Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The decline of the car-pool: "If people have a car available, they will use it”

The anti-car bike people are convinced that they are visionaries who represent the future, as opposed to millions of other Americans---especially drivers---who are to be pitied, since they are being exploited by international corporations. Chris Carlsson on the Critical Mass blog:

Critical Mass cyclists are among the most visible practitioners of a new kind of social conflict. The “assertive desertion” embodied in bicycling erodes the system of social exploitation organized through private car ownership and the oil industry. And by cycling in urban centers in the Empire, we join a growing movement around the world that is repudiating the social and economic models controlled by multinational capital and imposed on us without any form of democratic consent.

No "form of democratic consent"? I could have sworn we had an election last November, but I suppose I'm just another victim of "multinational capital" and the "Empire"---with a capital "E." Recall that last year Carlsson told the Bay Guardian that "There's no doubt we're going to have way fewer privately owned cars in our culture." (Speaking of delusions, check out Randy Shaw's take on Egypt, as he tries to explain why something similar isn't happening here. The US and Egypt are a lot alike, you know, with the oppressed US masses groaning under the tyranny of the Obama administration.)

All this is by way of an introduction to a story in last Saturday's NY Times that was apparently so disappointing to the folks over at SFStreetsblog that they couldn't bring themselves to link it for their readers, many of whom seem to think that motor vehicles are well on the way to becoming obsolete. It's a tale of the decline of car-pooling in the United States, which has dropped by 50% since 1980:

The sharp decline has confounded efforts by urban planners, who over the years have tried to encourage the practice by setting aside highway lanes for car-poolers, as well as offering incentives like discounted parking...The drop has occurred in cities across the country. For example, the car-pooling rate fell by more than half since 1980 in Rochester and its suburbs, as well as in Worcester County, Mass., and in the suburbs of Kansas City. Even in San Diego County, Calif., the state where modern car-pooling began, the rate was down by more than a third.

Yes, it must make planners cross, because they know what's best for the American people. For years they've been trying hard to discourage Americans from owning homes and cars in the suburbs. Why doesn't everyone just live in the cities?

“As cars became more affordable and life became easier, the big car pools broke up,” said Alan Pisarski, a consultant who studies transportation trends..."It’s economic,” said Roger F. Teal, a former professor of civil engineering whose Illinois software company, DemandTrans Solutions, helps municipalities with transportation issues. “If people have a car available, they will use it.” With today’s high levels of car ownership, “the strongest motivation for people to car-pool disappeared,” said Mr. Teal, who conducted one of the early comprehensive studies of car-pooling. Car ownership has outstripped even population growth, as the number of cars parked in American driveways has risen by nearly 60 percent since 1980, while the number of Americans has grown by a third.

The decline of car-pooling is more or less the same here in San Francisco, and the aggressive anti-car policies under Mayor Newsom haven't made any difference. A look at the recent San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet shows that: the October, 2008 report says 7.7% of SF residents commuted to work by carpools; the November, 2009 report puts it at 8.4%; and the November, 2010 report has it backsliding to 7.4%. All three of these reports compare those percentages to the good old days of 2000, when 10.8% of city residents commuted via carpools.

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At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so correct. Losers ride in carpools.

The only category below the loser in the carpool are the fools who ride the bus. Seriously. Why do we subsidize the dregs - this is not a socialist society. MUNI should be disbanded.

At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob fails to understand the history of the housing market, the history of oil supplies and subsidies, the history of suburban planning, and the history of pretty much anything pertaining to this whole subject.

But he likes the quote, "if people have cars, they will use it" because he somehow believes this attacks the heart of the (his own made up reality) "bike movement". When in fact the cost of owning a car has been so artificially lowered (along with the housing stock) that of course the "market" would dictate that people choose cars and far flung suburbia. But carry on Rob, ignorance is bliss.

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another anonymous know-it-all. Thanks for nothing, pal. We're looking forward to your book, The History of Pretty Much Anything Don't forget to put your name on it, because it will be a big seller.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger carpooling eventi said...

The decline of the car-poo?I don't think, please visit www.youtrip.it and trip by swap

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Rocky's Pop said...

You're right, Rob. Your opinion holds weight because you slap your name on it. I forgot.

So oil and cars and suburban housing are not HUGELY subsidized? Our nation's land planning has not made the car largely the only practical means to navigate? Nope, people just want cars so damnit they'll have them, come hell or high water.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The gas tax pays for our highways; the housing tax deduction subsidizes home ownership; and bus systems, urban and suburban, are heavily subsidized by taxpayers, since fares cover at most 40% of the cost; and real estate markets all over the country are linked to highways. President Obama rightly wants to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies, as he said in the State of the Union speech.

Except for the oil depletion allowance, what do you want to cut? Shall we divert the gas tax to something else so that people can't get to the suburbs in their cars? Marin, for example, has the Golden Gate Transit bus system, but of course it's subsidized by the tolls from the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a good system, but even if it was expanded it couldn't possibly handle all the traffic to and from Marin every day. What else can we do about that? A bike lane on Highway 101?

Look at the amount of money those wicked motor vehicles bring in to the San Francisco's coffers: $38,868,351 from parking meters; $37,515,348 from city parking lots; $7,905,051 from the residential permit parking program; and $95,727,234 from parking tickets, for a total of $180,015,984! Who's subsidizing who here? Muni is what's getting the most subsidy from cars, which is necessary, since the farebox can't cover the costs.

We learn from the SFCTA's Countywide Transportation Plan that more than 93,000 city residents commute to jobs in San Mateo, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties, and almost all of those people drive cars to work. How else would they get there? The present transportation system doesn't even have room for these people if they stopped driving. We could expand those systems, but that would take massive, well, subsidies from the taxpayers.

People not only like cars, but they/we need them for the national economy to function---to get people to their jobs and their homes, to school, and, yes, to those wicked shopping malls, like Stonestown Galleria, which has free parking and does a brisk business, thank you very much. Downtown SF is competing against places like Stonestown, which is why it's dumb to even discuss congestion pricing and not allowing new retail projects on Market Street to provide parking for their customers.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Rocky's Pop said...

You are looking at the present, but the past 70 years of reckless abandon is what has caused our current condition. It is a downward spiral of sprawl and highways giving way to more sprawl and more highways giving way to...

Also, more highway lanes only lead to more congestion. More sprawl only makes it harder for those with cars to get around in any other way. But yet our current system still rewards suburban growth and car ownership over any other method. There is no rent tax write off.

Also, gas taxes barely cover (less then 40%) the cost of highways, most of that comes out of the general fund. The gas tax also hasn't gone up in 15 years. Local roads are funded by property taxes, something everyone pays regardless of miles driven. So in that respect, those that do not drive are subsidizing those that do.

And don't get started on free parking, when 99% of car trips begin and end with free parking, there is little incentive to take another other modes. However, parking is not cheap to build and is a huge waste of space. The loss of real-estate that produces tax for local gov'ts is much less then it would be if parking itself was taxed or not mandated in city code for every building built. It is just perpetuating the status quo making anything but private auto use non-practical.

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except for the oil depletion allowance, what do you want to cut?

Senior Discounts on MUNI.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

$180,015,984! (!!!) would not even come close to purchasing the square footage of land currently being used as free parking for cars in SF.


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