Respectfully,

    Bunter1

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Trip to the past.

  • avatar

    AGR
    Who has the “political genitals” to raise the price of gas?

    Gore. Too bad he’s not running.

  • avatar
    kingdaddyusa

    I agree that traffic sucks…but as some have already mentioned, the problem is too many PEOPLE!
    Solutions:
    Close the borders
    Build nuclear power plants
    Use compact flourescent bulbs (j/k) :)

  • avatar
    tech98

    Welcome, Brock.

    I’d love to see a new version of your 1983 book, The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, or at least a few columns on that subject matter.

    It seems like Detroit still has the same problems you highlighted a quarter century ago, and is still ignoring them with arrogance and bureaucractic stupidity.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Wow, when I got my first issue of C&D in the mail in July of 1986, I never imagined that I’d be able to interact with Brock Yates on a personal computer. Gotta love the interwebs! ;-)

    Great to have you here, sir.

  • avatar
    BlisterInTheSun

    Hey Brock:

    How much is an FFR nowadays?

    I liked your article about the Dodge SRT-10 Ram Pickup back in the day.

  • avatar
    TomAnderson

    Great stuff Mr. Yates, and I look forward to much, much more.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I have noticed that C&D has been tryin’ to get hep to the cool cats by using words like “stonkin’”, and bad double entendres lately.

    However, they just come across like a bunch of old guys at a bar trying to pick up the young hardbodies.

    In other words, pathetic.

    They can’t even come up with the cojones to call the new Chrylser minivans what they are, which is crap.

    They fawn all over the Malibu, without even mentioning that they did the same for the Aura, which they now describe as “cheap”.

    Nor can they stand up to BMW for introducing a 1-Series that carries a $40K price tag.

    Or call Porsche out for cheapening the brand with more Special Editions than Ford does with the Mustang.

    And who has the ‘Political genitals” to raise the price of gas? Well…

    The Arabs.

  • avatar
    marc

    Well, although it is nice to have a seasoned journalist on this site, I’ll avoid the fawning and save my remarks for coupdetat who brought up some very good points. Coup, You seem to be the only one who actually read Brock’s piece with a critical eye. Too often auto writers are a bunch of luddites who are afraid of anything that would cause them anything remotely close to losing their grip on their good ol piece of Amurcan freedom-the CAR. Yes, it may take a whole new way of living, but there are choices that need to be made. I own a Prius and take a bus to work, though if I had to, I live close enough to walk or bike. That is the sustainable future. You can embrace it or fight, but it is the future.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Great to have you here Brock. Looking forward to reading more from you. I’ve enjoyed your style of writing and persnickety-ness for the last 20 years.

    It’s a shame to see what’s happened to C/D. But we’re the beneficiaries of it. I’m curious: Do you think C/D, R&T and MT are dead? They seem to be headed in the same trajectory as print newspapers.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    When I sit in the storied traffic of Los Angeles, I quietly remind myself that congestion is good. How do I know this? Because when a recession (or a holiday) takes 4 – 6% of the cars off the road, travel times in urban areas are slashed. Anyone who witnessed the difference in traffic density in Boston between 1988 and 1989, or in Los Angeles between 1990 and 1992, or Silicon Valley between 2000 and 2001 will know what I’m referring to. Congestion? Keep it coming. When roads are clogged, people are doing well.

    Real pollution, that is to say particulates and noxious compounds, has plunged dramatically over the past 30 years and again, it’s easily witnessed by anyone who has spent any significant span of time in southern California. Or who remembers how walking in northeastern cities in the 1950s and 1960s made your lungs hurt. Despite a tremendous growth in the number of cars in service in southern California, each year new year generally sees air quality that exceeds any of the prior 40. The Air Quality Management District here has turned attention to paint, solvents, leaf blowers, lawnmowers and of course the massive growth of ship traffic into and out of L.A./Long Beach harbor. The fiction that CO2 is a pollutant, or that the atmospheric content of same can be seriously affected by reducing automotive contribution, is the latest distraction from that otherwise unbroken progress.

    More to the point, new versions of existing vehicle types are more efficient (and generally more powerful) than the immediate predecessor. By increments, even today’s Escalade is more efficient than what it replaced. People moving into more efficient classes of cars are moderating petrol use. California has reduced its gasoline consumption over the past year to the point that California-grade gasoline is right now being exported to less stringent markets just to maintain a price floor in our own market. Myriad next-generation propulsion ideas are under active development and testing. While I don’t expect reliance on fossil fuels to end anytime soon, we’re on a one-way path to making a transition in energy sources, just as England did in moving from wood and peat to coal in the 1600s.

    The point is, the automobile is on the mend as an environmental liability. And it’s going to stay with us because it’s in basic human nature for people to act on urge for privacy and control as wealth rises. Sure, we might see another cycle of limited re-urbanization similar to when many Boomers gentrified our older cities in the 1970s/80s, but it won’t lead to the elimination of the private automobile. Mass transit will work for people who can live near their work. That will not be everyone’s option, however. There is too much career and labor mobility in our economy (a good thing) to provide the geographical stability for most people to ensure they never have to commute. When where you work is unpredictable, people tend to be sticky about their location-specific social networks.

    There is a lot that is dysfunctional about the way the U.S. developed from a land-use perspective after WWII, but it was a reflection of basic human desire. You can even see it today — when inner city folks get traction on the economic ladder, where do they go? Usually somewhere much less congested.

    The economy of an older America had enough situational stability for people to plan their personal lives around their work. Live in Fairfield so you can take the train into Manhattan; stay close to the factory in company-built communities; but as soon as you can afford it, get a house with some space and a patch of green with one, then two, then three cars in the garage. Guess what? With high taxes penalizing car use, even Europeans who can afford to, do the same. Well, a return to that economy of situational stability is not going to happen and if it did, it would reduce opportunity for everyone.

    Mobility is a central driver of aggregate wealth, resulting in a vast expansion of individual opportunity. Congestion, whether on the roads or in overloaded trains, is a result of concentrated opportunity and success. We have so much success, we can’t put it all inside the city limits of just a dozen megalopoli. I own fast cars and love using them. But congestion is not my enemy. It is a sign that I’ll continue to be able to afford to get to the open road.

    Phil

  • avatar
    JimC31

    Actually, “marc,” most automotive journalists have depressingly mainstream wishy-washy, politically-correct views on things like the evilness of The Car, despite the fact the automobile is hated by our self-appointed intelligentsia precisely because it is the most potent symbol of the triumph of personal freedom and Capitalism.

    Our road system is a mess because we build roads the same way Communists built cars. The solution is not yet more central planning to force people to live in the “correct” way, that’s a cure worse than the disease, the only solution is privatization. That means paying tolls, and we’ve got a hundred years of stunted technological progress to make up for so there’s no quick fix, but that’s the only way to take control of the system out of the hands of bureaucrats and politicians who, in an Orwellian bit of logic, don’t actually want traffic to flow well because that will encourage people to drive.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    Just like the car mags refuse to adapt to the internet i feel like the manufactures them selfs need to change somethings. i remember when autoshow season was a big deal. very few people knew what was coming. mostly just rumors and speculation. maybe a pic of a camouflaged prototype. but now, everyone knows what the car looks like before it even gets to the show. there is no surprise, no excitement.

    its seems like most if not all of the embargo breaks in the last few months have been by magazines. maybe once the manufactures figure this out they will stop sending out pics until after the car is revealed. They will be on the internet with in an hour. yea, so the mags will be late to the party, but they are now anyways!

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    Congestion is a tax paid with time rather than money. Those who have more money than time use the former to avoid wasting the latter.

    The SF Bay Area’s wealthiest suburb, Marin County, has largely eliminated congestion (at least in moneyed southern Marin) through a combination of controls on development and roadway taxes (the soon to be $6 toll on the Golden Gate Bridge, with an additional $2 surcharge on deck). Traffic on the Bridge moves at the limit during rush hour virtually every work day. The cost? A median home price of $1 Million.

    Meanwhile, real estate developers in San Francisco are erecting the tallest residential towers west of the Mississippi, earthquakes be damned. The cost? Well, you could save money by moving to Marin. But if you can afford it, you can walk to work.

    Govenment doesn’t need to impose congestion taxes. We already pay them one way or the other.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    And, glad you’re here, Mr. Yates. There was a time when Car & Driver’s arrival in my mailbox was eagerly awaited. Two of the best reasons over the years were Gordon Baxter and that disturber of the peace writing under the byline of ‘Brock Yates.’

    Phil

  • avatar
    willbodine

    As a former 35K mile road warrior I have had many, many moments, stuck in traffic, with which to ponder the problem. Any civil air pilot can tell you, in Southern California at least, you can see where the pinch points are quite easily from 5,000 feet. The number one cause is usually a Caltrans “work” crew, blocking off a lane for repair. Now, one might think that this sort of thing might be better performed at night, so as not to delay the many tens of thousands of workers during the work day. The next two pinch points are lane reductions, where 6 lanes become 5, or 5 become 4. And when two major freeways cross. Arent’t roads much like pipes? And traffic much like fluid flow? No one in traffic planning seems to have considered the fluid dynamics of traffic. Several rules obtain. Once the traffic density reaches a certain point (measurable, I’m sure) traffic can only move as fast as the slowest driver. Every driver has a special speed where they feel most comfortable in their particular vehicle. And if they are allowed to drive slowly in the left lane, clumping quickly ensues. Some quick, cheap, and doable fixes for the mess: 1. Schedule maintenance in non peak hours. 2. Install more metering lights at major freeway intersections, and longer, double on-ramps to store the mergers. And 3. Implement mandatory lane discipline, fastest to the left lane, slowest to the right, with fines for lane-blocking. (I seriously doubt that any driver in California history has ever been cited for this. And talk about the major cause of road rage!)Nothing is quite as stupid as seeing a mile or more of empty freeway in front of a clump of slow drivers. Talk about a waste of available resources!

  • avatar
    frontline

    Dear Brock,
    My first CAR@DRIVER mag is framed in the billiard room. It is the Feb 1970 issue with a very neat road test. A LS6 Chevelle, 340 Duster , and a Boss 302 Mustang against a little bitty 289 Cobra. It is an awesome cover and it is still exciting to look at to this day.
    You are the stuff of dreams man! You are the guy that co-drove with Dan Gurney in a Daytona Ferrari across the US in a record time. Oh how I would like that under my belt.
    I really hope you enjoy yourself at TTAC.
    Thanks, John T

  • avatar
    geoff03

    Given:
    1) American’s need cars
    2) Global warming is real and CO2 is bad

    Solution:
    1) All electric cars with better batteries, higher energy densities, equal range to a full tank of gas. We’re almost there. re: http://www.a123systems.com/

    2) Carbon free electric sources, mainly nuclear.

    3) Figure out wtf to do with the nuclear waste.

    problems solved.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    willbodine:

    good observation. I noticed this myself from inside the flow as a kid. Cars en route act somewhat like a fluid.

    Rush hour viscosity varies according to locale. Viscosity is wrong word, heat not being involved, but you know what i mean. Density is major factor, so is street design. Logical street layout lowers viscosity by primary effect (no obstacle induced standing waves) also by secondary “people understand linear behavior” effect which is lacking in Boston.

    You see standing waves in same place every morning on Boston’s south east expressway and everywhere else there is an obstacle like and exit or entrance or boston’s favorite, necking down from many to few lanes, permanently on a major interstate. I make same lane changes every day in same spot northbound and southbound. Leaving early or late its the same wave every day.

    Cars have a unique fluid property, they stop faster than they speed up, especially driven by average public. However they speed up from a blockage faster than they slow down, due to people behind seeing problem ahead. So, the non-standing waves travel backwards.

    Somewhere out there is a Phd program for traffic dynamics, I saw reference on NYTimes a few year ago. Cant find it. Probably a subset of civil engineering.

    I could take the T to work, its 9 miles each way, it would cost $4 and take 180 minutes round trip, walking to T and waiting and then waiting to change and changing and walking to building rain or shine. So, I pay to drive and park, probably $20 a day all in, with 60-90 minutes a day drive. I earn enough to gladly pay extra $16 to buy back 1.5-2 hours a a day of peak time.

  • avatar
    nayrb5

    Do the people calling for a gas tax and a return to urbanization truly believe that everyone in America can fit inside a major city? That we can do away with suburbs and rural areas and cram everyone into NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. like cattle?

    Aside from the obvious (why would anyone give up personal space to pay a higher cost for a cramped space with higher crime), there are practical considerations. As a teacher in Chicago, I live in a near western suburb because it’s cheaper, safer and my commute by car is only around 15-20 minutes. I could take the train, but that would probably take an hour.

    If gas shot up to $6 a gallon, it still wouldn’t be practical for more people to live in the city. The basic law of supply and demand says that in-city housing would become a hot commodity. 1-bedroom condos within a couple mile radius are already “from the 300s.” Artificially inflated gas would only force most people into deeper poverty, as their housing costs and transportation costs would increase.

    Suburbs weren’t created overnight, and replacement communities won’t be either. While it might be desirable to have walkable communities with jobs and housing close to one another, there’s little chance of moving the bulk of the jobs to another location. The infrastructure required to effect such a massive nationwide change would invalidate any pollution or energy savings.

    Besides, people like having lawns. People like having little gardens that they can tend and places for their dog to run around. Force everyone to cram their families into one-room hellholes in the middle of a gang-infested urban area just to make ends meet and watch our national morale plummet.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Holy …. shit.

    Brock Yates!

    Worst still / better yet:

    Brock Yates on a Blog. Let the fireworks begin!

  • avatar
    v65magnafan1

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Yates.

    I’m probably one of the older readers here. I started with Sports Cars Illustrated in 1958–er, no. Motor Trend in 1955.

    And I still enjoy cars–mainly as entertainment. I would guess that you do, too.

    I’m looking forward to your next column.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Way back six pages ago, somebody suggested to Brock that he move away from congestion, to somewhere like Upstate New York.

    That’s where he lives, silly boy. So Upstate his town is named for the state next to Montana.

  • avatar
    moawdtsi

    “We’re wasting millions upon millions of barrels of increasingly rare and expensive petroleum products doing fuck all.”

    “geography of nowhere”

    somebody’s a closet peaknik

  • avatar

    Welcome Mr. Yates, I hope you enjoy yourself here.

    I don’t know if bring published on the Internet is another high watermark in your career, but TTAC has been very, very good to me. And good for me. I hope you get that same kinda lift too. :)

    Like everyone’s already said, the article was a good read (as always) and I look forward to reading more in the future.

  • avatar
    johngrosspietsch

    Don’t worry, the government is here to help. When the 35mpg CAFE standards hit, the per-mile operating costs for cars will plummet. Yeah, you pay a little more up front. Take that extra trip. Go to the grocery store three times a day. Move even further away from the office.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Hiya Brock. Old or not, you were one of the few redeeming writers for C&D. Glad to see you here.

  • avatar
    Brock Yates

    Hey, Steve old buddy. Let’s stay in touch. Say
    hi to Susan and come back to the boondocks and
    visit.
    cheers Brock

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Ok.

    Time for an alternate solution.

    I live 35 miles from work. I therefore haul my 165-lb butt 70 miles per workday, minimum. Since insurance costs are by vehicle and not by driver, I have to have one vehicle for all seasons, so I can’t get away with a 70-MPG motorcycle here. As a consequence, 2300 lbs of Miata also go this distance every day.

    Now, I’m commuting “spoke to spoke”, so there really isn’t any feasible way to plant myself on a train; 40 miles on the train to the Hub is bad enough, 40 miles, a transfer, then another 20 miles out along a different spoke is completely impractical.

    However, if something that weighed less than 165 lbs could travel that distance, it could be economically transmitted at much, much higher speeds. How about shoving a whole bunch of electrons that way, and back? If they travel 186,000 miles every second, it doesn’t really matter that they had to go all the way into Boston to come back. Heck, it wouldn’t really be so bad if they made a round trip to LA by way of Omaha on its way around Massachusetts. The energy savings are such that telecommuting twice a week reduces my energy consumption by about 39.95%.

    The only problem here is that if I were to work from home, there wouldn’t be any way or time that I could be really Away from the Office. It gets rid of the compartmentalization that allows for someone to work a professional job and enjoy the rest of his time as a free man. So I’ll end up going somewhere outside the house to avoid it – but I won’t be taking the Miata most of the time.

  • avatar
    Andras Libal

    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.

    Mr. Yates, have you been to Europe ? It is a bigger economy than the US, and we have walkable cities, public transportation, and fast trains for long distance travel. One can live life there without a car. The solution is already there, in front of you.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Mr. Yates, have you been to Europe ? It is a bigger economy than the US, and we have walkable cities, public transportation, and fast trains for long distance travel. One can live life there without a car. The solution is already there, in front of you.

    Well, let’s be serious. The EU and the USA are not similar in the origins of how they’re organized. The EU is only a bigger economy than the US as a market, not as a nation, and only because as a political artifice in-the-marking, what constitutes “Europe” is for now elastic. But the component parts were relatively small countries that were not settled and organized as continental entities. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, et al built their own mass transit systems between all their major cities which were located quite close together. Moreover, in most component countries comprising the EU, their capital city metropolitan area held and still hosts ~25% of their respective total populations. Further, Europe suffered the debilitating and impoverishing setback of repeated war, including two devastating world wars in the 20th century, which inhibited social and economic patterns that became firmly established in a much richer post-war United States.

    The US, by contrast, has been organized as a continental proposition since the early 19th century, with investments made early to tie west coast to east and foster unfettered mobility within more than 3,000,000 square miles of contiguous territory. This was true in wagon train days, the early laying of the transcontinental railroad, the early federalization of key state roads, and the build-out of the interstate highway system. We had a continent to settle, so we willfully dispersed our people. While it is true that over 70% of Americans live on about 2% of our land, the distribution is still quite atomistic with much greater distances between localities that speak the same language and truly are at once common nation, country and market.

    We also don’t have a single dominant megalopolis ala London, Paris, Berlin, Rome. The New York metro holds only about 6% of our population. Another 6% are in the aggregate Los Angeles/SoCal metro. These are the two largest metros by population, located 2600 miles apart and collectively representing less concentration than the major European capitals’ share in their respective countries.

    Energy is more affordable to the US than it is to the EU. We still produce significant share of our oil & natural gas, hold completely unexploited shale oil reserves that dwarf the Saudis’ conventional oil holdings, and sit on something like 400 years worth of coal. We have vast portions of our geography that enjoy intense sunshine 300+ days per year, which we’ve barely exploited. We are also less dependent on Mideast oil specifically than the EU and Japan, and Russian energy suppliers aren’t poised to step on the hose.

    Walkable cities in Europe? Absolutely. We’re not bereft of same. Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, parts of Los Angeles (believe it or not) and a hundred other smaller cities are walkable and worth it. Some of their residents eschew owning a car. But we won’t be piling everyone into car-less vertical density. We’re mobile, ambitious, growing, restless, effervescent and we’re going to stay that way. We’d rather see private automobiles be innovated to be environmentally benign at mass market prices than assume a retrograde future.

    Phil

  • avatar

    Mr. Yates: I’m glad to see you published somewhere. I let my C&D subscription lapse a while back when I realized that every issue was pandering to an age group that my parents aren’t old enough to belong in. I look forward to seeing more of your work here – you may be old, but you are incredibly interesting.

    Andras: Yes, Europe’s economy is bigger than the United States’, but that’s not the whole story. Europe’s GDP is roughly $13.2 trillion, compared to the US’ $10.4 trillion, so your assertion is accurate. There are two key points you’re missing, however:

    1. Europe’s population is more than twice as much. Current estimated population in Europe is roughly 710 million. Conversely, the United States is sitting just about 303 million. This means that our GDP per capita is much, much higher than yours. Of course, some countries in Europe come rather close to the US’ GDP per capita (England, France, Germany), but some are very, very far away (Albania and much of the rest of Eastern Europe).
    2. Europe’s 710 million are packed in 10 million km^2, compared to the 9.8 million km^2 that the United States occupies. In other words, there are more people in Europe in about the same amount of space, so there are certain density issues at play. Throw in that many European cities pre-date automobiles and, consequently, aren’t particularly car-friendly and you find yourself facing a very different set of traffic concerns than you do in the US. In short, the reason you have walkable cities is because, when your cities were built in the 1500s, they had to be walkable – how else were people getting around? Public transportation? Of course you have it – you have more people closer together, so it’s much more economical. Long distance travel? There’s an adage I read somewhere, and it goes something like this:

    “In America, 100 years is a long time ago. In Europe, 100 miles is far away.”

    The reason public transportation doesn’t work as well in the United States is because, especially in the West, our cities simply aren’t designed with it in mind. Proof of that is Los Angeles, which used to have a tram system just like San Francisco. Why did it fail? Because Los Angeles is too spread out – trams and rails cost more to build than a bed of asphalt, after all. The only reason it has one now is because politicians decided Los Angeles must have one… not that anyone really uses it.

    The reason the United States has as much congestion as it has is not just because of all of the cars – it’s because politicians and the people have been in complete and utter denial regarding them. Everyone seems to believe that, if we don’t build any roads for cars to travel on, people will stop using them. This would be similar to politicians in Europe deciding that trains were too crowded and that the only way to do something about that would be to… stop building trains. It doesn’t make much sense, does it? The solution, of course, is that the United States needs to build more roads (this would be better for the environment, believe it or not, since it would result in fewer cars idling).

    Raising gas costs isn’t going to do it – all that’s going to do is cause the cities to become ridiculously expensive and cause the poor to get shoved out into the suburbs, never to return. Their real incomes will get reduced as more of their income is spent just getting to work. Meanwhile, since only poor people will live in the suburbs, why bother building better roads? All the taxpayers will live in the cities, after all…

    Yeah.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    Now we have the time we need to get Cannonball Run III produced! It can star me, in the Talon AWD. Burt and Captain Chaos will run blocker in my Ram MegaCab! We will make the run in 35 hours and 55 minutes missing your and Gurney’s run of 35 hours and 54 minutes teaching us all valuable life lessons. Then as you and Dan exit your 612 Scaglietti Sessanta at the port Dan will announce his candidacy for President in 08! Yates/Gurney 08′! RON PAUL! I mean BROCK YATES REVOLUTION!

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Oatworm,

    I agree with your general drift, but the GDP figures are understated for the US. US GDP in 2006 was just over $13.2 trillion (Report for Selected Countries and Subjects (180 countries; 6 subjects). International Monetary Fund) and for the EU on a purchasing power parity basis was $13.06 trillion (http://www.indexmundi.com/european_union/gdp_(purchasing_power_parity).html)

    It appears 2007 was the year in which EU GDP passed US GDP but it’s still close despite the EU’s elastic composition. On an efficiency basis, i.e. economic value driven per capita, the US is far ahead. The CIA pegs the EU’s GDP for 2007 at $14.4 trillion on a PPP basis. Population figures cited for the period are below your tally of 710 million, but much higher than the US’ 303mm.

    Phil

  • avatar
    dulcamara

    I’m impressed. TTAC got Brock Yates! Please don’t fire him.

    My C/D subscription will lapase after 30+ years pretty soon. The car magazines are doomed. Who cares about auto show coverage 12 weeks late?

  • avatar
    IGB

    Welcome Mr. Yates…you’ve brought me back to TTAC.

    Phil Ressler, extraordinarily well said. Though mass transit could have been done better in spite of our distances. The former US auto industry played a major role in the lack of a mass transit/rail system in this country. There are entirely too many trucks on our highways (one engine per box) and entirely too few cargo trains (one engine per 50 boxes) on our albeit limited railways.

  • avatar
    batvette

    Ah, a familiar name, even more familiar prose. Mr. Yates, welcome to the internet. (of course you found it long ago, this is your “official” entry) There goes the neighborhood, next thing you know we’ll see Peter Egan or his ghost on a 4×4 message board.
    Anyway, I think you realize unlike the comfortable insulation found in a monthly print publication, every word you type will be checked for accuracy and nit-picked by some pimply faced tweenager still living in Mom and Dad’s garage or basement who will ignore the greater picture you always get spot-on.
    I’m sure you’ve heard of “the Google”.
    “What’s that, Mom? Yeah, yeah, I know it’s trash day.”
    See ya around.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Brock Yates at TTAC. Cool. This is going to be a hoot.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    In Germany, gas is 8 bucks a gallon. lots of trains there.

    I’m afraid I am not familiar with the work of Mr. Yates. It seems from the volume of notes here, I might be the only one. Oh well. Another voice for TTAC. GOod!

  • avatar
    Chaser

    jerseydevil> I wasn’t familiar with him either, as I’m now ashamed to admit after reading his wikipedia entry. The founder and winner of the first cannonball run? Holy shit! Is “living legend” too cliched?

  • avatar
    powerpeecee

    Impressive. TTAC wins the day again.

    I could do without the needless, moralistic whining about “curse words” from some of the other commenters. It’s 2008, man. (Not 1908)

    Seconding the “A pleasure to have you here, piss, vinegar et al.”

    Even the SA Goons have noticed.
    http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=2756471

    I’m a Goon, too (hope you got ten bucks)

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Brock, welcome to TTAC. I’ll skip the fawning and such, everyone else has done it enough for me.

    Interesting article, and as has been stated previously, mass transit doesn’t work well in the US because we aren’t set up for it. In my own case, I would have to drive about 17 miles in the wrong direction with equall trafic to get to the nearest train station. Then I have to pay to park, and pay for a round trip ticket. The nearest station to where I work over shoots my office by about ten miles, so then I have to get a cab to go back ten miles to get to my office. All of this would not only be more expensive, but would take much longer than the 20 minutes it takes me to travel 18 miles to my office. Oddly enough, almost all the trafic I get is around the highschools as we are forced to drop to stupidly low speeds because the average American teenager (which I’m not to far from being at 23) is to damned oblivous or stupid to pay attention to trafic.

    On another note, I would love to see an article on your opinion of the modern state of cross country races. I’ve read Cannonball a good number of times, and some friends and I have always wanted to “affirm truth and justice through an overtly illegal act.” The problem is it has become some massive social event for people with more money than brains. Last time we looked, there was actually an entrance fee, something around $15k. So much for a bunch of post college grad kids hoping in a Mazda hatch and seeing if they could do it in under 35 hours.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    We have an excellent mass-transit rail system where I live (Hudson River Valley), but unless you’re a five-day-a-week commuter, you can’t use it: there’s no parking for occasional travelers. Either you buy an expensive monthly permit for the commuter lot or you park illegally and get expensively ticketed by one of the cop-vultures who circle the station area endlessly looking for the poor fools who simply have to go to New York for the day. Crazy.

  • avatar
    skor

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Yates.

    I agree, most Americans will never voluntarily surrender their auto-centric lifestyle. The majority have now placed themselves in a position in which that is impossible to do until their little worlds are shattered.

    Nothing will change, short of Band-Aid remedies such as hybrids and bio-fuels, until Americans are forced to change. In a world of ever increasing population, and ever decreasing resources, we are only one Mideastern dirty-bomb away from $200/barrel oil.

    When change does come, it will be rapid, messy and chaotic. Americans will swarm back into cities and first ring suburbs. The X-burbs will will become McMansion ghost towns. The people who remain in rural areas will have a reason to be there –farming, logging, mining. We’ve already gotten a sneak-peak of this with the recently imploded mortgage socialism scheme.

    To quote Winston Churchill, “America always does the right thing, after exhausting all other options first.”

  • avatar

    Brock – Let me add my voice to the chorus of Welcome to TTAC! As a 40-year reader of C&D, my subscription lapsed at the end of 2007 and I was not tempted to renew. While I’m sure that Csere and others are laboring to stay relevant, the magazine has become more Motor Trend like with each passing year; I just got tired of reading breathless prose which was simply re-written PR crap from the manufacturers.

    A humble suggestion, however: with everyone concerned these days about safety, why not start talking about that sacred cow, driver competence? ZoomZoom has thrown the ball onto the court, and it seems about time that people realize their real safety will not be delivered by legislation, but by learning to actually pay attention while they are driving.

    As to traffic, it occurred to me many years ago that blaming GM, Toyota, et al for heavy traffic was like blaming Columbian drug lords for cocaine abuse, as if they were each creating a market from thin air.

    Welcome again, sir. I have frequently disagreed with your opinions, but would never ask for your silence. It will be most enjoyable to dice words from time to time with a master.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Complaining about driver competence is as big a waste of time as complaining that people eat fast food. Nothing will change. Any legislator/legislation that did anything about decreeing more difficult driving tests, more challenging licensing standards or more frequent retesting would be out of office in no time.

    Unfortunately, as driver distractions increase and are encouraged–proliferating communications options, etc.–the only answer, unfortunately, is to have the vehicle compensate for lack of driver competence. i.e. increasingly autonomous cars.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    Phil Ressler :
    January 28th, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    And, glad you’re here, Mr. Yates. There was a time when Car & Driver’s arrival in my mailbox was eagerly awaited. Two of the best reasons over the years were Gordon Baxter and that disturber of the peace writing under the byline of ‘Brock Yates.’

    Phil

    Phil,

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Brock and Bax were two of the highlights of any C&D. I was 14 when I discovered Bax also wrote a column for Flying Magazine, and went out and bought my first copy. Several decades later, look where THAT got me!

    The Feds actually named a fix on the VOR 34 approach into KBPT (his home town field) after ol’ Gordon.

    Brock, how about a piece on all the notable figures you’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years? (Bax, et al)

  • avatar
    adrift

    “nothing ever changes– until it has to.”

    Bingo.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    HEY! Bax didn’t “also” write for Flying, he “also” wrote for Car and Driver. Archie Trammell and I brought him to Flying when I was the Executive Editor there, and I much later brought him to C/D when I became Editor there. Gordon and I did a book together, “Bax Seat,” by the way…we logged a lot of hours flying together.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Welcome Brock Yates,

    The first writer that actually made me interested in reading the the front part of C&D back in the 1980s. Wonder columns wrttten by a great writer.
    P.S. Also miss you on C&D TV!

    Traffic/ Mass Transit.
    First let me start off by saying I live in the biggest mass-transit market in the USA, NYC. The first thing most folks that do not live in a large metro area need to understand that it is punishment (for not owning a car) to make use of just about any major city’s public transit network outside of “rush-hour” time frame. Public transportation is for poor folks and it is run in said manner. It is dirty, slow, has limited service, and is just downright inconveient to use during “off-hours and weekends”. I used to enjoy taking my child into Manhattan for a Saturday of entertainment on the subway until the service was cut to the point were it became easier to just drive in and pay for parking, yet I am only a half-hour subway ride away from mid-town Manhattan! Trust me I am a life long NYCer and there is NO reason for the subway to be jammed packed on a weekend day except for the fact that they are actually running less trains while the city is busier then it has ever been.
    My point is there are so many serious (REAL) discouragements to using mass transit in NYC that sitting in traffic is the better choice.

    I have an even better story of “letting Amtrak do the driving for me”. I frequently travel between NYC and South Carolina. It is a 12 to 14 hour drive and once I needed to do it with just my 6 year old son. Rather than endure this trip with just one driver and a small child I decided to give Amtrak a shot. What a big a$$ F#$kING MISTAKE.

    The first problem was Amtrak’s Penn Station NYC terminal is an absolutely disgusting place to be! It is no place for a child. It is full of homeless drug addicts and has a bathroom that must be staffed by security guards. The waiting area was overrun with all types of questionable types and the Amtrak staff was completely indifferent. But hey I am giving our US rail system a shot, right.

    While the first part of the trip to Wash DC was uneventful, once we pulled out of DC it was a complete disaster. Signal problems caused the train to crawl at less than 5mph to Quantico which took over two hours. From that point on we were forced to share tracks with CSX freight, making the trip a stop and go experience all the way into North Carolina. Now that the train is already at least 7 hours behind schedule it became time for equipment failure as we enter SC.

    In a nutshell my scheduled 15 hour train trip turn out to last for over 25 hours! Needless to say I will NEVER do Amtrak again.

    So in the USA you have exactly TWO choices for transportation. You either drive or deal with the hell of flying (To think I foolishly choose Amtrak to avoid the hassle of flying!) Unless the trip is more than 800 miles or 15 hours I will stick to my trusty car.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    In a world of ever increasing population, and ever decreasing resources, we are only one Mideastern dirty-bomb away from $200/barrel oil.

    For the US, $200 oil would not be a disaster. At current gasoline tax levels, fuel here would still be cheaper than it is in Europe today. Better yet, at that price, extraction and processing of shale oil — of which we have truly vast reserves under the Rocky Mountain region — becomes an economically viable proposition, not to mention clean coal, liquid fuels from coal and more solar power. The price of energy will rise, but as domestic alternatives to conventional oil kick in from changing investment patterns, more of our energy money would stay in circulation right here.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Mr. Yates -

    As witnessed by the cacophony of welcome, I don’t think your writing has induced nearly the level of controversy that Mr. Farago has intended. Step it up! :)

    Always glad to see another wordsmith join the press. I’ve read you probably a half a dozen times, and I only know that because I can recognize your style and link it to articles I remember reading.

    I, personally, think that technology is beginning to deal with congestion. I haven’t heard/seen congestion getting worse in the last 5-10 years…Telecommuting and alternative work hours. Smarter traffic plans. And personal choices to eliminate driving during times of congestion.

    I don’t think higher gas prices will decrease congestion. There are too many alternatives. I drive a 06 Honda Civic SI which gets ~26mpg right now in 70% highway driving (winter mix of fuel). I drive ~30k miles per year. If I switched to a Prius, I would save approx. $140 on gas per month by roughly doubling my fuel economy and using regular gas. If gas prices doubled to $6.40, I could drive the Prius and pay the same amount to commute I do today. Heck, my insurance would probably decrease.

    In other words, I have available choices to mitigate rising fuel costs that do not modify my everyday behavior and have little adverse effects on my lifestyle. And I drive a Honda Civic. Others, with less economical vehicles, also have these choices.

    On top of that, Diesel is beginning a resurgence and small cars are offering more choices. Rising fuel costs are not going to solve much, and as pointed out previously will be a “regressive tax”…in other words, it’ll hit the poor the hardest.

    If congestion worsens, companies will move to ex-urban localities and offer employees more flexible work schedules. Mass transit will increase…why? Because mass transit only works in areas of congestion.

    Now, moving on…

    Someone said Al Gore has the gravitas to raise gas prices. I don’t feel this is true. Al Gore doesn’t have the cajones to quit flying on private luxury aircraft all over the world, and switch to giving live web-ex presentations. He doesn’t have it in him to live a frugal, conservative lifestyle and make the necessary lifestyle choices. Yet. Unfortunately, that’s a common symptom among the “leaders” of the political-environmental movement nowadays (hey, lets have a climate change conference in Bali…the most remote place possible!).

    Another topic: I’ve not been a big fan of ethanol, but it offers one things many of it’s opponents forget: The ability to switch to a renewable energy source using existing technology. The advent of ethanol creation through the conversion of biomass/biowaste utilizing enzymes, bacteria, etc. is quite promising, as it removes the “grow corn/farm corn/water corn/produce ethanol” energy equation. Of course, hydraulic-drive systems and advanced batteries hold a ton of long-term promise as well.

    Perhaps, as one commentor put it, the answer to congestion and emissions (closely related items) is to more rigorously train drivers before allowing them on the roadways. People need to learn to utilize engine braking and slowing down without using the brakes, and the positive effects that lends to the traffic behind them.

    Joe

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    Enjoyed this article, looking forward to more from you in the future.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Unfortunately even the countries with great mass transit have lousy traffic.
    Forest animals not withstanding, upstate NY is one of the best places for driving.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    There’s been plenty of traction in the light rail sector over the last 20-30 years – lots of people moving into areas where their 2-car-family becomes a 1-car family, for instance, in cities like Portland, Dallas, Houston, Salt Lake, Denver, Minneapolis, etc.

    Those are just rail LINES; not rail SYSTEMS; i.e. not mature or ubiquitous to make the Manhattan lifestyle feasible for most, but they have had a strong impact – don’t buy the FUD from suburban highwayites that they’re empty – read the actual stats (tens of thousands of people per day riding these things; most of whom used to drive to work).

  • avatar
    skor

    @whatdoiknow1

    You’re parroting an old Limbaugh-esque canard about mass transit that demonstrates a complete lack of historical understanding. Mass transit was originally a private, for-profit, affair. Most mass transit patrons were working/middle-class people. Bums, and other undesirable types, were kept away.

    The USA’s functioning pre-WWII mass transit system of railroads, trolley cars and buses were deliberately bankrupted, and then taken over by various government agencies, after the Federal government undertook a deliberate policy of subsidizing the US auto industry through construction of the Interstate highway system — dictated by believers in The Church of Keynes.

    I live in Northern New Jersey. When I need to travel into Manhattan, I park my car in Weehawken and take the New York Waterway ferry. The ferry service is a private business. The boats are clean, and are efficiently run. The ferry service connecting buses are likewise well run. A one way ticket costs $8, parking is $10. Not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    Stephan,

    Sorry, my bad, what was I thinking! I bet I know which of the 2 Bax would have claimed first.

    Archie Trammell? Wow, even more fond memories today. I can still remember his radar videos they showed us in Meteorology class. “The threat identification position can be found by…….”

    In fact, if I remember correctly, the radar usage section of my airline’s FOM is basically a reprint of one of his texts. Talk about someone who literally ‘wrote the book’ in his chosen field.

    Good stuff, good stuff :)

  • avatar
    chris2

    Welcome, Brock!!

  • avatar

    Complaining about driver competence is as big a waste of time as complaining that people eat fast food. Agree, but who would’ve guessed thirty years ago that people would trade station wagons for these 6,000 pound behemoths, and much of that happened in the mostly false sense of “security” offered by the SUV. Believe it or not, there are changes occurring in dining habits as well; the growth of Subway and other burger alternatives seems a harbinger of change in that area.

    Another “waste of time” is a track or acceleration comparison of the Z06 vs GT2; these are nonetheless entertaining to read for those of us who give a damn. And who knows – in the 70′s, it looked to most of us as if hoping for faster cars was a total waste of time.

    After all, Ralph Nader managed to kill the Corvair with one book. Surely a writer as talented as Mr. Yates might sufficiently frighten people that they might begin to question existing laws about licensing.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    skor :
    January 29th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @whatdoiknow1

    You’re parroting an old Limbaugh-esque canard about mass transit that demonstrates a complete lack of historical understanding. Mass transit was originally a private, for-profit, affair. Most mass transit patrons were working/middle-class people. Bums, and other undesirable types, were kept away.

    Skor,

    I do understand that. When the NYC subway was opened in 1904 the fare was 5 cents a ride. When adjusted for inflation it is quite a bit more than the $2 fare of today. The subway was rather luxurious back than and not for the rank and file. Many of those folks were still walking great distances to and from work at that time or still lived very close to their employment. You can simply trace the route of the first NYC subway to see that it did not service poor or working poor nieghborhoods at that time.

    Needless to say the private automobile changed the whole meaning of what “private” transportation is. Finally transportation actually became private. If I have my own car why do I need the Railroad? As a matter of fact it bacame natural for folks to wants roads to drive on rather than rails to ride on.

    My point is I find that unless public transportation is an absolute necessity in your life you will find the experience less than satisifing. Anywhere in America you can travel to you will find that there is a stigma to being a “bus rider”. The sterotype is that only poor folks would even consider waiting in the heat or cold for a crowded slow moving bus. Right or wrong that is the situation and it is not helped one bit by local governments that treat public trans like a bad joke for poor people.

    Back to NYC. The quickest route into mid-town Mahattan for me IS (or should be) the subway. It is much more convinient than driving but the way the system is run (off-hours) it is better described as an exercise in frustration. In theory there is no reason to own a car in NYC. In practice unless you like getting jerked around by the MTA you do need your own private vehicle to enjoy life.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    There will always be a big or small minority–but a definite minority nonetheless–of people interested in “the art of driving” and “driver competence,” etc. etc. But thinking that the general population of drivers will give up anything-ANYTHING–in aid of greater competence is ludicrous. We live in a nation of drivers many of whom don’t know which wheels drive their car and have no more idea how a brake works than they do how nuclear fusion works.

  • avatar
    Culley

    Outstanding!!! It is great to be able to read Yates again. Car & Driver has lost its luster and with the exception of the online sites, Automobile is the only thing worth reading. Welcome back Brock!

  • avatar
    brugtp

    I saw on Jalopnik that Brock was over on this site, so I registered. Looking forward to many more editorials and writings from Yates. I’ve been a reader of his work for many years.

  • avatar
    zel0

    Car and Driver lost me a year or so ago when they foolishly decided to “reformat” the magazine. Heck, I couldn’t hardly tell the articles from the ads anymore. And, they tried to drive readers to their website to get the rest of the story, or to find the info that used to be included in the article. Dumb move, because I always thought the purpose of a magazine was to be a stand alone piece. Why would I want to read half the story in the magazine and then have to get on the internet? I guess they figured a lot of folks have internet access from the toliet…..

    Welcome aboard Mr. Yates!

  • avatar
    cstoc

    Hi Brock,

    I did a double-take when I saw you name on the column. Great to see you back! I’ve been reading your columns since the 1970′s and I’ve missed them from C&D for some time now. Thanks for continuing to tell it like it is.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Phil,

    What is clean coal? Heard the term, but never a definition.

  • avatar
    Emro

    awesome… welcome Brock!

  • avatar
    Brock Yates

    Thanks Guys, all the welcomes are greatly
    appreciated. Let’s keep the revs up and hang
    on for th ride.
    Cheers Brock

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Here’s my solution: Eliminate most zoning restrictions on housing (and on many other things). If you want to build a fifty story apartment building, you should have no more grief from the government than if you want to build a two story one. The problem would then, for the most part, solve itself.

    People would be able to move closer to jobs, so traffic would be reduced immediately. Mass transit would work more effectively, because density in areas close to jobs would increase, so it would be more effective. Other things would be improved-less pollution, less undeveloped areas be taken for development (in rural areas with less zoning issues), the cost of housing would drop (supply vs. demand), etc.

    Of course, not everybody would want to live in the central city. People have families or want a backyard or whatever. But enough people would be willing to do so to eliminate their commutes that this would work.

    Local governments just need to tell NIMBYs to go fuck themselves. Too bad NIMBYs vote.

  • avatar

    I missed Your columns, good You’re back!
    Looking forward to meet You again in May.

  • avatar
    nick2ny

    Why would bicycle advocates be kidding? So, for those of you who drive to work, how much do you weigh? Would you ride to work if it was safe? Have you ever ridden with fenders?

    Brock- when was the last time you rode a bike more than 2 miles–just curious. They are the best way to get around in a city, and make traffic a fun challenge– darting between cars is much more fun that sitting between them–in another car. If you like to drive, there isn’t much reason why you shouldn’t like to bike.

    Plus, and lets be perfectly honest, if we had more people riding to work, then we’d all look like svelte europeans rather than people who stuff their faces while driving their Jeeps.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Mr. Yates, Welcome! Glad to have you here.

    Nice, RF. Nice.

    RD

  • avatar
    rtz

    “where populations could walk or use public transit”

    That should read “where everyone else could walk or use public transit” right Brock?

    It will take an outright fuel shortage or $10/gal fuel to make change happen. I’ll ride a bike before I walk.

    Depending on your terrain, you can use one of these with no brakes for reduced maintenance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-gear_bicycle

    Then of course, there is the electric car… Clean, quiet, no maintenance..

    http://www.ssinc.us/Shelby_HST.asp

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Well,

    it is pretty simple. Big city: high taxes, high cost of business. Got to move to somewhere you can make a widget for less – the Asian Tiger is coming.

    I can’t wait ’till they re-raise the taxes and drive more business out of the cities…and the country.

    That’s OK, though. We’ll be a service industry nation.

    Pass the corn husks.

    Hi Tiger!

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Excellent piece, Mr. Yates. And welcome to TTAC.

    You’re right about traffic. There are some solutions: Nav systems that steer people around jams. Or, choose to live in an economic backwater like Western NY State (with no little economic or traffic growth).

  • avatar
    Matthew Potena

    Mr. Yates,
    Welcome aboard to the most intelligent, irreverent, truthful and funny automotive web site on the ‘net. I am sure that you will fit right in with this group! As for me, I have been a reader of Car & Driver since my grade school days. You are correct, the mag has been in a slide for a while, present company’s column excluded. Glad to have you with us!
    As far as traffic, I once went to a land use planning seminar with a famous traffic consultant. The gist of the seminar was that there is no such thing as unacceptable traffic, because if the drive time becomes unacceptable, then people seek alternate routes. If there are no acceptable alternate routes, they move closer to their job. As for everyone living in a city, his opinion that was so long as people want a house in the country or suburbs, the builders will find a way to build them (as they will make so much money on high housing prices, they will afford the high powered lawyers, or political contributions to enable them).

  • avatar
    ghillie

    Joe O :
    January 29th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    (hey, lets have a climate change conference in Bali…the most remote place possible!).

    It may be remote to you – but not to me. Unless you think the world is flat no place is more or less remote than anywhere else.

  • avatar
    islander800

    Hey Brock!

    I’m so happy to see you “back in print”. Like many other posters here, I canceled my Car and Driver subscription after you were, um, shown the door, and I had been a loyal reader since my teens in the early 60s. I have followed your various writings, books, movies (ahem) and commentaries over the years and am really pleased to see you back once again.

    Just a question – I thoroughly enjoyed your color commentary during Barrett-Jackson coverage a few years back (you and Steve were the only knowledgeable ones there – I won’t comment on “Bob”…) – what happened? The “suits” didn’t like your plain-spoken approach? Following the auction the last couple of years just hasn’t been the same without you!

    Welcome to TTAC and I’m looking forward to your future columns.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Welcome, Mr. Yates.

    You will find here that we want the truth, we can handle the truth, and we love to make fun of people who are bothered by the truth. I think you will like it here. Go ahead and slice up some sacred cows, I will take a thick filet.

    Gratz, Mr. Farago.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Phil, What is clean coal? Heard the term, but never a definition.

    I don’t think there’s a single definition of “clean coal.” It is a range of technologies — some extant and some in R&D supported by the Bush Administration’s 2001 Clean Coal Initiative — that have as their objective large improvements to the completeness of coal combustion, radical reductions in particulates and pollutants like sulfur compounds, and emission of carbon dioxide in capture-convenient form for sequestering. The basic objective is to engineer coal burning to be as clean as natural gas is today, with additional attention paid to carbon capture.

    You can think of clean coal as applying to coal-fired power plants the kind of comprehensive computer-controlled combustion developed for internal combustion engines from roughly 1982 to present, but scaled up to powerplant size and adapted to a crunchy solid fuel. Real-time, holistic digital management of coal burning, resulting in more complete combustion, reduction and neutralization of noxious compounds, thorough scrubbing of particle emissions, and carbon segregation are converging to render coal — at the right economics — an environmentally acceptable energy source that the US is prodigiously endowed with and needs to keep in the energy mix. Apart from a large-scale commitment to nuclear power, which does still carry a burdensome waste-disposal problem and some supply side limits of its own with respect to fuel, we have three domestic energy sources that can in the mix displace imported oil: very large scale solar, shale oil, and coal. Two are almost completely unexploited, and the third needs a makeover, which it’s getting….slowly.

    I am against the reflexive attack on personal mobility that is being waged by regulation-minded politicians and bureaucrats under guise of climate emergency, and I’ve detailed elsewhere here why the car is not the place to start if you believe climate change is anthropogenic. But I do think for other reasons that Americans can moderate our energy requirements while retaining our prevailing freedoms regarding how and where we live. Voluntary individual restraint on home size, effectively a change of tastes is a place to start. But the supply side is the answer to energy independence. Point is, with some judicious gains in consumption efficiency plus aggressive development of unconventional domestic energy, we have majority energy independence within reach if we can think nationally, assist with the transition by paying higher prices to ourselves instead of figuratively shipping containers of cash overseas, and move government subsidies away from mature energy industries and corn boondoggles and into known volume domestic resources — plus solar — that will otherwise stay in the ground until a price disruption makes their higher economics the new floor, with the disadvantage of urgency we can’t address in a timely manner.

    Phil

  • avatar
    niky

    Damn, reading you here is like reading a piece of history… (sorry… but it is)… quite a coup for TTAC to snag one of the few true greats in auto-journalism… (don’t blush, please).

    Oh, and by the way… great piece… as always. Thank God I don’t have to buy a magazine anymore to read your column… :D

  • avatar
    Kenno5401

    I read C&D as kid for so many years. At some point in the last 10 years or so the magazine changed (or maybe my tastes did) but it just wasn’t the same. Stopped reading it a long time ago. Scanned through it at the gym last year, and yikes! Very poor product. Brock, I’m sure it’s for the best for you to move on.

  • avatar
    Texas Girl

    Your public welcomes you, Mr. Yates. Glad to have you back.

    Traffic is the main obstacle to true enjoyment of our cars. I agree that state insistence on driver competence would provide immediate relief and would have the secondary impact of pushing folks towards buying cars that have more connection with driving. A mediocre driver would find it much harder to pass a competency test in a Ford Excursion than a Ford Focus. As to the argument that driver competency is politically impossible, don’t underestimate folks’ frustration with traffic and their firm belief that everyone else is the cause of the problem. Also, MADD, accident victim advocacy groups, and every parent of teenagers could be expected to provide strong support. Who wants our roads populated with bad drivers armed with one to two tons of speeding metal ammo?

  • avatar
    geeber

    skor: When change does come, it will be rapid, messy and chaotic. Americans will swarm back into cities and first ring suburbs. The X-burbs will will become McMansion ghost towns. The people who remain in rural areas will have a reason to be there –farming, logging, mining. We’ve already gotten a sneak-peak of this with the recently imploded mortgage socialism scheme.

    They’ve been predicting this since I was a child, and it has never come to pass.

    The last big run-up in gasoline prices – during the 1970s – accelerated the flight from the city. And most of the growth in cities over the past few years has come from immigrants, not native-born Americans, the majority of whom will continue to avoid city living.

    Most Americans do not want to live in an apartment in the city. They want a detached house with a yard. (Most Europeans do, too, but their governments discourage them from having it.) Outside of New York City and a few other metropolitan areas, people do not view living in a 50-story high rise or converted warehouse as a good thing. (Also note that quite a few New Yorkers living in those apartments have houses in the country.)

    Businesses will always locate where the largest number of middle class and upper-middle class people are, and that is the suburbs.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    ghillie :
    January 29th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Joe O :
    January 29th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    (hey, lets have a climate change conference in Bali…the most remote place possible!).

    It may be remote to you – but not to me. Unless you think the world is flat no place is more or less remote than anywhere else.

    Hi Ghilli,

    No, I believe the world is an oblong spheroid. But when you arrange for 10,000 people to meet somewhere to discuss climate change, for which your belief is that it is primarily caused by humans, and most of those people are from the Americas and Europe, wouldn’t you pick a centralized location to minimize the amount of pollution expended in getting them there (and, for that matter, keeping them cool from the tropical heat)? For instance, a location in Europe for most of the politico’s to take a train too….or a northern atlantic isle?

    Picking Bali was asinine, as the only way to travel was by plane and it was one of the farthest distances for most of the attendees to travel. It was a show of how to tell people to live one way while living another.

    Joe

  • avatar
    Gary Smith

    Hi Brock,

    Welcome back! We’ve missed you at Car and Driver. The Truth About Cars is a perfect forum for your honesty and blunt, irreverent opinions. I love your column in Vintage Motorsport, but this venue will certainly allow the more diverse topics we all fondly remember from the best years at Car and Driver. Everyone commenting here is right; Car and Driver isn’t half the publication it once was. I’m the guy who ran the Bill Mitchell Camaro in the ’79 Cannonball; finished just behind Sam Moses in his Boss 302. We’ve chatted at Mid-Ohio vintage events and SEMA in the past, but haven’t had the pleasure of running into you lately. Best wishes and take care.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    For a $6.00 magazine that’s about 2 gallons of regular gas. No thank you, I prefer reading reviews about cars online.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The only way to pay $6 for a magazine these days is to buy them one at a time, at a newsstand. $1 a copy is more like it, subscription-wise.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Well, you didn’t get my point Sir Wilkinson.

    I rather read car reviews on line(like TTAC) than buying or subscribing a magazine.

    How many square do you see in a square?

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “Most Americans do not want to live in an apartment in the city. They want a detached house with a yard. ”

    Statement like that are completely useless. I want to eat steak every day, too. I also want to go to Hawaii every year for my vacation.

    The problem in this country is that we made sprawl artificially cheap by subsdizing it out the wazoo and regulating the hell out of urban development (you can’t even build good urban buildings in most cities – it’s simply not allowed). Despite that, a ton of people STILL choose to live in apartments – even the suburban ones which have all the disadvantages of density but none of the advantages. Why? COST.

    So, the proper question is: how much money is it worth to live in a house instead of an apartment? And second, why are we making it so difficult for the market to build more apartments?

  • avatar
    Kenno5401

    If you live in a large city, oftentimes the only affordable housing is a rental unit in an apartment. The cost of a house in NY, DC, LA, San Fran, Miami, Chicago, etc. is not within reach if your income is less than $200,000 annually. Out in the burbs the majority of people in apartments are singles or people just out of school, beginning their careers.

    Suburban sprawl was subsidized? By whom? I know developers, and they will build what the market demands – homes or apartments. Apartments fell out of favor over the last few years because you could own a home for about the same monthly cost of renting. With the mortgage meltdown, watch for the reverse. Market forces, people, market forces.

  • avatar
    Kenno5401

    Also, those developers who build homes/apartments/condos have to go to a bank to borrow the money to build. The bank will review the plans and projections and if they see a viable business model they will lend. The developer then have to sell/rent at least 85% to see any profit. If they fail to sell/rent sufficient units they face bankruptcy. No subsidies.

    “how much money is it worth to live in a house instead of an apartment?”

    In a free society I will live wherever I choose and in whatever type of domicile I can afford. There is no lack of houses, apartments, or condos near any metropolis that one can choose from.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I remembered an issue of Time magazine.

    A “76″ yr old woman on roller blades working for a Sonic. The cover story was about elderly people still working after they retired just to pay off their mortgage,property tax,garbage fee,oil for the furnaces etc etc.

    The Condo in Boston Back Bay (Beacon Street) is about $600,000 for a 1 bedroom unit without parking. I said to myself if it’s almost 1/2 a mil. How much will I pay for a house or Condo when I finish my College?

    I also have to pay my $80,000 student loan.
    Oh well!!! I guess I’ll back in my Parents’crib after graduation. It is really awful to be part of the Boomerang Generation.

    Economics!!! if Greenspan couldn’t do it who will?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    M1,

    Once again, I call bullshit. I see the opposite being subsidized. What precise subsidy are you referring to?

    Also, the standard suburb to downtown commute is not really the culprit is it? We have people commuting ACROSS town, and from town to town.

  • avatar
    Kenno5401

    Beat – do like I and many others did – find an apartment out in the burbs where the rent is affordable. You may have a long commute to work, but them’s the price you pay when you start out.

    Virtually no one starts at the top of the housing end right out of school (unless your trust fund will allow, which the average Joe/Jane does not have), you work yourself there over time. I grew up in DC and my wife and I started in an apartment, worked two jobs to save money for a downpayment on house, and after two years of that had enough cash for a townhouse. Four years later we sold the townhouse and used the equity to buy a house. One step at a time, my friend.

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    Regrettably my lunch break is coming to an end and I do not have time to read all the comments, so if someone already touched on it I apologize.

    Politicians in Illinois are doing their best to ruin mass transit.

    And as long as the politicians are blind to the fact that taxes drive businesses away, business will always “escape” to the suburbs that are run by people who have half a clue.

    When will the construction business be held accountable for more efficient buildings?

    Someone mentioned nuclear as alternative energy, and what to do with the waste. Recycle it! But our forward thinking government doesn’t allow it. GE built such a plant near Morris Illinois three decades ago and is basically forbidden to run it. Something along the lines of 90% of nuclear waste can be recylced and used to keep fueling the reactors…

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “Suburban sprawl was subsidized? By whom?”

    By urban drivers, and even urban non-drivers. 90% of my driving miles are on roads which don’t get a penny from the gas tax (because cities maintain a much higher percentage of their major arterial network); while my suburban friends spend 90% of their time on roads which do (“state highway system” even though they’re functionally just arterials).

    And that’s just one of about a hundred ways in which suburban sprawl was subsidized. You also ignored the fact that urban development was effectively outlawed almost everywhere after about 1950 – zoning codes basically prohibit the best urban neighborhoods from ever getting built again.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK: Statement like that are completely useless. I want to eat steak every day, too. I also want to go to Hawaii every year for my vacation.

    It’s best to compare apples to apples. Housing is a very different choice, compared to a vacation (which occurs once a year at most for the majority of us, and is a luxury item) and food (which must be varied regularly to constitute a healthy diet).

    When consumers have choices, they will exercise those choices. The bottom line is that surveys repeatedly show that a single-family detached house is what the majority of people want.

    M1EK: The problem in this country is that we made sprawl artificially cheap by subsdizing it out the wazoo and regulating the hell out of urban development (you can’t even build good urban buildings in most cities – it’s simply not allowed).

    And which government bodies “regulate the hell” out of urban development?

    Urban governments!

    The culprits are not suburban governments and suburban voters (your vote is based on your residence).

    I agree that over-regulation in urban areas is a problem, but this is not the fault of:

    1. suburban or rural residents;
    2. suburban or rural local governments;
    3. the auto industry;
    4. builders of subdivisions in rural or suburban neighborhoods.

    Unless the above parties have teamed up to secretly run urban governments.

    M1EK: Despite that, a ton of people STILL choose to live in apartments – even the suburban ones which have all the disadvantages of density but none of the advantages. Why? COST.

    Suburban apartments have the advantages of being located in areas with lower crime rates and better schools, for starters. The simple fact is that in a country of 300 million people, I can find “a ton” of people who do anything.

    Choosing a place to live isn’t strictly done on a dollars-and-cents basis. We could probably save money by moving into a one-bedroom apartment near my job. My wife could take mass transit, and I could walk to work. We would save money.

    But the extra money we spend on a larger house in a less dense neighborhood, combined with the convenience and flexibility of a car (plus, I enjoy driving), are worth it.

    M1EK: You also ignored the fact that urban development was effectively outlawed almost everywhere after about 1950 – zoning codes basically prohibit the best urban neighborhoods from ever getting built again.

    Once again, if it was outlawed in urban areas, that is the fault of urban governments, which are directly accountable to urban voters.

    As for outlawing it in other areas – if people had wanted urban-style developments, they could have continued living in…the city. The obviously didn’t want it in the first place, judging by the flow of residents since the 1950s. Otherwise, they would never have left.

    M1EK: By urban drivers, and even urban non-drivers. 90% of my driving miles are on roads which don’t get a penny from the gas tax (because cities maintain a much higher percentage of their major arterial network); while my suburban friends spend 90% of their time on roads which do (”state highway system” even though they’re functionally just arterials).

    If suburban drivers spend 90 percent of their time on roads which do receive funds from the gas tax, and they pay this tax by buying gasoline, they are “subsidizing” the road that they are using.

    You are also forgetting that states also have instituted their own gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes, and part of the revenue raised by those can be sent to urban areas. That is what happens in Pennsylvania.

  • avatar
    Planet Moron

    As I have for years, I attended the annual Washington DC Auto Show last week, and prominently displayed at the entrance to one of the main floors was the distinctive rectangular block of a crushed automobile.

    Whether it was part of a new federal initiative to address growing congestion or a publicly funded piece of post-modern sculpture meant to evoke the inherent conflict between man and machine, I do not know. I do know it was more interesting than the electric hybrid fuel cell (whatever) mass transit bus display they had last year.

    I think we need Mr. Yates now more than ever. Good to have you back, sir.

  • avatar
    geeber

    I met Mr. Csere at a National Motorists’ Association event a few years ago. He was friendly, polite and and very well informed about the industry.

    I seriously doubt that he, and he alone, made the decision to fire Mr. Yates.

  • avatar
    -TC-

    Bloody hell..Brock Yates

    I missed you man.

    Welcome to the interweb and I look forward to reading you again.

  • avatar
    waterdale

    I join the many others who are elated at seeing you back in “print”. I am 58 and started subscription to C&D when I was in my early 20′s. Perhaps I’ve outgrown it, or it has outgrown me, but I no longer yearn for the new issue the way I used to. Worse, when it does arrive, I am now satisfied to let it sit for a day or two before I flip a page. But somehow, my interest in cars has not diminished. I met you briefly a few years back at your pub. You signed a copy of your latest book, and upon leaving the pub, complimented me on my “rare old bird” (a 74 Jensen Healey parked in front). I tried to tell my wife you were referring to her. I sold the Jensen when my 23 yr old mechanic son decided his love interest was his Viggen. The wife now accuses me of trying to wow ossified blue-haired debutants as I cruise about in out latest sport, a S2000.

    Be looking forward to more from you.

    Dale from Avon

  • avatar
    Kenno5401

    “also forgetting that states also have instituted their own gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes”

    I think that for every $3 gallon of gas sold, the oil company makes a profit of something like .14 (cents) where the federal and local governments pull in over .60 (cents) per gallon in taxes. Remember that next time you hear anyone bitching about the profits the oil companies are making. The government is pulling in four times what the oil companies are making.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    There have been a few fairly vicious attacks on Brock scattered amid the adulation, and since Yates stopped bothering to defend himself against such stuff probably 40 years ago, let me do a little on his behalf, since I’ve known and worked with him since the early ’70s and since we’ve had our own inevitable conflicts yet are still good friends. Anybody who accuses Brock of being a bystander forgets that he has done everything from writing one of the most precedential works on Detroit’s problems (”The Grosse Pointe Myopians,” in the early ’70s, when many people on this forum who wax wroth on Detroit’s mistakes weren’t born yet) to driving a Camaro in serious Trans-Am races in the late ’60s. He did a wonderful book about that, “Sunday Driver,” and I doubt one percent of the people who comment here would have been capable of even pretending to be a Trans-Am driver during the golden age of that series. That was not track days, kids, not BMW Club DEs at Lime Rock, that was trying to stay out of the way of Parnelli and Mark and Rodger and all the rest. Heavy duty. Yates has written a number of nonfiction books of considerable worth. He has written novels. He has written screenplays. He has driven racecars. He has charmed the rich and famous many of whom think he’s just great. Oh, and he has a garage filled with classic sprint cars, Indy cars, musclecars and whackco oddities that would take any of us hours to admire. Those of you who think you've done more, or better, you probably haven't.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Now you know you’re big pimpin’ when somebody else slaps the bitches for you. Damn. :P

  • avatar
    Seth

    Get up early in the morning and leave before 6:30 am for work. That is the easiest fix. Hard part is to consistently wake up at 4 am every day. Its actually quite fun to be the early bird. One gets used to it. Icing on the cake is to leave for home at 3 to 3:30.

  • avatar
    Nopanegain

    Stephan Wilkinson : We have an excellent mass-transit rail system where I live (Hudson River Valley), but unless you’re a five-day-a-week commuter, you can’t use it: there’s no parking for occasional travelers. Either you buy an expensive monthly permit for the commuter lot or you park illegally and get expensively ticketed by one of the cop-vultures who circle the station area endlessly looking for the poor fools who simply have to go to New York for the day. Crazy.

    Although this is a Brock party, I have to give credit to Stephan for so eloquently describing the situation we have getting into NYC (I am on Long Island). We should take initiative and send this to every town and village hall, as well as the MTA.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Brock was one of the many reasons why I ended up having such a terrible education during my teenage years.

    When I was in high school, I was the kid who read magazines and books in the back of the class.
    The magazines were always more easily hidden since they were simply perched on whatever textbook I was supposed to be reading at that time.

    While I would read, I’d also take the opportunity to draw some creative figures for the nearby audience. Although these displays of creativity would eventually cost me a relationship with a very nice Mormon girl (My ‘Hollymobile’ was an MR2 with her breasts for airbags), it would help choke down all those painful minutes upon minutes of high school purgatory.

    All of my friends were just plain nuts about cars. Most of us were just plain nuts as well. Thanks to a healthy diet of excess hormones and hours upon hours of boredom. I had a friend of mine who would actually remove the new Motor Trend issue from the library every month, burn or mutilate it, and tape warnings on the cover. The beginning would always say something in the lines of us, “We have issues with your issues” and would go on about how full of “lying and corporate wanking” that magazine is and how “depressingly pointless” it was to buy it. Eventually after he flushed the Car of the Year issue down the toilet (among other many unprintable things), they finally canceled the subscription.

    These days he’s a cop ;)

    Then again, once Motor Trend named the Caprice ‘Car of The Year’, I was able to create an entire series for what eventually became known as the Vomit Car. A car that was so amazingly ugly that it would make gearheads, babies, dogs, and even George Bush spew at the very sight of it. Many of my high school friends still like to think that George Bush spewed all over the PM of Japan because Roger Smith showed them that car.

    For a while I considered Automobile and Car & Driver neck and neck in terms of content. But then I read a book in the nearby library which truly changed my perspective on what content truly encompassed in the auto monthlies. It was a seminal work by Brock Yates called, ‘The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry’. That book literally represented a bridge between what was then a simple love for cars, and what was to become a love for the auto industry itself.

    After that I literally read everything I could find related to the auto industry (except Motor Trend.) While my GPA gradually became as ugly as a Chrysler Imperial, I began embarking on a new journey that would eventually lead to the world of dealer auctions, cars, and the auction business.

    Brock, if you would ever consider modifying a W116 for the next One Lap let me know. I happen to have a beautiful gray market one that is sitting on my driveway at the moment.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    Mr. Yates, it’s been far too long since i’ve read your writing. You were the only thing i liked to read in C&D (now it’s basically 60% shit advertisements anyway and the stories are all old and sometimes rather wrong) so I’m very happy you’ve migrated to where the current crop of car crazies has gone: the internet, to cut out the bullshit.

    You were an inspiration to me to pursue a career in journalism. While your shitcanning saddened me, it also gave me a more realistic view of things.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your articles. Welcome aboard.

  • avatar

    I’d missed Mr. Yates, but wonder when I’ll get the remaining newsletters I subscribed to back in the 80′s. (just kidding).

    Since I drive 30k per year fighting traffic tickets, I have become very good at avoiding rush hour. Our highway systems, when open, are insanely efficent, so much so that I can cover 200 miles in the NY metro area without a hitch. Conversely, in some areas, at some times, 3 mph is a GOOD speed.

    I appreciate his observation that we are not a society of mass-transiters. The Transportation Alternatives folk here in NYC are a joke, in that while they make some sense on the isle of Manhattan, they make none at all off the isle of Manhattan, even after you seperate the car haters from the rest.

    Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to live in a suburb with a small “village” downtown, where you can walk to stores, bars and food ? No one builds them now….they all come from the teens and 20′s.

    Mr. Yates gave us great support at the National Motorist’s Association when we fought (seemingly alone at times) the dreaded double nickel. In a pre internet world, his C/D colums were pure gold.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    “If suburban drivers spend 90 percent of their time on roads which do receive funds from the gas tax, and they pay this tax by buying gasoline, they are “subsidizing” the road that they are using.”

    Ignoring the rest of your zoning comments, which betray a willful ignorance of the effect of zoning on what people can “choose”, this part is the most important:

    If I drive 10% of my miles on roads which get gas tax money, and you drive 90% of your miles on those types of roads; and we both pay gas taxes 100% of the time; I’m subsidizing you, not the other way around. It’s very very simple.

    And the vast majority of state gas taxes in most states go to suburban commuter roadways as well, don’t forget. I didn’t say “federal”; I meant “all” gas taxes.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Is that the some of your subsidy evidence. People who use the highways are subsidised by people who do not?

    You are correct about that subsidy. (Part of our problem seems to be the definition of suburb. You seem to be talking about suburbs that are seperate cities and townships.)

    Urban communities continue to choose transportation projects over congestion for a good reason. They want the people from those other cities to come there for commerce so they can TAX THEM. It’s their choice. At the same time, the giant sucking sound of other tax money that leaves the suburbs and ends up being spent in the urban areas should not be ignored. Fuel taxes are a lot of money, but you might want to compare how much you spend on income, property, sales, and hidden taxes so that you see the bigger issue. Large cities are black holes for cash.

    As for the zoning, Houston doesn’t have it. I would say it makes little difference. We are having a big fight down here now because developers want to increase density and we can’t “control” it. At the same time, zoned cities let the developers do what they want if they grease the right palms, so what is the difference? I have lived in many places, and Houston is better organized than most. Much better than anything in the same size range. The only place I thought had done better was Denver, but it came with a cost. They used zoning to SAVE nice urban neighborhoods. Sort of defeating your argument.

  • avatar
    skor

    geeber:They’ve been predicting this since I was a child, and it has never come to pass.

    The last big run-up in gasoline prices – during the 1970s – accelerated the flight from the city. And most of the growth in cities over the past few years has come from immigrants, not native-born Americans, the majority of whom will continue to avoid city living.

    Most Americans do not want to live in an apartment in the city. They want a detached house with a yard. (Most Europeans do, too, but their governments discourage them from having it.) Outside of New York City and a few other metropolitan areas, people do not view living in a 50-story high rise or converted warehouse as a good thing. (Also note that quite a few New Yorkers living in those apartments have houses in the country.)

    Businesses will always locate where the largest number of middle class and upper-middle class people are, and that is the suburbs.

    I’m always amazed by the absolute ignorance that the average American displays when it comes to history and economics.

    Yes, doom-sayers have been predicting all kinds of nastiness since the world began, but this time it appears that we’ve finally arrived. The economies of China and India have now come on-line. Billions of people who now expect a bit more out of life than a daily bowl of rice. In addition, the populations of the third world continue to explode. While demand for just about everything increases by the day, the supply of petroleum — the easy to get stuff, i.e. the cheap petroleum, has not kept pace. Yeah, I know, shale oil, oil sands, blah blah. All that stuff won’t be practical until oil hits $200 barrel or more. Then you’ll be able to buy all the gas you want, @ $12/gallon.

    The 1970′s run-up in gas prices caused an exodus from the cities? Man, you must be joking! Urban flight started in the early 1950′s, subsidized and encourage by the Feds. Ever hear of the GI bill? How about the interstate highway projects. Today cheap suburban living is subsidized by exploitation of cheap foreign labor (both here and abroad),and massive current account/budget deficits. Let’s not mention that the US dollar has been on a defacto “oil standard” since Nixon closed the gold window. Well, it seems we’ve hit the end of the line with all these things.

    What people want, and what they can afford are not the same thing. Very soon, many Americans will find out that their 3,000 square foot, vinyl clad, chip board, McMansions, located 80 miles from their jobs, are the biggest mistake they ever made.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The economies of China and India have now come on-line. Billions of people who now expect a bit more out of life than a daily bowl of rice. In addition, the populations of the third world continue to explode. While demand for just about everything increases by the day, the supply of petroleum — the easy to get stuff, i.e. the cheap petroleum, has not kept pace. Yeah, I know, shale oil, oil sands, blah blah. All that stuff won’t be practical until oil hits $200 barrel or more. Then you’ll be able to buy all the gas you want, @ $12/gallon.

    $200 oil will still leave gasoline prices in the US cheaper than in Europe today. We can handle $200 oil, particularly since at that price higher-extraction-cost alternative oils become economically viable and supplies in the U.S. are ample. Further, for the portion of the population for which further fuel price increases are difficult, as well as for business and individuals who are simply profit or efficiency-oriented, usage patterns will change just as they did from 1973 – 1990. Higher energy costs are not a problem if we grow incomes to pay for it through productivity. But wringing more efficiency from the energy sources we have will continue to do its part to mitigate price pressure.

    Rapid gains in distribution of prosperity in China and India will push up many commodity prices until supplies either increase, or usage is aligned with availability at tolerable prices. But this is a temporary problem. Prosperity is the most effective population moderator in history, so we want to see more of it. World population is currently projected to peak mid-century and then go into extended decline.

    We also have the opportunity to shift our fixed-location power generation toward a mix of plentiful coal in clean forms, private mass adoption of solar and large scale solar farming, nuclear, wind, wave, geothermal, etc. Doing so will take some pressure off liquid fuels. We shouldn’t be burning oil to generate electricity.

    The 1970’s run-up in gas prices caused an exodus from the cities? Man, you must be joking! Urban flight started in the early 1950’s, subsidized and encourage by the Feds. Ever hear of the GI bill? How about the interstate highway projects. Today cheap suburban living is subsidized by exploitation of cheap foreign labor (both here and abroad),and massive current account/budget deficits. Let’s not mention that the US dollar has been on a defacto “oil standard” since Nixon closed the gold window. Well, it seems we’ve hit the end of the line with all these things.

    You’re correct about the timing of urban exodus in the US. In fact, it was in the wake of the initial oil embargo energy crisis in 1973 that loss of population from our older cities began to be arrested. Gasoline prices weren’t the primary driver, however. It was early young adult Boomers who initiated the wave of Yuppie gentrification in core urban neighborhoods mostly on social preference. In 1975, properties in Boston’s Back Bay that could be had for $25,000, for example, were upwards of $1,000,000 by 1986.

    What people want, and what they can afford are not the same thing. Very soon, many Americans will find out that their 3,000 square foot, vinyl clad, chip board, McMansions, located 80 miles from their jobs, are the biggest mistake they ever made.

    “Want” and “can have” are always bumping into each other. That tension is natural. I don’t see 3,000 s.f “McMansions,” More like 5500 s.f. plus. But point taken. Ex-urbanization might prove to be an expensive mistake — or not. In California, growth-driven ex-urbanization has resulted in businesses going to where the people and space are. So communities that were new and fairly isolated out by I-15 or well north of L.A. ten years ago are now magnets for employers who have seriously boosted the range and depth of employment options for those communities. Put another way, those former edge communities are now more efficient economically and socially than they were when new. This doesn’t work so well when ex-urbanization is simply dispersion and not growth. Matrixed commuting from suburb to suburb is lengthening commute times much more than that between suburbs and downtowns.

    There will always be people who view present circumstances as alarming. But everything in front of us is manageable, if we just don’t panic and people think about how their own decisions affect the contexts of their life. One thing is certain: we have no choice but to engineer proliferating prosperity. Too much of the policy thinking in response to resource competition, alleged anthropogenicism in climate change and international economics and financial disorder is pessimistic, reflexive and prone to impede wealth creation. Poverty only ties our hands. Economic expansion is essential to bringing the disequilibriums of the world into balance.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Phil, you should find a few good subjects and write some posts. I’m sure Farago would love it. I greatly enjoy reading your comments, and to me they typify the intelligence and literacy that is the core of this website.

  • avatar

    Phil – I’ll second Stephan’s comment. Your XLR-V review generated a near-record number of comments and your thoughtful and informed responses were greatly appreciated.

    On the other hand, I’d have difficulty finding historical proof to “Economic expansion is essential to bringing the disequilibriums of the world into balance.” I’d like to hope this was true, but so often the effect has been the opposite.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Stephan,

    Thank-you. I have some topics backing up. I’m clearing some time to write them.

    edgett,

    I’d have difficulty finding historical proof to “Economic expansion is essential to bringing the disequilibriums of the world into balance.” I’d like to hope this was true, but so often the effect has been the opposite.

    This is easy, isn’t it? Keeping Germany impoverished after WWI was a disastrous strategy led by the European powers. Lifting Germany up after WWII — the American response — succeeded spectacularly, as it also did in Japan. During the Depression, societies mostly moved backward. But despite only incremental economic progress until the War, the American polity’s commitment to instigating economic expansion myriad ways enabled our society to continue to move forward in other respects. After the war, adding dramatic economic expansion made things happen quickly on all social and political fronts.

    Ensuring that India, China, the Islamic sphere, Russia and Africa dramatically expand their middle class populations is far better than keeping them poor. When I say economic expansion is essential to making progress on the world’s disequilibriums, I am not referring to the microeconomic assurance that all individuals will participate, but to the macroeconomic certainty that the climb to prosperity fuels education, innovation, creativity, reduces conflict and expands the resource pool for tackling the expensive problems in front of us that are beyond any one country’s capability to solve. The US is still the primary engine and guarantor for global economic well-being. It will be good to have some help.

    Phil

  • avatar
    AKM

    to “Economic expansion is essential to bringing the disequilibriums of the world into balance.”

    I assume Phil meant Economic disequilibriums. Obviously disappearing languages and ecosystems may disagree otherwise. But even there, cultural and environmental conservation become issues again after a certain phase of development, when supplemental income is such that people can afford to care. The most destructive phases of economic development happen early on. The environment is better cared for now than in the 19th century in Europe and the U.S., despite huge increases in human footprint.

    Higher energy costs are not a problem if we grow incomes to pay for it through productivity. But wringing more efficiency from the energy sources we have will continue to do its part to mitigate price pressure.

    Rapid gains in distribution of prosperity in China and India will push up many commodity prices until supplies either increase, or usage is aligned with availability at tolerable prices. But this is a temporary problem. Prosperity is the most effective population moderator in history, so we want to see more of it. World population is currently projected to peak mid-century and then go into extended decline.

    True. Read today in the Economist that this peak has in fact already been reached. Only extremely poor nations still have high fertility rates (almost all concentrated in Africa), while the countries that have seen the strongest economic grotwh (East and SE Asia, Latin America) have seen their fertility rates dwindle to average of 2.4.
    While the hunger for Western-style prosperity for the billions of people who can now have a go at it is worrying for its impact on our cultures and eco-systems, there is hope in the sense that many of those developing countries can leapfrog the most destructive phase of economic development. For example, cellphones have a much higher energy efficiency than landlines do, and they allow for rapid communication, thus mitigating the need for more cars on the road. There is hope…we just have to work together on this. In this era of globalization, I, for one, cannot wait to see nationalisms fall. Maybe that’s an utopic thought, but hey…

  • avatar

    HOLY OLD MEDIA MEETS NEW MEDIA, BATMAN!!!!!!!!!

    Tell me this is some kind of joke from “Punk’d” or something. -It’s not the Actual Brock Yates; it’s really something like Gizmodo’s “Fake Steve Jobs”.

    Otherwise if the dream is real, then: Welcome aboard, Brock!!!

    Cheers.

  • avatar

    Phil – Thanks for the usual erudite response “When I say economic expansion is essential to making progress on the world’s disequilibriums, I am not referring to the microeconomic assurance that all individuals will participate, but to the macroeconomic certainty that the climb to prosperity fuels education, innovation, creativity, reduces conflict and expands the resource pool for tackling the expensive problems in front of us that are beyond any one country’s capability to solve.”

    I have to agree with your logic, although as I considered my original point, I wasn’t thinking about Germany and Japan as both of these are enormous success stories, but about American “economic assistance” to such places as Mexico and other friends in the Americas. Your point, however, is well taken; in the case of the Americas our economic assistance was frequently coupled with bad political assistance to maintain a rotten status quo. The growth of the Chinese capitalist economy was seeded by Nixon’s re-connection with China in direct opposition to our “communism is ALWAYS bad” foreign policy. China may be counted upon as a success story as well, simply through our cooperation in making it into a significant trading partner.

    Remembering that in 1972 China was our sworn enemy, one wonders what a Nixonian response to Iran might deliver in the future.

  • avatar
    geeber

    skor: Yes, doom-sayers have been predicting all kinds of nastiness since the world began, but this time it appears that we’ve finally arrived.

    As Phil has ably shown, all of our problems are easily managable. It looked like we’d “finally arrived” when Malthus made his gloomy predictions, too. You need a better sense of history.

    skor: In addition, the populations of the third world continue to explode.

    As countries get richer, their population growth declines. In several European countries (Germany and Italy, in particular) and Japan, the big concern is DECLINING population.

    If you were really concerned about increasing population, you would want those Third World countries to become richer, because as wealth increases, people have fewer children.

    In poor societies, children are an asset. They can be put to work at a very young age. Plus, poor health care and generally substandard cleanliness mean that parents must have more children to ensure that at least one or two survive to adulthood.

    In rich societies, children become an expense until they are legally adults (usually at age 18). They must be fed, clothed and educated until they are adults. Plus, better health care and improved sanitation mean that people can have one or two children and be assured that they will live to adulthood.

    If you want to check population growth, you want people to become richer.

    skor: While demand for just about everything increases by the day, the supply of petroleum — the easy to get stuff, i.e. the cheap petroleum, has not kept pace. Yeah, I know, shale oil, oil sands, blah blah. All that stuff won’t be practical until oil hits $200 barrel or more. Then you’ll be able to buy all the gas you want, @ $12/gallon.

    As demand for a product increases, increasing price pressure makes substitutes and new technologies more feasible. There is no reason to think that this will not happen with oil or anything else.

    skor: The 1970’s run-up in gas prices caused an exodus from the cities? Man, you must be joking!

    Perhaps I should restate the point that I was trying to make. The basis of your argument, as I understood it, was that higher gas prices are going to make people flock to the cities, and make the suburbs basically unlivable.

    Except that, in the 1970s, not only did gasoline prices dramatically increase during the two fuel shortgage, but during certain periods it was not available at any price.

    I know of nowhere in the United States or Europe where that (i.e, the unavailability of gasoline or diesel fuel) has happened today.

    Yet, despite this fact, suburbanization continued in the 1970s, and more employers moved out to the suburbs.

    Which basically undermines your whole argument.

    skor: Urban flight started in the early 1950’s, subsidized and encourage by the Feds. Ever hear of the GI bill?

    Suburbanization started long before the 1950s. If you come with me to Philadelphia, we’ll take a trip along Lancaster Avenue (starting at City Line Avenue, which forms the boundary between Philadelphia proper and the western suburbs, and then heading west) and look at the buildings and houses along the Main Line, some of which date to the turn of the last century.

    We’ll also visit Upper Darby, outside of Philadelphia, which was one of the fastest growing areas of the United States in the 1920s.

    In the Harrisburg region I can take you to Camp Hill, New Cumberland and Susquehanna Township, and we’ll look at all the pre-World War II houses and buildings there, too.

    People have been moving out of the central city in the U.S. for decades. The GI bill only made this option more accessible to larger numbers of people.

    Incidentally, during the 1960s, gasoline was more expesive relative to the average American’s income in the U.S. than it was today…yet suburbanization continued. Which also undermines your argument.

    skor: How about the interstate highway projects.

    And before that, there were railway lines. That is why the suburbs west of Philadelphia are collectively referred to as the Main Line. They were located along the main railway line leading out of the city.

    skor: Today cheap suburban living is subsidized by exploitation of cheap foreign labor (both here and abroad),and massive current account/budget deficits.

    The United States deficits, when measured properly, are not out of line of those run up by several other European countries.

    And the idea that we are “exploiting” all foreign labor, because it is less expensive, is uninformed. Do you have any idea how many of those people were living BEFORE they got jobs in factories? It was hardly a bucolic existence.

    skor: Let’s not mention that the US dollar has been on a defacto “oil standard” since Nixon closed the gold window. Well, it seems we’ve hit the end of the line with all these things.

    Except that the lower dollar makes U.S. goods more competitive in world markets, and also encourages foreigners to set up shop here. Hardly seems like a catastrophe.

    skor: What people want, and what they can afford are not the same thing. Very soon, many Americans will find out that their 3,000 square foot, vinyl clad, chip board, McMansions, located 80 miles from their jobs, are the biggest mistake they ever made.

    And they’ve been predicting that one for years, too.

    Sorry, but like a lot of professional (and lay) gloomsters, you need to distinguish between what is really happening, and what you HOPE will happen because you don’t like suburbs, the people who live in them, the automobile or whatever…

  • avatar

    Brock,
    Welcome. I’m a long time fan of yours. Been reading your stuff in Car&Driver since forever. You were always the best columnist in that rag. Since they let you go, they don’t have long to live. Did they lay you off to save paying your pension

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Okay okay okay, after 18 pages of comments virtually every one of which has “C&D” in it somewhere, which spells out in an awkward electronic fashion anyway, the world needs to know that Car and Driver has no ampersand. None. Nada.

    Road & Track is the magazine with the ampersand. At Car and Driver, we always abbreviated it “C/D.”

  • avatar

    At Car and Driver, we always abbreviated it “C/D.”

    Funny, my wife always called it “Car and Drivel”, but she was careful not to use an ampersand…

  • avatar
    minion444

    YATES!!

    I am thrilled that you have found a home here! I will look forward to my Monday’s and just put a calendar reminder in my phone.

    Now all we need is Satch Carlson………

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Edgett,

    It was refreshing to see the word erudite used as a compliment. Perhaps there is hope for our country after all.

    I am still wondering where you think good economies have been bad for the world?

  • avatar
    1lapracer

    Brock,

    Enjoyed the conversations at Hallett and South Bend during the always best week a car guy can have. Nothing like seeing your dually tagging along behind us on the open highway!

    Glad to see you back in the saddle. Spread the gospel and convert these heathens to your One Lap children.

    Lap Dog 1999, 2000 and 2007.

    Keith

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Yates’ C/D columns were okay, nothing particularly great. I liked David E. Davis’ stuff better, until he became full of himself when he went over to Automobile. Gordon Baxter was the best. Regardless, there’s no question that TTAC’s street cred has been lifted immeasurably by Yates’ addition.

    To see how far C/D has fallen, all one has to do is leaf through some old issues from the sixties and seventies. There was some gonzo automobile enthusiast journalism at its best. While it’s true they were, at times, way out in left field, well, that’s where you have to go to be on the cutting edge.

    Frankly, the only thing that keeps C/D afloat nowadays is that Rodent Truck and Moto Rooter, to this day, still remain vastly inferior competitors.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    If you come with me to Philadelphia, we’ll take a trip along Lancaster Avenue (starting at City Line Avenue, which forms the boundary between Philadelphia proper and the western suburbs, and then heading west) and look at the buildings and houses along the Main Line, some of which date to the turn of the last century.

    We’ll also visit Upper Darby, outside of Philadelphia, which was one of the fastest growing areas of the United States in the 1920s.

    In the Harrisburg region I can take you to Camp Hill, New Cumberland and Susquehanna Township, and we’ll look at all the pre-World War II houses and buildings there, too.

    Geeber,

    Are you located somewhere between Philadelphia and Harrisburg? I’m from Lancaster County; spent the first 22 years of my life in Pennsylvania. Hershey, Maple Grove Dragway, Nazareth, Dover, Pocono, ribbons of isolated back roads, barn cars — it’s always been a great place to enjoy and discover cars. Not to mention guitars. That was all consolation for the trauma of the 1964 Phillies when I was growing up.

    You can see these patterns of early suburbanization that occurred between roughly 1880 – WWII in regional cities of Reading, Lebanon, Lancaster and even in the small towns that were well established in that region by then.

    Phil

  • avatar

    Landcrusher – glad you liked the use of erudite; I don’t get to use it very often, but in Phil’s case it is often applicable. Even when I disagree with him, I find he puts together an excellent argument and his stance on the XLR-V was in the end well reasoned and very thought-provoking.

    As to good economies doing bad things, I’m not sure that our ‘good economy’ has always done good things in our name. The deposition of Allende (a democratically elected leader) and our support of a variety of tinhorn dictators (Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Somoza, Suharto come to mind in no particular order) does not argue for the positive influence of good economies. On the other hand, Phil correctly notes that the U.S. economy did great things for both post-war Germany and Japan, and has helped to build both China and India into emerging economic powerhouses. As I noted, even today an approach to Iran similar to Nixon’s with China might improve our influence in the Arab states and help to stabilize that part of the world. We don’t have to like their politics to find ways to trade with them. And as far as repression goes, neither the Saudi nor the Pakistani governments provide the kinds of places I’d like to live, although we do manage to sell them lots of weapons.

  • avatar
    BreakerJackson

    Welcome back to the car world, Brock. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of you in the future.

    And yes, traffic sucks. Which is why I’m glad I don’t have a long commute.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    As far as zoning, Houston actually has all of the suburban sprawl mandating characteristics of zoning except for strict separation of use (they still have thinks like mandatory parking spaces; setbacks; etc.)

    As far as the old suburbs – they’re called “streetcar suburbs” for a reason – they’re basically little towns originally built around streetcar lines, which makes them both more enjoyable to live in and more sustainable going forward.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Phil,

    I grew up in Shippensburg (about 22 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line along I-81), and now live just outside of Harrisburg. I also went to school at Temple University and lived on campus (in lovely North Philadelphia – LOL!) for two years. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I plan to attend the Philadelphia Auto Show.

    Our current home was built in 1905, and was clearly placed away from the city and the steel mill in nearby Steelton. One of the the nation’s first “planned” suburban-style neighborhoods was built in Harrisburg between 1910-1920 – Bellevue Park, which is still a beautiful area today.

    This area is great for the old car hobby. We have the Carlisle Events shows from April to October, the big Hershey Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) fall meet, and the AACA Museum just outside of Hershey.

    As I recall, you live in California…what surprised me during my visits to San Francisco in 2003 and Los Angeles in 2006 was the number of old cars on the road in daily service. I remember driving by a gas station in Los Angeles and seeing a 1957 Plymouth Belevedere hardtop at the pump. It was clearly unrestored and used as a daily driver. Around here those cars are all either rusted away or parked in heated garages and brought out for car show.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    edgett,

    I don’t think it’s quite right to correlate good, strong economy with all the things a powerful country does politically. You can make a link first, then do it, but I am not sure that is really fair. The Soviet Union was guilty of all the same sorts of things we did until we ran their economy into the ground. Therefore, was it really our strong economy that made us prop up some of those dictators?

    At any rate, I like to remind people that the description of Democracy as being the worst form of government except for all the rest applies to the US. What other power in history has been better? Not perfect, maybe not even benevolent, but we are definitely best so far.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK,

    That is a policy set by Houston’s city government, and if Houston residents don’t like it, they need to elect local officials who will change it. I fail to see how this is the concern (or the fault of) of the automakers, people who don’t live in Houston, suburbanites, or, say, Pennsylvania residents…

    That sounds like a Houston situation that needs to be addressed by Houston residents.

    Here in Pennsylvania there are plenty of old-style urban neighborhoods (row homes, apartment buildings, or big older houses set relatively close together) in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and other cities.

    If you like that style of living, there are plenty of neighborhoods that offer that option.

    Many of them are actually quite expensive…which tells me that people want to live there.

    There is no need to demand that Susquehanna Township or Silver Spring Township near Harrisburg offer that option to ensure that people have that choice. They can enjoy it in Harrisburg, or even some of the smaller satellite towns such as Steelton, Mechanicsburg and Middletown.

    As far as “streetcar suburbs” – people used the technology available at that time to move out of the city. Then they used the automobile. And people can define for themselves what constitutes an enjoyable place to live.

  • avatar

    Landcrusher -

    I’m not suggesting that America is a force of evil in the world, as history has shown that it has done a great deal to lift the plight of those around us. But I was merely cautioning that economic expansion sometimes is accompanied by poor political judgment and that our strong economy also did little to improve conditions in many countries where we were highly influential.

    The larger point is that our economic might can represent a far better political tool than our military might. Regardless of whether one approves of the political system in China, our economies are now so interlocked that we share interests which transcend being political adversaries. China attacking the U.S. would be economic suicide and vice versa.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Edgett,

    Well, I can’t disagree with that. I am just saying that our political judgement (good or bad)does not seem to be a direct consequence of a good economy.

  • avatar
    mrwarmth

    Yawn. If I wanted to hear my father ranting at the TV, and I’d go home for a visit.

    If this is an example of the typical reverse peristalsis we can expect from Brock Yates, perhaps we now know why he is no longer bloviating at Car and Driver?

    Just a thought.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    geeber, you miss the point entirely. People use the lack of urban development as evidence that people don’t want it – when it’s actually being prohibited by zoning code, which is a lot less responsive to consumer demand than the market is. In places where urban development still exists, it is, as you noted, wildly popular.

    The streetcar suburbs share more in common with Manhattan than they do with today’s exurbs. That’s why they remain so attractive today – people are wired deep down to like walkable environments.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    M1EK,

    You need to define what you mean by “urban development”. Give us an example of an urban development that you think is desirable to the market, but is prohibited by common zoning codes. I think there is a disconnect in what you are saying, and we are reading.

    Without zoning codes in Houston, we get all sorts of urban development. We also get subsidies and government meddling EVEN WTHOUT zoning codes, so I am really curious.

  • avatar
    Nickatnyt

    Wow. Losing Mr. Yates looks like another nail in the coffin for CD. I already decided not to renew my sub to CD and am looking forward to spending more time here at ‘The Truth’. I have been reading Mr. Yates’ articles for over 20 years now and am looking forward to tuning in each Monday religiously for more here on TTAC.

  • avatar
    Lars Christian

    I’m glad I ran across your editorial. I can’t agree more with what you wrote, our dependence on cars creates a problem almost as massive as the benefits we derive from their use. Its hard to convince people that its not just stupidity that is driving this problem, most people have a fair idea about the costs and benefits involved and act (fairly) rationally.

    Here’s where you stop reading. I think there is good reason to believe the solution is closer than most people think. We are close to refining a tool (the computer) that can remove the design flaw that has been with cars since they were first built (the driver). I do not claim to know exactly how this transformation will take place but I believe it is the most likely solution to a problem that has to be solved.

    Up till now I’ve not seen a good description of the true implications of the automation of cars. The idea that it means you could drink a latte and work on your laptop misses the point entirely. It will rework the structure of society as deeply as did the train, the container box, and the car.

    I’ll put money on it, but your reply would be even more valuable to me.

  • avatar

    What a nice surprise!

    I’ve been reading you for close to 3 decades, Mr. Yates, I’m ready to go on a fourth one.

    Actually, I’ve been thinking about you this past week. Guess why? Well, Dodge is about to launch its new Challenger, and I was looking for someone I could trust to tell me about that car.

    I know you will.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Hmmm…not clear to me why a commentator who can’t spell “whose” would be so opinionated, but that’s just me, an anal grammarian.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I can spell “whose” but I can’t always remember when to use it properly.

    Besides, it’s not clear to me how the internet would have developed, if spelling were a prerequisite for being opinionated.

  • avatar
    geeber

    M1EK Ignoring the rest of your zoning comments, which betray a willful ignorance of the effect of zoning on what people can “choose”, this part is the most important:

    I’d suggest blaming everything on the zoning bogeyman is counterproductive, and ignores that local zoning regulations (or lack thereof) reflect what people who live in those areas want, especially if the neighborhood is available somewhere else.

    If people want urban living, I’m baffled as to why they would demand it in new suburbs, especially when they can get the real thing in cities, and even the smaller towns. At least they can around here.

    Those “new urban” neighborhoods have a sterile feel. I thought the attraction of urban living centered on “authenticity” and “grittiness.”

    Just two weeks ago we visited the town of Celebration, Disney’s ballyhooed “planned” urbanist town just outside of Disneyworld. Both my wife and I agree that the main street looked like…Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives…very staged and artificial.

    M1EK: If I drive 10% of my miles on roads which get gas tax money, and you drive 90% of your miles on those types of roads; and we both pay gas taxes 100% of the time; I’m subsidizing you, not the other way around. It’s very very simple.

    I’ll wait until I see a breakdown of how the revenues from the gasoline tax is spent within each state.

    M1EK: And the vast majority of state gas taxes in most states go to suburban commuter roadways as well, don’t forget. I didn’t say “federal”; I meant “all” gas taxes.

    They go to suburban commuter ways and rural roads…because the “vast majority” of roads are in suburban and urban areas. After all, the whole point of urban living is that everything is more compact.

    Here in Pennsylvania, the “vast majority” of funds collected throughout the state from the sales tax for mass transit go to the Pittsburgh Port Authority and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). Why? Because they are the most heavily used mass transit systems in the state.

    M1EK: geeber, you miss the point entirely. People use the lack of urban development as evidence that people don’t want it – when it’s actually being prohibited by zoning code, which is a lot less responsive to consumer demand than the market is.

    I’m have not missed any point. Urban development is available in URBAN areas, at least here in the Northeast. If people want that option, it is available.

    Once again, if this particular option is not available in Houston, then Houston residents need to demand that the elected officials of Houston’s governement change this. Although I don’t know why you used Houston as an example, as Houston is famous for NOT having a zoning code.

    Your point makes no more sense than saying customers are denied the choice of a body-on-frame SUV with a V-8 because Honda doesn’t make one. If people want one, they can buy a Ford, Chevy, Toyota, etc. The choice is still available…just not from Honda.

    Why should suburban developments be forced to offer urban-style development when people can get it in other areas?

    To turn your argument on its head – Is Manhattan “denying” people the option to live in suburban-style developments because this type of neighborhood is not being built within the borough?

    M1EK: In places where urban development still exists, it is, as you noted, wildly popular.

    Suburban developments are wildly popular, too.

    There is a something for virtually everyone. If Texas cities don’t offer this choice, that is a Texas problem, not, say, a Pennsylvania one. And it is not the fault of the automakers, people who drive or suburbanites.

    M1EK The streetcar suburbs share more in common with Manhattan than they do with today’s exurbs. That’s why they remain so attractive today – people are wired deep down to like walkable environments.

    The street car suburbs I see are full of very large, detached old single-family homes with yards. They have more in common with today’s suburbs than old-style city neighborhoods.

    And my point still stands – both older suburbs and today’s suburbs use the available transportation technology to allow those who want something other than urban living to move away from the city.

    At one time it was streetcars. Today it is cars.

  • avatar
    stentil

    I enthusiastically welcome the legendary Mr. Yates to this excellent site and I applaud publisher Farago (himself incredibly competent) for obtaining Yates’s services. Gonna be a great ride!!

  • avatar
    Chaser

    stentil> Not so fast, my friend. Yates and TTAC have already broken up. Read the latest news posts.

  • avatar
    stentil

    Thank you, Chaser, you’re correct; Yates is out. Sorry I missed that, but it was so quick!
    Honestly, while I like Yates, he’s not really vital to the success of this site. (I must admit, his newfound propensity towards vulgar language in his column above is a shock. The writers for this site don’t pull punches, and they sometimes come off as a bit cocky, but I don’t recall any of them using curse words.) There are some good people running this show, Yates or no.


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