Against King Car

Historic revolutions have freed people from kings or czars. It is time for a new revolution, a revolution against an institution that enslaves Americans — a revolution against cars. Americans have developed Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to cars and turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering they cause. It is time for Americans to mobilize against the car-centric infrastructure and institutions that our society has created. 

The tyranny of car-centric infrastructure is seen in the seas of concrete that most Americans live in today. It has become standard for American families to avoid walking. Instead, we have let our health and well-being become undermined by the institutions that encourage car ownership. Parking minimums and mandates in many American cities, especially the suburbs, have created a culture that has destroyed the walkability of towns. 

The policies that require minimum parking spots are also an example of how American society perpetuates a cycle of inequity. Car prices continue to rise at unprecedented rates, putting them out of reach for America’s poor. Those who cannot afford cars are unable to use car-centric infrastructure to get to where they need to be. Cars should not be the only option for people to go to and from their jobs, shopping, and other places. The fact that cars have become the de facto mode of transport is a testament to American society’s inability to accommodate anybody who cannot use a car.

The trend is clear: the American elite does not care about people who don’t help their bottom line. Since cars are becoming more expensive, having large parking lots breaking apart cities and extremely wide highways and roads causes inequity by making it ridiculously hard for those who do not have cars to live. It is time for us as Americans to make a change. We cannot continue to let our local governments choke our infrastructure and let cars rule. Americans need to demand better infrastructure, and parking minimums stand in direct opposition to that goal. 

Parking minimums and the expansion of wide streets and highways are often at odds with principles that prioritize social equity, environmental sustainability, and community well-being — principles at the core of the socialist movement. These policies tend to promote car-centric development and corporate interests, exacerbating social disparities. They can encourage a heavy reliance on personal vehicles, contributing to environmental harm and disproportionately burdening lower-income individuals. Additionally, the development of wide streets and highways can lead to the displacement of vulnerable communities and divert resources away from public transportation initiatives that could benefit a broad cross-section of the population. These urban planning choices hinder the pursuit of more inclusive, environmentally friendly, and economically balanced urban environments. 

It is time for a paradigm shift in envisioning and shaping our urban environments toward greater social equity, environmental sustainability, and community well-being. The unchecked tyranny of car-centric infrastructure perpetuates inequality and environmental degradation. Members and supporters of DSA can catalyze change by advocating for policy reforms and participating in local government to promote balanced, inclusive urban planning. These campaigns can build useful coalitions with transit workers like in Louisville DSA’s work with Amalgamated Transportation Union local 1447 to better fund the city’s bus system. They also give DSA a chance to distinguish themselves as advocates for current and future transit riders in comparison to risk-averse local leadership and die-hard exponents of automobile dominance. In Indianapolis, DSA City Council member Jesse Brown confronted efforts in the Indiana legislature to scotch a major bus line project. His public fight distinguished him from go-along, get-along members of Democratic leadership who hoped to secure a backroom deal and helped mobilize supporters of a stronger transit system.

 Organizing for better public transit is hard, but we can start by demanding vibrant, walkable neighborhoods and accessible, affordable public transportation. This is a revolution for a future where all can thrive, free from the constraints of car dependency.