Brock Yates: Traffic. Deal With It.

Brock Yates
by Brock Yates

Car and Driver fired me. Editor Csabe Csere sat down in my kitchen and said he had to "let me go.” The magazine could no longer afford my services. No surprise there. Car and Driver had become a pale shadow of its former self. Like Detroit’s carmakers, Csere and his team had refused to recognize reality. The internet had arrived, the game changed, they didn’t. The magazine got thinner and thinner, making my paycheck seem fatter and fatter. I was sorry to see it go (the paycheck). But what the Hell. Here we are. Now what?

Now I’m ready to take a shot at making trouble on the net. I know some of you guys hate my ass because I occasionally shit on your beloved cars or make cracks about the Winston Cup or whatever. So if you don’t like my writing, stop reading. But if you stick around, I’ll tell you exactly what I think. And I’m ready to hear from you, love or hate. And yes, I’ll respond to what you write. What do you think this is, a magazine?

Let’s get one thing straight. I did not work with the original Henry Ford on the first Model T. Yeah, I’m old. But I’m still ready to kick some ass on this kick ass site. What you’re going to read ain’t going to be cute, proper or civil. That’s the way I like it. Always have. Some things never die– even if you want them to.

Like the private automobile. Despite becoming Public Enemy Number One for self-serving, self-appointed, sanctimonious “policy planners,” the automobile remains this country’s life-blood.

To be sure, anti-pollution standards have reduced choking emissions. Seat belts, airbags, crush zones, etc. have reduced death and injury. And hybrids make part of the process someone else’s combustion, somewhere else. But what’s so different today from when Daimler first did his thing? Traffic.

Every day of the year, millions of miles of American roads jam up with workers heading for their stores, factories and cubicles. Meanwhile, countless Mr. or Mrs. Moms clog-up the side streets in their cars, minivans, SUVs and CUVs; ferrying children, groceries, dry cleaning and God knows what from one side of their suburban sprawl to another.

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

Yes, I love cars. But like any person who likes to drive fast cars, I hate congestion. I don’t see the point. So what’s the alternative?

Mass transit is a pipe dream. Outside of New York City and Chicago, there are no truly effective rail systems. After a flurry of high speed rail hype, both Washington and private investors have lost interest in commuter rail. Buses only serve a small percentage of the population. Bicycling? You’re kidding, right?

Moreover, as car-friendly suburbs spread like kudzu, there are no simple routes linking the geography of nowhere to center cities– never mind with each other. And we keep building these damn communities; “suburbs” where the disturbing lack of sidewalks mirrors the distressing lack of rail connections.

Despite the understandable anger of the environmentalists, there is no substitute for the millions of private vehicles rolling across our nation. The plain truth is that “the people” aren’t interested. The most they’ll consider is telecommuting– but only a day or two per week. They like their co-workers. They like their cars. Congestion is nothing more than background noise to their everyday life.

Yes, the automobile of today is safer and more efficient, available in every size and shape, from tiny smarts to stupid limousines. But the same basic old world engineering sits under the slick bodywork. It’s like the weather; everyone complains, but no one does anything about it.

So Americans continue to lead the way into a dark future of more emissions, oil use and wasted time. And here comes the third world, as India, China and other Tiger nations of the Far East start producing millions of private cars for a wildly eager population.

I have messed around for much of my adult life with these machines called “automobiles.” Like many car nuts, I too wish we could reduce the traffic and create communities around industries and commercial areas where populations could walk or use public transit.

But quite the opposite has happened– is happening. Industries are moving away from major cities, forcing workers to use private cars for work and their children’s education and economic survival.

And so it goes– until the underlying economics of private transportation changes. And then someone, somehow, will provide a solution. But until that day arrives, the world’s most powerful economies will be saddled with the private automobile, whether they like it or not. As my experience with Car and Driver taught me, nothing ever changes– until it has to.

Brock Yates' column appears on www.ttac.com every Monday.

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  • Chaser Chaser on Feb 22, 2008

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

  • Stentil Stentil on Feb 23, 2008

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

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.
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