Has Alternative Transportation Received Too Much Attention?

Joseph Stomberg of Vox has initiated a series of articles on commuting in America, the first based on the issues explaining the domination of the auto, the second on the debate about the driving decline associated with millennials.

May 3, 2015, 5:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


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Copenhagenize Design Co. / Copenhagenize

"This new series will look at the surprising history that explains why our commutes look the way they do," writes Stromberg in the introduction to the commuter series. "It'll examine the hidden trends that are slowly changing commuting, and the people and projects trying to redesign it for the better."

Much of the factual information for the first article, "The Utter Dominance of the Car in American Commuting," comes from transportation consultant Alan Pisarski, author of the National Academies' Commuting In America seriesThe message Stromberg lays out is clear if not controversial: Not only does the auto dominate all other modes, it will likely get larger:

In 1970, the average household had 1.55 cars. In 2013, it had 2.08. And the number of cars a person owns is the best predictor of the likelihood of driving alone to work.

It's easy to see why, armed with this type of data, Stromberg begins the article by writing that a "disproportionate focus on [some] cities has led advocates and journalists to celebrate the resurgence of car-free forms of transportation."

Elano Shor, now a transportation reporter for Politico, wrote in Streetsblog almost six years ago, "Pisarski, respected as an "expert" in the mainstream media, is even more dedicated to keeping America yoked to highway dependence, and he has a litany of influential supporters in his corner."

Fortunately, Stromborg acknowledges the decline in driving that began in 2007 (if not earlier) in his second article on the commuting series, referencing Vox senior editor, Brad Plumer (then writing for Washington Post Wonkblog) whose 2013 piece is posted here.

Stromborg presents both sides to the debate regarding the driving decline associated with millennials. Bloomberg News just reported that "Americans under 35 are almost twice as likely as those above that age to report driving more because of the $1-a-gallon drop in prices at the pump over the past year."

Readers might want to initially bypass the Stromberg's first piece and go straight to "Young people are driving less than their parents. But why?" as it is an excellent read with much to comprehend.

His conclusion:

So, yes, it seems that young people today are driving slightly less and are somewhat less enthusiastic about cars than their parents. But that small shift in preferences, on its own, isn't likely to significantly transform America's car-centric culture.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 in Vox

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