Or, why ‘libs’ don’t hate cars, actually

Any post on social media that dares to offer the slightest criticism of North America’s car-centric culture brings out allll the hyperbole and hysteria. A sampling of the comments generated by the meme shown:

  • Shut the hell up. Take that green deal and put it where the sun don’t shine.
  • You are the carbon they want to reduce.
  • This communist crap.
  • You’ll take my car out of my cold dead hands.
  • So we’re gonna ban stadiums now?
  • And memes like these demonstrate how little some people value the freedom to travel in America…….because cars offer that freedom!

So, let’s unpack this a bit.

First, the meme isn’t advocating for communism, 10’x10’ apartments, banning stadia, forcing everyone to live in the city, climate lockdowns or the gubmint takin’ yer cars. 

What it is suggesting is that sticking a stadium out in the boonies, having to build roads to it, and paving over a large tract of land for the cars that occupy the lot maybe what, 25% of the time? maaaaaybe isn’t the best use of space or money. 

In other countries, stadia are often located near bus and train terminals, and decent public transit systems allow people to walk five minutes to the station, take a ride, enjoy the game with a beer or three, and get safely home again.

Now, let’s unpack the comments.

The underlying theme here is that, somehow, decent public transit = less freedom.

Why do people believe this? Marketing. Decades of car marketing, which always shows people driving their vehicles through lovely tree-lined winding roads, mountain landscapes, or off-roading in the dunes. 

The reality is this:

The average U.S. driver spent 97 hours stuck behind other cars in 2018. That’s just stuck in traffic, not total commute time. As for that, the average daily commute to work for Americans is around 35 minutes; that’s about 152 hours every year spent in the car on your way to work. That’s 19 workdays worth, just getting back and forth to the job. Tack on a bunch more time running errands — doctor appointments, grocery runs, kid activities — and that’s a heap of time spent in a tiny space on baking hot pavement. 

What about costs? The minimum average car payment these days is around $500/month $56/month in 2022 for licensing, registration and taxes, $132/month for insurance, and another $225/month for fuel. Throw in $121/month for maintenance and repairs. That’s about $13,000 per year. And a lot of families are two-car families these days, so double that for $26,000. (Don’t @ me with how yours doesn’t cost this much. These are averages.)

I haven’t even touched parking costs or depreciation here. That doesn’t sound terribly free to me, in either sense of the word.

Now, what about the ‘freedom to go where you want, when you want?’ 

We already covered the fact that Americans are so busy working to afford the car they need to go to work, and also spend so long in the car getting back and forth to work, they don’t have a lot of time to go anywhere. But there’s also the tens of thousands of people who can’t afford a car, or can only afford the barest minimum car and short, strictly necessary car trips. Not to mention the Americans who are simply unable to drive because of medical conditions, age, or previous infractions preventing them from getting a license. 

But I sort of understand the distaste for public transit in the US. 

That’s because public transit in the US generally sucks. It’s underfunded, overcrowded, grubby, aging out, fragmented, and, to use the technical term, godawful. So yeah, it takes forever, isn’t convenient, and is generally a terrible experience.

Elsewhere in the world, trains and buses run frequently, are (usually) on time, go nearly everywhere, and are cheaper. Are they perfect? No. Do they address every single transit need? Of course not.

What they provide are options. Indeed, that’s the irony of people getting wound up about public transit investments on the grounds of ‘freedom.’ Having viable public transportation gives you more choices, not fewer choices. It makes car ownership an option, rather than a necessity. Imagine being a single car family again, with all the money that would free up. Or imagine being able to just rent a car or truck when you really need it.

So, no, ‘libs’ or ‘greenies’ or whatever else you want to call us don’t hate cars. We hate the fact that cars are forced upon us. We haven’t liked being forced to pay whatever OPEC has decided the going rate for gas is today, because we have no choice as to fuel source. We haven’t enjoyed spending ages looking for a parking spot on a simple milk run because the nearest store is miles away. 

Stop believing the car marketing and start looking at the reality of your lived experience.


    • Edward Carlson

    • 7 months ago

    Agree. Yet you have not said anything about suburban sports, soccer moms are a very large group. Who. Else shy away from driving a Mommy Rocket? That is a reality when you have soccer dates, softball dates, etc.

    1. Up until recently, there haven’t been any good hybrid or EV options in North America to replace the mini van. That’s finally changing, although not quickly enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *