Teacher’s Choice: Automobiles.


This article discusses the shift currently happening in the US from driving to other forms of transportation. I find this shift very interesting because to my knowledge I hadn’t noticed a difference in my day to day activities, and I also am curious what motives are the most prevalent in people who opt out of driving and owning cars. A few questions to get the conversation going:

What would be required for you to not buy a car or use one regularly?

Did you get your license when you turned 16? why or why not?

What do you think about the shift in modes of transportation? Do you expect that the US will lose its obsession with the automobile as this article suggests?

What are the most promising alternatives to cars? why do you think so?

What challenges are faced by people who want to develop alternative forms of transportation?


5 Responses to “Teacher’s Choice: Automobiles.”

  1. I got my license right away, and I would have to live in a city with good public transportation to live without a personal vehicle. Growing up near New York City, I would put Ann Arbor at my limit. Also for that reason, I have a personal predilection for trains and subways, but I’m not sure that is the best option (a lot of infrastructure, more than buses). I don’t think bicycles are a panacea–weather issues.

    Transportation opinions aside, I think this article makes some poor generalizations about attitudes about transportation. It starts off well: Rob and I have learned that attitudes are pretty malleable, so the assumption that youth attitudes towards cars are changing is not crazy. However, it barely even uses a quote to establish that notion. It has very little to back that up, especially after citing so many of the other reasons why teens are driving less. I wish the title had been more about transportation, and I think the message gets lost in generalizations.

  2. I got my license as soon as I possibly could. This article mentions how getting your license in the past was a form of freedom and escape that has been replaced by the escape offered by electronics; however, I still associate freedom with getting my license. My hometown lacked the option of public transportation and walking to get to one’s destination, therefore being able to drive was a necessity to travel anywhere. I think that in order for the U.S to lose its obsession with cars the widespread availability of alternative transportation is necessary. I understand that large cities have these alternatives regularly available that many people take advantage of, however many suburbs and smaller cities do not have these resources.

    I have never lived in a city that has had alternative forms of transportation available to individuals that are readily used; therefore I have a hard time picturing this shift in transportation that is apparently occurring in the U.S according to the article. I agree with Ben that this article provides a lot of sweeping generalizations about this shift, with little or no evidence to support it. He mentions how attitudes are changing about cars, but doesn’t provide any personal stories or opinions from the people that he mentions such as undergraduate and graduate students. Therefore, since I have not witnessed this shift in my hometown and surrounding areas, I have a more difficult time believing it is occurring without evidence.

  3. In order to me to not buy a car I would have to live and work somewhere that would allow me to not have to travel very far for basic things and safely be able to use a secondary form of transportation all-year round. I did not get my license when I turned 16 simply because of how expensive it was for my parents to pay for driving lessons, insurance, etc. The fact that the city I lived in was small enough so that I could skateboard or bike anywhere I needed to go fairly easily made it unnecessary for me to have a car. I really like the idea of a shift in modes of transportation because frankly they’re are just a lot of bad aspects that come with driving an automobile. They rely on a fuel that continues to rise in price and may one day be depleted completely, they emit tons of pollution into the environment and can be extremely dangerous. I believe there will always be a huge obsession with automobiles in the US because of how ingrained automobiles are in our culture, and also simply because of how cool-looking or innovative a particular car may be. That being said, with the current state of the economy and people cutting back all over the country, I think that a shift in modes of transportation offers an easy way to cut back on one of the most expensive commodities in the country–gas–and would lower our country’s reliance on natural oil companies.

  4. Rob,

    I share Meg and Ben’s concerns with this article. I would actually argue against the existance of any “dramatic social shift” in the US in terms of transportation. Although there have been significant efforts to improve biking conditions across the country (Ann Arbor ranks in the top ten of bike-friendly American cities), traffic congestion has actually worsened in Ann Arbor in the past few years. The lack of public transportation infrastructure is the biggest challenge to depleting the car-culture that is still alive and well outside of dense inner cities.

    That being said, I am still optimistic that this shift could occur within the next few decades under the right conditions. I think the most promising alternative to cars are high-speed trains and underground subway systems. That would definitely lessen the necessity for a car, especially for those who commute between cities and suburbs to work. The “love affair” isn’t quite over, but with increased environmental concerns and the slow depletion of the earth’s fossil fuel supply, a cultural change such as the one the author suggests is certainly imminent – the question is how far off it is.

    Great share!


  5. I have to say that what this article’s message doesn’t seem to be accurate from my experience. The article primarily uses examples from major cities like New York. Everyone knows that it’s impractical to own a car in New York. From my own experience I can say that people are definitely still eager to get a license and a car. In my high school it was odd if you didn’t get your license as soon as you could. When you live anywhere besides a large major city, a car seems to be extremely helpful if not completely necessary for getting around. I wish that what the article was saying was true, but honestly I really don’t see American culture to be drastically cutting back on using cars. A misleading article like this could even have a negative impact on environmentalist pushes to reduce car use because if people think that a culture shift is truly happening and taking care of the problem, they may turn their attention away from the issue. The use of cars in the U.S is definitely still a major environmental concern. One last thought, as I was reading the article, I often found myself wondering where the author was getting the information from; are there really that many people that have truly changed their lifestyles, and if so, why do I not know about this attitude shift?

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