Reform and Revolution on the Titanic?
- My experience fighting a highway expansion project has taught me some very
important lessons about the chances to reform the transportation system in
The first thng I learned is that there are too many reasons why it is nearly
impossible to expect a populist revolt against the folks in government and
industry who pave and enslave us to automobiles.
There's a lot of money in selling cars and building roads. There's also a lot of
money to be made promoting the sedentary, motoring lifestyle that goes with
the expanding shockwave of suburbia.
The automobile culture is all about power, sex appeal and speed. Those are
the characteristics most people expect in the alpha males , our leaders.
In this part of the world, the "important people" drive cars..they don't pedal
Minneapolis elected an environmental, new urbanist mayor who claimed he
would ride his bike and take a bus to City Hall...he drives a hybrid and he has
given his enthusiastic support to two major highway expansion projects and
the widening of Lake Street to 8 lanes. ..so much for reform.
News about peak oil and global warming make most people nervous and
guilty about driving cars. The leaders are right there with soothing myths
about hydrogen fuel cells, monorails and hybrid SUV's.
I've learned that I and the other transportation activists have about as much
influence with policy makers in our city as third class passengers on the
Titanic did with Captain Smith.
What killed so many passengers on the Titanic was the shortage of lifeboats
and the failure of the Captain and crew to prepare for an orderly and safe
evacuation of the ship.
I'm convinced Americans are facing a similar situation with the looming
shortages of petroleum. Asking our leaders to provide us with
lifeboats...sustainable, carfree cities probably won't work...we're going to
have build and launch them ourselves.