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Michael Graves

This whole argument is predicated on the mistaken belief that consumers are driven solely by cost. That is, if we could find a city that happend to maximize the case for public transit, and made the economics clear to consumers, they'd switch to favoring public transit over cars.

Which misses the whole value prop cars bring to the table. Cars bring flexibility and control over individual transit in a way that public transit cannot. Public transit maybe cheaper and cleaner, but it degrades the choices and opportunities people have in going where they want.

It's hard to imagine that the public transit crowd is unaware of this; however, it's hard to find where this is addressed in their arguments. Cars are cool because the enable you to go where you want, when you want. Most people think this flexibility makes their life better. It certainly costs more, but so does living in a 6000 sq ft house over a 2 room bungalow.

Cost is not the driving force here. *Driving* is the driving force. No one wants to pollute the planet, or get stuck in 2 hour traffic jams, but we do want get the kids to baseball practice, which ain't anywhere near the light rail, or even a bus stop.

The subtext of the post above is that people are basically ignorant or selfish, or both. That's a bad premise to start with. Instead, people are generally pretty savvy about the lifestyle choices they make. Cars are a lifestyle choice -- preferable to the hassle of public transot -- even when factoring in traffic jams, pollution and all the other downsides that cars bring to the table.



The subtext of my post is not that people are ignorant or selfish (guilty much?) I'm saying that people and institutions in power have used public funds to create a built environment that requires cars in many places. ). Americans choose cars because smart cynical and selfish business people stacked the deck (see GM/streetcar issue) and it's time to focus on spending our tax money in a way that benefits the greater good, not just selfish pockets. I don't think the mass transit "crowd" is unaware that consumers prefer cars - that would be very naive. I can't speak for others, but I would like to see more public funds spent supporting mass transit rather than auto manufacturers (who are increasingly foreign - getting harder to make a jobs argument even

In New York City public transportation is fast, convenient, widespread and, thus, flexible, so people use it more than cars. Does that mean New Yorkers are altruistic in a way other Americans aren't? I doubt it... They are just presented with a better option.

Cost comes into the argument only in regards to public subsidization of transportation, not consumer choice. You seem to live in a suburb, where public transportation is not very convenient - to the degree that I would argue it's not even a valid option. Suburbs were built specifically to consume raw construction materials and cars, and they succeed at both. Unfortunately, it's not very practical to retrofit mass transit to this model. I hope in the future that mass transit will a primary concern for urban planners - and I think it will, as new developments in traffic-prone areas already do market access to public transportation as an amenity (Southwestern Connecticut comes to mind).

Michael Graves

In the Bay Area, BART is a *terrific* way to get to the A's game if you live in the East Bay suburbs. I can get to SFO all the way from Pleasanton station now - that's a great setup.

Public transit is great as far as it goes. Like to see more of it. But you're arguing here that there's a conspiracy here that has hoodwinked the public into thinking that it's a good thing to have lots of places for cars to go. I suggest you don't need a conspiracy by GM or anybody else to establish that: having lots of potential places for cars to go is a good thing all on its own, no conspiratorial machinations needed.

I've lived in Manhattan, and know from experience that your reasons are wrong. You're suggesting that people don't have cars because they like public transit better. That's a false choice. What would have been ideal for me (and all those I knew there) would have been to have cheap, fast, ubiquitous public transportation available, *and* have a car in the garage for routine trips to see relatives in Rockaway NJ, beyond the reach of public transit. It's just too damn expensive in a dense urban setting for most of us to have a car, so we don't, and we get by with public transit, and cabfare. But trips to Rockaway were always a hassle, and a "cost" of living in the City.

There's ways to think of this: public transit is an additional -- and good -- option for the community, in addition to cars. Or public transit is political choice that enlightened minds will choose as means of rejecting the bourgeois consumerism of the vulgar masses. The second view is liberal elite condescenscion -- why go there? Rather, public transit is a good alternative to bring to the community. It will reduce traffic, noise, and pollution in many cases. But cars are great too, can't beat 'em for flexible, speedy transport about town. There's emerging technologies for making these quieter, and better for the environment too. Since we value the most options and most choice and the most value lifestyle-wise for all concerned, we ought to embrace both -- each has a place in the system.



You appear to agree with me more than not, which is pretty good in a conversation about politics.

ps - love the teakettle.

Michael Graves

Ahh, if only I had the royalty stream that *that* Michael Graves did. I could live in NYC *and* own a car.

Or two. :-)

Seriously, cars are a social good, and an integral part of what makes living in America great. Public transit is great, too, and another social good. As I said, no better way to get to Oakland A's game and back.

So we agree?

Fair enough.


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