Commentary

Policy makers should respect preference for cars

My commentary on the benefits of cars appeared in the Sacramento Bee on 21 September.

Adopting a policy objective to reduce automobile use would be poor public policy, reflecting little more than a knee-jerk political reaction to a long-term environmental problem.

This article was commissioned as a response to a feature oped by Daniel Lerch on how California needs to become less auto-dependent. That said, I didn’t have a chance to read Lerch’s article in drafting my “response”. Lerch’s points to Europe’s supposed embracement of public transit to justify expanding transit in the US:

Moving away from the car doesn’t mean reducing our quality of life, either. Cities and suburbs throughout Western Europe have proven for decades that people will choose walking, bicycling and public transit over personal cars if the price is right and the trip is pleasant.

Unfortunately for Lerch, Europe apparently doesn’t agree with him. Nearly 80 percent of Europeans already use the automobile for their daily trips, and the share of auto travel is increasing. Moreover, public transit’s market share is down nearly one third since 1970. More European transport trend data can be found at publicpurpose.com and demographia.com.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.