The Politics of Automobility: Fewer Trips or Better Cars?

The automobile is the solution to most Americans’ transportation needs. But its very success has generated serious problems—most notably, congestion, pollution, and energy inefficiency—that need to be addressed by public policy. Transportation policy discussions feature many vocal “enemies” of the automobile who believe that the remedy for every car-related problem is less automobility. They want to “get people out of their cars.” Their aim is to reduce auto travel by making it more expensive and less convenient. They want people to take public transit, to bicycle, to walk, and to eschew the suburbs. But as policymakers seek solutions to the problems generated by mass auto use, they must acknowledge the enormous benefits Americans derive from the convenience, mobility, and privacy of their cars. Crafting practical and politically effective remedies to the auto’s problems begins by recognizing the indispensability of automobility.