Honest Car Talk
The August, 2012 issue of Motor Trend has a somewhat surprising article, “is the automobile over?” The piece reports what has been reported elsewhere, namely that young people are showing a remarkable decrease in the desires to own a car and even to drive. Based on a Frontier Group study, “Transportation and the New Generation” by Benjamin Davis and Tony Dutzik, the article notes that
The share of 14-to 34-year olds without a driver’s license was 26% in 2010, up from 21% in 2000. . . The same age group walked to more destinations in ’09 than in ’01, and the distance it traveled by public transit increased 40 percent.
The interesting thing about this article is less the information than the tone. Motor Trend is a magazine for car enthusiasts. (Why do I subscribe to it, and to Car and Driver? I find cars interesting. I just don’t want to be forced to drive everywhere for lack of a comfortable, pleasant alternative). But the article does not wail and moan over young people’s move away from cars to other modes of transportation. Instead of concluding with a discussion of how to win Generation Y back to dependence on automobiles, it ends with the following paragraph:
We need a pretty frank and clear debate about what our transportation priorities are,” he (Dutzik) concludes. If Generation Y has its say, cars and new highways won’t be a big part of that priority.
Motor Trend appears to do what you might not expect a car mag to do, namely take a realistic approach. I am sure it knows that cars are not going to disappear. Car enthusiasts have no reason to panic. Rather, the question is whether we will have alternatives to cars, alternatives people actually want to use, including walking in neighborhoods built to traditional designs, cycling, streetcars and passenger trains. Generation Y is saying yes.
Isn’t it interesting that even a car magazine can be more balanced in its approach to transportation than the libertarian transit critics, who for all their talk of “freedom,” want to maintain a choiceless dependence on automobiles.
Mr. Lind serves as Director of The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation