(fwd from David Walters) Sports Utility Vehicles: They aren't going away

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Nov 29 10:53:43 MST 2002

I'm with Hunter on this one. First, Louis...if you couldn't have access to
the IRT, you'd be screwed...and have to get a car. Like you, I didn't own a
car until I was 21 or so, and moved out of NY. The majority of the world
doesn't live by mass transit...nor will it ever. There are so many social
issues being skipped in this discussion it's almost funny.

First, if you live outside of a mass transit corridor, then, like Louis,
should have have to live, say, in Ft. Lee, NY, would have to take a series
of buses to get to Columbia University where he works.  So what's being
skipped? Suburbs. Up until the 1960s, most Americans, and certainly most in
the world, lived within TWO MILES of where they worked. It was New Yorkers,
ironies of ironies, that lived, on an average, MORE THAN TWO miles from
where they worked, but we had mass transit to make up for this...so
successful that 3 million a day take the subway or bus to work.

With the growth of suburbs, both in N. America and Europe, the taking of a
car to work or TO a mass transit hub became the norm. Where I live, in
Pacifica, we have a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station five minutes, by
car, from my house. So what's happened...250,000 people a day take BART to
San Francisco and other areas...and causing massive...I mean MASSIVE traffic
jams into and out of the MASSIVE parking garages that service BART. Is this
a problem? Yes it is, especially if you live in the predominantly working
class neighborhoods where these garages are build. This is true in many
urban areas of the US. Still, I like BART, but it hasn't slowed down
congestion much, except on the bay bridges.

This means there a sociological problem in the way capitalism has developed
housing vs work. I work in a power plant in San Francisco. Like most blue
collar workers, mass transit serves mostly white collar sections of the
working class. With prices driven up in urban areas for homes, most of my
co-workers live on average 50 MILES AWAY! They drive their SUVs and trucks
(and as Hunter will attest, it's pickup trucks, not SUVs that are the common
mode of transportation in outlying areas, I have a Chevy pickup myself) over
1 1/2 hours to get to work. The problem is worsening.

So, I would stipulate, that if we could get people to live and work within
10 miles of each other (live and work that is) the issue of SUVs would be
greatly reduced, as would overall gas consumption.

Secondly, choice. Read the last few chapters of Mandels' "Introduction to
Marxist Economic Theory". Mandel rejects, correctly, society dictating what
commodities and conviences workers can use or purchase under socialism. He
uses the classic 'socialist/feminist' example of collectivized laundries,
originally proposed to eliminate the drudgery of 'women's work' prior to the
introduction of washing machines. Mandel argues that socialism would set up
collectivized laundries AND give workers who wanted to the right to acquire
their own machines for their homes. I found this very rational and logical.
The same should hold true for "SUV's".

In addition to my Chevy pickup truck (second to my computer as the best
thing I ever spend money on) my wife owns a RAVA4...the mini-SUV, classified
as an "SUV" for all intents and purposes. It is NOT 4 wheel drive since we
have no intention of going off road with it, or going to ski country in
Tahoe. It gets 25 miles to a gallon, and this makes it BETTER than most cars
that have 6 cylinders.

So one can mix and match...for example, it's not the "utility" aspect of the
SUV that's the problem in terms of gas consumption, it's usually the size of
the engine, with V8s getting more popular again, of course overall
consumption goes up. So why not simply require better gas mileage standards
instead of jumping onto the neo-Luddite "BAN THEM" bandwagon. Many people
here sound like god's gift to the "Wise Use" movement that attacks land use
standards as a form of socialist-collectivization and baby eating!

Thirdly, Louis, I would LOVE Mark Jones to write something about oil. As it
happens, most 'limits' projected on oil reserves are phony, designed to
encourage opening up of wilderness areas to oil exploration. People who
project limited reserves are doing the work of the oil companies. In fact,
oil reserves have gone UP not down in the last 30 years as new oil finds are
constantly discovered...and causes for major wars. There is no shortage,
yet, of oil reserves and shouldn't be for decades to come. This doesn't mean
we should advocate alternate fuels research, extended life battery research,
etc...but we're not  running out of gas anytime soon.

David Walters

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