Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, August 22, 2005

AAA is an automobile lobby, first, last and always

Gasoline Prices on Yahoo! News Photos.jpgDave Pongratz admires the new Hummer H3 he purchased at Detroit Hummer in Southfield, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2005. Gas stations are advertising record-high prices all around him, but fuel efficiency was the furthest thing from Pongratz's mind as he picked up his new Hummer H3. The H3's gas mileage, about 19 miles per gallon in the city, wasn't an issue for Pongratz, who said he'd rather go to fewer restaurants than buy a vehicle with higher fuel economy. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Today's Examiner has an interview with Lon Anderson of the Mid-Atlantic American Automobile Association, who is always quoted in the newspapers and on television about automobility issues, always taking the position in favor of more driving and more roads. (E.g., such as that it is unfair to charge government employees in Washington DC for the cost of parking. See "Free Parking May End For D.C. Employees: Traffic Panel Offers Gridlock Solutions," from the Post.)

The interview "Congestion, gas prices and road rage: Official says top highway issues need consideration," demonstrates why we really need a "transportation" lobby to counter the day-in day-out drumbeat of organizations like AAA.

pgr_cwrep_lon_anderson.jpgLon Anderson. What kind of car do you drive?

This is a point I made in a letter to Dr. Gridlock about 15 years ago, when he raged against closing of freeway lanes during rush hour and proposed a "commuter lobby" organization --I countered that he was suggesting a car lobby which would look at transportation issues a lot differently from a real transportation-oriented citizens initiative...

This quote from Lon Anderson is telling:

Q: Does it seem in the Washington area there's almost a double-whammy of high gas prices and tremendous road congestion?

A: (...) "In most of the major categories, Washington failed the test. Motorists need to remember this is not something that has to happen to them. This is something that is being done to them."
I suppose he is right since the "American Dream" of suburban living completely dependent on the automobile and cheap gas isn't someone people like Mr. Anderson have created, they merely buy into it.

But there is a major disconnect here. This is as bad as the first paragraph in a Post article from Saturday, "Driving Some to Sacrifice: Rising Gas Prices Have Hit Lower-Income Families": "Alfred Jones used to steer his sporty Mazda MX-6 onto the Beltway and drive the entire loop for the thrill of it. He knew the trip was senseless, but he could afford the gas."

Who's doing what to whom? How is a culture of automobility, cheap gas, and a life culture requiring car trips everywhere "being done to them?"

p94su12.jpgThe Washington Beltway.

See "Suburban Growth Drains Quality of Life Inside the Beltway," part of the series in the Washington Post from 1997, entitled "Urban Sprawl: Changing Landscape."


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