This is part three in a series we’re running about cars and the transportation system. Here’s part one, Cars suck! 11 reasons why, and part two, Cars suck! But we can’t live without them. Subscribe to be notified when the rest in the series are published!

We’ve talked about why cars suck and why we’re compelled to own them anyway, but I would be majorly failing if I didn’t acknowledge that some people still don’t have access to cars. As much as cars are a lousy burden, they are also a privilege, and a pretty crucial one in a society that is so dependent on cars.

If we want to explore how we can make our society less dependent on cars and fossil fuels, we can’t forget those who have been left out of car culture and the fossil fuel economy. It’s one thing to be able to recognize that car ownership is a sucky burden for those of us who can afford the burden, but it’s another thing entirely to not be able to assume that burden in a culture that practically requires it of us, with few other options. Transportation, the ability to move and be mobile, is a requirement for healthy and practical living. Without it, a person is incredibly limited in where they can live, work, be educated, receive healthcare, access food, etc. Without transportation, access to many basic human needs and rights is reduced. When we’ve created a transportation culture that is a financial burden for all to whom it is accessible, and too great a burden for far too many to even participate in, we have a serious social justice issue that needs to be addressed.

I was talking to someone about car culture recently, and she talked about how a former coworker of hers who rode a bus two and a half hours to get to work every day probably would have loved to afford the pain in the ass of car ownership. The financial obligation would have been nothing to her in the face of her commute time being cut in half. And that’s probably true. But it’s probably also true that she would have been just as happy if her commute time was cut in half some other way. I’m not sure that changing things so that every person can have a car is the answer to the inequity and privilege of car ownership. Doing so would only worsen other problems (like traffic and pollution) that also disproportionately impact the poor more than middle and upper class people. I lean more towards the idea of changing things so that cars are not as needed.

Another issue I have majorly failed to address so far is ability, and how that limits accessibility to many of the transport options we think of when we think beyond personal cars. There is a great deal of variation in how people are able to move their bodies, and this impacts how we are able to utilize transportation options currently available to us. Are the alternatives to private car ownership currently available to us sufficient for everyone, regardless of ability? Certainly not. Could we expand options to make more choices more accessible to a wider variety of abilities? I believe that we can, and we will discuss some of those options in future posts in this series. Certainly, when discussing how we can change the transportation culture of our society from the current one, which does a great deal of harm to the health and wellbeing of humans world wide, to a less dangerous and destructive one, we need to ensure there are many options to suit the needs of people of all abilities and means.

So how can we improve our transportation options to make them more equitable? How can we make them less polluting while making them more accessible? These are issues that desperately need to be looked at as we transition away from fossil fuels, which is inevitable. We have the opportunity in this time to rethink transportation access to make it a more equitable and just system, and I want to explore the options for that in the rest of this series. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that during this time of transition, we have the opportunity to build an entirely new system. Let’s do it differently than it was done in the past.

 

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