By on May 8, 2013

London_Congestion_Charge,_Old_Street,_England

TTAC’s forays into areas like law, politics and economics are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they do matter. The dry, dense topics like regulation and financial topics have real implications for car enthusiasts, not to mention society as a whole. One subset of that is urban planning, a discipline which can have an enormous impact on our favorite hobby.

Witness the remarks made at the Energy Tomorrow Conference. Sponsored by the New York Times, the theme of this gather is “Building Sustainable Cities”. The IEEE Spectrum quotes Lerner as stating that in the future, the private automobile will become a socially unacceptable vice

Jaime Lerner, a former mayor of Brazil’s Curtiba, known for the work he did there introducing an integrated mass transportation system that has been copied the world over, expressed the belief that cars some day soon will be seen as noxious as tobacco is today. “The car is going to be the cigarette of the future,” Lerner said.

For Lerner, who is best known for pioneering innovative public transportation programs in Brazil, the private automobile is an issue of social justice itself. It is not just a matter of carbon emissions or energy conservation, but the automobile’s mere existence offends him. His sentiments were echoed by Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, who said that

 “If we are all equal before the law, a bus carrying 100 people should be entitled to 100 times as much road space as a private car.”

If you think that these are just the senile ravings of aging Latin populist politicians, then you might be a bit surprised to find that these kinds of opinions will wind up on your doorstep sooner rather than later. To these types, the private automobile represents a mobility solution based on top-down hierarchical structures (as my least favorite sociology professor would say) that empowers the individual. They would like to see it replaced with collective forms of mobility, like car sharing, public transportation and cycling. I got my first taste of it a number of years ago when a prominent local politician hit a cyclist, resulting in his death.

It didn’t matter that the cyclist was found to be intoxicated and the aggressor in the situation, while the motorist was later absolved of any wrongdoing. The mere fact that he was a wealthy white male driving a Saab convertible while the other party was an Indigenous Canadian of a lower socioeconomic background with a history of mental illness and substance abuse provided the perfect catalyst for these sorts of theories to be floated among the more radical newspapers in my town.

As a resident of a dense, urban neighborhood, it would be disingenuous of me to dismiss cycling, public transit and even walking as real alternatives to our mobility needs. Practicality is another matter. On a balmy 70 degree day like today, walking or biking to the grocery store to buy a carton of eggs is not a big deal. When the forecast calls for freezing rain, getting a whole load of groceries on foot is unpleasant, to say the least. And not all public transit systems are created equally either, as one of our writers discussed last year.

Congestion is a major issue in urban centers, and something will have to be done about it. Cities are experimenting with congestion charges, road tolls and expanded public transit, but nobody has a definitive solution. I wish I knew what the answer was, and if I did, I would be racking up appearance fees rather than writing at TTAC. But heavy-handed, top down solutions are not the answer. The next generation of urban planners are being educated in universities by liberal arts faculty members hold views that are largely not representative of the opinions and needs of the general public. Combine that with a growing apathy for the automobile among young people and you create a situation where anti-car sentiment is easily bred. Look no further than the move to ban EV charging stations from urban areas as a perfect example of their utter refusal to meet reality on reality’s terms.

Even as gas prices rise higher and higher and the cost of new cars increase, people still opt for their own private transportation in record numbers. For some it is a matter of convenience, while for others who must commute from the suburbs, it is one of necessity. While top-down directives for public transportation may fly in parts of the globe where no previous infrastructure existed and cars remain unaffordable, I can only imagine that it would be poorly received in countries which emphasize individual choice and the free market as pillars of society. But still, don’t be surprised if this line of thought becomes part of the discourse at some point in the near future.

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159 Comments on “Analysis: Will Cars Be “The Cigarette Of The Future”?...”


  • avatar
    vww12

    Given current indoctrination trends at universities in the U.S., sure, recent grads are going to snobbishly diss the car during their 20s.

    By the time they are 35, they’ll be driving a new Prius, a 1972 BMW, or a 1996 Defender, and excusing themselves among their friends by indicating that it is “an accessory.”

    Only the hardiest and most dyed-in-the-wool will continue to spend two hours a day in filthy buses.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      True. Everyone else will lobby for (and eventually get) clean buses.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Where do you people get these ideas?

      I’ve spent most of my career as a university staffer, I’m married to an.aspiring college professor, and I’m walking for a master’s degree this weekend.

      Yes, many educated people are aware of the side effects of driving, and a minority are obnoxious about pointing it out. But, geez, your assertion is pretty ignorant.of the middle class reality of universities life, and also the middle class reality for university graduates.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        “Sponsored by the New York Times, the theme of this gather (sic) is “Building Sustainable Cities”. ”

        Well, building sustainable cities is of course an oxymoron. Why waste resources building sustainability? Maintain what you have, that’s sustainability.

        Leaping past all this, and absorbing it all as given, is why, apparently, Mr. Kreindler can impugn the motives of future graduates with a BA who might have a different and less confused outlook.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          The environmental argument for cities are twofold:
          1) Per capita resource consumption is lower in a place like NYC than it is elsewhere.
          2) The preservation of natural wildlife habitat outside of the city.

          There’s a healthy debate about this within the green community. There are plenty of people who care about the environment who idealize the rural lifestyle, and plenty of people who care about the environment who would rather live in the city.

          I’ve run the numbers and I live much more efficiently in the city than I did on the back-to-the-land hobby farms where I grew up. Most of it has to do with my 2.5 miles commute; in my circumstances, the HVAC system in my house uses much more energy than my car. When I was driving 20k-30k miles per year, though, the energy picture was skewed the other way.

  • avatar
    mike978

    A good and informative article. At least it is missing the hysterics which I fully expect CJ will provide citing Agenda 21 or some such dastardly plan to eliminate us all.

    I certainly hope urban planners don`t imbibe the radical opinions of a few. And instead make common sense policy considering what works and doesn`t work. As said above some things need to be done in busy urban centres like London and New York, but these are not needed in small town America.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It might be worth reading up on Complete Streets. It’s the latest fad in urban planning, as far as I can tell.

      Building urban roadways that work for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians is hardly radical. And, yet, some people apply that label to any kind of change. *shrugs*

  • avatar

    lerner, idiot

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      With a massive resonance box (remember Chavez?), in a world were increasingly seems that being non-left is a sin.

      • 0 avatar

        the truth of the matter is that after electing him 2 or 3 times (which had as much to do with local parochial issues as his ‘solutions’), even the people in his city don’t elect him anymore. He’s like music with just one note, one size does not fit all. He also ruled a city that was not too big and the weather is mild, but i’m going too deep.

        However, he’s popular with some pols as he gives them good excuses to not do their jobs and invest. I believe we need more of everything now. Public and private transportation, more trains, more roads, more parking. ‘prioritizing’ investments in one, in detriment of others are just half measures that end up being costly and inefficient.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very sounds like one, Marcelo. I was looking for the Brazilian opinion on the subject.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Not if we have anything to do with it and stand up for our rights as enthusiasts and drivers.

    Of course there are those who will quickly pounce with their belief that driving is a privilege that the Government may rightfully repeal at will. That may be true today, however it only became that way because we surrendered our right.

    It’s time we take it back.

  • avatar
    jbreuckm

    I love driving as much as most around here, but I’m also an urban planner. Great urbanism and the car can only tenuously coexist. I can see a future where cities are largely car free, with auto infrastructure only coming into play where densities are in the range of 8-10 du’s per acre or less. Which would be fine. A holistic system that allows for modal choice has a place for private car, transit, biking, and walking. In fact, places that allow for modal choice are more resilient than single-mode systems, which are extremely vulnerable to exogenous shocks (think about living in the ‘burbs if/when gas is $12 a gallon or more).

    The flip side of this argument, however, is that our automobile infrastructure is enormously subsidized. User fees (i.e. gas taxes) only cover 50% of road infrastructure costs – the rest is made up by general taxes and borrowing. Yes, the car is privileged by society, and individual car ownership is subsidized by the government. Taking it further, low-density sprawling development made possible by the car does not generate enough in taxes to pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure necessary to support it. Only through debt can the infrastructure be maintained, and by and large suburbia is a giant ponzi scheme.

    More of the costs of car ownership need to be/inevitably will be shifted back to the users. This isn’t about a war on the car, it’s just fiscal reality, and those low density places that benefited from massive subsidies (and I live in one) are going to get much more expensive, eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      This is a thoughtful, intelligent response from a person who is clearly informed on these issues. Well done.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s also completely counter-factual. In California, for example, only 5% of vehicle license fees goes to road improvement, another 5% goes to highway patrol, and the rest goes to general fund. Motorists subsidize all the social programs not vice versa. Anyone talking how “infrastructure is subsidized” peddles the lie. Nothing else to expect from someone calling “suburbia” a “giant ponzi scheme”.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          If the people who use the roads aren’t completely paying for the roads through internalized costs, then those roads are subsidized. I’m not sure how you could consider that a lie.

          Your example isn’t a particularly good one anyway. The VLF in California has never pretend to be used strictly for road improvement. Theoretically, federal gas taxes are supposed to be for road maintenance, and they aren’t enough to cover what we need — hence a subsidy.

          I’m guessing that 5% isn’t enough to keep the roads in good condition, given what I see on California roads.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Agreed an interesting article. I had been under the impression that the gas tax covered road maintenance, at least up until a few years ago (with reduced driving now and more fuel efficient vehicles having an impact). Has this 50% deficit been there for quite a while then?
      Talking of subsidies, have you included the sales tax and other fees that are generated by vehicle sales?

      • 0 avatar
        jbreuckm

        The 50% figure is based on a recent study. I’m not sure if it included sales tax and registration fees and the like, although I suspect that it did not. I also suspect, but cannot quantify that sales taxes and registration fees would be quite small compared to gas tax funds. Also, variations in how each state uses their sales tax and registration revenue would complicate the analysis.

        So, my guess is that sales taxes and registration fees could move the needle a little bit, but probably not much.

        Here in Michigan the governor has identified a 1.2 billion shortfall in annual road maintenance funding that isn’t being covered by gas taxes. The state house of representatives wants to fund $800 million of this by taking funds from K-12 education and using it to fix the roads. Not just once, but annually. This is a 7% cut to the annual per-pupil funding that local schools receive from the state, all to maintain roads. Our state representatives are basically saying that roads are more important than education.

        There are going to be a lot more questions like that one in the future, and I really wonder if we aren’t going to bankrupt ourselves in the process.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          I can quantify sales tax and registration fees.

          Buying a $30,000 car here costs $1800 in up front sales tax, and $100 for the title, and $90 a year for registration.

          In 5 years that’s $2350 which is as much as the state tax on 10,000 gallons of gas.

          In other words, the DMV fees they pretend don’t exist while claiming drivers don’t pay our own way are actually four times as expensive as the gas tax.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The sad part is those fees more than likely do nothing to address road maintenance issues, just feed for the pig.

        • 0 avatar
          Darkhorse

          Why do we automatically reject any attempt to control education spending? Local school boards and the NEA keep demanding more and more funding because “children are out future” and we keep drinking the cool-aide. In my county they are building $100 million high school Taj Mahals with artificial turf football stadiums. Money should be spent to improve teacher quality (if the unions allow that) but I drive by one of the Taj Mahals on a pot hole riddled road that hasn’t been paved in a decade.

          • 0 avatar
            chaparral

            I don’t get the $100,000,000 buildings either. Even if paid for over 15 years that’s still $7,000,000 per year for the building.

            A 3,000-student high school will have around 150 teachers. Assuming $100,000 total cost per teacher (salary, benefits, classroom equipment) the teachers will cost $15,000,000 per year. Raising teacher pay by $10,000 each would cost $1,500,000/year.

            What’s the better use of a marginal annual dollar?

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            What district is this?

          • 0 avatar
            chaparral

            Corntrollio, my examples are Shrewsbury High School, Shrewsbury MA, and Cy-Fair ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks TX.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Chaparral, I wasn’t asking you that question, but darkhorse. I want to know what district is building $100 million high school Taj Mahals with artificial turf football stadiums.

            As far as I can tell in a quick Google search, Shrewsbury is unable to fund their sports program:

            http://www.wickedlocal.com/shrewsbury/news/education/x848267906/Athletic-sponsors-continue-to-step-up

            For the other district, it seems they spent $68 million on building a high school, but it also included an elementary school:

            http://www.cfisd.net/bond/bond_facility.htm

            I’m wondering if the $100M price tag is hyperbole or not, mostly.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Your reply illustrates the point beautifully: cost accounting, as one US appellate court called it, is a “mare’s nest of assumptions.” People talk about cost accounting with the smooth certainty appropriate to discussions of, say, gravity.

        For example the roads that everyone derides, also carry freight; and a road-based freight system is infinitely more flexible (and in that sense) efficient, than a rail-based system.

        Lost in the academic elites’ war on the suburbs is the concept of democracy. People vote with their feet and their dollars. Following the development of the automobile as a mass phenomenon in the United States, people moved out of the cities to the suburbs because they could. No one made them do it; they wanted to. The “subsidies” that are talked about (assuming they exist) were/are freely voted in by those who use them.

        Even today, in the United States, the so-called “urban renaissance” is not borne out by the numbers. With the rise of virtual communities made possible by cheap and rapid communications, the question is what is the justification for dense cities? America’s most dynamic industry is in “Silicon Valley” which is a suburban development, not in the dense city of San Francisco 40 miles up the peninsula. Sand Hill Road, the home of hi-tech venture capital in the US, is a suburb filled with low-rise buildings.

        Europe and the Northeastern US are stuck with the sunk capital of dense, pre-automobile cites: Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston. Two of these four are definitely dying, even though, like all pre-automobile cities, they had mass transit.

        The current urbanist dream in the US is that empty-nest baby boomer retirees will all flock to the urban cores, despite having grown up in the suburbs. The numbers have yet to appear that support the reality of this dream.

        As people have pointed out, you can’t go grocery shopping on the bus; bicycling to work in the rain, the cold or the snow is impractical if not unpleasant.

        One of the unfortunate side effects of the post-war education boom is the rise of an educated elite who believe their educational credentials give them the right to tell their fellow citizens how to live. Of course, this is always packaged as “environmentalism” or the like.

        The apotheosis of this thinking is that the state of California, which is flat broke, is planning to build a nearly billion dollar per mile high-speed rail line between — wait for it — the great cities of Bakersfield and Fresno, which plans for further expansion north and south. Of course it will rely heavily on funds from the federal government, which also is flat broke.

        Portland Oregon, which has drunk the “sustainable growth” Kool-Aid in large quantities, has fixed the boundaries of its urban areas, thereby driving up the price of housing to extremely high levels. The result: overall, the city is not prospering and young people’s futures there are constrained.

        By contrast, Texas, which subscribes to none of these ideas and has cities that sprawl in a way that academics find obscene, has low housing prices in every major city and has enjoyed tremendous economic growth, even in the Obama economy. If dense urban cores were what people preferred, then Texas would have grown that way.

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          You’re hitting on the key point…lifestyle. Americans, generally speaking, want a house. And a yard. Some space between them and their neighbors and a piece of land they can call their own.

          The car is an integral part of that lifestyle aspiration.

          …and that’s why collectivists like this nitwit hate it. It’s part of a completely different theory of life where the individual controls his or her destiny and life choices instead of having it mapped out for them by someone who purports to know better than they do.

          The car is and has been a symbol of freedom. It’s not surprising it would be hated by those who loathe the very notion of freedom.

          • 0 avatar
            jbreuckm

            I own 3 cars and a house with a yard and a finance degree. I’m glad you think I’m a commie nitwit who hates freedom, though.

            I just think everyone should pay their own freight. And seriously, leave the name calling out of it. You don’t know and can’t know anything about me.

          • 0 avatar
            OneAlpha

            Man needs space. Lots of it.

            Half the social pathologies the world has to deal with are the result, either directly or indirectly, of cramming way too many people together into too small a space.

            Cars, like guns, are tools used to secure individual freedom. That’s why the Coercive Utopians hate them and would like nothing better than to eliminate them.

            Except for their own use, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I tend to agree people should “pay their own freight” as it were. i think honestly though, most people really cannot afford to do so at least in this economy.

        • 0 avatar
          jbreuckm

          Not looking for an argument on ideological grounds, but you bring up the “mares nest of assumptions” thing and then point to studies about housing costs in Portland, which I am familiar with and which are tenuous at best.

          You also have large increases in freight by rail as gas prices increase.

          My point is that this is about pricing things fairly by removing distortions and letting the market sort it out. We always talk about the subsidies necessary for transit, but never the subsidies that roads receive.

          Like I said, I love driving and I own 3 cars. This isn’t ideological. I don’t care how or where you live, just as long as we as a society can afford to pay for your chosen lifestyle. If we can’t, then your choices should bear the costs they bring. That’s all. But I also really don’t like my kids’ education being shortchanged to fund road maintenance.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Spend the money that you’re currently spending on your three cars and a single family home on sending your kids to private school. It’s about choices. You have no more interest in me making yours for you than I have in you making mine.

            You’re an open book whether you know it or not. You think others should be paying for whatever level of education you aspire to for your children, allowing you to continue to enjoy the rewards you feel entitled to because of your place. And won’t the roads be a better place for the elite when the proles are packed into buses and concentration ca…sustainable communities.

          • 0 avatar
            chaparral

            CJ,

            My parents never earned much more than $35,000 per year while I was in school.

            The state (Massachusetts/Ohio/Texas) spent a vast sum on my education. $7,000/year for elementary and middle school, $9,000/year for high school, $25,000/year for the specialized technical high school I went to junior and senior years (massacademy.org), $20,000/year in federal grants and loan subsidies for the three and a half years that it took me to earn a B.S., $25000-40000 for the two years of my M.S.. $300,000 or so all told.

            If I hadn’t been heavily subsidized I would had to quit with an ordinary high school diploma. Probably would’ve worked my way up to foreman or lead draftsman by now, earning maybe $40,000/year, paying maybe $10,000/year in taxes.

            Instead – after my B.S. I went to work as an engineer. Between the increased sales due to improved customer satisfaction, and the decreased tech support costs, my share of what I did in three years was worth around $1 million/year to the company – in perpetuity. I earned around $70,000/year and paid around $20,000/year in taxes.

            My M.S. project is almost finished. It’ll pay for itself on the university’s campus alone in three or four years.

            The engineering program at my 9th/10th grade high school has been cut back significantly, as has the advanced science program at my middle school.

            Reducing public education funding below the “golden era” of post-Sputnik levels is the definition of penny wise and pound foolish. Assuming I earn no more in inflation-adjusted dollars for the rest of my career than the $80,000 I’ll make next year, the money spent on me by the state earns a 7% ROI in my personal income tax payments alone…

          • 0 avatar
            Highway27

            As a highway designer, I also think that roadway funding should be more transparent, as should all other funding. I do find it somewhat disingenuous to call it ‘subsidizing’ tho: We pay for road construction. The percentage paid for by gas tax, sales tax, tolls, property taxes, etc. doesn’t matter. All of that money goes to the owner of the roadway, and while we want to think of it as ‘subsidization’ I think for roads it’s far more justified than for other modes. Every person except only the most self-sufficient person who never has anything delivered and only eats what they produce doesn’t use roads. Even the people who don’t have cars continue to ‘use’ the roads for access, for delivery of goods and services. However, the only people who benefit from modes such as transit rail are the riders of the transit rail (since there’s evidence that the trips they take off roads are replaced within a matter of years, they don’t actually make traffic less congested).

            But I’d love to see roads, *and everything else* paid for by things that are directly accountable to their activity. Then we can have a true conversation about wealth transfers.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            chaparral,

            At the point where you’re housed in the same 150 square foot sustainable accommodations as everyone else without political connections, eating pellets and commuting to work on foot, what will have been the point of your education? To make more money for your owners?

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            CJinSD you are certifiable.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Good post Chaparral, I like how you literally can break it down to ROI. In my mind the trouble is for the 7% they “make” on relatively successful people like you, how much is lost on those of limited intellect, those who make poor life decisions, or those who simply squander their gifts. Maybe the best route for society would be to identify those who would return the best investment, and cut back the financial investment on the rest?

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “earning maybe $40,000/year, paying maybe $10,000/year in taxes.”

            Do you have a crappy accountant or something? You shouldn’t be paying $10K/year in federal and state income tax if you make $40K/year. Even in California.

            Even if you assume that all of the $40K is taxable (which it’s not, because you have to get to AGI then take deductions), and single filing status, you get $6036 in federal income tax (not including state tax deduction) and $1439 in California income tax. That’s under $7500, not even including exemptions and deductions. Even the personal exemption ($3900) and the standard deduction ($5950) would get your taxes way down.

            “I earned around $70,000/year and paid around $20,000/year in taxes. ”

            This sounds rather high. There are people making 3X that and paying only about twice that in federal and state income tax combined, even if you don’t own a house.

            Again, if you assume $70K in taxable income and single filing status (no exemptions, no adjustments, no deductions), then you still get $13,536 for federal income tax and $4,113 for California income tax, that’s $17,649. But in reality, you have exemptions and deductions, so you shouldn’t be paying anywhere near $20K.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corntrollio

            I honestly wish I had my return in front of me. I own no real estate, file single, and I paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $21K on $66K gross, got $1K back, so $20K gone out the door. I would love to get a little bit more of that back but I’m going to file it under notgonnahappen.com, if anything it will just get worse.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think we are in agreement, but I think in regards to your children’s education I have never agreed with the structure of the public school system and can see your POV on short changing you’re children’s future. If a person owns no real estate, then they should pay an adjusted tuition for their children, its that simple. If we go back to the ROI argument, how much is invested and never returned? This money is invested by the community and the beneficiaries should be held somewhat accountable. Everyone should pay at least part of their own way and does not put the burden on the rest of society.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Maybe chaparral is including social security + medicare too, but I still don’t think the math adds up. For Social Security, you’re likely to get a certain portion of that money back (the actual portion depends on your number of credits and how much money you made), so think of it as deferred compensation.

            Certain deductions from your paycheck also are exempt from payroll tax — health care (whether insurance premiums or HSA/FSA), commute costs if your employer does that. 401(k) is not, however.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corntrollio

            I wish I did have it in front of me because those numbers may be +/- a few hundred dollars, but I remember thinking about $20K out the door when I first saw it. That figure I gave was after health insurance and what-not, it was the net taxable figure.

            Put a ship-shaped tinfoil hat on me of you like, but as a 32yo I don’t ever expect to see a dime from Social Security, and even if I do it won’t match the value of the money contributed, so FICA is almost a total loss for me.

            I suppose if you have the right deductions, someone with the same income could net a little more back… but they were pretty slick when they set up the “system”. Even if you get to deduct your mortgage interest you then get to pay 3k+ property tax on every property in this region (South PGH), and at least 2K for every townhouse or condo I looked at, not to mention the huge inflation effect on housing prices the low Fed rate has spurred. That’s unfortunately why I had to give up my real estate search around here, everything in this region is 50-60yo+ and “meh” and you’re looking at $1100 payments with PMI, plus any incurred expenses on said house. Maybe this is cheap for some folks I can’t say, but for a single guy I think its fricking ridiculous for the what you get.

          • 0 avatar

            Private school is way more expensive than 3 cars.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Depends on the three cars.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “The apotheosis of this thinking is that the state of California, which is flat broke, is planning to build a nearly billion dollar per mile high-speed rail line between — wait for it — the great cities of Bakersfield and Fresno, which plans for further expansion north and south.”

          That’s a ridiculous characterization and much of it is incorrect, and I’d also note that California has a budget surplus currently.

          a) no one has ever estimated it at anywhere even close to $1 billion per mile, including HSR’s opponents who present inflated numbers — you’re completely making that figure up. It’s entirely possible that the highest price portions of track (such as through the Tehachapis or through certain urban areas) could cost that much, but not the project as a whole.

          b) Prop 1A requires the line to go between SF and LA. You have to start somewhere, and it’s cheapest per mile in the Central Valley, and it’s easiest to determine the route there because it’s not a busy urban area.

          c) you need test track in order to test the train at 242 mph (10% above the intended top speed of 220 mph). In order to build a test track for 242 mph, you need wide open space in the Central Valley, not tight urban track in the LA suburbs or on the SF Peninsula.

          d) the interstate system started in then-rural Missouri. Are you saying that was stupid too?

          e) the federal matching funds require the section of track to have independent utility assuming the rest of the line is never built, and Fresno to Bakersfield improves the existing infrastructure as well. You could have improved the current SF Peninsula line too in order to have independent utility, but that’d be more expensive and is still being hashed out. It would similarly be expensive to improve Metrolink track to HSR standards in LA in order to achieve independent utility.

          You’re just spouting a bunch of op-ed garbage on this one, and you don’t really understand the issues involved.

          The reality is that we need better infrastructure in order to maintain what we have and grow our economy. The pathetic state of our current infrastructure will eventually put us behind in the world economy.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            “You’re just spouting a bunch of op-ed garbage on this one, and you don’t really understand the issues involved.”

            Welcome to TTAC. I see you are new here.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Nah, not that new, and I’m used to it. A lot of people do repeat a lot of demonstrably false things here though and also fail to think critically.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            “That’s a ridiculous characterization and much of it is incorrect, and I’d also note that California has a budget surplus currently.”

            It is May now, so your statement is obsolete.

            http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/18/local/la-me-state-budget-20130219

            The (Governor Moonbeam’s)report says the extra money was “likely the result of major tax law changes at the federal and state level having a significant impact in the timing of revenue receipts.”

            That is: Taxpayers were paying a share of their bill early, getting income off their books in the hope of limiting exposure to the tax hikes that recently kicked in.

            The administration was expecting that money to arrive in April. Now, officials are saying it won’t, and that just as January’s receipts soared, they’ll be offset by a spring plunge.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            I think you got this one wrong, CJ.

            Governor Brown announced the budget surplus *BEFORE* January surpluses were known.

            The fact that the January surpluses may mean less revenue in April is not related to that. You’re confusing two different things: the FY budget surplus vs. the January surplus.

          • 0 avatar
            mypoint02

            Speaking of demonstrably false, the supposed target of 242 MPH on the California HSR line is 43 MPH faster than any current conventional train operates at. I’m going to file that number under “pie in the sky” and “not gonna happen”.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Chinese HSR has done a 394 kph test run. It’s definitely doable. Their intended speed is 350 kph or about 217 mph.

            The intended speed on California HSR is 220 mph, but FRA requires you to be able to do 10% above that for certification purposes, so 242. FRA won’t let you take some foreign manufacturer’s word for it — you have to certify it on the US track, hence, high speed track being necessary in the Central Valley where the trains would actually run at that speed.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          @DC Bruce:
          I’m pretty sure I’m one of those academic elites – or at least my.wife and my friends and neighbors are.

          We live in the suburbs and drive to work like everyone else.

          I keep wondering of people just make up junk like your comment to justify culture war rhetoric.

          And to think I was going to agree with some of your comments about the art of cost accounting at the beginning of your comment…. I just took a class on it, and that was the take away message.

          You guys need to get a grip on reality. If Rush and Fox New’s characterizations of liberals were anywhere close to reality, the liberal view of the world would have collapsed under its own weight decades ago. But Rush doesn’t bother to do his homework, and then claims to be entertainer whenever anyone calls him on it…. And if there’s anything academic elites believe in, its doing your homework!

    • 0 avatar
      GlobalMind

      Can you go into more detail on the comment of the govt subsidizing private car ownership? It would seem that’s a pretty hidden subsidy, but interested in what that is made up of.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        Income tax deductions for auto expenses are no secret at all. There are income tax deductions related to auto expenses for business, medical and relocation purposes. Expenses for commuting to and from work are not tax deductible, so these deductions don’t apply for the vast majority of tax payers. These deductions are mainly for business owners and those who drive as part of their job, i.e. couriers and traveling salesmen.

        In Virginia, there’s also “car tax relief.” Virginia charges property tax on cars Virginia residents own. Car tax relief applies to those who use their cars for personal use, including commuting.

  • avatar
    Hank

    ”If we are all equal before the law, a bus carrying 100 people should be entitled to 100 times as much road space as a private car.”

    This is tripe. People are equal before the law, how they are grouped or singled out in vehicles has nothing to do with it. Every person on that bus has the rights of everyone in a car. They’re just exercising those rights differently.

    I’ve lived in the US, and I’ve lived in Russia before the car ownership explosion, when over 80% of the nation were taking buses, trams, and trolleys (including me). In neither circumstance was I more or less of a person, or held more or less standing before the law.

    His is a classic example of Margaret Thatcher’s description of those who seek to “create equality” by lowering the standards of all.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I love Russia in some odd way i can’t place down. I can’t wait to go back during the summer time.

      Anyway they still have a very robust transportation system.

      I’m not sure which part of Russia your familiar with. I stayed in Vologda for awhile and to the North is Belozersk. You can take a bus if you want to. I’m not used to have the ability to take a bus to pretty much nowhere.

      Here in the US public transportation has a stigma not based in facts. I have many friends who will not take public transportation but cannot tell me why.

      I personally have no problem using public transportation having used it prior to having a car, and using it when my vehicle was being repaired. In fact I’ll be switching to taking the bus to work.

      • 0 avatar
        GlobalMind

        For many areas it is an issue of accessibility. South Florida has a train system but it only runs North & South along I-95 or so. Yea that’s useful to me going 40 miles from my home to my Boca office.

        Public trans works well when it’s properly executed. Otherwise it adds time to the commute and/or kills flexibility that’s required for the worker.

        There’s no way I could use our public trans and do what I do, but that is just my situation.

      • 0 avatar

        Explain how Moscow became full of cars just as soon as it became possible for the people to buy one. Now they have exactly the same stigma attached to public transit as we do here.

        Vologda is a quaint northern town, perhaps, but the same thing is happening in any real city: Voronezh, Samara, even on Omsk/Nsk/Krasnoyarsk/Irkutsk axis. Peterburgh’s people might still love their numerous trams, but they are just a bit… unusual. In the head.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Ride the B-Line in Boston and you’ll see why.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    America is huge and spread out. Too many of us live past the suburbs, and nobody is going to put a tram to nowhere. Elitist quickly seem to miss the country folks out there. The ones that grow all the food, that work in the mines, etc.

    I live on the outskirts of a major metropolitan. Our road infrastructure is fantastic, and it’s not hard to get around here. I drive through the city everyday for work, and drive down their frequently otherwise. A few well placed highways can make all the difference; far more then a stupid train or bike lanes.

  • avatar

    In the United States, we have nothing but top-down, government run public transport options. There seems to be no support or sympathy for any kind of affordable private solutions. The cost of public transport is, frankly, sky high. Even with subsidies, it costs more to pay a fare for public transport than it does to drive. Admittedly it’s cheaper to ride the bus on a monthly pass, but that’s even more heavily subsidized.

    Third world countries actually have a lot to teach us here. When I visited the Philippines, I discovered the Jeepney system. A Jeepney is a colorful but ramshackle van, with roughly the capacity of a short wheelbase Sprinter van. Each Jeepney is operated by a private owner, and on popular routes they are literally stacked two or three in a row.

    Customer service is remarkable. I saw a Jeepney that noticed a rider running after it on the street. It backed up right on the main public road to pick him up. That’s dedication!

    I’m not sure how much, if at all, this system is regulated, but it appears to be done with an extremely light touch. There is, if anything, an oversupply of the vehicles compared to customer counts. So instead of having huge busses rattling around with 3 passengers, they have Jeepneys, which are smaller and much more efficient with small loads.

    As a public transport system, this beats pretty much everything we have and of course it’s much cheaper to run. Entirely unsubsidized, in fact, if my memory serves, the fare was about $0.12. That is, twelve US cents.

    I see Jeepneys as far more competitive with cars than our top-down, government run transit systems ever could be. Unfortunately, our New Urbanists are about control over anything else, so they would never allow such a ramshackle but practical system anywhere near them.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Jeepneys receive fuel subsidies in the form of VAT-free diesel. They also get a near-free pass on emissions requirements.

      Still a very cost-effective system. Our local motorcycle-sidecar equivalent of our neighbors’ “tuk-tuks” are much more expensive, and buses only dominate on long-distance routes or on roads where jeepneys have to be banned or marginalized to let buses compete.

      Of course, the downside is that this solution is so convenient, cost-effective and cheap that margins are dangerously thin for operators, and sales of new jeepneys are poor, since roadworthiness recertification for most of these rolling coffins is laughably easy to pass.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I was thinking about this the other day. Thinking of starting a company like this. It seems to be prevalent in other countries. It would also allow me to solve some the route issues the current public transportation has. IE. slow, and indirect.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Good luck with getting around the regulations favoring the big cab and bus companies. People try that here in Florida, never works.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Thinking of starting a company like this. It seems to be prevalent in other countries.”

        You’d be starting the equivalent of a taxi or livery company. I’m not sure where you live, but in denser areas it’s nearly impossible to start up one of these companies due to the closed market conditions that prevent competition.

        A good example being the medallion system in New York, where how many are available are tightly metered, and those that are cost millions. They do it in the name of regulation to “protect” the customer, but all it protects is the market for those who already control the medallions.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “The cost of public transport is, frankly, sky high. Even with subsidies, it costs more to pay a fare for public transport than it does to drive.”

      I suspect you’re not internalizing the true cost of driving and are calculating this based only on the price of gas. Even on a very expensive transit system like BART in the Bay Area, the fare is far cheaper than the IRS’ mileage reimbursement calculation (currently 56.5 cents/mile).

      If you include the cost of insurance, gas, car acquisition, maintenance, etc. and actually internalize the cost of driving, almost any transit system will be cheaper than driving. Most people only calculate using the price of gas, which is incorrect and poor critical thinking.

      As an example, in Los Angeles, which is extremely car-centered, taking bus, depending on which system, is probably between $1 and $1.50 one-way. If you take a “Rapid” or a freeway bus, it might be between $2 and $2.90, but you’re going a much longer distance generally on one of those. At 56.5 cents/mile, you’d have to have an incredibly short commute by Angeleno standards for it to be cheaper than that. And if you’re a student or senior, the rate is a fraction of that.

      Cars are heavily subsidized too. Gas taxes don’t nearly cover the cost of road building, for example, as numerous people have stated already.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        With a private car, though, you are also getting the benefit of having transportation available at your beck-and-call 24/7. You don’t have to organize your schedule around that of a bus, train or subway, and you can make all of the side trips you want. You don’t have to worry about whether the store, restaurant or friend’s house is on the route, and, once you’ve arrived at your destination, you still have the car to use for other trips (something to consider if you are driving for a long distance).

        So, you are paying for that convenience, but also receiving a very large benefit. Very few people just use their cars to commute to and from work.

        As Oscar Wilde said, a cynic is the person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Cars cost money, but they also provide value to their owners.

        Indoor plumbing costs more money than an outhouse, but most people have no desire to trudge to an outhouse at 10 p.m. when the outside temperature is barely 20 degrees F. At times like that, the cost of indoor plumbing is worth every penny.

        Also note that the cost of subway and train tickets does not come close to covering the cost of providing service. At the national level, meanwhile, we’re diverting 1/3 of federal motor fuels tax revenues to non-road projects. Some states specifically divert state gas tax revenues to other uses – in Texas, for example, 1/3 of the fuels tax revenues are to be used for basic education.

        Roads, by their nature, will cover more miles, which drives up construction and maintenance costs. It doesn’t make much sense, for example, to only build the Pennsylvania Turnpike from the Valley Forge exit to the New Jersey state line. To reap the full benefit of the road, it has to extend the entire length of the state. Which means it will pass through some very rural areas, and have, at times, very low traffic volumes.

        The best system blends both forms of transport. Two years ago, we visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., from our home in Harrisburg (it’s about 1 1/2 hour drive). We drove to the Metro Station in Shady Grove, Maryland, parked the car there, and took the Metro line to the Zoo. No worrying about parking or traffic. At the end of the day, we took the Metro line back to the car, and then were able to drive to a restaurant for dinner before returning home.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Sure, geeber, but that’s orthogonal to my response to David Dennis’ assertion that subsidized transport costs more than driving. Convenience and any other ancillary benefits are a separate issue.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Convenience is an issue when public transportation is done right. D.C. offers two examples I can think of: 1. The Pentagon, so much easier to take the metro for us minions who have to park in W.V. (or so it seems) when we drive. 2. Friend of mine gets off the MARC train and walks two blocks to his office. Even better if your employers subsidizes your public transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Besides the cost, public transportation is also slow and inconvenient.

        At IRS rates, my commute costs an eye-watering $50/day (this includes a $5 toll). I don’t want to revisit calculating the public transportation cost down to the dollar, but I think it comes out to $30-$35/day.

        That’s a nice savings. Unfortunately, that means a combination of ferry, bus, train, and a healthy dose of biking in between transit stations and final destinations. It’s about 2 hours one way if all my transfers go smoothly. By car it takes 1 hour one way.

        I am admittedly a terrible candidate for public transportation given my circumstances. It’s an extreme example, but the point is public transit often brings additional hassle. People will value that hassle differently, but there is more to the equation than just cost.

  • avatar

    Great analysis, I totally agree. For the most part the market will take care of this as people vote with their feet.

    For example, I live in Buffalo because I can still afford to live the suburban dream and because the commute here is still easy and quick. Livin in Seattle was neither easy nor cost effective – properties close to the city are outrageously expensive and commute times to outlying areas with more “reasonable” housing prices take a ridiculous amount of time. Since Seattle and Washington State are dragging their feet on the creation of an effective public transportation system, I chose to leave.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Well beyond the issues of practicality or utility of owning a vehicle, in America it’s an expression of our independence. This is why I believe Americans will pay anything for a gallon of gas.

    Legislating away this independence will eventually be met with armed revolt, as long as the 2nd Amendment holds out. Only consumer-driven needs will get people back into public transportation.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I commuted on BART train to San Francisco and loved it. So much easier. Of course I’d still like to keep a sport car for fun. Of course I now live in a small rural town where all these big city ideas are of no concern.

    ps My favorite commute was the ferry from Vallejo CA to SF

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Everyone who has done a ferry-commute in the Bay Area seems to love it.

      BART doesn’t go enough places (for various and sundry political reasons), but if you live near it or can get to it easily, it’s very efficient. It’s not nearly as cheap as Caltrain if you live on the Peninsula or the express buses if you live in the East Bay, but it’s fast.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Yes Derek, I am afraid that something of the sort awaits us in the future.

    Worse, the tide is already on the rise.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I am more optimistic – at least in the US. We will always (in our lifetimes at least) have cars and personal transportation. Will the price go up, will there be some traffic calming measures in urban areas sure but the principle of car ownership and use will still happen. If for no other reason than it is a revenue raiser for Government.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    It will likely be the reverse of what urban planners are encouraging at the moment.

    For 50+ years we have invested tens of billions into urban planning, urban renewal, and all variants of ‘gotcha’ schemes that aim to raise the cost of commuting into cities and owning vehicles.

    The result? People still drive cars. Unless there is a severe downward trend in the local economy, sprawl remains constant because the combined needs of reasonable costs and a high quality of life environment are often better outside of the cities.

    In affluent cities such as New York, San Francisco and Vancouver, the economics of owning a piece of real estate in the suburbs and ex-urbs is a small fraction of the cost of a similar city dwelling. A middle-class family with a stay at home parent in these types of metropolitan cities almost always has to either choose between becoming perpetual city renters, or suburban (small town) homeowners.

    In struggling cities such as Detroit, Birmingham, and Memphis, the best most city planners can hope for is to build a mall-styled commerce center and cross their fingers that the aspiring Yuppies and out of town retirees will fall for it.

    You can’t minimize car ownership without balancing the local need for reasonable cost and quality of life. Without addressing both of these issues, the use of automobiles will remain strong in even the most draconian revenue schemes.

    Unfortunately, a few city governments are catching on to this fact and are erecting toll charges, rental car fees, and local taxing initiatives that encourage a heady surplus of low vacancy retirement developments. These new properties will never make a dollar and within the next generation, they will likely become the next version of affordable housing.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “costs and quality of life are often better outside of the cities.”

      Costs are high in Manhattan or West Los Angles (as an example) because people really really want to live there. The reason costs are cheap in the exurbs is because far fewer people want live there.

      Supply and demand and all that.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Not quite: http://www.joelkotkin.com/content/00735-triumph-suburbia

        Here’s one excerpt:

        “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared in 2010. “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.” Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City and Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion—widely praised and accepted by the highest echelons of academia, press, business, and government—have advanced much the same claim, and just last week a report on jobs during the downturn garnered headlines like “City Centers in U.S. Gain Share of Jobs as Suburbs Lose.”

        There’s just one problem with this narrative: none of it is true. A funny thing happened on the way to the long-trumpeted triumph of the city: the suburbs not only survived but have begun to regain their allure as Americans have continued aspiring to single-family homes.

        Read the actual Brookings report that led to the “Suburbs Lose” headline: it shows that in 91 of America’s 100 biggest metro areas, the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown declined over the 2000s. Only Washington, D.C., saw significant growth.

        To be sure, our ongoing Great Recession slowed the rate of outward expansion but it didn’t stop it—and it certainly didn’t lead to a jobs boom in the urban core.

        “Absent policy changes as the economy starts to gain steam,” report author and urban booster Elizabeth Kneebone warned Bloomberg, “there’s every reason to believe that trend [of what she calls “jobs sprawl”] will continue.”

        And this:

        To be sure, the Great Recession did slow the growth of suburbs and particularly exurbs—but recent indicators suggest a resurgence. An analysis last October by Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia, reports that between 2011 and 2012 less-dense-than-average ZIP codes grew at double the rate of more-dense-than-average ZIP codes in the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Americans, he wrote, “still love the suburbs.”

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Exactly, geeber. Suburbs only appeared to be losing because the economy sucked so bad and lots of people lost their homes.

          The reality is that lots of people who used to live in cities were buying houses out in the ‘burbs with the funny money mortgages, so of course all the foreclosures slowed this growth. Even the black population, which is largely considered an urban population, is increasingly moving out to the suburbs.

          The places that did lose were the exurbs and far-out suburbs that just had ridiculous commutes. There were people commuting 60+ miles to downtown Los Angeles because they bought overpriced houses in places like Palmdale and Lancaster — that was unsustainable. I remember reading an article during this period about an exurb in Pennsylvania that had Washington DC workers that commuted 80+ miles.

          The traditional close-in suburb is doing just fine. Think Main Line Philadelphia. Think Silicon Valley. Think Northern Virginia. Think Westchester. Think southern cities like Atlanta and Charlotte.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        I did edit this response so maybe our wires got crossed. That phrase you quote should read, “the combined needs of reasonable costs and a high quality of life environment are often better outside of the cities.”

        My apologies if my editing was done while you were responding to my answer.

  • avatar
    jmo

    It is my understanding that computer models indicate that when self driving cars reach a certain level of market penetration, traffic will decrease by a huge margin.

    As I understand it, the biggest issue with urban traffic (in the US) isn’t so much ultimate through-put per unit of time but the fact that human drivers result in “shockwaves” propagating through traffic. Self driving cars would smooth this out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_wave

  • avatar
    dts187

    When it comes to densely populated cities, I tend to agree that public transport and smarter urban planning make sense as methods to combat congestion. But there are a lot of us in the US who live in areas that make vehicles a necessity rather than a luxury. If you want to have a job, you are pretty much required to own a vehicle. It would not be practical or financially sensible to have encompassing public transport here in WV. This is strictly rural country dotted by small population areas. A lot of the country looks like this. I don’t see owning a car ever turning into a faux pas or looked upon with derision as it will likely always be a necessity for a decent chunk of the population in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Public transport and EVs aren’t going to be all things to all people. I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley and went to school at Virginia Tech, and am familiar with southeast West Virginia. Traditional cars are the right tool for that situation, for the most part. But that’s not true everywhere.

      I live in a town in the Midwest that is a lot like Blacksburg VAa (except for the lack of a distinctive.local accent and topography), and public transport did work really well for me when I was working on campus. The bus took me from two blocks from my house to a block from my office.

      My new cube is about two miles from my old office, and it’s served by the buses – but I’d have to transfer on campus to get there by bus. Walking from my house.to my cube is faster. Slightly different bus routing would remove the disadvantage, though.

      I like buses, bikes, cars, trains, motorcycles, and airplanes. There is room for an EV to be one of the cars in my driveway (supplemented by a traditional minivan like the used Sienna I picked up last year). Enough people in my town use all of these modes of transportation to justify the existence of each and every one.

      Yeah, I like my town. :-)

  • avatar
    @markthebike

    “They” are making the driving experience worse all the time. Congested highways and city streets bike lanes and round abouts create a serious disconnect between car commercials and reality…and it’s only getting worse.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The problem of cars in dense urban areas can be easily solved: empty out the cities.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Powered individual mobility doesn’t require 4,000# of steel, rubber, and glass burning its weight in gasoline every year. Getting where you want to go on your own schedule doesn’t require taking up a 20′x8′ parking spot wherever you stop.

    Mechanical engineers can devise whatever weapons the civil engineers build targets for.

    What sells today are buses (30,000 lbs, 50 passengers, 70 mph, 10 mpg) full-scale cars (3000 lbs, 5 passengers, 150 mph, 30 mpg), fast motorcycles (400 lbs, 1-2 passengers, 170 mph, 40 mpg), slow motorcycles (400 lbs, 1-2 passengers, 90 mph, 70 mpg), scooters (250 lbs, 1 passenger, 50 mph, 100 mpg), electrically aided bicycles (80 lbs, 1 passenger, 30 mph, minimal fuel consumption), and bicycles (25 lbs, 1 passenger, 20 mph, minimal fuel consumption).

    How fast do you want to go? How much do you want to transport? We can add anything you want to this list; just give us a reason to and a regulatory class to put it in. If the city of the future won’t have room for full-size cars, would it have room for something the size of a Peel P50? If tomorrow’s energy prices rule out the 30 mpg four-passenger car, will there be a market for a 2000-lb, 80 mph electric four-seater?

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      Of course, there’s no money to be made if there’s no demand to be supplied!

      I think it’s pretty clear that individual mobility is appreciated by those who have it and strongly aspired to by those who don’t.

      If we try to do it with full-size passenger cars it’ll take more roads than we can build, more oil than we can refine, more carbon-dioxide emissions than we can tolerate. Houston has pretty damn near unlimited highway funding, private as well as public highways, which gives a complete and vast network of roads to get you from and to any part of the city on a “big road” and the place is still a parking lot every morning and evening.

      So what do you want me to design? I think a “quadricycle/voiturette” class would be useful – cars built to motorcycle/ATV safety rules, helmets required. I think the “bicycle that will go 50″ is inevitable and will help a lot. Make the rules that I need to do it.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Drive’em if you got ‘em. (Or if you can afford them.)

    I wonder how the “assault” on automobile’s will affect motorcycle/scooter ownership. A lot of our population would benefit from knowing what it’s like to be the smallest, frailest thing on the road.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    The car haters never really get it about rail: It’s far too expensive for personal transport from distributed origins to distributed destinations. Yes, if everyone wants to go from A to B then back to A, it’s great. But if everyone’s going from A through Z to 1 through 4 million, then it’s just not going to serve everyone. Buses are kind of a half measure in between, but unless they own up to the fact that everyone would have to add quite a bit of walking to their lives, on the order of miles per day, it’s just disingenuous to say that the car is bad.

    And let’s be clear: walking miles per day is a LOT of wasted productivity for a lot of people.

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      “And let’s be clear: walking miles per day is a LOT of wasted productivity for a lot of people.”

      This right there is why North Americans are fat. I walk to work everyday and it is wonderful! I get exercise, time to listen to the news on my ipod and also some time to clear my head both before and after work. You should try it.

      I also get to keep the miles of my car and save money on gas and insurance.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Most people have no desire to live close enough to their place of employment for walking to work to be feasible. And, yes, walking a few miles to work each day would represent wasted time for many people.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “Most people have no desire to live close enough to their place of employment for walking to work to be feasible”

          Which explains why Manhattan real estate is so inexpensive.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Manhattan is not the United States. Note that most Americans do not live in Manhattan or New York City, even though there is no law preventing them from moving there.

            The article I posted shows that the suburbs are not losing their allure (particularly to those with children), contrary to the hopes and wishes of many. But in a country of over 300 million, even if only 10 percent of them want to live in a city (the figure that I’ve seen), that is still a lot of people.

            Also note that not all cities are created equal. Just because people want to live in New York City doesn’t necessarily mean that Detroit or St. Louis or Buffalo will benefit, too.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Geeber,

            Note that most Americans do not live in Manhattan or New York City, even though there is no law preventing them from moving there.

            There sure is a law! The Law of Supply and Demand.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            You’re assuming that everyone wants to live in New York City, but they only reason they do not is that they cannot afford to do so (Law of Supply and Demand). That is not remotely true – plenty of us have no desire to live in the city, even if we like to visit it.

            Also note that, between rent control, zoning restrictions and organizations such as co-op boards, the New York City housing market is hardly an example of the free-market in action.

            The high prices are not uniform, even in Manhattan. The entire city isn’t like the neighborhoods featured in “Sex and the City.”

            The high prices for housing in desirable neighborhoods are driven by public safety factors and the local school district serving that neighborhood. I’m sure that there are relatively inexpensive neighborhoods even in Manhattan. Of course, you take your life in your hands just living there, and your kids might not survive the academic year if they attend the local school. Hence, the competition to get into “good neighborhoods” with “good schools” which drives up the price of housing in those areas.

            The competition isn’t between a suburban Harrisburg neighborhood and Manhattan, but between lousy New York City neighborhoods and great ones. Winners get the great neighborhoods. The losers…well, most of the posters on this site wouldn’t want to visit those areas, let alone live there, no matter how cheap the rent/mortgage payment is.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I’ve lived in Manhattan twice. I went there because that’s where the investment banks were, not because I wanted a living standard exceeded by the paupers in my hometown when measured in housing and quality of life. My job often required me to meet with Managing Directors of the business units of Bear Stearns on Sundays. They had to come into the city from their homes in the suburbs.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            CJ,

            Aren’t managing directors at investment banks like Vice Presidents at brokerage firms? Who cares where the rabble live – we care where those who haven’t failed at life live.

            http://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-banker-homes-2010-4?op=1

        • 0 avatar
          Highway27

          I agree with jmo that many many people desire to live close to their place of employment. I live closer than most at 3.5 miles. But even that is outside of what I would consider walking distance. It would represent at least an hour each way of walking, up from a 10 minute drive. And on top of that, an hour of exposure to less than great weather is significant hardship for anyone.

          As far as ‘fat’, yeah, I am, and so are a lot of other people. But it affects my life *far less* than essentially wasting 2 hours of productivity or leisure would every single day. And the amount of fuel and wear saved on a vehicle is trivial, when I only drive 5000 miles a year anyway. If you choose to spend your leisure time walking to work, that’s fine as a personal choice. But that’s what it is, a choice between productive / leisure time and spending that time commuting. Walking any distance over approximately a mile is not a replacement for driving that same distance.

          • 0 avatar
            chaparral

            Highway27,

            If you’re 3.5 miles from work, try running it.

            Once you’re good at it, it’ll take 20 minutes each way.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            I think people would, if all was equal, choose to live closer to work, I doubt anyone truly desires a long commute on purpose. But the point about Manhattan real estate, or San Francisco, Portland, or any other hot metropolitan area, also clearly explains why most people do not live close to work. If it isn’t affordable, or affordable while also fulfilling your other important lifestyle goals and choices, then something has to give. And Americans are more likely to prefer a single family home with a yard in a nice safe area with good schools. And the father you go from the city centers, the more affordable those things become.

            My personal goal is to work from my home essentially full time, and my career in IT makes that feasible. I hate cities, hate crowding, I want a decent sized house with a big garage and a big lot, etc, so this choice is good for me. My brother loves cities, loves the vibrant lifestyle, and lives in the city in a tiny 2bd apartment and doesn’t even own a car. He is happy and I am happy for him.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            “As far as ‘fat’, yeah, I am, and so are a lot of other people. But it affects my life *far less* than essentially wasting 2 hours of productivity or leisure would every single day.”
            3.5 miles isn’t really very far man. You should consider it, at least in the summer. It would be good for you and help you live longer. Plus it might be good for your love life. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            My problem is I want a small downtown apartment with a six-car garage. I ONLY moved out of downtown Portland (Maine) because I wanted a garage. I hate owning a house. I’m sitting here tonight looking at $7K proposals for a new roof for the shack. Grrr. I also miss being able to walk to the store or a bar or a restaurant, even though I love cars and driving.

            At least my commute to work consists of rolling over and turning on my laptop, or a cab to the airport.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        May I point out that we modern people, with our terrible fast-food diets and lack of exercise, live to be 90, while those healthy, fit Paleolithic hunter-gatherer savages with all-natural diets generally didn’t make it to 40?

        Ironically, it was the stress of all that healthy living that did ‘em in, not just the diseases and infections and being eaten by wild animals.

        Besides, Highway27 is correct – walking everywhere, while no doubt healthy and even enjoyable, is a waste of productivity in the modern world, unless everything you have to do is located within about a hundred yard radius.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          “May I point out that we modern people, with our terrible fast-food diets and lack of exercise, live to be 90, while those healthy, fit Paleolithic hunter-gatherer savages with all-natural diets generally didn’t make it to 40?”
          This is a pretty dumb comparison. The paleolithic man didn’t have access to modern medicine, good sanitation or clean water.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Which suggests that access to modern medicine, good sanitation and clean water are the key factors for a long life, not necessarily walking to work.

          • 0 avatar
            GlobalMind

            So when I bought my house my work was about 10 miles up the road. Biking might have worked, if I wanted to spend an hour to get there because of how much more mileage I’d have to add on vs driving a highway.

            Walking, forget that.

            Now, my office is 40 miles each way. Car is a necessity because our public trans is worthless for what I need it for.

            Walking is lovely if you live close enough. If that’s even feasible. But it isn’t for a lot of us.

            I value my home life a lot more than I worry about my commute. I want my yard, my house ahead of a short commute.

            But, also being in IT I can work from home a lot and when I do I save everything: fuel, w&t on the car, TIME.

            I can’t always do that but when I can, like today, it’s great. Then we have last week when I had several days of needing to go from home to Ft Lauderdale, then to Boca, then to Miami, then back home and put 120 miles on the car at lest in a day.

            There is no way I could have done that with public trans here.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        As a side note – lack of walking is not why americans are fat. I moved to the bay area from NYC and lost weight. Exercise is actually NOT CORRELATED with weight loss.

        http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/dieting-vs-exercise-for-weight-loss/

        This is actually well validated. The reason why so many people are fat is because they eat crap. But that’s fodder for a different blog.

        Walking REALLY IS wasted productivity. It’s true. I can say this because I am ‘bi-coastal’ for a bit. I have a place smack in Manhattan (which I am going to rent out) and a new place in the Bay Area where I drive.

        You spend quite a while doing the shopping/groceries via walking in Manhattan. its not just that you have to walk – its that you can carry less. So it means more trips. Its fun but really time consuming. You can certainly do more chores here (in less time) in the Bay Area – and this area has decent traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          Really interesting! Thanks for sharing that article.

        • 0 avatar
          OneAlpha

          That is an interesting point, because quite frankly, I’m not sure what to believe when it comes to living healthy.

          Some people will tell you that as long as you get lots of exercise, you can eat whatever gastronomical horrors will physically fit in your mouth.

          Others will say that if you eat suboptimally, then you could work out like a Navy SEAL and it wouldn’t make a whit of difference.

          Keep in mind that I’m talking about advice from “experts” here.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        Walking to work is fine if you can do it. But what if you’re job relocates much farther away? Or if you lose your job and the next job you can find isn’t within walking distance? Or what if you were to become disabled? The car is a lot more convenient than walking in these cases.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    You know, I have noticed recently it seems more and more people are smoking. We talk about “socially unacceptable vice” and the noxious cigarettes but everywhere I go, everywhere I look, I see smokers. I hate driving my convertible because there are always dozens of poison puffers around me with their cigarettes out the window ruining it. And its all walks of life, everywhere I go, young and old. Who still smokes today???

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I smoke less than I used to but I still enjoy it. I might even make more of an effort to quit if not for the satisfaction of pissing off the self-righteous. The anti-s and crusaders out there should consider backing off a bit, as every time some common scold wags a finger at me I tend to respond with a finger of my own. Just going out to my local Indian reservation gives me a feeling of victory knowing every pack I buy beats NY state out of 6 bucks in taxes.

      If cars are going to be the cigarettes of the future, I’ll have a pack of SRTs, thank you.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Nice.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        I felt that way a bit when I smoked.

        But seriously man, you should do what is right for you, the idea of not caring what other think is, well, to not actually care. Do what is right for you. You smell like smoke all the time and you don’t know it, and you are paying for cancer man. Don’t keep smoking to spite some people you don’t even like…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Right here. You wanna live forever?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A lot of Hollywood stars smoke, which undoubtedly makes it “cool” to some people. I’m amazed at the number of actors and actresses in their 20s and 30s who smoke.

      If anything, I would bet that smoking is more common among 20-somethings than people of my generation (late 40s, early 50s).

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      Looks like less teenagers are smoking. At least in Canada.
      http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/index-eng.php

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I read statistics like that in the US too, I just think they are BS. All that means is that people who smoke lie about it on surveys, and teens are very likely to lie about it.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          “I read statistics like that in the US too, I just think they are BS. All that means is that people who smoke lie about it on surveys, and teens are very likely to lie about it.”
          Who needs statistics and data anyway? We could just ask mnm4ever and go with whatever his gut tells him.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            :) I am by no means saying that my personal observations are in any way scientific or meaningful. I am just surprised at the sheer number of people I see smoking, even after reading reports and statistics and data saying that the number of smokers is going down. I think the backlash and “social stigma” of smoking leads to more people claiming to not smoke but still smoke. My father-in-law is that way, my coworkers, some friends, some family. Yet at any given stoplight I will look around and easily over half the drivers around me are smoking, yet supposedly only 20-30% of the population claims to smoke? It just surprises me is all.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            :) I am by no means saying that my personal observations are in any way scientific or meaningful. I am just surprised at the sheer number of people I see smoking, even after reading reports and statistics and data saying that the number of smokers is going down. I think the backlash and “social stigma” of smoking leads to more people claiming to not smoke but still smoke. My father-in-law is that way, my coworkers, some friends, some family. Yet at any given stoplight I will look around and easily over half the drivers around me are smoking, yet supposedly only 20-30% of the population claims to smoke? It just surprises me is all.”
            I know what you mean but think of what it was like in the past where you couldn’t get into an elevator without someone lighting up.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The reason people are not lighting up in elevators is because virtually all public buildings have banned smoking – in most cases, because of municipal or state laws.

            If people are not lighting up in elevators (or restaurants or office buildings), it is because the law forbids them from doing so. Logic would dictate that the laws were able to be passed in the first place because fewer people are smoking (thus, there are fewer people who would be opposed to such a law).

            From what I’ve seen, fewer people smoke today than during the heyday of smoking (1950s and 1960s). If I recall correctly, during the 1950s and 1960s, the majority of adults in the United States smoked. BUT, it does seem as though there are more people who are smoking now than the number who did about 10-15 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @mnm4ever

      Out of curiosity, where are you? As someone who travels all over the country, I find that smoking varies by region more than by anything else. And by socio-economic class, of course.

      And I agree with you – there is NOTHING I hate more than being stuck in traffic behind or beside a smoker. One of those much appreciated little touches with my BMW is that it can sense pollutants and automatically shut the air intakes, but that does me no good in my convertibles either!

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I live in Florida, but I travel for work too, it seems pretty consistent everywhere. Except when I was in San Francisco, didn’t see too many smokers, but I did see a lot of people smoking pot in public since they made it quasi-legal. Was a total trip coming from Florida where the “war on drugs” is still going strong. Kentucky was by far the smokiest state, practically everyone lights up and they have almost zero no smoking laws.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      As much as I find cigarette smoke annoying, I don’t think there is much we can (or should try to) do about people smoking in their own cars.

      It isn’t the smoke that gets to me on the road anyway. It’s the litter. Next time you hit a light on a busy road with a divider between opposing lanes, take a look at the divider. It’s probably a bed of cigarette butts.

      I would love to see littering laws enforced somehow (and not just against smokers). Consider all the other bs tactics used to collect revenue on the road, this seems like an easy money maker that would actually do some good.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I know we can’t (and shouldn’t) really do anything about people smoking in their own cars, that’s a very slippery slope affecting personal freedoms and rights, etc. I am not trying to be a crusader, I think people should make their own decisions, even if I think it’s a dumb choice. It is just really annoying that their choice to smoke affects me as much as it does. Or like the smokers who congregate around doorways and everyone has to walk through the cloud, even though there are clear signs (and laws in FL) that they cannot smoke within 50 feet of an entry. Or the people at amusement parks who stand in line smoking even though that’s a no smoking area too. Its like they just don’t care, they are going to do it no matter what, just like the smokers who toss those butts all over the divider. Clearly it is not all smokers, I work with a lot of guys who smoke and they are very considerate of non-smokers, its just that the bad apples ruin it for the rest of us.

  • avatar

    This is to take away your personal freedoms. It is gradual, as it always is.

    The government proposes the government runs the bus lines.

    Lame. Good luck.

  • avatar
    badcoffee

    Public transportation would be entirely unfeasible for me, as an example. I live in a small city with a mediocre public transit system that only covers about half the town, and it takes roughly three times as long to get anywhere. In addition, I work in outside sales, so I am frequently driving to the outlying towns nearby. Since we’re located in the middle of midwestern cornfields, the city sprawls out, not up- making it largely unworkable to bike or walk most places. The cabs and to a lesser extent the bus system are set up to serve the college population. The Amtrak line runs to Chicago and St Louis, but anywhere else you’re sort of up the creek. If I wanted to visit my parents (two hour drive away) It would require three hours on a train to chicago, then another three hours on a bus, and that would still leave me 40 miles away.

    That’s why public transportation will not work outside of highly populous urban centers.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    Reminds me of the Rush song, Red Barchetta:

    I strip away the old debris
    That hides a shining car.
    A brilliant red Barchetta
    From a better, vanished time.
    I fire up the willing engine,
    Responding with a roar.
    Tires spitting gravel,
    I commit my weekly crime…

  • avatar
    Dan

    Goes without saying that the world – traffic, parking, gas, you name it – can’t support hundreds of millions let alone billions of people driving their own cars.

    Also goes without saying that most of the underclass is underclass for a reason and public transportation means rubbing elbows with them.

    What to do? Be grateful to have the choice not to live in a city and drive ‘em while you’ve got em.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Dan,

      Those in the late 19th Century who saw the first rudimentary cars probably said the same thing:

      “I say Phineas, can you imagine hundreds, or even thousands, of people driving these auto-mo-biles? Posh! Flimshaw! Why, the countryside would need to be crisscrossed with roads. To say nothing of the fact that the common man could never acquire the necessary skill to operate an auto-mo-bile. Impossible foolishness, I say, this talk of everyday driving!”

      “Now then, shall we retire for cigars and brandy?”

  • avatar
    Aardvark

    Did Mr. Lerner and Mr. Penalosa go to the conference in public transportation? Or is this just another case of the motto of the elites in action: “Good enough for me, but not for thee.” It is curious that people who decry the wastefulness of carbon emitting transportation devices have no qualms about using them to go about spreading their gospel of doom. Sometimes, the message is so important that only a Gulfstream V will do to get you to the next conference where you will be whisked about, regardless of whether walking would be more convenient, in the latest luxo-Euro stretch auto, or in a Suburban that probably has so much additional weight that the MGP is measured in single digits.

    Smokers, gun owners, car owners — peasants, learn your place!

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    I agree Dan..

    I see both sides on this issue. For the people outside very high population areas being without a car is rather unfeasible. But for people in New York City – and a few other small parts (the densest parts of a few other cities) you really do not want cars as they are not effective modes of transportation anymore.

    Most of american is not in any danger of going carless – even with our large population we have vast tracks of empty wilderness and people are predisposed to seek it out as people ultimately crave space IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      GlobalMind

      Agree CelticPete.

      That’s the view I have had for many years. For inner city dwellers who don’t venture out much and for locations with stellar public transport, the car is less needed.

      But most of us are not in that situation.

      South Florida’s public trans stinks on ice.

      Growing up, my dad took a cheap car we had down to the park & ride, then rode the bus downtown Baltimore or later he took the light rail, both of which worked out really well for him.

      For me, that would be impossible here given what I do and where I have to be each day.

      There’s always some group looking to mark you as a lowlife, and them as of higher moral standing. That’s what a lot of the anti-car folks want to do.

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        “ere’s always some group looking to mark you as a lowlife, and them as of higher moral standing. That’s what a lot of the anti-car folks want to do.”
        On the other hand some of the comments here on people who do use public transit have been less than complementary.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Even in San Francisco, where some people spew virulently anti-car rhetoric, much of the housing stock is single-family houses, and most of those families own at least one car. San Francisco tries to pretend it’s like other truly urban areas, but the reality is that large parts of SF resemble the suburbs, only slightly more tightly packed. The very reason SF has such a parking problem is that so many people have cars.

      Much of this “cars will be like cigarettes” non-sense is just some urban planners’ wet dreams. They can keep coming up with genius ideas like parklets — basically letting restaurants put tables in a parking spot that has a planter around it — and the rest of us will keep laughing at them for how stupid these ideas are.

  • avatar
    jimble

    How can cycling be categorized as a “collective” form of transportation? I can’t think of anything much more individualistic and free of government interference than riding a bike for transportation.

    What exactly is your problem with cycling? Is it the infinitesimal percentage of roadway space dedicated to bike lanes? The smug “liberals” who promote it? The un-Americanness of it?

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      Personally I love biking. What I would do manhattan (and it probably wouldn’t be popular) is put in actual dedicated biking lanes that would serve the city in stretches of 5 blocks. (So you could bike within 5 block of any destination. And by dedicated lanes I mean actual concrete dividers so people can’t kill you.

      Manhattan is so wierd. If you live there – you probably don’t own a car AND you might never use a car. But they have HUGE wide roads in alot of the city. But on those roads they often have parking on BOTH SIDES – AND frequently have people double parked. So you have a perpetual traffic jam. And you spend most of your time outside breathing in fumes. (The most amazing thing about NYC is how people are just blithely ignoring massive amounts of pollution and filth).

      I love cars but cars don’t work well in cities like manhattan – eliminate some of the street parking to make dedicated bike lanes and they could have a huge biking population..rather then just a few crazed zealots who risk their life on a daily basis. (Much props to them but they are insane).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Anyone that owns a bike in New York City is new or insane, except for the bicycle thieves. They’re the world’s best at what they do, and the only rational actors in the whole farce of bikes in NYC.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    “When the forecast calls for freezing rain, getting a whole load of groceries on foot is unpleasant, to say the least.”

    Hmm, if only somebody would invent a way of asking a shop to fill a list of items and deliver it. I bet whoever invented that communication system would find other uses for it as well, maybe we could use it to chat to other people as well, not just shops.

    • 0 avatar
      VA Terrapin

      Services like this already exist. Peapod is one such service.

      Ordering groceries online and waiting for someone to deliver them to you still doesn’t strike me as more convenient than getting in your car, buying your groceries and going back home yourself.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Great article, good points. The car is becoming somewhat less acceptable, though still firmly entrenched.

    I think there is some reversal of the trends that the car enabled, like moving out beyond Suburbs, so you can have the big house with the yard and stuff. Higher gas prices and the increase of traffic where no new roads have been built are grating on people.

    I bought the smaller house 10mi from the office I only go to half the time. I still wonder if I should have bought the even smaller house 3mi from work!

    Derek you need to go read some Mr Money Mustache and whip yourself into shape. I’m guilty of it myself, but this “waaaah I can’t ride a bike in the cold” is some whiny little wuss crap. If you really want to get around on a bike you could.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I truly don’t get the “McMansion” fad. Why does a childless couple, who most likely will never have more than 1-2 kids, need or want a 4-5000sq/ft house? How much space do you NEED? Why do you want to maintain, heat, cool, and just plain pay for that much space? I have a 1200sq/ft house, with a roommate, and we have two whole rooms that we basically don’t use. At one point I had THREE roommates for a while, and the only complaint was only one bathroom. People used to raise large families in houses the size of mine. And yet a developer bought the empty lot across the street and built two houses well more than twice the size of mine, and both were bought by childless couples.

      Now my 3700sq/ft garage is another story all together – too small by about 1/2. But cars are bigger than people. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Need is irrelevant.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        Who needs a BMW when a Toyota Corolla goes from point A to point B a lot more reliably while using a lot less fuel?

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        Thing is in cities like manhattan you can’t even get a SMALL place for the price of McMansion. 750 – 1000 square feet per person seems like a pretty good compromise. In NYC real estate can go well beyond a 1000 per square foot.

        SO really suburban flight isn’t always bout McMansion and excessive consumption. People just grow up and want to stop sharing a flat with a roomate at the age of 30.

        Studies I read indicate that you can track city growth and suburban growth by age. Young people tolerate teh city and 30 and 40 somethings not so much..

  • avatar
    walker42

    The idea that every young, working adult should own a car is already dead. It’s a huge relief for the kids not to have to worry about more debt on top of student loan debt, and cutting everything else in the budget to pay for the stupid car. For these young people the bike has become a great alternative, especially in places like LA.

    New bike lanes are going up EVERYWHERE. Check out Figueroa next time you’re in DTLA. Public transportation is picking up but mainly our young work force is coping by moving to neighborhoods that you never have to leave for anything except work. Even that is being done more and more from home. Young men and women love places like Echo Park, Silverlake and Mid-Wilshire. Rents are up 50% in two years because of the strong demand. If they absolutely must use a car they can rent a ZipCar or keep a $700 Volvo 740 parked on the street.

    This is a permanent change and has nothing to do with the economy or high cost of gas. It’s all about saving unnecessary expense when, for the first time, there are better things to do with the money. Like moving to a more optimized neighborhood, one set up for their generation. Ideally with revitalized older buildings full of charm, space and light.

    That’s what the new projects in Downtown LA and on Wilshire Blvd. are about. Those are the real competition to car, at least in LA for singles and couples.

    Who sends out Christmas cards any more? Or puts on a coat & tie every day for work? Or has a big fat wedding with 300 people? All of those were “automatic” things Americans just did but now don’t see the value in.

    These antiquated customs are a better analogy than the cigarette for why the need for cars will dwindle for each and every new generation of buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      The people I know who live in downtown LA have cars (same for Silver Lake, which is two words, not one, btw), but they’re also professionals and have more money. If the effect you’re suggesting is actually occurring, and I have serious doubts that it is, then it’s probably more about budget than about some phantom lifestyle shift you’re describing.

      FWIW, I didn’t see very many people walking out of the downtown LA Ralph’s with grocery bags in their hand — they used the validated parking.

      In addition, some of my former downtown LA-dwelling friends are now moving out now that they’re older (even without kids), so it’s probably not “permanent.”

      • 0 avatar
        walker42

        Never said it was permanent for the people involved, said it was for young singles and couples. Will be permanent for the demographic involved. That’s why 150 SF condos are going up in SF and why places like LA and SF are rezoning vintage structures (lofts/condos) to have much less parking than they would have required before.

        Just today out of nowhere Metro announced work was starting on the Bus-only lane on Wilshire. When it’s done next year it will shave 15 minutes off the commute from DTLA to Santa Monica. That’s for the person who used to take the bus. Compared to the person who used to drive that’s more like an hour savings every day. You will be able to live in DTLA and commute to a tech job on the Westside by bus. The next group of 22-35 year olds will be able to use the new “subway to the sea” for the same route.

        Sure we have a way to go (subway from UCLA to SM will take time) but the point is bad for cars. The development going on now reflects the same belief I have, that the hottest markets in 10 years will be around public transit stations. Everyone is betting future generations will want to live differently and drive less.

        At the risk of using annoying 90s jargon it’s the paradigm shift that “it’s OK not to own a car” (a “pull”) plus public and private cooperation/investment in new living communities (a “push”) that is at work here.

        California has always been a leader in this stuff, we started the whole suburbia/freeway/car thing.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    So progressives oppose government subsidies for roads. Check. I knew I would find one eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I’m not sure whom you’re talking about that opposes that. It seems like a made-up strawman.

      What I will say is that people who are against transportation infrastructure often complain about subsidies while ignoring the fact that roads get massive subsidies. I don’t think most people who are reasonable would suggest that we stop building roads, but rather that people stop stupidly saying “subsidized” when referring to public transit.

  • avatar
    jmhm2003

    Cars are indispensable and will remain that way for imaginable future.

    The next “cigarette” is going to be milk. Annually, tenfold more people get cancer from drinking milk then die in cars and one day soon the sheeple will wake up to this.

    Until then, don’t drink (milk) and drive!


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