MERGING TRAFFIC DEP'T.
I'm glad car hatred is catching on. Everyone thinks I'm weird when I say I hate driving. Even with how built-for-cars cities are, driving is still awful. Giant SUVs block your view. Headlights are blindingly bright now. And we just... accept it? That ignores the misery of creeping along in traffic, or the frustration and nuisance of trying to find a parking spot.
Cars are such a burden, I don't get how people love them. Maybe if you take it to "the track" on the weekends, but regular driving? A tedious chore.
"Fast, affordable intercity rail travel, like congestion pricing and those electric trucks, is something utterly normal and achievable in the rest of the world that we just ... can't do? Won't do?": Won't, for two general reasons. First, more than the rest of the world you have in mind (e.g., Holland), the USA is governed by and for the rich, especially the obscenely rich, so if something isn't a problem for them, then it isn't a problem for American government. (Even Britain isn't as bad as the USA in this regard.) You think Jeff Bezos is sitting in traffic or worrying about getting hit while crossing a street? Second, and not at all coincidentally, in the USA, every potential or actual public good is relentlessly opposed by the paranoid tribalism of reactionary white people, who construe every public policy in terms of Real America (HT Sarah Palin) vs. Those People. To put it another way, the problem with public goods (e.g., fast, affordable intercity rail travel) is that they benefit the public, a sizable minority of which yearns to hurt, suppress, or destroy the remainder of which.
I grew up in Los Angeles, which is a huge, hideous monument to the personal automobile. Cars loomed large in my youth. When I was seven, my mother, my older brother, and I were hit by one while crossing a street in a marked crosswalk. My injuries were bad enough that my left kidney and spleen had to be surgically removed. (Luckily, in children that young, the remaining kidney usually grows to compensate for the loss, as it did in my case.) "Smog alerts", caused largely by exhaust from motor vehicles, were frequent throughout my childhood. The occasional "second stage smog alerts" could be downright apocalyptic, but even on "normal" days during much of the year, the foothills of the Sierra Madre, about ten miles from my house, were at best faintly visible. For a year when I was in college, I drove 40 miles each way between where I was living and campus almost daily. Etc. For these and other reasons, I really don't miss my youth in L.A.
Now, I live in Vancouver, BC, which makes an interesting contrast. Public transportation, both trains and buses, is far better (although I've mostly been staying close to home due to the still-very-much-ongoing pandemic). On the rare occasions when I drive, I'm reminded that I should try not to do that. Traffic tends to be awful, partly because Vancouver isn't built for cars to nearly the same degree as Los Angeles. There are no freeways to or through downtown. (An attempt to build one some years ago was defeated by citizen activism.) By L.A. standards, most major roads are too small for the volume of traffic they carry. Traffic lights are frequent, whereas left-turn signals and lanes are scarce. Between all that and the higher cost of gasoline (currently about USD 6 per gallon), Vancouver is punching above its weight in the War on Cars (although it could, no doubt, do better still).
By the way, I'm highly in favor of further collaboration between Indignity and The AP.
Loved this so much I wish I could like it 20 times. (Someone sent it to me because I wrote a book about walking, including a chapter on car supremacy/dependency; I'm sure you're familiar with the work of Peter Norton on how we got here.)
I did an interview with the War on Cars a few months ago, and one of the lines that got cut for time was one I keep coming back to, especially as I try to urge parents in my small Montana town to consider *not* driving their kids up to the front door of the school and then complain about the traffic they're stuck in: People aren't *in* their cars; they *are* their cars. I think this is all so intractable because cars have become extensions of our bodies -- any thought of "to go" in much of North America means "to drive" (which also explains some of why people get so outraged when you take abundant free parking away).
I like driving. I drive a truck. It's an old, small truck and I hate how monstrous even 'light' trucks are now. I'm with you on the safety concerns.
That said, you and AP, both living in New York, will have to grapple with the reality that driving in most of America isn't nearly as routinely unpleasant as it is in the urban Northeast. Make your arguments from a safety perspective. Talking to people who don't hate driving as if they do hate it, actually, seems less likely to persuade.
Car hatred is a pathetic, infantile, and aggressively zero-sum way to waste one's adulthood. You poor souls have just never owned a Honda, and never experienced true joy.
Hi. Carmel-hating resident of Indianapolis here. Roundabouts are great for car traffic in low-density suburbs built largely over cornfields just a generation ago, but they also take up a LOT of space that could otherwise serve pedestrians.
Great read. Thanks.