Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew

Jan

14

2011

The government doesn’t pay much attention to making sure we can get where we need to go. Subway lines are falling apart, buses infrequent, train systems decimated, and high-speed rail has been politicized into a fantasy. The ways in which we suffer extend far beyond mere inconvenience.

In America, getting there is not considered a right, and our leaders don’t perceive it to be in the interest of the greater good to help us move about economically. Detroit carmakers got their claws into the public transportation system through National City Lines and other shell organizations designed to replace our universally helpful public transit systems with pay-through-the-hose, gas-sucking motor vehicles.

Americans have been struggling to catch up with their petroleum expenses ever since. In today’s America, you’re expected to be rich enough to pay for a car.  Movement, like health, is something that Americans may access only at signficant expense. The situation isn’t like this everywhere in the world, where governments recognize that if its population can get around cheaply, things get done, people are happier, and they can spend their money on more productive things.

I was thinking about all the bad things that have befallen our society because our transportation system is so pathetic. And I don’t just mean bridges that pancake on commuters:

  • Poverty. If you can’t get there, you can’t earn. For most Americans, who live in places that were built after the introduction of the car, not being able to cross the county often means not being able to earn a paycheck. Wheels bring food.
  • War. Not having the sort of streetcar, cable car, and rail service that we used to have until the 1940s and 1950s means we have to rely on gas-guzzling vehicles. Which means we need gas. Which means we have to get it from abroad. Which means we fight wars for access to it. The Pentagon might as well be in the shape of a radial tire.
  • Prejudice. What you don’t know, you fear. If Americans found it easier and cheaper to get around, they would do it, and they’d meet people who aren’t like them in places that are new to them. Instead, they stay at home, homogeneous home. Peering over their picket fences. Living small.

A country that limits our travels limits our freedom.

You’d expect a travel writer to say this.

How we go is who we are

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