Earth Day thoughts: is the US highway system "the silliest thing that any people ever did to themselves"

One reason Americans drive so much is because our communities are not planned to facilitate automobile alternatives. I've lived in Germany and Japan, two countries that are not shy about their cars but also have urban environments where public transportation is sensible and where inter-urban transit is easy and quick by train. But in America, the automobile rules. For a good look at why that's so, have a listen to car-lover Devilstower over at Daily Kos, who puts our pro-paving past into perspective.

I admit there are some great stretches of highway in America, some places where taking a few days to drive is a lot of fun (and will feel a lot better once our cars stop polluting so much), but I also agree that thinking about the political history of why we drive so much is as valuable as learning about the latest regen technology from BMW or whomever. And Devilstower has three proposals to end our current endless highway system and rethink America's car culture:
  1. Eliminate the Federal Highway Administration and give half its money to states to use as they will, perhaps to build roads, perhaps not.
  2. Use the other half on highway/car alternatives: building better passenger rail system, encouraging telecommuting, and planning higher density living.
  3. Reward communities that rip up highways and use the money saved on mass transportation.
Those proposals are not for the weak, but then again, neither was laying down a hundred-thousand-plus of miles of asphalt.

[Source: Daily Kos]

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