Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some People Have A Real Problem With Cars

There seems to be something of a war going on against our friend the car. Many have enlisted in that cause, and serve it with a fanatical devotion. And you might not be aware of it, but the chances are pretty good that you have been looked upon in an uncomplimentary way as you sped past one of their number in that shiny automobile of yours. No matter what the reasons for your tooling about in that gas loving flivver, to these guys you are the enemy.

One impassioned group of people that seems to hate the things in a rather arch sort of way hang out at a place called LA Streetsblog. And trust me, they have a very serious problem with cars. If you were to spend a little too much time there you too could come away believing that only through the destruction of personal transportation will our species truly be saved from extinction by planetary environmental collapse. It apparently is an infectious ideology. And yes, the rumors are true. Buses, trollies and transit villages are mankind's salvation. All hail Metro!

If SB 375 has ideologically committed followers, folks for whom public transportation and vast social engineering schemes engender an almost messianic devotion, then this is where they are to be found. These are urbanist fundamentalists engaged in fine-tuning the ideological parameters of the upcoming Sustainable Cities Cultural Revolution.

Of course I do enjoy reading their blog. Not because I hate cars mind you. Quite the contrary, I myself drive the epitome of autovist chauvinism, the economical and fuel efficient Saturn Ion. No, the reason I like reading LA Streetsblog is because the people writing there are such true believers in their cause. They really do seem to believe that by advocating this stuff they are saving the world. And I find that fascinating. Whoever would have thought that taking a bus or riding the Gold Line would someday be considered a revolutionary act?

Here is an example of what I mean. The singer Bono of the celebrated Irish band U2 recently penned a New York Times op-ed piece praising automobiles. And in that article he truly offended a Streetsblogger by calling for "the return of the automobile as a sex object." Here is how a writer named Ride Solutions expressed his outrage:

Bono's creepy fetishization (sic) of the automobile is part of the core psychological problem that has led to the country's transportation, energy, and urban design mess.

Well, there you go. I guess if fewer people had sexual feelings for their automobiles, our skies would be bluer and the polar bears safer. But just so you don't think that RIDE Solutions is without any degree of optimism about the fate of man, there is this:

Bono would have been better off, if he insists on bizarre fetishization, to emphasize beautiful and "sexy" urban spaces. If the idea is to sexualize something so that people want to spend more time with it, why not emphasize our cities and downtowns?

You know what? I blame you guys. If you had just put aside your car fetish and learned to love the Downtown Specific Plan, everything would be OK by now. And yes, the bus will be here any minute. Please be patient.

But did you know that there is a scenario where the car actually could save the world? Or at least help to reduce Sacramento's record budget deficits? This from the LA Times:

California drivers could get stuck with speeding tickets even with nary a cop in sight under a proposal tucked deep in the budget Gov. Schwarzenegger unveiled today ... The Republican governor wants to let cities and counties install speed censors in red-light cameras to ticket speeding drivers. Those whizzing by the detectors up to 15 miles above the limit would have to fork over $225 per violation. Those going faster than that would pay $325 under the plan ... That would net cash-strapped California about $337.9 million through June 2011. Every year after that, the program would generate nearly half a billion dollars, the finance department says. Local governments would get a cut of the proceeds.

OK. I seriously doubt you'll ever raise half a billion dollars in new state funds from ticketing bus riders for speed walking. And if you're going to raise money in this state you are going to have to be creative. It's not like we make much of real value anymore.

And for those of you who thought that the wave of tickets being handed out lately was strictly being done as a way for the government to raise revenue? Well, it looks like you weren't quite so paranoid after all.


  1. No cars, no houses, just small apartments, buses, and the Gold Line. Now there's a bright and shining future for you, California!

  2. I agree with Sir Eric that to speak of, in Southern California, riding mass transit as a "revolutionary" act is just silly, even arrogant.

    And Arnold's plan to using ticketing as a means of gathering revenue, is just draconian. Sounds a whole lot like New York where they use parking tickets as a substantial means of income for the city, at the expense of its citizens who are literally victimized daily by this practice.

    But I am going to put in a small plug here, for apartment dwellers, being one myself. No, its not for everyone, but for those of us who have grown used to it, its not that bad, and certainly nothing someone should be derided for. Is it "Green" and cost-efficient? well, yes it is, not that we get much credit for this. Is it for everyone? certainly not, and especially because Sierra Madre and Pasadena are known throughout the Nation for the beautiful homes here. Should home-owners be condemned as not being "Green" enough? certainly not.

    My 2-cents.

  3. Leave it to the boys to work sex into the topic.

    Isn't it frustrating that the answers are so clear and have been for so long? Build better cars. Better meaning safer, and non-polluting. The technology exists.

    We're just a species with a learning disability...

  4. Dear Tattler, you're gonna drive me
    to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin'
    that hot rod Lincoln.
    Truly, LAStreetsblog

  5. It's a Saturn. Please. With child booster seats.

  6. It does not have to be an either/or. The car is the great liberator (just find out if you can't drive due to medication, illness, age, etc.) and a good public transit would come in handy. Did ride the LA system exclusively for three months during Peace Corps training at Cal State LA eons ago when the volunteers were learning to live car-free as they would in their assigned country. Do ride the Goldline to LA for a field trip now and then but love to drive here and there, learned to drive on the LA freeways--a special survival skill, just ask anyone not LA Freeway-trained.

  7. Anyone who can survive an onramp to the Arroyo Seco Parkway - gains my respect.

  8. Love NYC, a mass transportation culture all of it's own, a big rush.
    Love LA, a car culture....unlikely will be anything else.

    Both unique. In NYC teens look forward to riding in a taxi all by themselves. In Calif teens look forward to getting their driving license.

  9. If you want to piss a lot of people off real fast, tell them how to live their lives. And when big government comes down and says that you can't drive a car anymore, or you can't live the way you want, stand back. You watch, it's coming. California is going too far.

  10. I was having a debate about federal mandates with a knowledgeable poly sci guy. When I insisted on local control, he replied that local control would have allowed slavery - it took a federal mandate to abolish slavery. Local control would not have done it.

  11. That might be true 2:25, but how can you equate slow growth or non-dense development with the slavery issue????

  12. 2:28, great point. It works both ways. What if the British people had local control over war making policy in 1914? Would they have sent their country careening into that disastrous war? Would the German people?

    And as far as slavery goes, it took that national government a long time before it got around to liberating the enslaved. And even now there are many historians who would argue that was not the reason the North went to war. Freeing the slaves only came later, and more as a way of economically destabilizing the South than anything else.

    But yeah, comparing slavery to citizen control of their local government's development policies is a bit insidious.

  13. Seems to me the idea has to do with stopping bad things through the exercise of government. We probably all agree on that exercise in theory, so nobody wants serial killers to enjoy their basic freedoms, and we do want the police to catch them & put them away for good, but it gets much harder to approve of the government's intervention when the good/bad is not so clear.

    And Mr. History, I get it about all the different motivations for the abolishment of slavery, but think of it as rather a mix than coming down on the side of economics as the biggest factor. Do you think it is true that slavery would exist in pockets today in America (real slavery - not ideological or psychological, but the real deal) if the issue had been left to local control?

  14. Would slavery exist in America if it were not abolished by the Feds?
    You betcha.
    Aryan Nation in the Northwest, and David Duke territory in the South.

  15. There is no doubt that big government can do some good things. But like you said, everything is a mix, and with many conflicting factors. And again, comparing the usurpation of local control over small town development by an all-powerful central government to the freeing of the slaves is taking it a bit far, don't you think?

    Apples and oranges, at least?

  16. Yes, I do agree, it is apples and oranges.
    But the poly sci guy was maintaining that urban sprawl is too detrimental to everyone to be allowed to continue, thus necessitating governmental intervention.

  17. "Urban sprawl" is a bit of a loaded term these days. Really depends on who is making the call, or whose agenda the concerned government is dancing to. If we're talking the current regime in Sacramento, then obviously "urban sprawl" would mean anywhere that the BIA would wish to build mixed used high density housing complexes and other such unneeded nonsense. The remedy becoming far worse than what is being replaced.

    You do know what the new blight is, right? Unsold 5 year old condos. The second half of the housing collapse that is coming this year. The product of some really atrocious "SCAG Visioning" population increase projections that turned out to be hilariously inept.

    What a waste of our Federal tax dollars.

  18. And so we land in the same place all the time on these issues: the well intentioned solutions to prevent damage are co-opted by the greedy among us, and the more things change, the more they remain the same.

  19. I'm going to take a long ride in the country and think this one over.

  20. It's going to take you quite a while to drive through all the urban sprawl to actually get to the country...

  21. Nah. Head right up into the National Forest on the Angeles Crest Hwy. Wilderness at its very best.

  22. Slavery was/is inhumane. The strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, evil over good.

    In California there is NO need to build, build, build. The rich over the poor, the evil over the good. It is the same kind of twisted thinking.




  24. I just reread today's piece-linking this piece to slavery is makes ZERO sense.

  25. Sounded like SCAG-think to me. They hand out a lot
    of Kool Aid there.

  26. To use the abolishment of slavery as an example of a federal mandate is not scagian, because it requires a brain.

  27. "Those ignorant of their history, are doomed to repeat it."

    The Southern states had every legal and moral right to secede. The Civil War was about Empire maintaining its control, not the elimination of slavery. Life after the Civil war was no better for black people in America.

    Abraham Lincoln was pro-slavery his entire life and even voted on a Constitutional amendment to make slavery permanent while he was a US Senator. The area known as Wall Street in New York used to be the center of the slave trade in the northern states. [Irony!] Instead of only black people in chains with someone responsible for their well-being, now everyone is enslaved (debt) to the financial institutions with no one responsible for their (i.e. our) well-being.

    I doubt that anyone was ever taught about what the Union did to southerners after the war. Reconstruction was as brutal to southerners as the genocide of the Native Americans was during the westward expansion of the U.S.

    Any "poli sci guy" that uses the so-called "end of slavery" as a justification for big government is either a neo-conservative or an outright socialist. Which is fine, as long as they're open about it while stating their opinion, even though their conclusion is based on faulty logic. Needless to say, I'm a strong believer in States' rights and therefore, the right to secede, along with the Bill of Rights.

    For what it's worth, Mr. History, seems to know what he's talking about, even though I reserve the right to disagree with him in the future. :-)

  28. 4:oopm....wilderness at its best? maybe 8 months, burned to a crisp, started by man, kinda like what your trying to drive away from!

  29. So So Cal secedes from the Union, leaving Sacramento to its own devices?

    How clever!

  30. Maybe the whole state could secede from Sacramento. I don't
    see why we should force our friends in the north to suffer.

  31. Our friends to the north don't really want to be connected to us. Maybe we could split CA into 3: North, South, and unto itself like the Vatican, Sacramento.

  32. Isn't there at least one dirt that isn't part of a downtown
    LLC? Damn, you'd think they'd have a 3rd candidate by

  33. And the so called "North" would just happily "give" us the...umm, lets see, what don't we really have here in the"south" that comes in handy every once in a while, gee I'm getting er OH YA! I remember now, WATER!!

  34. Now THAT would stop overdevelopment, right?

  35. Fair memory skillsJanuary 10, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    You would think so, wouldn't you 6:11.
    However, the lack of water hasn't stopped anything. Just check out the EIR for the bad old DSP - which except for people like Kurt Zimmerman and Diane Shear would have happened to Sierra Madre. In that fine and very expensive document you'll see that upon build-out, there wouldn't be enough water. oops.

  36. I think it is called paper water. Kind of like a book of fiction.

  37. 1:52, they have until the 20th, right? Maybe there's a third on being coy.

  38. Developers have a magic invisible water. The same kind they use for dust control.