There's a War on Cars, and a New Podcast Is on It

©. The War on Cars

Gather round and listen to three TreeHugger favorites – Sarah Goodyear, Doug Gordon and Aaron Naparstek.

There's a new podcast out, The War on Cars, made by Sarah Goodyear, Doug Gordon and Aaron Naparstek, all TreeHugger heroes. I always thought the War on Cars was a Toronto thing, invented by former crackhead mayor Rob Ford, but the term actually took off in Toronto and Seattle at about the same time. According to Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute, it was first used in both cities in May 2009:

It was about this time that the “war on cars” meme began to percolate in earnest in Seattle (though it had been used occasionally before). In June 2009, however, Seattle’s pro-road activist Elizabeth Campbell was quoted in the online Seattle PostGlobe saying, "I think there’s a war on cars and I don’t support it," in reference to a mayoral candidate forum.
De Place concludes:
There’s something almost laughably overheated about the “war on cars” rhetoric. It’s almost as if the purveyors of the phrase have either lost their cool entirely, or else they’re trying desperately to avoid a level-headed discussion of transportation policy.

That's why it is such a good title for the podcast, because so many people have lost their cool entirely when it comes to cars, bikes, transit and transportation in general. And this gang has a lot to say about the subject.

In the pilot, they are all sitting around the table yakking about why the world needs a War on Cars and ask, among other things, "Are e-scooters, Lyft buses, and self-driving Ubers running through Elon Musk's tunnels the wave of the future, or are they a harbinger of dystopia?" I suspect you can guess the conclusion.

In the second episode, Attack of the Robocars, they discuss what happens when you take the driver out of the car. "What do you get – heaven or hell? Will the rise of the robocar lead to a revolution in safety and change how cities allocate public space? Or will pedestrians and cyclists get pushed aside to make way for Skynet?"

Sarah concludes with some really profound and important points about how people who walk will be pushed off the streets. Then she notes that the poor will be further marginalized: "If you don't think this stuff isn't going to be used to increase racial and economic inequality, you're dreaming."

The third episode is a trashing of New York's mayor. "Not to name names, but does it matter if elected officials are driven twelve miles to the gym every day in a three SUV convoy just to jog on a treadmill?" The format works for this gossipy fun.

But I am not sure that the format worked very well anywhere else. Perhaps it is my Canadian ear, where I am used to listening to people who have done brilliant radio for decades at the Canadian Broadcasting Company. One of my favourite podcasts is In Our Time from the BBC; here are three serious people talking about serious stuff seriously. The War on Cars sounds much more like American talk radio without scripts, with everyone interrupting and talking over each other.

This really offended me at first, since men talking over women happens everywhere and I was counting how many times Aaron and Doug stomped Sarah. I was up to five when I realized that she did it to them, just as much. It wasn't sexism, it's just American radio.

I have added The War on Cars to my iTunes podcast library; these are smart people who I admire and I want to hear what they say. But please, let someone finish a sentence.

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this post, episode 4 was released. Totally coincidentally, it covers the origin of the term War on the Car and places it pretty much in Toronto.

It also seemed to be different – they all talked more slowly, and there was far less talking over each other. They did indeed let someone finish a sentence. I suppose there is a learning curve to these things.