Monday, June 27, 2011

Curbing American Car Usage? We'll Have an Openly Gay Black President First

There is an effort going on in various cities throughout Europe to discourage the use of cars, in order to help with the environment.  Now, since this is a European effort, a solid proportion of the American populace will think that it's akin to something Satan endorsed.
A couple of friends highlighted an interesting article in the New York Times about European efforts to make car usage less attractive than walking or taking mass transit within cities.  The article does make it clear that Europe has a better mass transit structure than the U.S., gasoline is around $8 per gallon, and that the cities, of course, are older than cities in the U.S., thus even less car friendly.  It's also made clear that many American cities were developed around the use of a car, and not mass transit; Los Angeles is a perfect example. 

I've not had a car since the early '90s, nor have I missed it.  What I do miss is the lack of a need for a car in Washington, DC.  During my time in Washington (14 years), I pretty much had everything that I needed within a  five to ten block square.  If I needed something outside of my immediate neighborhood, then there was a good mass transit system throughout the region (though with a somewhat limited subway system.  Meanwhile, a car is essential in Hampton Roads, and it is one of many things that I find problematic about this region.  Hampton Roads is true representation of the car-centric American city/region than a New York City, Chicago or Washington, DC.  Add to that the association of the car with individual freedom, and I just cannot see something like the European efforts ever getting a real hearing anywhere in the U.S. (have you heard the derisive commentary about high speed rail, a norm in virtually ever other industrialized nation on the planet?).

But I can always dream, or (eventually, and I hope sooner rather than later) move back to a tradition large U.S. city with density, solid mass transit, and pedestrian friendly amenities.  I liked not having to follow the fluctuations of the price of gasoline, or having to pay auto insurance, or maintenance, or parking fees.  Regardless, until we actually begin to think that things like climate change are important (or in the cases of some, that it isn't made up), we will not begin to consider genuine solutions.  If we reach that point, and I am not so sure we will, at least we will have templates to examine (just don't tell anyone their European).

UPDATE:  Over at The Daily Dish, I found an interesting post that included the aforementioned New York Times article.  The Dish post has two links (here and here) that suggest that the construction of things like bike lanes and pedestrian friendly infrastructure projects help to create more jobs per million dollars spent than simple road projects.

1 comment:

John said...

I appreciate the update. You are right. The Recovery Act funded $48 billion in transportation infrastructure with only a small portion going to pedestrian and bike projects. Bt, the jobs reporting required by the act show that those bike and pedestrian projects supported many more jobs per dollar invested than traditional highway projects.

Also, since DC began its bikeshare program, the number of cyclists in the city seems to have more than doubled - it's a fantastic program!