Publicola is hosting a debate tonight at 7pm to talk about what the media has dubbed “The War On Cars”. Should be interesting. Details via Facebook after the jump. 

Erica is hosting a wonkfest at Liberty Bar on Capitol Hill next Tuesday night. She’s invited four local policy nerds—Sightline’s Eric de Place and the Cascade Bicycle Club’s David Hiller, and the Washington Policy Center’s Michael Ennis and Forward Seattle’s Joe Quintana—to sit down and discuss Vehicle Miles Traveled and mode shift.

That’s right, PubliCola is hosting a debate about “The War on Cars.”

Is Seattle’s push to rein in vehicle miles traveled integral to jump-starting a 21st century economy or is it an excessive hold on mobility and business?

Erica will certainly weigh in, but the talk will be moderated by Seattle Channel’s even-keeled C.R. Douglas. (Believe me, Hiller and Ennis—and Erica—will need a moderator.)

Our last get-together at Liberty—a preview of the legislative session—was packed, so get there early. Discussion and drinks begin at 7 pm.

34 Replies to “Debate Tonight: The War On Cars”

  1. Is Seattle’s push to rein in vehicle miles traveled integral to jump-starting a 21st century economy or is it an excessive hold on mobility and business?

    Is this an actual push? VMT are falling without any help from the city. It seems like where the city makes a difference is making life easier for those who want to drive less.

  2. Anybody old enough to remember probably doesn’t blog very much, but is there any historic research about the “war on streetcars”, or the horrible “interurban massacre?”

    Survivors are probably still scared to talk about the “war on horses.”

    Thanks to Publicola for cluing me in on existence of present hostilities. Finally explains why I just had to get a new tire and a front-end alignment from driving into a shell-hole. Too small for a howitzer- but mortar, easy.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think you’re on to something here Mark. If they had called removing the streetcars a “war on streetcars”, I reckon we’d still have them. If Joel Connelly/Michael Ennis/insert-name-anti-urbanist says “They are having a war on cars!” and then the pro-urbanist side says “*$%^ yes we are! War on cars, #$%^ yeah!” Then a lot of people who drive and wouldn’t care otherwise go, “Wait what? These guys are screwing things up with their anti-car crap!”

      Its much better to frame things in a positive sense if you’re a challenger and to paint your opponent negatively if you’re the incumbent.

  3. like many poor people, i own a beater. it’s necessary given that there are no zipcars in lake city, i have arthritis, and sometimes i need groceries. lake city is about it for affordable housing north of the ship canal anyways. as for my car, it’s nice as beaters go. i never drive it. it passes emissions with flying colors; they always comment how little the odometer has moved. sometimes i get crazy with the cheez whiz and drive to Yakima or Stevens Pass. nobody has as yet declared war on me for doing any of these things.

    i have not once as yet felt a war against it, its existence, or me for having one. i don’t really ever need to park at a meter, and if i do, it’s very briefly, where i’m paying about a buck to park it. this is a user fee. part of what the government wants is user fees. why parking is supposed to be a seriously subsidized user fee, i don’t get. i get gas, which the government subsidizes and then taxes, about once a month…usually about 12 gallons. 30-36 bucks once a month. really. war on cars! nobody has ever told me that

    on the other hand, the constant drumbeat of cutting transit is a war on those of us who need transit. yes, i have a car, but driving it to school and work every day would be wasteful and costly. i also would have to pay for parking, but to private entities, and nobody ever whines when private entities decide on parking prices.

    so, “war on cars” whiners: parking on the street is still way cheaper than lot or garage parking. if you don’t like a fair user fee, and that’s what paying for parking is, lobby the private sector to compete. stop asking government to subsidize your needs, as that’s what you’re doing, and you’re asking for your SPECIFIC need to be subsidized whereas subsidizing transit benefits many people. i’m a big fan of capitalism, so i expect to see Diamond, Impark, and their cronies to be competing on price if such demand exists. if they don’t do that, are they declaring war on cars?

    like people who don’t pay their fare on metro and have no excuse (you’re wearing $300 shoes and you can’t pay? umm no.), the people who believe there’s a war on cars just plum don’t want to pay for what they use. user fees are a necessary and inherent part of responsible government.

    1. @Gwen, to play “devils-advocate” for a moment… You couch parking as a user fee, but why? The streets belong to everyone. Why should I have to be concerned about paying the government for the right to use what is already mine? Next, they’ll be metering the sidewalks. Wait, what sidewalks? :-)

      We as transit advocates can make a rational case for parking fees and the concept that we are subsidizing their activity, but the politics don’t work out that way. The MEME “War on the Car” is powerful and effective. We should spend less time trying to counter it with rationality and come up with our own effective MEME to implant in the minds of voters.

      I’m not a linguist or marketing guru but perhaps this community could crowd source something that works.

      Anyone want to take a crack at it?

      1. because you’re taking your property, in this case a vehicle, and placing it in a stationary manner upon the estate of the government, in this case a road or a parking facility; as a user fee, it represents a temporary lease upon said estate. see also, a fee to use parks, or a fee to ride the bus, or a fee to cross a toll bridge.

        it’s a powerful and effective meme, but it’s a lie. i don’t make memes; that’s for smarter people than i who know something about marketing and selling to the public.

        however, if transit requires a user fee, parking is a reasonable user fee, too. it’s a modest parking rate increase, still well below that of a private lot, and furthermore it keeps spaces turning over; when there’s a place to park, more business comes in. there are huge, half-empty parking garages downtown, like the one connected to the bon marche; there’s no reason they can’t drop their rates to compete.

  4. B/c I’m lazy, to copy/paste what I said on Publicola:

    “FYI, one of the first rules of counter-propaganda is to respond but not repeat. The more you repeat ‘War on Cars’ even to refute it, the more legitimacy you give the term in people’s minds.”

    1. Absolutely right on the money Anc!

      We need to create our own MEME’s to counter the one that’s out there.

  5. From what I’ve seen, Mayor McGinn has been fighting a “War on Speeding”. It was mostly pro-tunnel councilmembers who enacted an impoundment ordinance and made it illegal to sleep in one’s own car.

    It was embarassing to watch neighborhood associations actually defend speeding, especially through the middle of a college campus. Shame on the Magnolia Community Club and their War on Pedestrians.

    1. what war?? my visually impaired folks live in a city limit suburb. it has filled in over the years.

      a 24 grocer out there back door. bus stop within 500 feet, a large park .5 mile away. and a swimming pool in there neighborhod. thye walk to all of those.

      1. Lucky them. All pedestrians should be so lucky. Where I grew up in Bellevue, the closest non-residence was (and still is) an isolated 7-11 3/4 miles away. A supermarket/strip mall is 1+ miles. An hourly bus is 1/4 mile, which made me luckier than most people in the area. There’s a swimming pool but only because that particular neighborhood built one. The elementary school is walkable, but the high school is situated without much concern for that.

      2. i dont know that that is a war on anyone though.

        my high school was never a mile or less until i graduated.

        if the nearest non resideence was a traverse thru a sheltered neighborhood for the most part then that doesnt sound so bad if you arent handicapped.

        but i would say that a few paved cut thrus here and there for bikes and walkers could give more direct routes to commerce areas. that i feel for certain. but a war on walkers i dont see.

      3. the 24 hour shops are good for things like emergency tampons and antacid and such. milk sometimes too.

        often they are quite walkable to.

      4. The point isn’t that residential neighborhoods are “safe” to walk in. The point is that the lack of bus service or neighborhood business blocks (like the grocery stores on top of Queen Anne or at Summit & Mercer) gives people a real disincentive to do anything but drive.

        The streets I’d walk on are NE 8th and Northup Way, which are mostly the same streets the bus goes on. 8th is uphill but not that big a deal. Northup had no streetlights so it was pitch black with no sidewalks, so you didn’t know if you were walking in the shoulder or on the road or about to fall in a ditch except when a car came by with headlights. I think there are some streetlights now though.

  6. PubliCola is hosting a debate about “The War on Cars.”

    who started the war on cars. is there even a war on cars??

  7. Is Seattle’s push to rein in vehicle miles traveled…….

    if there is really a push to rein in vehicle miles traveled, why??

    are the reasons for using a car becoming less and less viable (at certian times of day most likely) ie, nearly unrelievable congestion at some areas that slow speeds and possibly increase fender-benders further slowing car speeds??

    is the “just build more roads” approach more expensive and just as likely to require proerty takings than adding mass-transit in some areas???

  8. There is a constant war on cars from the left, and a constant war on transit from the right.

    I’m a centrist, amd I want high quality transit and high quality roads. This is a fantastically wealthy country, and it’s a false choice to have to choose one or the other.

    1. This was a frantically wealthy country. As the rest of the world starts asking for more of the pie, we won’t be. It is not a false choice in any way.
      When people are driving less, walking/biking/using transit more, we shouldn’t be investing as much on roads.

      1. We still have an enormous amount of wealth to piss away. Right now, we’re spending over $300 Billion a year out of the country for fossil fuels alone. Cut that one item and you’ve pretty much eliminated the balance of payments deficit that we have with other countries.

        Improved efficiency, increased electrification of transportation, and natural gas vehicles will help tremendously if not solve the problem entirely along with huge improvements in CO2 emissions.

      2. Centrism is not just splitting things down the middle between liberals and conservatives. Centrism is about not being committed to one or the other, of liking some of their ideas but not all of them. I’m a centrist and I think transit is important and underdeveloped, and that roads and SOVs have been overemphasized. I was a libertarian in the 1990s. If I’ve been agreeing more with liberals recently, it’s because Bush, Fox News, and some tea party candidates have become really extreme. I mean, what are you supposed to do when one side is literally espousing falsehoods and conspiracy theories, and advocating policies which would push the country off a cliff? Those aren’t solutions or even flawed solutions, they’re illogical ideological ravings. One can only hope conservatives get back to good ol’ sensible conservativism someday.

        I don’t think it’s my job to convince you to deprioritize roads, or that I have to pass some sort of conservative-liberal test. I’m just stating my opinion. Pretty much everybody here is exchanging productive ideas about transit and the impact of various policies, even if we disagree with each other. (Except when Bailo starts talking about Seattle depopulating and Renton/Kent becoming larger than Seattle; that must be happening in some parallel universe.)

    2. In many ways you’re right, Ryan, we’d have a lot more money if we didn’t waste it. The feds spend more money on farm subsidies than transit subsidies, and they spend more money on the military in a month than on transit in a decade.

    3. “Wealthy country” is misleading. The 1% at the top are so far off the map that it skews the average upward. 1945-1980 was an aberration because all our industrial rivals had to rebuild after WWII, and gas was 20c a gallon. We need to make our communities transit-friendly yesterday. We should maintain roads but not expand them, and we should take take lanes for transit because it’s much cheaper than building new roads or lanes. Single-family houses on new roads far from transit should be severely discouraged. The “streetcar suburb” model gives people the houses and yards they want without making them solely dependent on automobiles.

    4. Well y’alls responses are largely what I expected and don’t sway me at all.

      Would’ve expected a mirror image response had I posted at some conservative blog.

  9. My war on cars has been taking public transit for the past 3.5 years. In Orange County California of all places! But I did move 3 miles from work a month after getting hired. Monthly bus pass cost $55 a month. Amtrak and Metrolink when I need to if I’m going to Los Angeles. Not a bad deal! – San Clemente, CA

  10. what i do find odd in areas is where a sidewalk is going along fine and then just ends all and you have to walk thru a dirt path or wet grass right in front of stores along busier roads. often the bus stops are a sign buried in dirt with no sidewalk access.

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