Urban public transit activists have been enjoying the last 8 years. Our economic troubles affected more than just jobless rates. It turns out that Americans started driving less. A lot less.
Activists took that as a sign that Americans were changing how we live, but with driving back on the rebound, it turns out people were taking the bus and the train instead of a car, mostly because they couldn’t afford it.
The analysts at Advisor Perspectives have produced an amazing chart looking at how much Americans are driving over time. It turns out that Americans tended to drive less as a result of every recession and that the deeper our economic troubles, the deeper the drop in driving. The twin recessions 1980 and 1982 for example, produced a deep 6% trough that took 61 months to drive our way out of.
But this last economic collapse went deeper than that. We’re still down about 7% from the peak, having only turned it around in 2014. But the fact is, despite the wishful thinking of the activists, we have turned it around. After years of floating adrift economically, Americans (including young people) are starting to be able to get things put together well enough to own a car and drive it around. So while transit activists tend to scoff at state and local transportation planners, when they reasonably assume that driving will grow and more cars will be on the road, that’s a reasonable assumption to make.
Transit activists hate cars for the same reason most Americans love cars: cars liberate people to live, work, and travel where they want. Urban density and the rotten lifestyles it brings may be job-friendly, but cities are not human-friendly and they’re especially not kid-friendly (just ask the ‘free range’ parents in Silver Spring, Maryland).
Without cars, people would be forced to live in big cities in order to work in big cities, and in fact would have their entire life routines dictated to them by the ebb and flow of public transit, planned by government bureaucrats.
With cars, Americans decide where to live, where to work, where to travel, and when to do all of those things. Transit activists love to say that ‘frequency is freedom’ when it comes to public transit, but by that standard, only privately owned cars give total freedom.
Fight urbanity. Defend freedom. Stick up for the automobile. Most Americans get it, and the facts don’t lie.
Photo by Joe Wolf on Flickr