By on March 25, 2015

Zimbabwe_$100_trillion_2009_Obverse

If you’ve read much of the automotive press or the mainstream media in the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt heard the latest news: Americans drove more miles in January than they’ve driven in any single month since 1970, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” shouldn’t be able to quote that number with even a modicum of statistical confidence, and indeed they have no real way to know how many miles are driven in this country. Nor should they be able to do so.

More fascinating than the factoid or the ostensible reasons behind it are the various spins put on it across the blogosphere. Autoblog notes that “nearly half of drivers are fifty years old or above”. Bloomberg turns it into a piece on the economy, touting the recovery while tactfully failing to mention the fact that a record-setting number of people in their prime earning years have given up on even looking for work. The Financial Post reprinted Bloomberg’s story verbatim but focused on the idea that “three is a magic number for the economy.”

Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis on the news, however, was performed by Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik. It’s a pleasure to read and Matt marshals his arguments in careful order towards an obvious conclusion. As fate would have it, however, I find myself forced to hoist the opposing standard.


You can check Matt’s piece out at the obvious place but I’ll summarize the relevant arguments here.

I know we’re an automotive site, but… more miles driven isn’t a good thing for most people.

First, the reason why we have so much cheap oil is largely a decision by OPEC (read: Saudi Arabia) to drive the prices down long enough to discourage U.S. domestic production of oil. Why do they want to do that? Because they want us dependent on them for a long, long time and have so much money they can take a three-year hit.

Second, even if that wasn’t the case, it’s not like the roads are filling up with vintage BRE Datsuns, it’s just commuters in beigemobiles and SUVs. Commuter Culture is antithetical to car culture.

People who would rather not drive to work shouldn’t have to drive to work. We should aim to build a society where there’s a reasonable alternative to driving for people who don’t want to drive. I love driving, I love cars, I love that by living in a city I don’t have to drive to work, I love that I can go drinking and not worry about having to get in a car.

This isn’t good news. Peak Car isn’t happening today, but it should happen.

This all seems eminently reasonable and I found myself nodding along in agreement as I read. Of course, let’s get the beigemobiles and SUVs off the road so I can unleash the barbaric yawp of my air-cooled 911 at an indicated 173mph along an empty freeway. I’d personally love to go drinking and not have to worry about getting in a car. Let’s make reasonable commuting options available for everyone, just like they are in New York, the place where I was born before moving to the sticks and where all the hipsters moved to escape their hick-ass realities and origins.

The problem with this line of thinking is that even I, an authentic Baron of Sealand (it’s true!), can’t quite muster the elitism necessary to make it my authentic and true belief. What Matt thinks of as “Car Culture”, and what I think of as “Car Culture”, is a minor outcropping on a remote peninsula of the American automotive experience. It’s a place where you’re expected to know what a “BRE Datsun” is. It’s a place where all automotive purchase decisions should terminate at either a used Miata or an E36 M3. It’s a place where you see a Corvette in the distance and you need to wait until you can ascertain body configuration, powertrain, and modifications before you can form a true opinion of the fellow driving it. It’s a place where people spend more money racing a Ford Focus than they’d have paid to lease a Murcielago or put a down payment on a multi-family rental dwelling. (Raises hand, sheepishly, thinking about the year 2007.) It’s not the place where most automobile owners live.

But that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of automobile owners live in a bad place, or that they don’t get as much out of car ownership as we do. Quite the contrary. Most of us are like Matt in that we might be willing to take the subway to work every day if we could drive a McLaren around Monticello on the weekends. I don’t particularly enjoying sitting in traffic every morning and every afternoon. Nor do I look forward to parking on the parkway every Labor Day or Memorial Day weekend.

For the average American, however, a car is just a way to get from Point A to Point B, as they desire. That last part is important. A car represents choice. I don’t go to the grocery store or my son’s school or Indianapolis on a schedule set by the government or a public/private partnership or a too-big-to-fail transportation provider. I go when I want to go, stay exactly as long as I want to stay. I don’t run for a train or miss a subway. If I need to transport an item with me, or if I need to bring something back, I’m not limited by my ability to carry that item, and I’m not limited by my ability to protect that item from theft or damage on public transportation.

I’m safe in my car. Maybe not safe from a crash, but reasonably safe from being assaulted or raped — and remember, not everybody in the world shares my height, size, and unpleasant disposition. I can leave an item in my car and have a good chance of returning to find it there. If I need to travel through an area that is unsafe, a car beats walking by a long shot. I can transport my child in my car. I can transport the elderly in my car.

The privately owned automobile, like the privately owned computer or the privately owned firearm, is a great equalizer. It offers the man or woman in the street a small taste of the freedom and capability that the rich take for granted and will never surrender even as their mouthpieces in the media eagerly advocate the capitulation of the public to the common good. It means that I don’t need to be a perfectly healthy and fit twenty-five-year-old man who bench-presses more than my weight to safely conduct my public life. It means that I have options and choices, that I am not seeking permission from a schedule or a committee.

Unlike virtually all of today’s New-York-centric autowriters, I lived in a pre-Giuliani city where crime and violence ran wild. In those days, nobody talked about the freedom of public transportation, because there wasn’t any. Women understood that you didn’t ride the subway at night, that you didn’t walk alone at night. My mother was a captain in the Army and she always traveled with a 215-pound Hispanic master sergeant for protection. Twice the poor guy had to literally shield her with his own body from random gunfire in the streets. Everybody had a mugging story and most people had more than one. The buses were a good place to be fingered or pickpocketed, depending on the valuables you had on your person. You continually heard about “shut-ins” dying: people who no longer had the strength and vitality to run the gauntlet of public transportation and therefore just locked themselves in their rabbit warrens waiting for the end. If you carried a child, you were a target, even if you were the size of Lou Ferrigno.

The fact that twenty years of sustained “police brutality” has turned Times Square into Disney World in no way suggests that such will be the case twenty years from now, particularly if citizens demand that the police start treating hardened criminals with loving tender care. Nor is it the case elsewhere. Are you interested in taking public transportation in Chicago? Baltimore? Do you want to trust your life to crumbling transportation infrastructures? It’s bad enough that we have to drive our cars over the nation’s failing bridge network. In a world where public transportation is the default choice for everyone, we’re all on crumbling bridges, all the time.

Like it or not, there is no future for public transportation across this country as long as it refuses to evolve past the outmoded subway-and-train-and-bus model. That delights urban planners whose opinion of humanity is fundamentally herd/socialist and works fine for the one-third or so of Americans who voluntarily confine themselves in major metropolises but it is anathema to those of us who want to live our lives by something other than the chime of a subway bell. What’s going to be required is transportation that is energy-efficient but responsive to individual needs. After all, this is still a nation that contains many individuals.

When Mr. Obama derisively spoke of Americans who “cling to guns or religion”, he tactfully failed to mention the fact that more Americans continue to cling to cars than to either of the former items — and we are clinging much harder to cars than nearly anybody in the Western Hemisphere clings to any religion. You won’t get us out of our cars without offering a reasonable alternative. That alternative might not be gasoline-powered, it might not be Camry-shaped, but it had better offer us the power to shape our own destinies. Literally. ‘Cause if it doesn’t, three trillion miles in privately-owned, petroleum-powered cars won’t be a peak. It will be just a step.

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169 Comments on “Three Trillion Miles To Freedom...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Slow clap…

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Well, the cute Obama bashing ignores his role in keeping America in cars through:

      -The GM and Chrysler bailouts.
      -Cash-for-clunkers (not to be confused with the web series, that I fully recommend, cash-for-chunkers).
      -Obama’s real politik statecraft with the Saudis to keep gas prices low and box in Putin.
      -Cutting the unemployment rate in half since getting elected.

      And, as pointed out below, crime is way down because lead is out of the environment and abortion is legal and accessible. Not because NY has such an out of control, unnaccountable police culture that cops in NY feel free to get drunk and rape women at gunpoint (look up Michael Pena, just one recent NY cop rape case).

      By the way, with regard to the defense of Obama, I just voted for a pro-gay, pro-choice Republican govenor because the pension situation for lazy, unproductive government employees, including cops, is out of control in my state. But on the national level its the Republicans that have no fiscal dicipline and waste trillions on stupid wars that make us less safe (e.g. having ISIS in Iraq because Saddam is gone).

  • avatar
    haroldingpatrick

    Damn skippy . . . how long until the first comment on the Cadillac ATS?

  • avatar

    I had this thought the other morning enjoying my 5 spd Fiesta on the 14 mile drive to work. Why do I drive to work? Why not work at home. I’ve said many times, I will keep doing the job I have until I can be independently wealthy working at home. Of course the legal standard of living (health care, property tax, etc) requires some real income, but how much of my income is spent getting to and from work? A major focus of my personal push for more de-regulation revolves around the idea of people living (working, shopping, playing, sleeping) around their home. I don’t have a problem getting a haircut from someone without a license. Or eating in a kitchen of my neighbor for a fair price. I’m luckier than most rural folks as I live on a farm (income potential), there is a food store and bar walking distance. I would need a way to transport goods, but a farm truck is cheap to own and run compared to my fuel sipping Fiesta. So long as our economy is based on “going to work” rather than cottage industry jobs I don’t see any solution to the “automobile problem”. We prefer to spend more at the big grocery store that can get us the freshest food for less money at the shop walking distance down the street because we only factor the quality and selection of food and the price. There are many other cost. A few people going against the stream will end up working harder for even less simply due to the nature of our economy advancements in the 20th century. They won’t be able to make much of a difference trying.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Faster clap…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Hey baby it may interest you to know I am a trillionaire… in Zimbabwe… (I actually do have several of those notes)

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I have one of the green billion dollar notes on my desk as a reminder of what CAN happen. The quality is exceptional. I think they were printed in Germany for the Zimbabwe government if memory serves.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Plus Germany had the most experience at printing high-denomination notes with little to no actual value.

        • 0 avatar

          All these money from banana republics are look alike and printed by the same company somewhere in Western Europe I do not remember which country though. I know that because I lived in former Soviet Union and all those so called “independent” banana states which includes the bastion of freedom and democracy Ukraine had their worthless currencies printed in Europe and all of them looked alike. Only Russia printed own money and Russian rubles were the most stable and sought after if not to take into account US dollar. US dollar of course was the currency of choice to keep your savings under mattress. The general rule was that more oil and gas you had more stable was currency. From what I conclude that Zimbabwe does not have oil or gas.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @SaulTigh

        I do for the same reason, to always remind me ultimately paper currency isn’t worth anything more than the paper its printed on (I also have a Weimar note I bought at the same time). Ironic the notes were printed in Germany, eh?

        @Inside Looking Out

        I think you are correct on the lack of oil and gas but it looks like Zimbabwe’s problems began when the gov’t stole/redistributed land from its citizens.

        “Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was a period of currency instability that began in the late 1990s, shortly after the confiscation of private farms from white landowners, towards the end of Zimbabwean involvement in the Second Congo War. During the height of inflation from 2008 to 2009, it was difficult to measure Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation because the government of Zimbabwe stopped filing official inflation statistics.[1] However, Zimbabwe’s peak month of inflation is estimated at 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008.”

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

  • avatar
    RS

    Time for a CAFE telecommuting mandate…

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    “More fascinating than the factoid or the ostensible reasons behind it are the various spins put on it across the blogosphere. Autoblog notes that “nearly half of drivers are fifty years old or above”. Bloomberg turns it into a piece on the economy, touting the recovery while tactfully failing to mention the fact that a record-setting number of people in their prime earning years have given up on even looking for work.”

    Stick to cars, Jack. These things – the old age of drivers, the low labor force participation rate – are both true, and they’re both related. 10,000 boomers reach retirement age every day, and, funny thing, they’re retiring. To quote Shigeru Fujita at the Philadelphia Fed, “Almost all of the decline (80 percent) in the participation rate since the first quarter of 2012 is accounted for by the increase in nonparticipation due to retirement. This implies that the decline in the unemployment rate since 2012 is not due to more discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force.” And for the record, the denominator in the BLS calculation of labor force participation rate is everyone in the country 16 years old or over, from high school to hospice care.

    So yes, you have a strong economy, with more drivers, but they’re older. Amazing, I know.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The problem is the labor force participation rate declined like a step function starting about 2007 and never came back up. Retirement accounting for changes since 2012 doesn’t explain the steep drop in the years before.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Read this:

        http://www.factcheck.org/2015/03/declining-labor-participation-rates/

        Various demographic factors were in play to reduce the LPR well before the recession.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          I believe that the CBO is making a false assumption that potential workers are voluntarily exiting the workforce for early retirement, going back to school, spending more time with their children, etc. Increasing disability claims despite improved workplace safety suggests long-term unemployed are finding their plan B when they give up trying to find a job.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    This needed to be said. You did it well.

  • avatar
    George B

    Good job Jack! I drive because I hate waiting. Spmetimes when other like minded individuals try to drive on the same road at the same time, the driving sucks. However that driving never sucks worse than waiting to ride the bus.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack, a great read as always. However, as to the sentiment:

    “The fact that twenty years of sustained “police brutality” has turned Times Square into Disney World”

    Maybe if you had a different ethnic background you may find that you don’t actually need those quotation marks around the phrase “police brutality”.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’ve had a cop hit me hard enough to make my eyes swim. I have no illusions about the police. You can’t argue with results, however. The only way you get an artificial situation like Bumblepuppy Manhattan is through extraordinary measures.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        There are arguments that forcefully challenge this interpretation of the results.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/01/03/how-lead-caused-americas-violent-crime-epidemic/

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm I prefer the “Freakanomics” idea that Roe v. Wade actually lowered crime rates by reducing the # of unwanted children.

          (Before you flame me I’d rather that the # was reduced by unrestricted access to birth control.)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wish I had the link but someone posted an interesting article which argues this point.

          • 0 avatar

            @PrincipalDan

            +10

          • 0 avatar
            SaulTigh

            Folks throw that BS around a lot. Tell me please how birth control is “restricted.” If I have money, I can go down to my local Walmart and purchase several kinds of safe, effective birth control. I don’t even have to have a lot of money. Less money than I spend on my cell phone plan each month.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Saul

            Given that it is illegal to teach children about anything other than abstinence in many locales of the good old US of A I’d call that restriction. BTW abstinence has never worked for the human race. Go back to colonial records and see how many forced marriages there were because someone got knocked up.

            I’d also argue that all these corporations running around claiming to be “persons” and having the right of free speech as an excuse to not give employees birth control is restriction. I’d also argue that my tax dollars going to subsidize Viagra for Medicare but social conservatives foaming at the mouth whenever Medicaid covers contraception is restriction.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Jmo and I had an interesting exchange on the theory of lead in the air and correlation to an increased rate of crime. I believe it is certainly possible, my only beef was the study seemed incomplete as I argued.

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chart-day-mass-transit-isnt-hitting-critical-mass/#comment-5079498

          Jamie Kitman wrote an incredibly detailed piece on the subject in 2000

          http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,0

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        A big part of why crime dropped so much in NYC is merely because police started policing. During the high crime periods they turned a blind eye, largely due to a lack of resources (i.e. Gerald Ford “Drop Dead”). Once Giuliani came in they had the money to do their jobs.

        Those jobs do not include the various racist policies and discrimination they enact… look up the disparities in application and results of stop and frisk and the way the NYPD (and more specifically the god awful PBA) still cling to its “effectiveness”. No, that’s police brutality with no sarcastic ellipses necessary or warrant, and your isolated incidence w/police doesn’t change that reality for the millions of folks living under the NYPD’s oppressive rule.

        • 0 avatar
          fozone

          People who think some sort of policing miracle or rudy-in-a-superman cape caused the decrease in nyc crime drive me nuts, because they ignore the elephant in the room: crime dropped *everywhere* over that period of time, even in large cities like San Francisco that didn’t use gestapo tactics.

          I know some people like simple narratives, but they just don’t reflect reality.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s a bit of truth in both viewpoints. Sportyaccordy says it well: it’s not so much that Super-Rudy solved everything but that the NYPD just started doing its job again. And the timing of that coincided with the national drop in crime.

            Rudy was only good for one thing: generating numerous lawsuits against the city for First Amendment violations because he liked to shut down any protest regardless of whether anyone actually broke a law.

      • 0 avatar
        LuciferV8

        “The only way you get an artificial situation like Bumblepuppy Manhattan is through extraordinary measures.”

        When Mr. DeBlasio eventually undoes those “extraordinary measures” completely (and he will, in my estimation), the hipsters will pay for it in blood, ironically still cursing Giuliani and the NY police force to the bitter end.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    While it’s true that personal car ownership enables some freedom of choice, said freedom is still sharply circumscribed by the realities of American car-centricity. Sure, I can freely run my errands on my own schedule, even get to my office with a minimum of fuss (largely because I chose a home that was near my job), but there are many other trips that have to planned around the ugly reality of mass usage of cars. I live in the south suburbs of Chicago. If I want to visit friends in Chicago or on the other side of the city, I can crawl thru traffic jams or carefully schedule around the bolus of other drivers. The same issue cropped up when I lived north and wanted to go south. If I want to go to a Cubs game at Wrigley or Bluesfest in Grant Park, driving offers me much less practicality than the CTA and Metra (so, yes, I am interested in taking public transit in Chicago). The wide availability of cars in America is truly a double-edged sword that cuts both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      That’s more of a location issue, if I spend more than 30 minutes a year in traffic it’s an exception.
      Most european cities were built without cars, going back to that design, or using an all inclusive transit isn’t overly complex. American cities were built around cars, even as they become more walking friendly, it’s still a pain to go around without a car.

      (And I don’t live in the middle of no-where, 5 minutes from town, 15-20 minutes from downtown Raleigh)

    • 0 avatar
      jimble

      I’m always amazed by people who would prefer to drive in DC (or take an Uber) when it would be faster, more convenient, healthier, and infinitely cheaper to just walk. For other trips, the Metro or the bus makes more sense. Cars are great to have as an option. I don’t plan to give mine up anytime soon. But they can be a royal pain in the ass, too. Every time my car suffers another ding from being parked on the street I think about selling it. Every time I get a parking ticket or have to pay for the endless repairs that VW ownership subjects me to, I think about going car-free. Then I think about how much I like putting my bike on the roof rack and driving it out to Western Maryland to ride on isolated stretches of the C&O Canal and I take a deep breath. My car is an option for me that I’m glad I have, but I’m also glad to have other options. I just cracked 74k miles in over 10 years of owning the car and I think I drive too much.

      • 0 avatar

        I lived in DC for 23 years. From where I lived the last 10 (Brookland) to my doctor’s office downtown, it was 20 minutes by car (even in rush houir traffic) 20 minutes by bicycle, and 40 by the metro (six blocks to the metro, wait, get on, change trains downtown…). It was about 25 minutes to NIH by car, 50 by metro.

        I did get around 95% by bicycle the first 10 years or so (didn’t own a car, had access a few times). It just wasn’t worth taking the bus, and I didnt live near a metro stop for most of those years.

        Of course, the Dupont Circle/U street/downtown/Georgetown axis is quite walkable. But U street wasn’t a destination when I lived in Dupont circle.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Yea I lived in NYC for 28… the fastest way around by far was bicycle. Generally you could take any train trip and cut it by 1/2 for time on the bike. Of course, it was dependent on weather, fitness and appetite for risk, but I enjoyed the hell out of it while I did it.

          Things like subways and commuting by bike are heavily dependent on commuting distance, employer acceptance (for bikes- I could be a little sweaty at work) and population density though. I am in NC now… no way I’m doing anything but driving or motorcycling my 35 mile commute, and in some ways that’s the opposite of “freedom”. Many jurisdictions use the necessity of auto mobility to levy oppressive, life destroying penalties on folks for stuff as silly as expired tags. In many ways this piece is just as biased as Matt’s…. there are tons of “unfree” aspects of auto ownership in America.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Brookland isn’t really DC, even though it’s geographically in the District. It’s built and lives like a suburb.

          • 0 avatar

            You can say that about Cleveland Park, or really most of what’s west of Rock Creek Park and north of Mass Avenue.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            You’re basically right, although with the recent stupefying growth in the areas due north of downtown DC I’d revise that to “north of Petworth.”

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        No question that driving – and parking – in DC is outright miserable. But walking in DC is outright miserable too. Cold rain in the winter and a hazy swamp in the summer.

        Me, I’m amazed that people choose to live there at all.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I walked 15-20 minutes to my job in DC every day throughout the 4+ years I lived there. I only remember a few days of misery, usually when there was an unusually long-lasting thunderstorm. If you actually walk places you get used to it not always being exactly 68 degrees wherever you are, and in fact it’s often kind of pleasant.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            It’s not the walk, I walk on my own time crap weather and all and can’t say enough good things about it. It’s the sticky and stinking afterwards. I can’t talk with a client like that. I don’t even like to talk with a waitress like that.

          • 0 avatar

            For most of my first ten years in DC, I rode my bicycle about every day. Once I had a car, I never rode in the rain again. I did ride in the heat and the cold, and everything in between.

            I have a friend who lives in Cambridge and works in Boston. Most of the year he commutes on foot (it’s about half an hour each way). It’s a very pleasant walk.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        When I worked in DC, it was far less expensive to drive into work than to take the bus, Metro, or whatever. Plus I had the flexibility you just can’t get by taking public transit.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I’m a car guy living outside of a couple cities as well, equidistant from DC and Baltimore.

      I have friends in both and while I while I exclusively use my car when I go into Baltimore (mainly for the reasons Jack mentions), for 99% of my travels visits to DC I dump my car at the metro station and go in on rail.

      More than anything I like that I have the choice. I don’t see it as a double edged sword, but rather as having a long sword and a short sword, used for different venues.

      • 0 avatar

        But the Baltimore subway line can take you from Crackton to North Crackton!

        • 0 avatar

          now that’s funny!!!

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          Zing!

          Honestly In Baltimore I never really venture beyond the inner harbor, Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, or Canton on occasion. All have pretty decent parking, are decently easy to get to coming into the city by car, and are relatively safe.

          I’m sure there is some sort of public transit system there, but I’ve never had a reason to transit between 2 different parts of Baltimore on a single visit. Plus that whole safety thing.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        The double edge analogy has to do with the ubiquity of car ownership, and therefore the heavy dependence on cars to meet needs. Jack argues that independent travel via car is so attractive and empowering that a reduction in miles driven is neither desirable nor likely. However, when everyone arranges their lives by that principle, it stops being as attractive and/or desirable. Thankfully, many of us have the option to drive or take mass transit as circumstances warrant, but all too often travel in private cars becomes unworkable when individuals take the default choice.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I agree with this 100%. The ideal is to have decent public transportation for those times when you don’t want to drive. If I am going to Boston for fun, or for work in the financial district or other downtown areas, I rarely drive from Portland. It is more convenient and no more expensive to take the bus (cheaper with parking considered). Other times, it is more convenient to drive if I have to take equipment or go to multiple places. It is possible for both to co-exist. But that would relieve Jack of a rant opportunity.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The bus can be awesome too, especially taking advantage of charter ones. My brother lives in NYC and it is infinitely cheaper and easier for us to buy a pair of tickets on the Bolt Bus each way from Greenbelt rather than drive up 95/NJTP and pay nearly $60 in tolls, an equal or greater amount in parking, and gas money to get there.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    It seems that with every piece of news that comes up, the lame-stream-media ask themselves “how can we turn this into a positive for Obama?”

    Story: Massive diaease outbreak kills 50,000 in X area.
    Spin: Obama admin creates 50,000 new “shovel ready” (I couldnt resist) job opertunities in X area.

    Story: Plant closes, 15,000 loose jobs in X city.
    Spin: Obama admin reduces polution significantly in X city, reduces highway congestion near the factory, lowers strain on city resources as well.

    Story: Man looses a $100,000/year job, forced to work at McDonalds to keep family fed.
    Spin: Stimulus finds unemployed man a new job.

  • avatar

    3 trillion miles is the distance to Pluto when it’s at its perihelion. (I think that happened in the late ’80s. Two hundred and sixty-something years from then until it happens again.

    More people had car culture in the days when cars had more personality. When(/if) self-driving cars rule the roads, car culture will exist only in museums, and a few garages. That is why my gut hates them so much.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I live 6.5 miles from my job now. That would/should make for an easy bike commute. However, there’s no way to get from here to there without traveling on a 45mph road. I’ll pass.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Arguing for lower vehicle-miles traveled is like telling young Americans to stop driving. Population growth will increase VMT until urban centers reach sufficient density to allow better public transit.

    It’s the same thing as older wealthier individuals voting for higher taxes, which will screw over everyone who isn’t yet rich, while the voter himself will retire and reap the benefits of unearned income and lower taxation.

  • avatar
    OneidaSteve

    Excellent writing as usual – a real afternoon treat.

    For those who think this kind of discourse doesnt belong on a car site, consider how much public policy has shaped our vehicles!

    I recently spent a week in Atlanta in a ‘green’ area close to the MARTA, essentially went everywhere we needed on public transport. My thoughts after this experience:
    – walking to the train is not fun in steady rain, with two small kids
    – having to carry all the stuff that 1 adult and 2 kids needs for the days is almost impossible, and we arent talking about an infant.
    – my son plays the tuba.
    – the MARTA at night was filled with interesting characters. My kids may not be the same.
    – i would trade 3x stuck in traffic (air conditioned, internet radio, privacy) vs. standing in line waiting for a train.
    – people on trains stink. seriously.
    – no food or drink on trains. so, no coffee and bagel on the way to work.

    I could go on. Bottom line, takes more time, way more hassle, less control. I love public transit in theory, but not in practice.

  • avatar
    Chan

    I currently live in the US where a car represents personal freedom. However, this is only because American cities were designed for cars and are terrifyingly inconvenient for people on foot and on conventional public transportation.

    Consider my hometown, an affluent former colony in southern China:
    Outside the dense downtown core, satellite towns are built around transit hubs. Distance from hub increases, density decreases
    Rail coverage reaches all satellite towns and suburbs. Train frequency is 2-5 min in most areas; buses are similar
    Covered, elevated walkways link major residential and commercial complexes with transit interchanges (solves 2 problems: grade-separation and unstable tropical weather)
    For anything trains and buses can’t reach, taxis are a call away and inexpensive
    Delivery of large items is free at most retailers

    With well-executed transport and public services, a car is an absofrickin’ liability in this kind of city. Walking all day is exhausting, but look up the life expectancy of this place.

    American cities can return to public transportation. But the cities need some internal maturation in infrastructure and services to make it useful for any significant population.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Jack’s whole argument relies on the premise that cities are bad and we shouldn’t live in them. You can’t read this piece without realizing that Jack thinks the only natural state of a city is 1970s New York. That’s natural enough, because he grew up there. But all the rest of the evidence strongly suggests that 1970s New York was an aberration. There was a giant spike in crime, nationwide, starting in the mid-’60s and ending in the ’90s. Not just Manhattan, but all but a few cities in America have returned to historically normal crime rates. Downtowns are booming, often with crime that is actually lower than the suburbs.

    Cities are great in their own way. They are the places where you have lots of shops, restaurants, cultural activities, and businesses easily accessible at a moment’s notice. There is no driving for hours between every stop — usually there is a quick walk. If you’re in Manhattan, or even Boston or San Francisco, the “freedom” argument is stood on its head. A car is an expensive and slow ball and chain. You have to find and pay for parking at every stop, and sit in traffic. Meanwhile, real mobility actually happens through grade-separated transit. In the best systems, you aren’t stuck to someone else’s schedule, because trains come often enough that the wait is a few minutes at most. You aren’t stuck in traffic at all.

    And you pay for an inexpensive pass rather than enormously expensive, and often hassle-filled, parking. City parking is expensive because there are economically better uses for the land–that is, all those shops, restaurants, cultural activities, and businesses. If you built so much parking that parking wasn’t expensive, you wouldn’t have a city core anymore, you’d have a suburb–because the parking itself would spread everything out.

    So Jack’s vision of freedom is a completely suburban one. So what? Well, we’ve designed a whole generation of public policies around Jack’s thesis that cities are bad. The result is that there has been barely any urban development, despite lots of demand. This is why it costs a fortune to live in any reasonably popular downtown these days. And it’s why I had to move to a suburb against my will — hardly “freedom.” I couldn’t afford a place in any of the few truly urban places in my city.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      Urban development isn’t held back because suburbanites like Jack think “cities are bad.” Suburbanites don’t make city policy. Development is held back in places like San Francisco because the entrenched interests like the wealthy who already own homes, those in rent controlled apartments, and environmentalist who want to keep the mountains green won’t allow any new dwellings to be built.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That’s a very fair point… in the specific example of San Francisco.

        But most of the policies holding back urban development are federal, and were imposed (and are maintained) by either the suburban + rural majority in Congress or by a federal bureaucracy that for a long time viewed Washington, DC in July 1968 as what cities were about.

        There are a few categories here.

        First and biggest is home lending subsidies, which historically (this is now changing, but slowly) applied only to detached homes and only in newer areas. You couldn’t use a subsidized loan to buy a downtown condo at all, and in most cases you couldn’t use it to buy an older house in an inner-city residential area. The first of those has changed, but the second is still true in many cases. And obviously those subsidies aren’t available at all to renters, who are more numerous in the city than in most suburbs.

        Second is transit, which is essential to build anything denser than an outer-ring suburb. Federal funding is essential for almost all mass-transit projects. The DOT has historically evaluated projects in terms of how many working-hours commuters they move over how many miles. Obviously that’s going to favor suburban commuter rail over any sort of urban transit.

        Third is highway policy, which has always favored long-distance interstates over the sort of small projects that are needed to expand capacity on city highways and streets. You could get federal highway money for a new highway to open up a brand-new suburb but not for a few feet of expensive downtown pavement to relieve a bottleneck that affects an entire city’s commutes.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      IMO urban modernisation in the US was held back simply due to lazy urban planning and other public policies. There was much land even in California’s most desirable counties, up to the 1980s.

      So they just sprawled out and built roads, because the cities were decaying and the government didn’t know how to deal with it.

  • avatar

    “Commuter Culture is antithetical to car culture.”

    Says who? I hate sitting in bumper to bumper traffic but it’s part of the gestalt. The notion that enthusiasm can only be expressed on a track, winding road, or at high speed is confining.

    “I mustn’t enjoy this on-ramp too much because I’m driving to work and the freeway is jammed a couple of miles ahead.”

    I like speed, I like handling but essentially an automobile is a device to get your from here to there and back.

    Seize joy whenever you can.

  • avatar

    Without a personal automobile (and think of what that word means) people have to live within a 30 minute walk of a bus or train line if they want to get to their jobs. A car lets you live where you want to live and work where you want to work. To people who enjoy freedom and liberty, that’s a good thing. To people who are big on controlling others, it’s a bad thing.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Two points:

      A car may be more of a hindrance than a help for a number of values of “where you want to live” or “where you want to work.” With parking costs and tolls I would have to spend $500 extra per month if I wanted to commute to work.

      Second, this idea that “people are big on controlling others” may be the most tiresome canard on the right. It self-evidently makes no sense, and I’m sick of it. All it is is a crutch to assign bad motives to people with different policy preferences. For every left-ish policy that you are assuming exists “to control others” there is a far more sensible motive.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        For some reason not allowed to edit this comment… that should be “commute to work *by car*.”

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        But… but… but then we don’t get to shut down arguments we don’t have a cogent rebuttal to!

      • 0 avatar

        Did I identify the urge to control with the left, or, for the matter, liberty and freedom with the right? No, those are associations that you made.

        FWIW, “transportation activists” i.e. people who don’t like cars, are unashamed to say that it’s about control. They really don’t like the idea of people being able to live where they want to and work where they want to. That’s contrary to the notion of getting folks to live in densely populated areas dependent on public transportation (‘within a 30 min walk to a train or bus line’). See C.S. Lewis on tyrannies for the good.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I know a lot of “transportation activists” well. You could even call me one, if you read my writings elsewhere.

          I’ve never heard a single one say that it’s “about control.” That’s because people don’t think that way except when they are creating straw men to destroy. When activists don’t like cars, it’s because cars are often destructive to the urban fabric of cities. Parking requirements make urban housing more expensive. Surface parking lots make the environment hostile to everyone not in a car. Wide streets oriented for maximum car capacity make walking difficult. It’s not about forbidding people from using cars. It’s about building a better urban environment.

          And the reason I make the association with the right is that I’ve never heard anyone on the left, ever, use that argument in a planning or transportation context. When they use it, it’s about social issues like abortion and gay rights, and it’s just as much of a red herring; anti-abortion conservatives are trying to ban abortion because they think it’s murder, not because they want to control women.

          • 0 avatar
            Dirk Stigler

            I know all the arguments you’re making, and I also spent a couple years in an urban planning graduate program, so I know quite a few “transportation activists” myself.

            It is about control.

            Of course, that’s now how they put it, or how they think of it in their own minds, but the starting position is an aesthetic–we like nice, walkable neighborhoods that aren’t overrun with cars. Okay, I like that too. The problem is that the next step is to come up with all sorts of regulations to force people to live that way, whether they want to or not.

            Unspoken, at least until a couple beers into happy hour, is that it’s also a nice middle finger to those evil red-staters with their Suburbans, boat trailers and un-walkable rural areas where they spend their days clinging to guns and religion and denying global warming.

            Have your walkable neighborhoods–just stop trying to force other people into them, too.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No one is imposing “regulations” or forcing anyone to live in any neighborhood. If you want to live in the suburbs or the country, fine. The “control” thing is utter bullsh!t.

            In most cases the emphasis of urbanist activists is on *removing* regulations (such as restrictive zoning, parking minimums, roadbuilding standards that require 12′ lanes and shoulders, setbacks, etc.) that make it impossible or way too expensive to build good walkable neighborhoods.

            Look at the price of housing in various neighborhoods in any big city and you’ll see that demand for walkable neighborhoods exceeds supply. This is true even in car paradises like Houston, where the only expensive housing is the stuff in the city’s very few walkable places. The reason housing in walkable neighborhoods is so hot is because there is a regulatory environment that makes them almost impossible to create.

          • 0 avatar
            LuciferV8

            “No one is imposing “regulations” or forcing anyone to live in any neighborhood. If you want to live in the suburbs or the country, fine. The “control” thing is utter bullsh!t.”

            Only so much as the transportation activists are running into resistance. To deny that they would zealously take the reigns and make the change by force if they could get away with it is extremely disingenuous.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “To deny that they would zealously take the reigns and make the change by force if they could get away with it is extremely disingenuous.”

            No, it’s just reality. I work with the people you’re talking about every day. The vision of totalitarian statists you express is ridiculously wrong. To put it bluntly, it’s something that conservatives who never have any contact with actual urbanists tell each other so they can feel solidarity in persecution.

            No one I know cares whether people choose to live in the city or the suburbs. Their goal is to make the city safer and a nicer place for people who aren’t in cars. They’d all probably be happiest if the people who want every city street to be a six-lane 45-mph expressway all chose to go build a new sprawl suburb instead. Sure, they’d fight state funding for the new freeway to that new suburb, but that’s very different from forcing anyone to do anything.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      I could do my job from at home. Unfortunately the US is way behind a lot of other countries on progressive concepts such as telecommuting…

      There still is a lot of “I matter because I have x number of people in cubicles under me and I don’t want to loose footprint in the office because then I matter less” thinking.

      So I drive 32 miles each morning… No public transit around here that wouldn’t take 3 hours between bus, rail, bus, walking, etc.
      Take 30-45 minutes by car.

      I’d much prefer not commuting at all and working from home :-)

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        “I could do my job from at home. Unfortunately the US is way behind a lot of other countries on progressive concepts such as telecommuting… ”

        I could do my whole job from home too, but I consider part of my current job to be finding my next job, and from that perspective, networking, BSing, making contacts, etc, is invaluable. My last two promotions have been people approaching me and saying “hey, we like the work you’re doing for so-and-so, and we’re impressed by how you handled XXXX in YYY meetings, etc, want to come work with us?” I guess if everyone is telecommuting you’re on a level playing field, but in most organizations without a big telecommuting presence, “out of sight, out of mind.”

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Wow I love this site, but this has to be the one of the most obnoxious “Ugly American” editorials I’ve ever read. Funny that you can feel safe getting on public transit virtually everywhere in Europe, Canada, Australia or Japan but America is apparently some Third World danger zone where you ride it at your own peril (or worse yet, have to actually wait for a train or bus). It certainly hasn’t required “police brutality” to make those locales safe, just a civilized society. Maybe the problem doesn’t lie with public transit, it lies with America.

    Even if fuel use wasn’t a factor, cities and suburbs could not possibly accommodate the number of vehicles Baruth’s lifetsyle piece advocates.

    • 0 avatar

      There are places in Europe which are becoming “some Third World danger zone” too because of massive immigration from 3rd World. There are places you don’t want to go in any form esp if you are a Jew.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      There is absolutely a direct link between the institution of higher policing, higher incarceration, and the “stop and frisk” policy to the decrease in crime in NYC.

      However, being the open-minded person I am, I would like you to explain precisely what this “civilized society” you describe consists of and how it leads to decreased crime.

      Seriously, describe the elements of a “civilized society” and show me some examples of them in action.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    ” Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” shouldn’t be able to quote that number with even a modicum of statistical confidence, and indeed they have no real way to know how many miles are driven in this country. Nor should they be able to do so. ”

    Jack, I don’t know why you would question such statistics.
    These must be as real as 3 out of 5 Americans are Gay.
    55 percent of married people would rather not be married.
    80 percent of all teenagers have had sex.
    90 percent of all high school kids have smoked pot or tried drugs.
    I mean…these are the big numbers that drive our legislation.
    And they MUST be true because CNN has said so.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “The fact that twenty years of sustained “police brutality” has turned Times Square into Disney World in no way suggests that such will be the case twenty years from now, particularly if citizens demand that the police start treating hardened criminals with loving tender care.”

    This is a serious problem of time and history.
    It repeats itself. Like all generations, the ONLY real events worth reporting are those events that happ to THAT generation. If you never experienced living in true terror of ever faced violence upon your person…then bad guys are just made up.
    How many times do you hear about how awful these times are? Oh, the trouble times we live in!!!

    Get over it all you now generation. You have no idea what real stress is or how it was to live in Europe throughout the 20th century or fathom the plague of the Middle Ages, let alone try to live without Imodium AD or Advil and antibiotics!!!

    Everybody…do yourselves a real favor and read one of the best books of these times…The Better Angels Of Our Nature…by Steven Pinker.

    “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature”

    Jack…I don’t know how to say this, but I think I have a man crush on you! You brought me to tears! I’m still sniffling!!!

    All I can say is…I love you, man.
    Thanks. You make me proud.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I think the major problem here is the idea that your choice is either freedom-loving, car-dependent suburban sprawl, or public transit and inhospitable cities, as if there’s no middle ground with more walkable smaller communities, or the self-driving car has absolutely no merit, or any other possibilities.

    There’s enough people who clearly have no interest in driving, but are forced to. Are we clearly benefiting from them being forced to do so?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This is a very good point. Perhaps the best lesson of Europe for us is not about big cities, but about small towns. They have workable transit and are supremely walkable. In most cases cars are parked in a central garage and forgotten until it’s time to leave. We barely have any towns like that anywher in the US, and the reason is land use and transportation development policies that are oriented toward moving cars first and foremost.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Well, I had to work in Bar Hill, an industrial estate some 10 miles from the real Cambridge in the UK, as part of a graduate scholarship, way back in 1970/71.

        I lived in St. Ives, about 10 miles further away from Bar Hill. Pretty easy to Google. There was one bus a day from St Ives to Cambridge and certainly no train. Pretty rural. Luckily I got to work each day courtesy of other workers living in the area who had, you know, cars.

        That was 45 years ago. I think North Americans don’t have a clue how isolated rural England was even then. God knows what it’s like now. Municipalities had figured out decades ago that the sticks didn’t provide the ridership needed to keep trains and buses running except as a complete loss. So rural areas became even more rural than they were a century earlier with train service.

        Man, I pined for my old Volvo 544 quietly resting at my parents’ spread back in Canada awaiting my return. There was nothing to do in that backwoods of England in that little town. One pub and one fish and chip shop.

        So, I used up all my savings going to Cambridge Railway Station every Friday evening, going to London for the weekend to stay with other Canucks, coming back very early Monday morning and thumbing a ride to my workplace.

        Good public transportation in even small towns in Europe? In your imagination.

        That’s why I love this article. It expresses the isolation I felt for almost a year. I hated it, and the locals got around it by owning that most amazing device, a car. Some quite interesting, thank goodness.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Tell me, when you were going to St. Ives, did you happen upon any polygamists whose brides had been pressed into service as human pack mules carrying feline cargo?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Backwater England during the depths of the Socialist economic catastrophe is very different from the parts of Europe that actually work. It’s like comparing Delta Mississippi with the New York metro area.

          Any town of five-figure size in Switzerland or Germany has frequent (often hourly) train service to the nearest metropolis. Any town of small six-figure size in those countries has frequent and convenient intra-city transit. And even the teeniest towns in Switzerland have multiple PTT buses a day.

  • avatar
    Petra

    The freedom of car ownership isn’t free. For most people, car ownership means:

    – A monthly loan/lease payment
    – A monthly insurance fee
    – Fuel expenses
    – Expenses related to maintenance, repairs, and wear items
    – The cost of depreciation

    Add it all up, and you’re looking at a pretty sizable chunk of change. At some point, you have to question whether the benefits that Jack discusses are worth the expense. Especially if the benefits are of dubious value to you: yeah, it would be nice to be able to go anywhere anytime you like… but if you don’t/can’t afford to do that more than once or twice a year anyway, what’s the point of having a car? Yeah, car ownership lets you drive out to the Mega-lo-Mart and fill your truck with cheap groceries… but you’ll spend tons of time, fuel, and no small amount of your faith in humanity to do it. Is it really worth it?

    If anything will kill the car, it will be that it will simply become too costly- in expenses both tangible and intangible- for it to be worth owning one.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “– A monthly loan/lease payment
      – The cost of depreciation”

      A pet peeve of mine, it’s stupid to count these as two separate costs. They are the same thing.

      If you buy a $20k car, and you pay $20k for it (either up front or over time), you’ve paid for all the depreciation. You’ve spent $20k. The depreciation is erosion of your asset value, but you’ve already spent all the money you’re going to spend.

      IOW, you spend $20k. 5 years later, you sell it for $5k. Your depreciation is $15k, but you got $5k BACK. Your cost is not $20k + $15k (payments + depreciation) your cost is $15k.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      There are plenty of places where the cost of car ownership already outweighs the practical benefits.

      Just that most of these places are outside ‘Murica, therefore they are socialist, Communist (TM), weird, and irrelevant. Because ‘Murica.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Funny enough my current car end point is an E36 M3. Sshh. I really don’t want the prices to go where my old GTV is now sitting. I just wish I remembered why I had to sell it. Oh, kids, that’s right. Anyway, another article on why if you haven’t read “From Bauhaus to Our House” and “The Painted Word” you don’t understand much of popular, er, official?, culture. They may have been written over 40 years ago, but they remain apt. Oh, Andrei Amalrik’s “Why the Soviet Union won’t survive until 1984” is pretty good on the perversions of choiceless societies. Strange aside on Andrei, as a member of the Samizdat he had never actually read the Orwell book, 1984 just happened to be 10 years in the distance when he wrote it.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    You have hit the nail on the head as far as WHY the US has such a strong car culture. The truth is that rural areas will always rely on cars. Nevertheless, I have to nitpick.

    First off, “a public/private partnership or a too-big-to-fail transportation provider” – what do you call roads and automakers? Most roads in the US are built by private contractors paid for by the taxpayer dime. The very definition of a public/private partnership. And the automakers have been bailed out several times. Transportation itself is and always has been directed by governments, and always is a moneyloser itself (the money is created by what transportation makes possible, which is why the Romans and Eisenhower were so big on roads – that and military usefulness).

    Your New York story is no doubt true (even if I think your air quotes around police brutality are fit to be stangled). There was a low point in the US when crime of all sorts was high. There are still neighborhoods where crime is quite serious. But I remember that cars were not and are not immune to crime – I lived near Houston as a kid and instead of public transit crime stories, I heard of carjackings, car theft, and rapists hiding under cars and in parking garages on the nightly news. Funny story.

    The “subway-train-bus” model is not outdated, nor are bicycles. Nor are cars. It just happens to be that in the US we’ve put our public money into cars so riding a bike or taking a train or bus is an afterthought – so bus schedules cut to nearly nothing after 8pm, bike lanes are nonexistent in most places, and subways and light rail are thin on the ground. Transit systems in the US also are prone to “hub and spoke” models with no “wheel” – so getting from points A to B in many places requires long trips into and out of downtown.

    The thing that is outdated is US approach to public transit and bicycles, not the thing itself. What you’re saying is like someone driving a 1974 Ford Pinto complaining that cars are outdated. Public transit in the US is far out of date.

    I won’t even go into how car ownership is a major cost, as other have covered that.

    Basically, I see your point but I think you’re out of your mind if you think the answer to I-5 traffic in Seattle is more roads and more cars (where would you even put them?). We need more options – the car is no longer freedom in many places but a forced imposition, and a costly one at that. Many of us MUST have a car. That’s not exactly freedom. You have a big wallet so you can spend far too much of your money on cars as a HOBBY, for many people they are forced to spend what little they have on the best hooptie they can afford. Hardly freeing.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      +1. The problem is the urban planning of the past 50 years giving US cities a terrible starting point at which to rebuild public transportation. “Herd/socialist mentality” is not a disease; it’s the solution to mitigate too many people crowding roads with too many cars because they all want to go to the same place. Exactly the purpose of mass transit.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Another comment I wanted to make about equating “cars” with “freedom”:

    You are still restricted to the roads that the government builds for you to use. You are still limited by the laws of the road. Speed limits, tolls, passenger limits, time limits for certain lanes, etc.

    There is no such thing as an absolute “freedom to be at any place at any time that I desire.”

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      It’s still a crapload more “free” than being at the whims of public transportation. Your argument is like saying that because there are laws in the US, it’s no different than living in North Korea. It is, very different.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        See some comments above… “It’s still a crapload more ‘free’ than being at the whims of public transportation” is true only if you’re in a place with crappy public transportation, sufficient road capacity, and free or near-free parking. That describes most of America but certainly not all of it.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “only if you’re in a place with crappy public transportation, sufficient road capacity, and free or near-free parking.”

          Or, like, most of America outside the direct city centers.

          At my office, we’re about 2 miles from the local train stop (Chicago Metra). They operate a community van pool, and I was invited to join before I moved a lot closer to work. I did the math once, if I bought a monthly train pass and paid into the van pool to get to/from the train, it would actually cost me about $30-50 MORE per month than the cost of gas to just drive in. AND it would be less flexible (three van pool times only). And oh by the way, no refund for not using the train and van (like if you had an early meeting or took a week off) you pay the full monthly rate. And you’re always “that guy” rushing out of the office to catch the train instead of staying to finish the work or fix the probem. And since I have a young kid, I’d lose the flexibility to go get her during the day in an emergency (or even just a “shes sick and needs to go home event).

          I remember being in college and not having a car on campus freshman and sophomore year. The biggest thing I remember is how even minor, mundane chores became a HUGE PITA without a car. I was ROTC, so I had a uniform that needed to be drycleaned regularly; I either schlepped it across campus and down the road, or had to arrange a ride. You want some food to keep in your room? Go to the high priced place on campus or bum a ride to the grocery. Rent a movie? Same deal. Take a chick out? Right. Even just get an off-campus burger or whatever was a pain in the butt. I get that in some specific circumstances, having a car is a burden, but I specifically designed my life so that it isn’t; I don’t live downtown, and I work in a suburb and have ample free parking. And that doesn’t exactly make me unique.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        This is only the case where “being at the whims of public transportation” is a bad thing.

        When a city is built to maximise the flow of people in and between important areas, cars are a liability to both residents and planners. Is waiting for a train really making me feel oppressed, when the headway is 2 minutes? I just missed my train, but on a well-run system at peak hours the next train is already announcing its arrival.

        Yes, in the here and now in the US, cars are just about as much freedom as one can get. That’s not to say this mentality should continue in dense cities. Private cars are inherently inefficient but are a necessary evil in most American cities.

        I want my German flat-6s and Italian V8s all day long. But that’s just me, and I don’t have a desire to live downtown and car-less.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          ” I just missed my train, but on a well-run system at peak hours the next train is already announcing its arrival.”

          You assume A) well run and B) peak hours. Most days I work ~8 to ~5:30, but what about when I work late? What about when I have to be in early? What about when it snows and the trains get all screwed up? What about (as happens almost monthly here) when a train hits a car or a jumper and the line shuts down? It’s a whole lot easier to adapt to various situations when you’re not reliant on someone else to get you places.

          To say nothing of the huge inconvenience of changing your schedule (can you meet me at XXX place after work) or having to carry anything more than a backpack or suitcase around (grocery shop on the way home? Transport a child? Going on an extended trip with luggage? Borrow a bulky tool from a coworker? All things I’ve done in the last month).

          “When a city is built to maximise the flow of people in and between important areas, cars are a liability…” Yes, and I think most people understand this, but in America, we tend to value self-reliance and flexibility and are willing to pay with inefficiency to get it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “what about when I work late/early?”

            Maybe you have to wait 8 minutes for the train instead of 3.

            “What about when it snows and the trains get all screwed up?”

            The roads are probably all screwed up too.

            “What about (as happens almost monthly here) when a train hits a car or a jumper and the line shuts down?”

            The same thing that happens when there’s a fatal accident on the highway. You end up having to route around it and suffer big delays.

            In the sort of city where you have real public transit (which, admittedly, is only a few cities in America) the car comes with its own set of inconveniences. Where am I going to park? Will it cost me $25? How long will it take me to find a parking spot? How long will it take me to get 5 miles on surface streets with a traffic light every block? How far will I have to drag my stuff/kid from the parking spot I eventually find?

            Your viewpoint is right on in the suburbs. Like I said, most of America is suburbs, but not all of it. And math dictates that more and more of the growth will be in city centers, and more and more of the city centers will have to build good transit out of necessity. Here in Seattle we have a decent but not great bus system, but it is so overloaded that we have 70%+ political support for spending $10+ billion of new tax money to build new grade-separated train lines as soon as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      TELEPORTATION NOW!

  • avatar
    CGHill

    P. J. O’Rourke, in the introduction to a book of essays by David E. Davis Jr.:

    “David knows what every sixteen-year-old knows, but what no elected official, self-appointed quality-of-life advocate, or double-domed social visionary seems to — that cars confer upon us the ultimate and most important of human freedoms. We can leave.”

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    “First, the reason why we have so much cheap oil is largely a decision by OPEC (read: Saudi Arabia) to drive the prices down long enough to discourage U.S. domestic production of oil.”

    Well I certainly have been doing my part to support the U.S. oil barons while being a rational consumer. Give me cheap oil and I have been driving a lot more – even driving home for lunch to let the dog out, I would never do that before. Yes sir I am soaking up some of the cheap extra oil supply while we have it.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “First, the reason why we have so much cheap oil is largely a decision by OPEC (read: Saudi Arabia) to drive the prices down long enough to discourage U.S. domestic production of oil.”

    Nonsense. Do you really need someone to explain this to you? Seriously dude, you really should avoid commenting on things that you clearly have a very poor grasp of. I know the resident JB sycophants think you’re brilliant, but to anyone who pays attention to this stuff on a regular basis you sound completely ignorant. As another commenter said above, stick to cars Jack.

    And don’t get me started on the whole labor-participation-rate straw man…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      You understand that paragraph is from Matt’s article, right? That’s why it’s in the block quote.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        Fair enough, but you rather solidly hitched your intellectual wagon to his statements vis-a-vis this endorsement:

        “Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis on the news, however, was performed by Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik. It’s a pleasure to read and Matt marshals his arguments in careful order towards an obvious conclusion.

        This all seems eminently reasonable and I found myself nodding along in agreement as I read.”

        Matt should stick to cars as well.

        • 0 avatar

          How does one hitch one’s intellectual wagon to a position disagreed with?

          “As fate would have it, however, I find myself forced to hoist the opposing standard.”

          It would be nice if the critics actually read what they’re criticizing.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I did read it – in the course of his lengthy and rather opaque rant about car culture and freedom and NY crime and guns-n-Obama, Jack never said anything close to disagreement with the statement I was referring to.
            And if he did/does disagree with that part of it, why didn’t he just say so in his reply to my comment?

  • avatar
    stickmaster

    This commentary confirms what everybody knows but dares not speak. Namely, that neither muscle/exotic cars, so loved by the automotive press, nor elitist views on what people should be doing (public transportation) truly represent what people actually need and prefer in the real world. People vote with their wallets and actions.

    The camcords, small cars, priuses, and SUVs are the true markers of what the free market has done for the middle classes. Space, freedom, reliability, efficiency, flexibility, all in one package accessible to many people.

    They’ll pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Jack Baruth,
    I to am from New York, Long Island.

    I am an Australian as well as an American.

    And I do normally enjoy reading your commentary as it is quite entertaining.

    I do hope this article was just a joke.

    If you truly believe in what you have written then I do believe you really need to travel around the world.

    I do believe that most any person wants the liberty to choose, this isn’t an American trait, but a human trait.

    Do not think that people in repressive countries don’t yearn for freedom? Do you not think that in developing and stable countries people are looking for the same?

    The reality is the US, like Australia and many other countries globally do enjoy the freedoms you speak of.

    Why? Because we live in affluent societies.

    Affluence allows for the freedoms you speak of, not nationality.

    As for guns, offering freedom?? Sort of similar to a bikie gang or mobster stating that they are respected.

    What about the freedom of not considering it necessary to have to carry a gun? Own them, but control them.

    What about the many poor in America, do they have your freedoms? No. They don’t have the resources.

    Freedom only exists with affluence.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      The association of cars with freedom is cultural and comes from the lazy sprawl-type development of American cities.

      Does a gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade represent “freedom”? Is a front and back yard a “human right”?

      Similar but more extreme is the association of guns with freedom. Unlike our friendly advocates, I view the “need” to carry a weapon as a burden and a mark of oppression–the oppressor being a threat of physical harm. I have very little interest in a tool whose sole purpose is to kill. Our open-carry compatriots beg to differ.

      I love cars and would be miserable without sports cars. But I do not carry the illusion that they are a birthright. They are a privilege, and I had to earn them and the freedom to use them.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        “I love cars and would be miserable without sports cars. But I do not carry the illusion that they are a birthright. They are a privilege, and I had to earn them and the freedom to use them.”

        No, in America rights don’t work that way. You are considered to have all rights UNLESS the state has sufficient cause to remove them from you. You do not “earn” the freedom to use a car here, you have it inately, unless the state can show just cause in removing it, such as an inability to operate it.

        It’s a philisophical disctinction, maybe, but an important one.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “You do not “earn” the freedom to use a car here, you have it inately, unless the state can show just cause in removing it, such as an inability to operate it.”

          Um, no. Most (all?) states require a drivers license and liability insurance on the vehicle for you to drive one. There is no “innate” right to a drivers license, you must meet certain criteria and satisfy state residency requirements.

          There is no federal or constitutional provision guaranteeing you the right to drive a car.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The privilege of having a driver license in the US is akin to getting a library card — it isn’t a right per se, but it isn’t difficult to get or keep one, either. The state cannot (at least theoretically) arbitrarily deny you from indulging in that privilege, while the government supports plenty of infrastructure that allows you to take advantage of it.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “The state cannot (at least theoretically) arbitrarily deny you from indulging in that privilege…”

            This may be true under current laws in most states, but since driver licensing is 100% regulated at the state level, “theoretically” any state legislature could restrict the privilege to whomever they choose – or deny it completely for that matter.
            Implausible yes, but the fact remains that, barring a US Supreme Court ruling to such an effect, there is no US Federal provision that entitles you to a drivers license.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If a state attempted to discriminate in issuing and allowing licenses, such as having a rule that used race, gender or sexual preference as a criteria to deny or restrict them, then I have no doubt that such a rule would be found to be unconstitutional. Having a license is a quasi-right.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            Pch, I don’t disagree with you on a pragmatic level, but when you injected the word “theoretically” into the discussion in saying they can’t – well, in fact, “theoretically” they can.

            All this was in response to an assertion that driving is an “innate” American right – which it clearly is not.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, they cannot theoretically take away your privilege arbitrarily or without cause because there are laws that prevent it. Every state will have criteria for suspending a driver license, and licenses cannot be revoked without some justification.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Pch, there’s no constitutional right to a license. The Constitution only confers the right to be treated equally, which the state can usually abrogate if it has a rational basis for doing so (there is a higher standard for things like race and national origin).

            It would be perfectly constitutional for the state to deny everyone a license, or to deny some people a license if it can articulate a rational reason. That’s how we can have suspensions or revocations of drivers with bad records, for example.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ve explained the nuances of the situation. It isn’t as clear-cut as you would have us believe.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Unfortunately, you’ve “explained the nuances” wrong. (And, yes, I am a lawyer.) Discrimination against protected classes is not illegal per se, it’s just subject to strict scrutiny by courts. And outside of the protected-class context, the state can make any distinctions it wants to as long as it can articulate a rational basis for them.

            Again: there is no constitutional right to a driver’s license. There is only a constitutional right to be treated equally under the law, which the state can easily get past if it has a reason.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            We’re getting pretty far into the weeds here, but what the hell…

            Driving a car isn’t like voting – which IS a US Constitutionally protected right. That hasn’t stopped certain state legislatures from screwing with some people’s ability to exercise that right. No, of course that’s not happening with driver licensing, but only because there’s no political motive to do so.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, I’ve explained it correctly.

            Privileges can be extended and rescinded at the unilateral pleasure (or whim) of the party that grants the privilege. That does not adequately describe the licensing of drivers in the United States.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Your definition of “privilege” is made up and has no basis in law. You are fuzzily describing what you think the situation is. I am telling you what the actual law is. The state has total discretion over who it licenses to drive as long as it doesn’t discriminate based on a protected class and as long as it has a rational basis (which can be very weak indeed) for any distinctions it does make.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The Ninth Circuit tossed out Arizona’s restrictions on issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants, finding those bars to be unconstitutional. That should make it pretty clear that the ability to obtain a driver license is subject to some constitutional protection and isn’t just a state matter.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The reasoning behind that 9th Circuit ruling was that there was no rational basis to deny licenses to the immigrants in question, and that the Arizona law doing so was motivated solely by “animosity.” Most restrictions on driver licensing don’t have that problem, and I think even the case you cite could have come out differently if the Arizona government had argued it better or if it had been before any court except the 9th Circuit.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The default position in our legal system is that licenses should be issued unless there is a good reason to deny them.

            That legal principle and its real-world outcome (the vast majority of Americans have driver licenses) bear more resemblance to a right than to a privilege. You certainly have the right to apply for a license, and it doesn’t take much to get one.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            A “right” by definition isn’t something that you must be tested for and meet certain criteria. It is granted to you implicitly without requiring you to do anything. Short of being convicted of a felony it can’t be suspended or revoked. Anything else is, again by definition, a privilege.

            Pch, I respect your intellect as you seem to be one of the more rational commenters here, but you’re too dug in on a position that is not shared by the bulk of official and legal sources.

            If you would kindly point me to ANY state/local/fed gov’t or credible legal source that says obtaining and holding a DL is a right and not a privilege (other than Alaska, which from what I gather considers itself to be an autonomous entity) I will certainly look at it. But since the ratio of web search results is about 99:1 against your interpretation I think this is kind of a pointless pursuit.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You really need to stop arguing against a strawman.

            My first comment on the subject: “The privilege of having a driver license in the US is akin to getting a library card — it isn’t a right per se, but it isn’t difficult to get or keep one, either.”

            Also note my example of a federal court ruling that there are constitutional rights that allow you to obtain a driver license. I realize that you were taught at Drivers Ed that “driving is a privilege” but it isn’t as straightforward as that.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            No straw man – you were the one who (incorrectly) supposed that state governments don’t have total autonomy in establishing DL laws and requirements. You are the one who keeps trying to establish some link between the US Constitution and the ability to obtain/hold a DL when there (fundamentally OR explicitly) is none.

            You’re certainly entitled to your own opinion of all this, but as I said, you’re an outlier in what has become a purely semantic argument.

            Peace bro.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, the Ninth Circuit ruled that an Arizona law that barred illegals from obtaining driver licenses violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution and that those who were denied licenses “are likely to suffer irreparable harm.” The Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal of the ruling.

            There you have it: a federally protected right to apply for and hold a state driver license based upon the constitution. The license is obviously conditional, but the state cannot arbitrarily deny it, either.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Pch, the language you quote doesn’t say what you claim it does.

            The Equal Protection Clause is just that: a clause of the 14th Amendment requiring “equal protection of the laws.” It doesn’t grant any other right, including the right to a driver’s license.

            The Arizona law violated the Equal Protection Clause because, the court said, the state had no basis except “animosity” (which is not a rational basis) for denying the equal protection of *the Arizona law* allowing people to obtain driver licenses.

            The Equal Protection Clause imposes no obligation on Arizona or any other state to make driver’s licenses available at all. If Arizona does choose to issue licenses, the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit Arizona from denying them for any reason for which the state has a rational basis, unless the denial is because an applicant is a member of a protected class. (In that case the state has to prove that its denial is the least restrictive way of advancing a “compelling governmental interest,” a higher standard.)

            I know you’re attached to this point, but legally it’s just not correct. Everything above is hornbook constitutional law that even a B- law student knows well by the end of the second year at the latest.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The Ninth Circuit opinion notes that 87% of Arizonans drive to work (vs. 2% who use public transportation) and identifies a linkage between the ability to have a license and to hold a job.

        • 0 avatar
          Chan

          I am only saying I had to earn and save enough to pay for the cars and pay for the right to operate them (registration, taxes and maintenance). It’s not loose change in my pocket that earned me my cars, especially my garage queen.

          In other words, minimum-wage jobs generally don’t let you buy and maintain decent cars. That is a problem in car-centric America and can be attributed to lax urban planning.

          Thank goodness many well-planned world cities don’t force car ownership upon their inhabitants. We have good examples to learn from.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          What hybridkiller said. There is a constitutional right to mobility. There is Supreme Court case after Supreme Court case establishing that the right to mobility does *not* create a right to drive a car. Legally, driving a car is a privilege, not a right, whether you think it should be otherwise or not. Personally, I can’t imagine the safety disaster that would result if we treated driving as a right and didn’t require any training or licensing whatsoever.

        • 0 avatar
          bikegoesbaa

          There is no “freedom” or rights issue when it comes to cars.

          In America you very definitely have the absolute unrestricted right to own any car you can afford and to operate it however you please with no interference or oversight by the government whatsoever; as long as you do it on a private closed course.

          The authorities only get involved when you want to stick a license plate on it and drive it on roads that they built and paid for. This seems entirely reasonable to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @bikesgoesbaa,
            Unfortunatley you are incorrect. The US has one of the most restrictive set of controls of any modern nation regarding what you can and can’t drive on your public roads.

            You can only drive basically what is actually on the car lots. You can’t import a foreign vehile and register it, unless it meets the many regulatory barriers.

            Try and buy a T6 global Ranger and register it to be driven on your roads.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            And dammit, they STILL won’t let me slap a tag on that M1 Abrams tank – I’ve been dying to take that thing out for a spin…

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            Al,

            I think you misunderstand me.

            In the US you can own and operate any car you want provided you do it on a closed course.

            I can’t register a global Ranger, but I could certainly have one shipped here and run it on a racetrack if I so desired.

            Owning and operating a car is a *right*. Driving it on public roads is a *privilege*. These two concepts are not incompatible.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            bikegoesbaa, you’re wrong on two counts. First, if you tried to import that Ranger (without going through a federalization process) and customs found it, it would be crushed, regardless of whether you planned to register it or not. Second, there’s no inherent right to own anything (including a car) under US law. The state legislatures or Congress can and do ban ownership of items if they see fit. For example, you can’t own a big bomb or detonate it on your property, even if you have so much acreage that no one else would suffer damage.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    There’s one demographic that it ought to be easy to MAKE use public transportation instead of driving. They even have a near perfect public trans set-up. And yet we won’t/can’t make them use it. High school juniors and seniors. A bus comes to damn near their front door, or within a few minute walk. There is no line. It’s almost always on time to within a few minutes. The bus is filled with their friends/peers/classmates. Buses are generally,relatively clean. They will be dropped to within 30′ of the front door of their destination. And yet school parking lots are filled with hundreds of students’ vehicles. At the high school where my wife teaches, students have to pay $50 a year for a parking permit. They PAY to avoid a damn near perfectly convenient transportation system. The school district could eliminate student parking as an option. Parents could eliminate the option. Local or state laws could eliminate the option. And no one ever even mentions it. Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      More kids driving = a less taxed school bus system (though there are other obvious caveats)

      I don’t think kids driving to school is necessarily a bad thing. They have to learn eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Been in school in the last 25 years? If you want to get into any sort of decent college, you need “extracurriculars.” And those are very poorly supported by the standard A-B-A school bus. To say nothing of any sort of social interaction with anyone who doesn’t live on your block. My parents were very anti financially supporting me having my own car in high school, until they saw how much time they’d either have to loan me their car or schlep me around as I adhered to the rule of thumb “one sport, one other extracurricular, and significant volunteer work” that’s basically a requirement to get into a decent school. And this was 15+ years ago, I can’t imagine it’s gotten easier.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I can confirm this from my youth, although I don’t recall volunteer work being an expectation.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          2nd order….National Honor Society required a certain amount of volunteer work (10-20hrs/mo?), and NHS was a near prerequisite to college…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ah. I recall hearing about NHS but I was never a member.

          • 0 avatar

            If the NHS is a “near prereq” for college, membership is meaningless, hardly an honors society. I think I graduated something like 25th or 27th in a class of 625 seniors. National Merit Finalist and merit scholarship to Michigan and I wasn’t in the NHS, which was tiny in my school. At my school, it was a popularity contest decided by teachers and with my mouth that wasn’t going to happen.

            I’m glad that when I applied to college it was almost entirely about grades and scores. I don’t recall having to write some kind of BS essay to accompany my application.

            My son, my only son, Moshe, whom I love, went to a yeshiva in South Bend for high school. With either classes, prayer services or formal study sessions, they were busy from dawn till long after nightfall. No time for extracurriculars (though he did teach himself guitar). He also got 1550 on the SAT with a perfect math score. A husband and father now, he went back to school to finish his degree in physics and he’s pulling a 4.0 taking a full load of classes while working full time along with his family responsibilities (my daughter in law is a RN with 12 hour shifts).

            It’s kind of silly to think that there are colleges that would deny my son admission over a lack of “extracurriculars”.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “It’s kind of silly to think that there are colleges that would deny my son admission over a lack of “extracurriculars”.”

            Ronnie, this sort of thing was happening as early as the late 90s. College was jumping the shark then, let alone now.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “If the NHS is a “near prereq” for college”

            For a top-flight college, not “any” college. Maybe I overstate its importance, but I know for me, I was admitted early to my first choice school, and my HS GPA was slightly lower than the early admissions class profile; my SAT score was slightly higher, but I also had substantial volunteering (which I did for the chicks) and the school I went to put a heavy emphasis on “service” so I think that helped me get in.

            Anyways, the larger point remains, yes, if you go to school when it starts and leave when it ends the bus might work, but if you want to get involved in anything else, especially in trying to build that get-into-college resumes, the bus doesn’t really help you becuase you need before/after hours transport.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “My son, my only son, Moshe, whom I love, went to a yeshiva in South Bend for high school. With either classes, prayer services or formal study sessions, they were busy from dawn till long after nightfall. No time for extracurriculars”

            Err, “being heavily involved in my church/temple” is an extracurricular activity.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @s2k

            “I also had substantial volunteering (which I did for the chicks)”

            Nobody told me there would be girls, heck that would have been nice incentive.

          • 0 avatar

            “Err, “being heavily involved in my church/temple” is an extracurricular activity.”

            I wasn’t describing his synagogue activities. This was the formal curriculum of the school.

            Honestly, I can’t think of any truly religious people that I know who would want to get something close to academic credit for going to religious services. It would be one thing if schools credited volunteering with religious service groups, but the idea of patting a kid on the head for going to church, shul or mosque, and letting that be one of the determining factors for admission to college seems to me to come from a secular mindset that doesn’t understand why people have religious fellowhip and prayer.

            Since his father is a smartass, when he did apply for college we joked about describing the yeshiva as “a bi-cultural immersion school that used three different languages of instruction”, figuring that would appeal to the biases of admissions officers more than an orthodox Jewish religious school would.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “Honestly, I can’t think of any truly religious people that I know who would want to get something close to academic credit for going to religious services. It would be one thing if schools credited volunteering with religious service groups, but the idea of patting a kid on the head for going to church, shul or mosque, and letting that be one of the determining factors for admission to college seems to me to come from a secular mindset that doesn’t understand why people have religious fellowhip and prayer.”

            I think you misunderstand. It’s not about what the activity is. It’s about a kid demonstrating that he’s done something, that he cares about something, that he’s had some experience in somethig. A school doesn’t want the kid who goes to class, sits in the corner, does his homework, and goes home and locks himself in his room. That kid doesn’t bring anything to the table. A kid who has dedicated himself to something, anything, more complex than a high score on Minesweeper speaks to 1) dedication, passion, ability to follow through with things, and 2) a more diverse set of experiences to draw upon and help enrich the campus with. Don’t you think a kid with an Orthodox education would bring a unique perspective to classroom discussions and a more diverse set of experiences that would benefit those around him? Clearly you thought it had some value, because you sent him there, so why would it surprise you that a college might also value that same experience?

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            Top-level colleges have a wealth of applicants with exceptional grades and test scores.

            When a college has more people with near-perfect academic credentials applying than can be admitted, then they need to look at *something* besides school.

            Hence extracurriculars.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      Bus – Get up an hour earlier and ride the whole thing to each stop.
      Car – Sleep in an extra 60 minutes, non-stop, direct drive to destination.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        Let’s teleport to, say, Tokyo.

        Bus and train – Budget an hour to get to work.
        Car – Budget 30-45 min for traffic. Budget 400 yen per hour to park in a downtown garage. Budget another 10-15 minutes to find an actual parking space and walk back to your destination. On top of that, budget 100M yen to buy a house in an OK-ish area, with actual garage space.

        ‘Murica.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Why must we pretend that every single person commutes from the suburbs to a large city? In my 10 year career spaning three companies, I’ve never had a job in the city, I’ve always commuted between Chicago suburbs. Yes, I get it, IF your job is in a downtown area, it probably sucks to drive. But that’s not necessarily the norm.

          • 0 avatar
            Chan

            My commute is similar to yours and I love my cars, but Baruth’s article seems to suggest that re-urbanisation is a bad idea in the context of cars and “freedom.”

            I’m all for removing the burdens of car ownership from those who don’t care for it. Which is most of the people around me, anyway. That starts with clever planning for zoning and density, and then expanding the transportation services available in urban areas.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “Baruth’s article seems to suggest that re-urbanisation is a bad idea in the context of cars and “freedom.””

            It’s a bad idea in the sense that there are those who would like to “force” us into it. If people want to go willingly, and many do, more power to them. But don’t try to force me into it via things like congestion charges, or mileage penalties or whatever.

  • avatar

    Left unmentioned is the land lock aspect of this. Living 40 miles north of NYC, most of my driving for work is on fairly open roads. Stores, workplaces, etc, are normally fairly easy, roads well maintained. The system works well-for private cars.

    We have a train for the center city….it too works well, A-B, for those who have to schlep to “d City” for the day.

    It all falls apart with density; the problem is nothing is fixed. Go downstate, closer to, and in “the city”, you hit gridlock quickly. The same roads built for my grandfather by Robert Moses are still there. They are the same as 1940..not improved, widened, or otherwise adapted for the much greater populations that have sprung up. Potholes are a huge issue. The CUV is the best city car for this reason alone. After long stretches of potholes, the most common cars waiting for the tow truck are the enthusiast toys, whose low profiles don’t play well in adverse conditions, and appliance users, who don’t “get” tire pressure.

    The Subways, etc have not been significantly upgraded since they were separate companies. What has happened is that there is a huge cross subsidy between the car driver, who is robbed in the name of public good, to pay the subways. So, if I go to Long Island for work, I pay $15 in toll, $14 of which is flushed to the Subway system. I get massive potholes and on ramps designed for a 52 Plymouth for that money. The straphanger gets a 50% subsidy, courtesy me, but still on an old system that is a joke to most of the first world. After Sandy, one of the issues was a 25 volt signal system that was original to the system…We rob Peter to pay Paul but no one is getting anything for it.

    The transportation planners want to toll the few remaining free crossings to NYC. In short, the car is “bad”, and “must pay”.

    Upstate, none of this exists, and we are grateful for it. The bottom line is that neither the Subways or the Highways are fixed in the city, but that the costs for the driver go up and up…and if anyone wants to see the greatest pothole collection ever, take the Grand Central past LaGuardia Airport. Yet they bang the driver for $15 to cross the bridge…..some every day.

    Add to this most “Transportation Alternative” experts, who gentrified some area after growing up in-and-rejecting their parent’s suburbia and think the bicycle is a reasonable way for a family of four to get around…..and they have the mayor’s ear….and there you go.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      New York is a textbook example of an American city that ought to be well-served by public transportation but suffers from aging infrastructure and insufficient carrying capacity to manage the past decades of population growth.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    Over the years, I realized I have become considerably more conservative.
    What won me over was not knee-jerk Fox News sound bites, but well-reasoned arguments that were backed with enough solid evidence to deflate much of the liberal dogma I had embraced in my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I still give neocons hell, but I can honestly identify as a right winger at this point.

    Is it just me reading the evolution of your writing over the years wrong, or do you feel that you’ve had a similar shift, Jack?

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