I read with some consternation the Aug. 11 commentary by Mike Meyers proclaiming multiple victories in his war on cars.
Meyers states with a certain smugness (his word, not mine) that he lives a carless life. Unfortunately, his list of choices — to retire, live downtown and have no children — is not how the other 99% of Minnesotans live.
The anti-car movement is decidedly anti-family, anti-job and anti-progress. For instance, the new Minneapolis ordinance banning the creation of new drive-throughs does not take into account the inconvenience or safety issues for parents with children who need to be strapped into car seats — or the needs of handicapped drivers.
Anti-car zealots hail the decision not to allow the Federal Reserve its parking ramp — and ignore the fact that it only means people will circle downtown Minneapolis searching for parking, negating any perceived environmental gain.
The anti-car sentiment is also incongruous with the desire of Minneapolis to house three professional sports teams and a convention center. Hundreds of millions of public dollars were spent on these regional attractions. The city fought to have them placed within its borders. Now city leaders want to start blocking access and eliminating parking options and create an unfriendly downtown driving environment?
For the vast majority of Minnesotans, jobs require cars. When I recently toured a Minneapolis nonprofit that repairs vehicles for the working poor, I was stunned to learn that the garage of five stalls has a six-month waiting list.
Certainly, public transit has a role in our state, and we auto dealers — whom I represent through industry associations — have never lobbied against transit in any form. But the simple fact is that transit is not always convenient or simply does not go where jobs are.
Minnesotans deserve choices in transportation. From trains to scooters, everything should be on the table. But the first thing we need to acknowledge is that most Minnesotans have chosen to use an automobile to conduct their affairs. Empowering people who believe it’s their mission to make that choice as inconvenient as possible means we are sanctioning a battle with progress itself.
This attempt to choke cars from everyone’s lives fails to recognize so many obvious facts.
For instance, we live in a state that’s painfully cold half the time. We can’t take the kids to school on a bike. Many businesses and jobs require goods and materials to be moved from point A to point B.
Meyers brags about how he doesn’t drive to stores and instead has goods delivered to him. How exactly does he think those things get to his doorstep? His carbon footprint isn’t as small as he may think.
The goal to be more environmentally friendly is laudable. Let’s get older clunkers off the road. Let’s use incentives to encourage the purchase of cleaner vehicles and more electric vehicles.
Yes, that statement is incredibly self-serving from the guy representing car dealers. But it is simply true that when you replace an older car with a newer car you’ve done something good for the environment.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, over the past 25 years — while U.S. GDP has increased 153%, vehicle miles traveled have increased 106% and the population has increased 41% — CO2 emissions have increased 13% and aggregate emissions have dropped 65%.
Finally, consider the cost of blocking out motor vehicles. The loss of productivity as people search for parking or are stuck in traffic because of restricted access is incalculable. The more than $300 million in taxes collected each year through the motor vehicle sales tax is the main source of revenue for public transit needs. Cars and transit have a symbiotic relationship. Deal with it.
The war on cars is really a war on all of us, on our standard of living. Demonizing motor vehicles and reducing access for those who rely on them does nothing to address the economic vitality and environmental issues our community is facing.
Scott Lambert is president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association and the Greater Metro Auto Dealers Association.