From reader Lawrence Krubner
I’d like to point out a new weblog to you. It is written by my friend Alex Marshall, a journalist who writes on urban issues. His weblog focuses on the political forces that are shaping America’s cities.
He has up a great post regarding light rail systems and the political forces that end to oppose such systems ( In the article he writes: “While few if any transit lovers seek to eliminate all highway funding, a band of car and road lovers have declared the equivalent of an American jihad against transit, particularly rail-oriented transit. These choo-choo train haters hope to stamp out all forms of travel by track, and complete the transformation of the country into a land of solely tires on asphalt.”
His writing also focuses on Europe and offers many comparisons of it to America. There are, I think, too few weblogs that focus on the politics that lead to suburban sprawl in America and Europe. His weblog is worth a look.
More from Alex Marshall’s post
Both sides are not equally to blame here. While few if any transit lovers seek to eliminate all highway funding, a band of car and road lovers have declared the equivalent of an American jihad against transit, particularly rail-oriented transit. These choo-choo train haters hope to stamp out all forms of travel by track, and complete the transformation of the country into a land of solely tires on asphalt.
Who is leading the charge against transit? A group of libertarian pundits, often supported by assorted non-profit foundations, who say the road, the car and even sprawl represent American individualism and marketplace freedom, while rail travel and the urban environment represent wasteful, heavy-handed government intervention. There is one huge problem here. Over the last century, local, state and federal governments have spent more money and exerted more state force in order to build the millions of miles of roads that now wind through city and countryside than on just about anything. So we are greeted with the absurd, but amusing, sight of anti-government, anti-planning types making tortured arguments about how state-built, state-maintained highways and whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s around them represent American individualism and lack of state control.
(Well, one can hardly expect hardcore free-market libertarians to be logical, can one? It’s religion to them. The free market – a misnomer if there ever was one – is their God, abjectly so – Ayn Rand’s Galt tracing the dollar sign in the sky. At least Christian fundamentalists know they are bowing down to a God, libertarians of this ilk have no clue, and actually believe themselves to be atheist.)
Among the non-profits leading the charge will be AAA, the Auto Club, whose lobbyists loudly and persistently call for more roads, more cars, and screw the mpg and the environment.
Environmental and smart-growth activists say AAA’s small team of lobbyists uses the group’s outsized membership and down-home image to promote an agenda that is ecologically irresponsible.
In recent years, AAA spokespeople have criticized open-space measures and opposed U.S. EPA restrictions on smog, soot, and tailpipe emissions. According to a 2001 article in OnEarth magazine by Michael A. Rivlin, the AAA even bashed the 1990 Clean Air Act, saying the law served to “threaten the personal mobility of millions of Americans.”
Sharp thinking there pal, let’s all choke on exhaust rather than do something about it. Of course, AAA wants more cars, because that means more members and more money for them. Self-interest right down the line. However, my Prius runs clean, so do the increasing numbers of natural gas powered buses in LA and Santa Monica. L.A. now has a small but growing light rail and subway system. Would I rather take a subway downtown that takes 22 minutes than a freeway ride that can easily take an hour? You bet.
What will it take to force people to use mass transit and to drive smaller cars (that take less space on freeways) with better mpg? Gas prices, that’s what. And this may already be happening.
Gas bills deterring SUV buyers. 2005 sees double-digit declines in sales.
Update: Today – oil prices hit all-time high