TCS Daily

Hit the Road, Jack

By Brock Yates - September 19, 2002 12:00 AM

Let me see now, wasn't this about the time that everybody in urban America would have shucked their filthy automobiles and embarked for work on light rail cars, subways, environmentally pristine buses, bicycles, Segways and shank's mare? As I recall, it was predicted twenty years ago - during the mad reign of terror by the likes of Paul Erlich, Joan Claybrook, Ralph Nader and other Savarnolas of the Looney Left - that the passenger car was headed for the same doom as the similarly-named Pidgeon.

But now comes alarming news via the paper-shufflers at the United States Census Bureau that, egads! people are driving to work more than ever. Clearly, either the bureaucrats' computers have been attacked by Detroit-based viruses that corrupted their data, or else the entire population of America has gone nuts.

Here are the stark numbers: 75.7 percent of workers 16 years and older drive to and from their place of employment. This is an increase of over 11 percent since 1980 and 3.7 percent higher than the figures revealed in the 1990 census.

Worse yet, car-pooling is being utilized by only 12.2 percent of the working public, down from 20 percent twenty years ago. This obviously means that substantial numbers of citizens gave up ride sharing in order to bask in the privacy of their own motor vehicles.

But wait a minute; perhaps they chose mass transit instead of car-pooling. Again, the greenies hopes are dashed. Public ridership stayed steady at 4.7 percent, about the same as 1990, despite increases in most urban populations.

How about walking to work, now that the nation is apparently on a fitness binge? If that's the case, it must involve working out on the ol' Bowflex in the privacy of the homes because hikers to work have declined from 4 percent a decade ago to a wheezy 2.9 percent. And working from home remained stable at about 3 percent of the population.

Motorists running solo increased in every state of Union except for the green paradises of Oregon and Washington, which saw minor bumps in public transit use. God's own Washington D.C. boasted the lowest rate of lone driver travel among the major metro areas at a mildly responsible 38.3 percent (as opposed to the league-leading earth-rapers in Huntington, West Virginia, who drive at the rate of 86.7 percent).

What does this all mean? Aren't we held hostage to the Mullahs? Aren't we enraged like the elite media, about the gas guzzling, insolent-chariots and marching arm in arm to inject sense and responsibility into our transportation environment?

Not likely. As the urban highway glut increases and average speeds on major intra-city freeways dip toward the single digits, Americans still choose to drive rather than pack themselves into fetid aluminum tubes.

The reason is obvious. It is called freedom. It is called mobility. It is called privacy. It is called flexibility. It is called being American.

We are at the core mildly anarchistic. We resist order in a harmless, rather innocent way. Being bottled up in gridlock is, in the end, our choice, for better or worse.

To be sure, trapped in a crush of steaming iron on a stretch of asphalt is not exactly dream street, but at least it offers the victim the option to tune to whatever he or she chooses on the radio, to scratch bodily parts in privacy, to yammer on the cell phone in high decibels, to choose departure times at random and to alter course and speed according to personal needs, desires and conditions.

I am hardly surprised that mass transit has not increased among the working public, but I do confess to mild shock over its radical decline on what appears to be an increasing downward curve. Sad news for the greens and the social engineers; the private automobile is here to stay. Read the numbers.



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