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View Diary: Cars Cause Republicanism (338 comments)

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  •  I guess you haven't lived in the Northeast (4.00)
    Outside of the major metropolises - and really, you only get decent public transit in Boston proper, for New England - there isn't any. Believe me, I've been carless in one of the larger cities outside Boston in the Greater Boston area, for months on end, and wore out the soles of my boots to the core, after my bike was stolen, because to find connections at the necessary times and places is harder than hens' teeth. (There's a lot of the Northeast where you can't bike, either - where it's safer to play in traffic on foot, because that's what you're doing. Particularly in winter, when the marginal road shoulder disappears.)

    Not because we wouldn't use it, but because we don't have the state funding and clout to fight the auto industry's holding of the high ground after having successfully destroyed the nation's passenger rail and conservative congresscritters having fought it tooth and claw as a mark of their "fiscal responsibility" all those decades ago.

    After brutal uphill battle, we finally got one small passenger rail spur extended running Maine-to-Boston - and it got many times the expected traffic the first year and has just keept on increasing in popularity.

    Of course, I'd have to drive 45 minutes, 1/4 of the way across the state, to get to the nearest platform...

    The fight goes on, to bring it to the larger cities, fiercely opposed by those in New England who want the money to keep going to the roads - which are a massive industry and keep the pockets lined of all sorts of folks in the construction business and political realm. Corruption and government go hand-in-hand, and we've been doing it up here in New England longer than any of the rest of you! Maybe by the end of the decade, we'll have regular rail service.

    Of course, that won't do anything about the fact that the local transit is non-existent, the bus lines run as if managed by Basil Fawlty, with no regard for nor interaction with local needs, but money thrown away on stupid, massive PR campaigns instead of fixing the systemic problems (and again, no interest in finding out what really works, because then how could you funnel money to your consultant buddies?) and moreover, that most of New England is so wooded, remote, and rural that there's no way a European-style web of rail is going to happen - even though a hundred years ago we did have it, and the old railbeds and some of the platforms are still there, camouflaged by the debris of years.

    And that's close to Boston - go up to the deep woods of Maine, or the wilds of the Berkshires - or those insane hills in Vermont! - and I don't think you even ever had that. It went from horse-and-buggy to Model T, or rather from ox-carts to pickup trucks, although there are still folks out in the mountains who use pulling hitches, for various reasons, partly that you can get draft animals up and down hills no engine will ever handle.

    Most New Englanders commute a minimum of 20 minutes, one way. And that's the average of people like me, who can walk, in a pinch, the mile to work (and I've done it in -3F, btw - and I've done 5 miles, too) as well as those who want to live in the demi-countryside, but still hold a high-paying job in the City, and commute upwards of an hour to Boston or Woburn or even the Seacoast.

    Nor are Northeasterners immune from stupidity - drive to or around Boston in a normal car these past 8-9 years, and you'll find yourself dwarfed by Explorers and Suburbans and giant F-150s, like a zebra in a herd of elephants. Some of them even drive the F-150s with afterburners or whatever they are, so they burn 2x the normal amount of gas, get less mileage than a Hummer - and you'll see a good few of those in New England, too - because it's macho and they like the horsepower - even if it's taking up a huge chunk of their paycheck - and a pressman's paycheck is hefty, far heftier than a mere typesetter or digital prepress  worker like me.

    Trying to change it is like pushing Sisyphus' rock uphill - and there's not yet the clear-and-present  motivation of gas prices equalling those of Europe, although there was a mass dumping of SUVs the weekend after Katrina, according to the local used car sales insiders - in favor of hybrids. And more and more brave souls are driving Vespa-clones on the road even in the winter, except when the weather is prohibitive - trying very hard to make them primary vehicles. But it's not happening fast, and there's tremendous obstacles from the establishment.  

    There's nothing worse than assumption-based analysis, free of facts. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is something they teach in Logic 101 - I suggest you familiarize yourself with the principles of critical thinking and then of sociological research.

    "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

    by bellatrys on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:40:05 AM PST

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    •  I lived in a little town in the White Mountains (4.00)
      for a couple of years and didn't have a car for much of that time. I walked to work, biked to the store, and caught a ride with friends when I wanted to go climbing.

      So I know exactly where you're coming from. It is not only possible, but wonderful to be in New England sans car. I can still hear that snow squeeking under my heels. ;<)

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:04:42 AM PST

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      •  snow squeaking under your boots (none)
        is my third favorite sound in the whole world.

        right behind wind in the trees and waves crashing on the ocean shore.

        we auditorily inclined people are weird like that--with lists of favorite sounds.

        it's hard to be an auditory person in a visual world, but there are so many wonderful ambient sounds to enjoy!

        Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D. IMPEACH

        by TrueBlueMajority on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:32:48 PM PST

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    •  Vermont (none)
      Well, after living in mass-transit-able central cities for decades, I moved to Vermont. There is some mass transit here (small, free buses at least in southern Vermont to get people from town to town). But hey, we drive now. What with Vermont being the most proportionately rural state population in the nation, Vermonters drive an embarassing number of miles per capita. However, Vermonters also, despite often-icy roads, have about the lowest accident rate and cheapest car insurance in the nation.

      We're also far from being a Red state, as the world knows. Even the Republicans we have here are the decent, liberal type. So if this isn't the exception that proves the rule, the hypothesis is refuted by Vermont.

      Maybe it's driving in ugly places, on crowded roads, that leads to Republicanism? Nah, there are rural Red states with great beauty too.

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