Taking automobility for granted, or not
People have a hard time considering mobility objectively, and "privilege" the position of automobility within the transportation system without being conscious about it.
1. So there is talk on my neighborhood listserv about where to locate bikesharing stations, and there was/is a thread "recommending" that a station not be located at the library, which is one block from a school and 1.5 blocks from the Takoma Metro Station because "it is in the residential neighborhood, not commercial."
I responded that bikesharing is about "mobility" not "commercial" or "residential" and that the point of mobility is to link a variety of places together, be they commercial, civic, or residential.
That it is about "and-and" not "either-or."
I also made the point that if you say no bikesharing station, I hope you're prepared to remove motor vehicle parking from the abutting streets, along with bus stops around that location (and in the "neighborhood").
2. Which leads always into the debate that "parking" should be free at libraries (this is a constant issue in Montgomery County, as library locations become part of mixed use centers where parking is not free, see "Free library parking may be eliminated" from the Gazette) and sometimes at museums.
I always counter that if you are going to subsidize parking, why aren't you paying for people's cost of transit to get to and from the museum or library?
3. Another example is in the arguments of the anti-BRT commenters in the GGW entry "Suburban Toronto's Viva offers lessons for Montgomery BRT."
Rockville Pike, looking north, Montgomery County. Washington Post photo by Bill O'Leary.
The idea that you can move thousands of people in a dedicated bus lane every hour, but the same lane, used by motor vehicles, would carry about 1,300 vehicles per hour (more or less, depending on the number of curb cuts) is not seen as a matter of efficiently moving more people, but hindering drivers.
Inset from a WWII era GE Streetcar ad about passenger throughput in various types of vehicles.
I picked up a WWII era GE streetcar ad and it has a table about the number of passengers carried in various types of vehicles and how much space each vehicle takes. During the way, average ridership in a car was much higher than it is today. They figured 3.5 passengers per car. Today it is more typically one person.
But it is very interesting in the number of vehicles required to move a lot of people by bus or streetcar versus how many automobiles. Plus the automobiles need space for parking when they are not in use.
Giant has a couple locations that sell gas too, and is opening up one location in Chevy Chase that only sells gas and offers the ability to pick up online grocery orders (see "Peapod by Giant opening first stand-alone pick-up location" from Bethesda Magazine; image from the article). The newest one is in Bethesda.
(Note that Giant-Eagle, the supermarket chain in Western Pennsylvania, has a dedicated convenience store-gas station division called GetGo. It carries Giant-Eagle brand goods, among other items. Kroger also owns a bunch of convenience store chains, with names different from their supermarket chains, such as Turkey Hill.)
Or how Safeway often has a promotion on the weekends where you get a cash discount if you buy $75 of groceries in one transaction. This is a promotion definitely oriented to drivers, who find it easy to transport large purchases.
What about those of us who bike, walk, or take transit to and from the grocery store? And because of this, maybe we shop a little more frequently, and make smaller purchases, below $75, but more than $75 in total. How do automobile-related promotions help us?
At least one supermarket company, Buehler's, seems to recognize the "discrimination" and is offering people the choice of discounts on gas or groceries. See "Bueheler’s Links Grocery, Gas Rewards" from Supermarket News.
Meanwhile, Safeway and Giant checkers are trained to highlight and tell us about the gasoline rewards points that we earned in the transaction, conveniently printed out on the register receipts. I don't bother pointing out that they are for the most part unusable, at least for me.
5. Although, some companies are starting to retool their locations for urban consumer segments where people are more likely to walk, use transit, or bicycle versus drive. 7-11 just opened a store in Manhattan's Financial District that has beer on tap, 25 seats in a dining area, with wi-fi coverage, and an "Amazon Locker" for delivery of online purchases. Clearly, they aren't expecting that most of the patrons will arrive by driving. See "7-Eleven Breaks the Mold in New York City " from Convenience Store News and "Check Out The High-Tech 7-Eleven That Just Opened In The Financial District" from Business Insider.
6. It's still a struggle. Most retailers are still very much car-centric in their planning and expectations for how their customers get around. For example, in Seattle (like DC), a city with a lot of bicyclists, some business owners are fighting the installation of a cycletrack on a street that fronts their businesses, because of their perception that most of their customers arrive by car. See "Ravenna business owners raise concerns about proposed cycle track" from KING5 TV. This neighborhood is immediately north of the University of Washington ("U District") which is a big biking area.
That being said, Seattle has installed the nation's "most European" cycle track on Dexter Avenue. What makes it "European" or at least Dutch- or Danish-like is that at bus stops, the cycletrack shifts behind the bus shelters and remains continuous, rather than fostering conflict by bringing the bus and the bike together. I wasn't able to get photos.
7. Finally, despite all the privileging of the car in people's discussions about mobility issues and supermarket practices, motor vehicle miles traveled per capita continues to decline. See the AP story "Americans Driving Less as Car Culture Wanes."
There is debate about how much this is due to the recession, although the beginnings of the decline preceded the recession, starting in 2007, having less disposable income, the high cost of automobiles, that car culture is on the decline because cars are less cool (no "four on the floor"), more retail shopping online reducing the "need" to drive to shop, and younger segments of the market are interested in other things, especially focusing on what they can do with their mobile phones.