Washington, D.C., September 18, 2007—It’s fortunate that air quality levels are good, because the District of Columbia’s first official "DC Car Free Day" threatens to set new levels of both self-righteousness and hypocrisy. A week ago saw news stories about DC Mayor Fenty’s difficulties in deciding on how to get to a Car-Free Day press conference—should take his usual luxury SUV, a hybrid, or mass transit? Today we can expect gusts of rhetoric about car-free utopias where everyone can get around easily—so long as they’re healthy and the sun is shining.
"While a car-free lifestyle might be perfect for some, it would be pure misery for many others—among them the handicapped, the elderly, parents carrying infants, people lugging groceries, and suburban residents getting to work", said Sam Kazman, General Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "And the car-free lifestyle itself depends for its existence on other motorized vehicles, which deliver everything from organic flour to the ingredients for lattes."
Despite the fact that the Washington Metro is the nation’s second largest rail transit system, it is still less efficient than the area’s freeways in carrying people. According to economist Randal O’Toole, who runs The Anti-Planner blog, Metro carries only 60 percent as many passengers per mile as local freeways.
Mobility, however, has long faced hostility from central planners. In the words of philosopher Loren Lomasky, "people who drive cars upset the patterns spun from the policy intellectual’s brain."
People can freely choose not to use cars, but a government-sponsored Car-Free Day ought to be run so that its implications are clear. For a realistic day of car-free living, try it:
- When it's raining
- When you’re carrying several bags of groceries
- When you’re carrying a baby, with a toddler alongside you
- On crutches
- After midnight
- Without using a car or cab to get to the train or bus station, especially in the suburbs.
- Any combination of the above.