We don’t really want an American autobahn because we love our cars too much
Every car enthusiast’s dream is driven not at some posted speed limit, but at the limits of their abilities and their cars. These days, that’s a lot; Modern technology has pushed performance styles for new vehicles far beyond what most drivers can achieve.
And while speed limits have been relaxed in many parts of the country, most of us are driving slower than we would like. Why? We have accepted congestion as a way of life because we all want to go in our own cars. Cars are Americans’ way of asserting our freedom and prosperity, allowing us to live where and (to some extent) the way we want.
But can we get there faster? It is a lovely fantasy, etched in the minds of enthusiasts. Maybe dedicated lanes? Or even special highways that are strictly built for high-speed flights and those with the capacity and equipment to do so. But that’s what the federal system was – like in Germany. So why can’t we use it in the same way?
Simply put, we have purposely abandoned all pillars on which a system of highways with unlimited speed can be established. An American autobahn will ask us not only to make different choices at the ballot box, but to completely change the way we think about commuting. Our infrastructure doesn’t fit it – and not just the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels.
Of course, I’m talking about driver training. Our driver cannot handle an autobahn. Driving education in America is a joke because it should be; it works on the premise that driving is a necessity in most parts of the country. To deny an American license is to deny their basic productivity. If you can’t drive, how will you put food on your table? So anyone who shows up in the “class” can (and likely will) get a license.
And we can’t just have tiered licenses, with people looking to drive fast earning a high-speed, advanced license. All residents will need training to handle traffic faster. For example, lane discipline would have to exist for this to work, and I can promise you that the real application of that term is unfamiliar to many people reading this column – even on a single page. Website for car enthusiasts.
Driving on the German autobahn does not require special certification; you can stop by the car rental counter in Munich, show your US driver’s license and hit the road. They probably won’t give you manuals or a diesel engine (for fear you’ll fill up on gas) but beyond that, go ahead! So why is that OK in Germany and not here? Is it because the Germans are inherently smarter and have innate spatial awareness? No. That’s because a lot of bad drivers in Germany don’t drive.
They don’t have to as they enjoy the benefits of a robust public transit system. Commuting by rail, bus, tram, bicycle or on foot is as practical in Europe as it is common, safe and reliable. In contrast, Americans who don’t care about car ownership are forced to get behind the wheel every day to get to work. They’re all around you, panicking on bridges, freezing to death at intersections, driving down the street because a spider appeared on the dashboard, or going 25 mph under the limit in light fog because they didn’t change the lever. windshield wipers for six years. Millions of them.
Some would argue that robust transportation infrastructure is the opposite of American “liberal” or “individualism” ideals – but we all know the real problem is that it can would raise taxes – something our suburban development model seeks to avoid at all costs. Ironically, the suburbs as we know them today still exist because of public transport. Do not believe me? Take it Motor City For example.
Detroit’s great radial boulevards are designed around and for public transport. Wagons and streetcars (later) helped working-class Detroiters move out of apartments and into single-family homes that sprouted on farmland and forests around the urban center density of the city. Inner-city rail lines redirect upward growth into outward spillovers. The car comes later, democratizing and decentralizing the act of commuting and in the process it will transform an organized vehicle hierarchy to the forefront and make entire generations of infrastructure development obsolete.
The transit was also not as political as it was. A railway system is not built in a single term. Why campaign for something you may not even see directly implemented, less re-selected? You cannot follow the success of something unfinished. “Vote for me; I’ll take hundreds of millions from your wallet and you won’t see results for a decade!”
And it To be expensive. So are the roads, and it’s a harsh reality that fuels the spread of suburbs. New construction is often encouraged or fully subsidized. Repair and maintenance no. Why pay new taxes on property maintenance in an older suburb when you can simply pick up and move somewhere newer and cheaper where development aid is continuing arrive? No wonder so many Americans pay for car rentals; We’ve been doing the same thing with neighborhoods for almost a century.
This leap has led to the (increasingly) urban and suburban decay pattern. In areas with few economic safety nets (Detroit has been an industrial town for a long time, for example), this manifests as circles of death surrounding an urban center. The well-off moved further out and the poor filled where and how they could. Meanwhile, we kept driving farther and farther in search of an ephemeral suburban ideal.
In many ways, the autobahn is the distilled essence of this formula; not only does it provide the fundamental appeal of automotive freedom, but it also misleads our hazy fantasies of capitalist finance. The harder you work, the more cars you can buy. What we are learning now is that society can only leave the working class so far before it becomes unsustainable. We tell ourselves that people don’t would like to work, but the reality is that many people can’t afford it. Think about that for a moment.
Imagine you can’t afford to go to work. Some of you may not need your imagination, especially in light of the recent spike in gas prices. Saying that there is a demand for an American autobahn is like saying that Michael Scott is a bankruptcy expert. The trick is to “demand” something more meaningful than just shouting out loud or even voting frequently; you really have to pay for it. Education costs money. Expensive roads. Transit costs money. Before we can do anything faster, we need to do it – and be willing to pay for it.