Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 2, 2005
KATRINA: "U.S. Car Culture" Will Be Fine, Thank You

Only Reuters could take a news story about gasoline shortages and price spikes and entitle it, "U.S. car culture is running on empty in storm's wake", as if people driving automobiles (or 'horseless carriages,' as I suppose they are called) is some newfangled innovation of those crazy cowboys and rednecks.

I'd say people who believe that the automobile is a good thing are feeling pretty justified right now. People in New Orleans who owned cars mostly got themselves safely out of town before the storm (unless they chose to stick around). People who didn't, and were dependent upon on mass transit, wound up drowning, getting herded into the Superdome or the Convention Center or are still otherwise in harm's way, facing possible starvation as well as predation by looters and thugs. Many of them had little choice, of course - they were poor people living in a big city. But obviously, they did not wind up better off for not owning a car.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

Also note that suicide bombers regularly target trains (London, Madrid, Tokyo), buses (London, Israel) and planes (9/11, the shoe bomber) - but rarely if ever go after motorists, who remain more dispersed and therefore less vulnerable except when passing bridges and tunnels.

There remain those who resent the automobile, which puts the individual citizen literally in the driver's seat. But sometimes, the ability to get yourself out of town without waiting for the government to get you there makes all the difference.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (2) | TrackBack (4)
Comments

I'd say people who believe that the automobile is a good thing are feeling pretty justified right now. People in New Orleans who owned cars mostly got themselves safely out of town before the storm (unless they chose to stick around).

As a car-owning, non-public-transport-using person, I have to point out that this is a pretty ludicrous proposition. The reason any of them were able to get anywhere at all is precisely because there weren't more people with cars. Take a look at the footage of people trying to get out of town via I-10. Then mentally add another 50 - 60,000 cars to it, and try to imagine what the result might have been. The logjams would have been even worse than they were, and some people who were heading out might have either run out of gas idling, or decided it was taking too long and gone back to the city.

Sure, let us all sing the ode to private transportation, but let's not pretend that several tens of thousands of additional private vehicles on the roads would have made evacuation easier.

Posted by: Phil at September 7, 2005 9:22 AM

Well said Phil - it's about balance. There's nothing wrong with loving cars and having a "car culture" but we sure as heck need more options. Right now, in most of America, people would literally starve to death if they lost their cars (or gasoline). That's a horrendously bad situation. A few more options here and there, decent trains (not Amtrak), walkable neighborhoords, and yes, bike paths, would make a big difference at a very low cost.

Posted by: Kayser at April 26, 2006 4:18 PM
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