Originally published October 29, 2013 — jb
Do you like commuting? I certainly don’t. It’s safe to say that nobody likes commuting. Even when you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle that you absolutely adore, the fact remains that doing almost anything else with the car or bike in question would be more enjoyable than slogging along with a group of similarly condemned individuals down the Long Island Expressway or I-5 or I-75 or the Chicago Loop. Nobody commutes because they want to. They commute because they have identified a need or combination of needs in their lives that require it. Perhaps they’re a dual-income couple with geographically separate jobs. Perhaps they cannot afford to live near where they work. Perhaps they are temporary employees, the foot soldiers in our country’s mostly imaginary recovery, going wherever the work is found while trying desperately to cover their expenses at home.
Just in case, however, that you felt your commute to be a glorious triumph, a veritable quotidian adventure, the Times has commanded that a member of the fabled one percent disabuse you of this ridiculous notion.
In a breathtakingly ignorant and Antoinette-esque work of empathy-free idiocy, Jane Brody looks out of her castle windows and discovers Commuting’s Hidden Cost. But first, she’ll brag about her little one-percenter family.
The boys, like their father, are lean, strong and healthy. Their parents chose to live in New York, where their legs and public transit enable them to go from place to place efficiently, at low cost and with little stress (usually). They own a car but use it almost exclusively for vacations.
Whereas you use your car almost exclusively for abortions, you hill trash, you.
“Green” commuting is a priority in my family. I use a bicycle for most shopping and errands in the neighborhood, and I just bought my grandsons new bicycles for their trips to and from soccer games, accompanied by their cycling father.
How lovely, particularly when you consider that she probably lives about ten miles away from children who would be taking their lives in their hands were they to commit the reckless act of riding shiny new bicycles outside in the neighborhood.
According to the Census Bureau, more than three-fourths of all commuters drove to work in single-occupancy vehicles in 2009.
That’s because most commuters don’t live in New York, you over-insulated hothouse flower.
Millions of Americans… pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial.
Thank G-d we’ve managed to genuflect to foodie-ism during this stroll down Park Slope. It’s amazing that millions of Americans are so stupid that they demand to drive everywhere. Why can’t we all be as enlightened as Jane Brody and her family? Let’s return to the source article for more of that sweet, sweet intellectual nectar:
[Some author] recounts some important countervailing trends: more young families are electing to live in cities; fewer 17-year-olds are getting driver’s licenses; people are driving fewer miles; and bike sharing is on the rise.
BIKE SHARING? What the actual fuck. The rest of us can’t even have our own bicycle now? Is this how our New Eloi will distinguish themselves: by sole possession of a bicycle? Ms. Brody’s grandchildren will each have a bike, but you and I should count ourselves lucky to be allowed to borrow or rent one.
More homes and communities are being planned or reconfigured to shorten commutes, reduce car dependence and facilitate positive interactions with other people… Dr. Richard Jackson, the chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says demographic shifts are fueling an interest in livable cities. Members of Generation Y tend to prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and short commutes, he said, and childless couples and baby boomers who no longer drive often favor urban settings.
Young people enjoy living in the city? This is news to me — said nobody ever.
Old people don’t want to mow the lawn? Amazing.
Childless couples aren’t interested in living in communities where there’s plenty of green space and good schools? OMFG.
While I don’t recommend reading the source article, for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend mailing a dollar bill to the North Korean Government, I’ve chosen to discuss it on TTAC today because it’s important to understand the mentality of people who push for outrageously oppressive anti-automobile regulation and taxation. Every idiotic, short-sighted, reality-averse program that comes from the state and federal governments, from “clunker crushing” to per-mile vehicle tracking, starts off as a vague idea in the head of somebody like Jane Brody. Somebody who hasn’t the faintest fucking idea how the majority of Americans live, somebody who lives in a $2.85 million private home, someone who is as far removed from the everyday cares and concerns of working Americans of any class as a visitor from another star system would be.
To Ms. Brody’s addled mind, all everybody needs to do in order to be happy is either:
1) Move to Brooklyn;
2) Reconfigure one’s home city to be more like Brooklyn.
Idea #1 is prima facie beneath contempt. The fact that her spoiled son could move to Brooklyn does not mean that three hundred million Americans can do so. There’s a reason most of our ancestors kept moving past Ellis Island. Idea #2 sounds slightly more reasonable when one is doddering around one’s castle, but it also falls apart under even the most cursory examination. Most municipalities in the United States right now can barely afford to keep the lights on. The large-scale re-urbanization of which our not-so-humble source author dreams would be a task that would require the entire sustained effort of the entire working population of this country, for decades.
Like it or not, America will continue to exist as a country where personal transportation is highly valued. No matter how much Ms. Brody might cheerfully envision a world where proles are packed onto a train while she strolls to her afternoon tea, such a world is decades, if not centuries, away from becoming a reality. We like our cars. We like being able to go somewhere without asking the government or the bus company or the train authority for permission. We like being able to travel with the companions of our choosing, even if that companion is an empty seat.
Times are hard right now for many people, but they are emphatically choosing not to give up their cars — not if they have any choice at all. The American fleet is older than it’s ever been, but it’s still rolling. From her castle windows high above the world’s capital city, Ms. Brody and the New York Times have seen how hungry a lot of Americans are — for gasoline, for energy, for work, for a future. Their solution is simple: eat cake. Move to a $2.85M house and let your strong, healthy children walk to soccer games. Live the lifestyle they live. And if you can’t, feel free to drop out of the American Dream posthaste.
Luckily for these modern-day aristocrats, this isn’t pre-Revolutionary France, or even pre-Revolutionary America. But that’s subject to change, you know, and when that day comes and a nation full of hopeless, unemployed, desperate people makes a final journey into the cities to take what’s left, Ms. Brody shouldn’t be surprised if she’s one of the first ones up against the wall.