The anti-automobile mentality

When I have the time, I enjoy a good conversation on social media. I don’t call people names. I keep it civil, but I love to lock horns with someone and take them to the mat, socratically isolating their premises from their conclusion. Sometimes I ask rhetorical questions, but mostly I just ask clarifying questions to follow their reasoning wherever it takes us.

Earlier this year I had that kind of an interaction with a Pacific Green Party acquaintance of mine. I first met Seth Woolley at a Cascade Policy Institute event, which is a testament to how broad Cascade’s audience can be. A great discussion about global warming that night led to a Facebook friendship followed by more good conversations. Indeed, I even wrote about his perspective on redistricting right here on the pages of the Oregon Catalyst.

When I posted the Catalyst piece I wrote about the game theory of fare evasion on MAX, it led to a sprawling conversation that concluded with him being quite frank about the full implications of the worldview with an approach to transportation policy is decidedly anti-automobile.

If I were to say his vision of a good transportation system resembles a third-world country, that would sound like a straw-man argument, but if you read this conversation of ours carefully you’ll see that arguments made of such straw sometimes exist in Oregon’s political culture:

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Transportation | 4 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Press Release

    Ah, the vaunted Haitian public transportation system! I was afraid Mr. Woolley would break out the nuclear option. Who wouldn’t want to live in that Caribbean paradise, where no one drives a car because no one can afford a car?

    And that’s the thing that’s left out of the conversation, which I found hilarious. Someone who cannot afford to own a personal automobile is not “choosing” to take public transportation, they are forced to. If Portland government made both cars and MAX/bus free to use, which would current public transportation riders choose?

    I don’t know if they include these kind of questions in their rider surveys, but it would be interesting to know what portion of the trips made on Tri-Met are made by people who do not have access to a car, and don’t have any other choice.

    • David Clark

      Trimet likes to brag that most of their riders are “choice riders” because they have a car available. I think they claim 70% or so.
      Of course that says if all those riders can use their car, why are taxpayers paying 75% of the ride for non-needy people?

  • Bob Clark

    Woolley must wax romantically about the old Soviet Union. I tangle a little ever once awhile with Woolley but only for a couple of blurbs. It seems strange having someone stick up for expanding a light rail system where ridership is in decline even as new legs are added to it and at dear cost. This in the face of revolutionary transportation technology fast approaching which favors flexible autonomous self driving vehicles, rather than fixed rail systems.

    • David Clark

      Democrats, and certainly socialists, tend to be ignorant of basic economics.

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