and the train conductor says take a break driver 8
"I could have a Cadillac Escalade, and it would be electric!" **
CA's Metroactive (via the mighty mighty Cursor):
In the 1940s, smoking was packaged and sold in advertisements displaying Santa Claus bringing Christmas cheer with a pack of Camels. Who would have thought that 50 years later we'd have local governments banning smoking in bars, parks and even your own apartment?Like cigarettes, once a symbol of sex and sophistication, cars have long been the cherished object of status, wealth and independence, a prized possession among Americans. And just like with cigarettes, we are slowly starting to choke on car culture.
But the surgeon general's alert on smoking wasn't enough to overcome smokers who were already hooked; so why would rising gas prices and global warming permanently void our devotion to cars? It took decades of grassroots campaigns and anti-cigarette movements to reverse the common perception of smoking. It will probably take the same for driving. Green guilt will only carry the environmentally minded driver so far. And commuter checks aren't enough to push the lightweight commuter over the edge.
Yet, the need for more mass transit is clear, as a growing number of commuters cross county lines to get to work.
So what will it take to tempt us back into mass transit?
"We put smokers on the fringe and that's had an impact," said Kent Bausman, associate professor of sociology at Maryville University in St. Louis. "You can follow the cigarette example, have ad campaigns demonizing cars, saying it's a bad steward of the environment."
While transportation agencies are touting the endless benefits of riding the bus, they are forgetting one important part of the equation: negative perceptions and social stigmas attached to mass transit, especially in suburban areas.
In California, where congestion has reached critical levels, the majority of commuters would still rather drive alone. Last year, about 73 percent of California's commuters drove to work solo, while only 5 percent rode mass transit. That was when $2.50 a gallon was considered cheap and the average driver was spending almost two weeks a year stuck in traffic.
That flattens hope that escalating fuel prices, which are expected to reach $4 a gallon by next year, and hellish highway commutes will be enough to curb the car culture.
In fact, some studies are telling saying just the opposite. Mitch Baer, a public policy and environment graduate student at George Mason University in Virginia, recently surveyed more than 2,000 commuters in the Washington, D.C., area. He found that people who drove to work alone were more emotionally satisfied with their commute than those who rode public transportation or carpooled with others.
Even stuck in traffic jams, those commuters said they felt they had more control over their arrival and departure times as well as commuting route, radio stations and air conditioning levels.
Commuters said that driving alone was both quicker and more affordable, according to the study.
"They will have a tougher time moving people out of their cars," Baer said. "It's easier for most people to drive than take mass transit."
Part of the problem is that not everyone lives walking distance of public transit. They might get in their cars to drive to the station and say, 'Why not just drive to work,'" Baer said.
This is a real warning for policy makers who are hoping to shift those solo drivers into mass transit, Baer said. If people have the choice, they will drive. That means local governments need to think of ways to force commuters out of their cars, like limit parking. San Francisco voters this year shot down Proposition H, which would have allowed more parking in San Francisco.
One emerging facet of this story are the widening political differences - which thusly encompasses lifestyle and enviro values - between Americans who live in cities and those who don't, and how they define those places. As a rule, the relationship a city-dweller may or may not have to his or her car is profoundly different than the one a ex-urb slash suburbanite has to his or her vehicle; indeed, the latter's life is defined solely by that relationship. Kevin Phillips wrote a great deal about this in American Theocracy, how the Rove machine went to great lengths to identify voters in ex-ex-urbanite communities ("micropolitans," according to the Census Bureau) who have based a chunk of their lives around the prestige and protection of the auto and a smooth ride. My guess is that the "emotional satisfaction" commuters in the D.C. area - which is to driving what a second degree burn is to the back of the neck, trust me - has a lot to do with a broader satisfaction with how they're living their lives, a large part of which is centered on a car. They've already cast their lot.
The mass transit conversation may not ever take place between suburbanites. The changes exurbs - micropolitans - may see in the coming years - the kinds of changes already reported in rural communities - could be too rapid and too far reaching to accomodate it.
** Our second straight Huckabees reference in as many posts! I am such a bloody poseur!