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.

Labels: ,