Is Public Transit "Liberal" and Cars "Conservative"?

miss%20concrete.jpg
Miss Concrete and Miss Blacktopp open a highway through Wisconsin
Andrew Sullivan points to David Schaengold's article in The Public Discourse about why it is, and why it shouldn't be:

Sadly, American conservatives have come to be associated with support for transportation decisions that promote dependence on automobiles, while American liberals are more likely to be associated with public transportation, city life, and pro-pedestrian policies. This association can be traced to the '70s, when cities became associated with social dysfunction and suburbs remained bastions of 'normalcy.' This dynamic was fueled by headlines mocking ill-conceived transit projects that conservatives loved to point out as examples of wasteful government spending. Of course, just because there is a historic explanation for why Democrats are "pro-transit" and Republicans are "pro-car" does not mean that these associations make any sense.
building highway photo
via PBS

But he notes that it is contradictory to Conservative values that promote community, industry and entrepreneurship;

Pro-highway, anti-transit, anti-pedestrian policies work against the core beliefs of American conservatives in another and even more important way: they create social environments that are hostile to real community. Once again, the ways in which automobile-oriented development prevents communities from forming are too numerous to list exhaustively. They range from the very obvious to the very subtle.

Schaengold goes through the virtues of neighbourhoods, of local retail, of main streets and of community culture that once was conservative small town America. He concludes:

Walkable settlements are not just a pleasant lifestyle choice. They are a precondition of the strong, inter-connected communities that social conservatives desire. It is not difficult to envision how these communities can make our lives comprehensively better. Americans are not obliged by any law of nature or rule of the market to live in mediocre, anti-social places. With changes in public policy, over time we can begin again to create neighborhoods that promote real community.

Interesting reading. I would be interested in knowing what social conservatives think of it. More at The Public Discourse, via Andrew Sullivan

Tags: Urban Life

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