I don't want to take your car

Originally posted August, 2009.

I've often seen transit/road funding discussions framed as "those anti-car liberals want to take your car away!" Many transit advocates come up with lame responses like "But I'm not a liberal!" or "I'm not really anti-car! I want choice!" This is bad framing.

I'm not a liberal because liberals are wishy-washy; I'm a leftist. And I am anti-car. And I will confess to the occasional desire to take your car away, but mostly to keep you from killing me or my family with it. But I don't support any policy that would actually confiscate cars from large numbers of people.

I don't have to because I believe you will give up your car sooner or later. If you don't give it up now, you may when gas goes back up to four dollars a gallon. Or maybe when it gets repoed because you paid the mortgage first. Or when the cars themselves become so expensive that only the very wealthy can afford them. If nothing else, then you'll give it up when the road warriors shove a gun in your face.

These things may sound silly and apocalyptic, but more and more people are coming to the conclusion that at least the first few of them are very likely to happen. Within fifty or a hundred years, car ownership will only be affordable for the wealthy, or for enthusiasts, or for people who make their living with it like taxi drivers, farmers and construction contractors.

If I'm right that this will happen, where do you want to be when it does? Stuck in a cul-de-sac in Mahwah? Driving to an office park in Hauppauge? Shopping at the BJ's in Eastchester? Or living in a walkable neighborhood, working in a pedestrian-friendly downtown, and shopping around the corner from your home?

What kind of transit do you want to have to rely on? Do you want to be crammed onto a ten-year-old guagua with a driver who may have bribed his way through the test? Groaning as the latest round of budget cuts decimate your once-great Bus Rapid Transit system? Stuck as the repairman tinkers with the rusty PRT prototype? Or relying on your time-tested subway, trolley or streetcar?

No, I don't want to take your car away. I just want there to be some reasonable transit around for me to take when I'm old, and for my kid to use. I don't want you to kill the hope of a sustainable rail transit system because you spent all my tax money on your stupid highway widening and airport runways. Can you please think about sustainability before it's too late and we've wasted everything we've got?