Sunday, November 13, 2005

Really getting people out of their cars

"Get people out of their cars" has been the rallying cry for greens, Luddites and many planners and politicians.

The WSJ's Stephen Moore summed it up in his recent "War Against the Car", some of which is repeated here.

"A few years ago, I made a presentation to my second-grader's social studies class, asking the kids what was the worst invention in history. I was shocked when a number of them answered 'the car.' When I asked why, they replied that cars destroy the environment. Distressed by the Green indoctrination already visited upon seven-year-olds, I was at least reassured in knowing that once these youngsters got their drivers' licenses, their attitudes would change.

"It's one thing for second-graders to hold such childish notions, but quite another for presumably educated adults to argue that automobiles are economically and environmentally unsustainable "axles of evil." But with higher gas prices, as well as Malthusian-sounding warnings about catastrophic global warming and the planet running out of oil, the tirade has taken on a new plausibility. Maybe Al Gore had it right all along when he warned that the car and the combustible engine are 'a mortal threat . . . more deadly than any military enemy.'"

The problem is that the critics have no clue on how to "get people out of their cars" because they cannot fathom the fact that most people prefer personal over group travel. The predictable result is that they have wasted billions of other people's money on transit systems, HOV lanes and land use schemes that have no positive effect. Bad theory leads to bad policy.

Looking forward is usually a better plan than looking backward. Reason's Ted Balaker has just published a study of telecommuting in US cities and shows that it does get people out of their cars -- at least moreso than transit.

And it does not rely on politicians, pork and transfers. And this is just the beginning.

And enlightened opinion wants the internet to be run by the United Nations.