Monday, January 14, 2008

Covering the Transportation Peep from Candidates

We all know it should be a roar, but apparently telling people the truth about how much damage their driving habits do is a no no in the electioneering process. Grist discusses the little tiny mention Bill Richardson gave to rail systems and open spaces.

The remark was all but ignored by the Democratic front-runners, and was greeted by pundits with praise or disdain, depending upon their ideological stripe, before being once again set aside in favor of discussion on sexier issue areas.

But Richardson had hit upon a truly pressing matter, one which deserves the attention of federal policy makers. Transportation accounts for a third of all carbon dioxide emissions in this country. Moreover, concerns about gas prices, congestion, housing costs, and other related urban ills loom large in the lives of Americans, if not necessarily in political debates. We should be having a discussion about the way in which we build and grow our cities, the costs of our current approach, and what the federal government can do to fix what's broken.

Hmm choices don't seem so bad to people now...

And while commuters in New York and Chicago can shift (and have shifted, impressively) from driving to transit as gas prices rise, residents of autocentric towns in the south and west cannot, and are therefore forced to swallow high fuel costs. If the U.S. manages to adopt carbon limiting rules, as it should, long automobile commutes will become more expensive still; as such, the massive southward migration based on low-density development will make emission reductions more difficult and more painful. It may also make them less likely, since consumers will have a strong incentive to fight new costs they can't easily avoid.
Our government has sold out to Detroit, even John McCain is telling them to suck it up, because as we all know, after the car, the horse and buggy market just wasn't the same. Apparently, Alex Smith's hat reference has caught on. From the Times UK:

This gnarled truth-teller of Republican politics — who says that he is “as old as dirt, with more scars than Frankenstein” — refuses to join Mr Romney in promising to save every job. Time moves on, Mr McCain suggests, just as it did for those working in “buggy-whip factories and haberdashers when cars replaced carriages and men stopped wearing hats”.

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