Am I Un-American for Not Owning a Car?

by David Benoit

About two weeks ago, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx released a statement that the Department of Transportation was working on a report outlining the nation’s critical transportation issues. This report, due out this year, would also offer a proposal for the U.S. to segue from a car-dependent culture to another form of American transportation.

StreetcarWhat can this new transportation be that will usher America deeper into the 21st century and beyond? I will only assume the conservatives of the fly over states will cry foul and accuse such a report as blasphemy and un-American. But were we, as a people, any less American when we gave up the horse and buggy for the car?

Perhaps Libertarians would answer “yes,” but the majority of us may say otherwise. After all, the latest memory of what conservatives define as “American” has been derived from a culture of the 1950s, not the 1850s. Yet this all raises the question: what makes us American today?

Perhaps we should keep it simple and outline the various modes of transportation that up for consideration by the United States government:

  • Driverless Cars
  • High Speed Rail
  • Electric Vehicles – which will most likely be tied in with driverless cars
  • Hyper Loop
  • Share economy – Uber, Lyft and the like
  • Bicycles
  • Bus Rapid Transit
  • Streetcars
  • Heavy Rail (subways)
  • Light Rail

Basic CMYKAll have merit in their own right. Some are purposed for inter-city transit, some for inner city transit alone, while others have the ability for all applications of travel. The majority of them can only be funded with financial assistance from the federal government, and let’s face it, the days of big government capital projects left us along with the 1970s and with MARTA as Atlanta’s last trophy (a $7 billion system, mind you).

In this day and age of government staying out of our business and free enterprise, I do believe the car will win out on the future. Think of it: would you rather walk in the heat and the cold to a MARTA/Streetcar station eight blocks away, only to wait 20 minutes to pay $2.50+ in fare for a vehicle that takes you to a station that’s eight blocks away from where you work? Or, would you rather pay $2.50+ for an automated vehicle to pick you up at you home, allow you to nap or tap away on your iPad, and take you to the front door of your work?  To be honest, the car option is so much more enticing. However, this will only perpetuate our suburban sprawl and allow for greater arguments  for car-sizing our cities as opposed to human-sizing.

img-MARTAPeople will vote for convenience and personal satisfaction one hundred times over what may be the “right” thing to do. After all, this is the economical way of thinking that capitalism has ingrained in our subconscious. But with that comes unseen sociological and psychological detriment that truly hasn’t been investigated for its merits in the same way efficient commuting has. So, through all of this, I feel that instead of questioning: what is most efficient? We should ask: “what is safest and best for our quality of life?”

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