The Daily Ping

The Ping is self-aware.

April 24th, 2005

Cars Better Than Public Transit?

You know, it’s articles like this that get me peeved.

The premise of the article by Robert Farago is that cars, in general, are a better choice than public transportation for… everything. Also, environmentalists are a little nutty when they talk about trains and buses being better for the environment than cars given how clean cars are nowadays.

The very first thing I want to address is a long-standing issue in the gearhead community: namely that one can’t like cars and be for the environment. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius (that’s a hot machine) certainly make things easier to digest. But the polarization has really been exaggerated in the past 15 years or so as SUV sales have climbed, encouraging an “Earth be damned” attitude in many of their buyers. It’s frustrating to see an article like this which attempts to “solve” the transportation problems in this country by actually encouraging that cars are the solution.

Now, I love cars. But I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that the problem with public transit in this country is that it hasn’t had money invested in it the way highways have. The author of the editorial cites Amtrak’s problems with its high-speed (?) Acela trains and the diesel engines used by most trains out there. His argument that people prefer private transportation “by a huge margin” is, in my opinion, due to the fact that there isn’t any truly appealing public transit option out there. You want Amtrak? Amtrak’s being whacked by the Bush administration, so they’re out of commission. High-speed trains – national ones? Not while the Big Two are in the pockets of Congress.

Instead of investing money solely in roads, we should be embarking on a future worthy of Eisenhower: one that envisions a modern, high-speed, national train grid instead of cars. Encourage simultaneous construction of highways and railways. Get people to consider public transit by making it a reasonably-priced option, and get people off of Big Oil.

The idea that environmentalists have been using full buses for comparing their efficiency to cars is a bit skewed, too. Again it’s a cart before the horse issue: if public transit isn’t appealing, people won’t use it. In addition he doesn’t even mention the initiatives by many public transit orgs across the country to use corn-based oils or hybrid engines in their buses.

I won’t deny that cars have gotten considerably cleaner than they used to be. But tell me, how many SULEVs are out there? Not many. The lack of compelling public transportation on a national level with the continued love affair for big, comforting SUV-like vehicles equals a continued gas crisis. Robert mentions a German study suggesting that cars are the best way to go (which, I’m sure, played really well in Europe.) But he doesn’t mention that selfish, short-sighted editorials such as his only serve the global stereotype of the lazy, careless American.

Posted in Cars

What is this then?

The Daily Ping is the web's finest compendium of toilet information and Oreo™® research. Too much? Okay, okay, it's a daily opinion column written by two friends. Did we mention we've been doing this for over ten years? Tell me more!

Most Popular Pings