The front page story from Monday’s N.Y. Times about Europe’s transportation policies that push the car to the perimeter is still sparking discussion.
Yesterday the Times invited nine experts to debate the issue: should the historically car crazy U.S. adopt a similar policy?
It’s obvious from the commentaries that one reason this story has legs is that it’s a divisive topic that is tangled up with all sorts of other contentious issues. Gentrification, taxation, central planning vs. market forces and generational differences are all mixed up making a cocktail that you either love or hate.
Good points are brought up on both sides of the issue. Urban planning professor Robert Bruegmann notes that while Europe’s dense central cities may be implementing anti-car policies, more Europeans are actually moving to the suburbs and living in American style sprawl.
One of the most interesting takes on the issue comes from Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman – two researchers who look at housing market trends and demographics. They think that while most Americans currently flinch at the thought of curbing the car, a cultural change is coming with the Millennial generation.
Millennials, now the largest generation in the nation’s history, are the first generation raised in the auto utopia of the ’70s and ’80s. Many millennials have vowed to spare their offspring a similar auto-oriented childhood. We predict that millennials in much larger percentages than predecessor generations will remain in urban neighborhoods when they become parents, fighting for school excellence and robust transportation alternatives to the private automobile.
Lets continue the debate here. Will the U.S. naturally adopt a more anti-car policy as the Millennials come into power? Our informal poll has received 270 responses, and 76% of our readers are for European style transit policy. How different do you think these numbers would be if the entire population of L.A. was polled?
One thing to keep in mind is that Angelenos, despite our car-crazy stereotype, did vote for Measure R. It took a super majority (66%) to pass this tax increase that funds new transit projects around the region – something I think speaks volumes. Of course, Measure R doesn’t only fund transit projects (20% of the tax revenue goes to highway projects) and a lot of the promotion of the measure emphasized congestion relief – not exactly anti-car rhetoric.