In the comments on a video of drivers on a "Gridlock Alert day", "Paulb" points out,
I think any American who sets their goal as compelling other Americans to leave their cars parked and use public transportation should watch this film and think very very carefully about how they go about it.
And yet, watching the drivers interviewed in the film, you can see it, it's obvious, the pride and pleasure they take in the ownership and use of their personal cars.
I agree with Paulb that we should be careful, for the reasons he mentioned, but we should still work towards it. Not just "leaving their cars parked," but getting rid of them.
The thing is, Aaron's film clearly shows that what they're enjoying is not anything specific to their cars, or to cars in general. They're not going fast and they don't have any more flexibility, safety or convenience than a subway rider. They're stuck in traffic, while underneath them thousands of people are zooming by in fast, heated trains that don't have to stop for lights or traffic.
I know, someone's going to talk about how in Bay Ridge or Staten Island, their car gives them flexibility and convenience. But that's not the car, it's the infrastructure that's been built for drivers instead of walkers and transit users. With a different infrastructure they'd have just as much flexibility and convenience on the bus or trolley.
The pride and pleasure that they take is pleasure in glamour. Virginia Postrel has the clearest thinking on glamour of anyone I've read. While you're waiting for her book to come out, you can get a sense of it from her take on the glamour of air travel.
These drivers are mortgaging their houses and sitting in traffic on Fourth Avenue because it says that they've arrived, that they've got "freedom," that their lives fit this desirable category. If you can find some way to let them keep that glamour, you can take away their cars and the only thing they'll notice is how much thinner and healthier they are and how much more money and free time they have.
This is essentially the same as the question asked in the comments on a 1958 Disney futuristic video by "Steely," who I assume is Paul Steely White:
People don't want "reality" (whatever that is). what a bummer! They want a compelling aspirational narrative with a little magic and spectacle thrown in.
the existentialists have this notion of "auto projecting" (double entendre!) -- how people are constantly moving forward toward a better future. the act of shopping and the act of driving are similar in this way. probably somethign to do with our eons of hunter/gathering and nomadic living.
if cars and consumption are not it, then what is the new american dream?
Let me restate Steely's question this way: what would allow these people who were sitting in their cars on Fourth Avenue last week to take the subway or bus and not feel any less successful, powerful and free? What can you give to replace the glamour of the SUV?