“I can’t move my car”: Americans struggle with rising vehicle costs | US News

In the shopping center Lehigh Valley, on the outskirts of Alentown, PennsylvaniaTony Saba is already feeling the effects of rising gas prices.

“The price is going to hell,” he said. “I can’t move like before. My car is in the garage. I can’t move it because I don’t have money. “

Saba, a 70-year-old retiree, was driving to the mall. He doesn’t go to shops or restaurants – he just likes to sit in comfortable armchairs and talk to friends.

Now his car is assembled and he still wanted to come to the mall. But the bus is going too long and too expensive. So he called a friend who picked him up.

The story of Saba, in a nutshell, illustrates a challenge that many in America face. Owning and driving a car is becoming more expensive with rising oil prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and the resulting ban on Russian oil – is likely to worsen the situation. But largely inefficient public transportation in the U.S. means Americans have no choice but to use their cars. In most of the United States, Americans need cars to work, shop, study, and survive.

It is a pillar that spans decades.

“In the US, we have indeed seen an increase in car use in the post-World War II era, the baby boom generation. At that time, we had a new availability of relatively inexpensive production cars, this is the first time that people from middle-income families can buy a car, “said Gregory Rowenguld, CEO. Center for Transport Studies at the University of Vermont and an associate professor of civil and environmental construction.

“And at the same time you have soldiers returning from World War II, starting families, we have a huge population boom, so there is also a need for more housing.”

At the time, many cities were polluted, noisy and tend to be less attractive, Rowenguld said. This led to a boom in suburban housing construction: cars and suburbs went hand in hand.

“It was a model in the United States that, once it started, was really sustainable.”

The construction and planning of these new suburbs rarely included suitable buses or trains. Many new neighborhoods also did not have walking facilities. Now people need cars to go shopping, take the kids to the pool and of course to work.

Homes in Iowa. Photo: Aerial Archives / Alamy

This is a legacy that has survived. Americans travel much, much more than other nationalities.

In 2019, American motorists drove an average of 14,263 miles a year, according to US Department of Transportation. This puts the U.S. at the top of the list in terms of mileage, and it’s not even close. In the next highest country, Canada, in 2018, people traveled an average of 9,562 miles a year. The average car in the UK traveled 7134 km in 2019.

America’s dependence on cars and current rising gas prices will disproportionately affect those already struggling, Rowenguld said. Low-income families are forced to allocate a larger share of their budget to transportation than wealthier families.

“They are more likely to own a vehicle with less fuel economy and older, they have fewer opportunities to purchase an electric vehicle, so purchasing more economical vehicles is more difficult,” Rowenguld said.

In Pennsylvania, a mass group Pittsburghers for public transport urged to invest in public transport to match the amount spent on roads. According to recent report by group, 80% of federal transportation funding goes on the highway and only 20% on public transportation.

Laura Chu Vince, executive director of PPT, said the disparity has perpetuated America’s dependence on cars, and colored communities have been hit hardest. “The households that are most dependent on public transport or do not have easy access to a car are disproportionately low-income families, which is not surprising, black families, undocumented immigrants,” said Chu Vince.

Most American cities have some form of bus service. But on trips often people have to take several buses or trains just to get to work, which has serious consequences. This can also be dangerous due to poor transit investments. “These are very dangerous and indecent conditions in which we ask for the existence of transit riders. And not only that, we punish them with things like fares for the worst quality travel, ”Chu Vince said.

And 2017 study Harvard University has found that travel time is the most important factor in rescuing from poverty. Like the New York Times put it down: “The longer the average road in a given county, the worse the chances are that low-income families there will move up the ladder.”

But even among those who own a car, many do not like to drive, says Christoph Spieler, director of planning for the engineering company Huitt-Zollars and author Trains, buses, people: Atlas of US and Canadian Transit Opinions.

“For many people, commuting is the most unfortunate part of the day,” Spieler said.

Americans who advocate for better public transportation and its benefits may look to Europe or East Asia, where subways, trams, bus systems, and bike lanes operate, and see no hope that the U.S. will ever be the same the most.

Autoculture is too ingrained, some believe. No money for railway construction. But people shouldn’t admit defeat so quickly, Spieler said.

“One mistake many people make when they compare it to Japan or Europe, they think these results were much more inevitable than they were,” he said.

“But in the United States, we could easily have made a different choice. If you look at Europe, a lot of places actually look like they’re headed in the American direction. “

Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are now seen as incredibly bike-friendly, Spieler said, but in the 1960s “cars took over those cities”. The difference in those places is that there was “a moment of major perestroika that took place in the 1970s-80s when we went in a different direction”.

Another argument is that the huge size of the US means that public transportation will not work. Anyone who has experienced Amtrak’s off-road services – the railroad company offers underutilized, day trips from Los Angeles to New Orleans and Chicago to Florida – can attest to the scale problems.

Passengers board the Amtrak train near Fullerton, California, in December 2021.
Passengers board the Amtrak train near Fullerton, California, in December 2021. Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images

But the work of public transport is not to connect the whole country or to impose bus routes in the throats of small villages.

“There are some places where owning a car is really the right answer. A rancher in Wyoming really needs to have a car or a pickup truck, ”Spieler said.

However, most people do not own a ranch in Wyoming. The United States has more than 50 cities with a population of more than 1 million people. the 2020 census.

Many people in these areas live in houses in the suburbs, not in the city itself, however, and to truly make the transition from cars, some believe that there must be a shift in our very way of life – by moving people back to the city center.

“If we really want to move the needle in this, we’re talking about people’s lives changing, and we’re talking about people living differently, and I don’t want to belittle that,” Spiller said.

Adi Tomer, senior researcher at Brookings Metro, who heads the organization The capital’s infrastructure initiativeagreed that it is necessary to change people’s way of life.

People moving to cities from the suburbs should happen, Tomer said, and the best rail and bus networks will go.

This may seem unrealistic, but there is hope. Tomer said that although the suburbs, as now, “won”, it does not mean that if there was a choice, people would always choose the suburban life.

“In America, cities are just cool,” Tomer said. “And it’s still present in our culture, but our real development doesn’t really reflect that.

Rush hour in Los Angeles.
Rush hour in Los Angeles. Photo: LOOK Die Bildagentur der Fotografen GmbH / Alamy

According to Tomer, “a political window has opened up” caused by rising gas prices, which could potentially pave the way for a change in the way people understand life and transport.

Recently poll more than 60% of Americans said they were willing to suffer higher gas prices to continue to support Ukraine, the victory of Joe Biden, who admitted that US support for Ukraine will mean rising prices.

Meanwhile, some experts have suggested that a spike in prices may be serves as an alarm bell to move the public and politicians away from oil dependence and move to cleaner modes of transport.

“If there’s a real American conversation, different from what we’ve had for almost 40 years, about conserving, using public transportation for energy reasons, that might be another point,” Tomer said.

“Our transport source number one greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This is different from all our peers. So there could be a window here to at least start changing the trajectory of the conversation. “

With gas prices unlikely to fall The imminent departure from America’s car dependence and serious investment in public transportation will benefit not only the environment but also millions of Americans who are having financial difficulties.

Improving transportation would mean that people could get to work faster or take their children out for the day.

For others, such as Tony Saba, it would just make the trip to the Lehigh Valley Mall easier.

“I came here every day. I called a friend and said, “Let’s meet at the mall,” he said.

“I like it here. It’s social. It’s a pleasant life. “

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