Browne Molyneux, who publishes The Bus Bench, had an interesting piece up the other day. In it, she wondered at the gaping disparities in how transportation choices of different social groups are represented in the media. As she argues, the debate about car use vs. alternative transportation overlooks some of the very real socioeconomic issues at work: There are a lot of people who would rather not drive; problem is, they don’t make enough money to live in the communities in which they work, which forces them to drive in (burning fossil fuels, adding to traffic, killing the earth) from whatever God-loving places they live. Browne adds:
No, it was just these Riverside people are white trash that hate the planet and these Pasadena people are just fabulous, because they don’t drive.
This kind of myopic thinking on transportation is what kills the alternative transportation movement. You can’t put transportation in a little box with no concern with the economic conditions that force people into limited choices.
Housing affordability for FAMILIES near REAL JOBS should be number one priority for any alternative transit advocate. Affordable housing and SAFE streets comes BEFORE telling everyone to get rid of their car. (And after they make that happen if these advocates could also ask their parents to not gentrify 20 year, two generation deep or more residents out of the neighborhood, that would be super.) Yeah that sucks and it’s harder, but that makes more sense.
What she does really well, I think, is highlight one of the central issues in alt transport debates: How much of alternative transportation advocacy is aesthetic (you know, traffic is ugly, bikes and trains are much better looking and healthier to boot) and how often is it linked to broader issues of social justice (riffing on Browne’s point, instead of talking about building a subway to the sea, why not ask why people have to live in Highland Park so they can work in Beverly Hills?)? This is all rough and rather unfair to everyone involved, but she’s asking a good question:
In all of this debate about alternative transportation, how do you deal with the fact that the people agitating for change (at least on the Internet; and I’m included in this group) are often – though not always – also relatively well-off?