The End of the Road: Part2


INTRODUCTION.  (Joseph ; Amy)

I’m Joseph and I’m a car dealer. I feel like I’m introducing myself at an addiction support group. President G. W. Bush’s recent admission that we’re a nation addicted to oil was not the first time I noticed. I’ve been in the business for 25 years. I’ve been on the planet 52 years. Nothing in my business is new.

I was born in 1956. That’s right about the time that the Interstate Highway system and suburban migration changed the American landscape. Each family was capable of owning its own personal transportation device, a car.

People were moving around fine without cars. I was born in New York. Mobility takes many forms there. People take busses to trains to subways and perhaps a taxi. Ferries still carry cars and people but just imagine how many people used to use ferries to and from Manhattan Island. There weren’t very many bridges to Manhattan until planners were convinced that they’d be full of cars.

I live in the Pacific Northwest now and enjoy my visits to Seattle, perhaps because it reminds me a bit of home. I love the Puget Sound. I had considered moving to Seattle when I moved west but the traffic congestion also reminded me of home and one of the primary reasons I was leaving in the first place. I was spending too much time in the car and I think that’s low quality time.

Americans have romantic notions of cars. Even though they drive on ugly roads, past ugly mills and factories, billboards and strip malls, they try to imagine the glory of the Open Road. We are great at pretending. Any moment now I’ll see a beautiful landscape, roll down the window and let the wind blow back my hair. Snow covered peaks and Sonoma desert sunsets are captured on TV and I’m sure I’ll see one around the next bend. Our expectations are not created by life. They are created mostly by television.

© Andy Singer

It’s sad but true that most of the wonders Americans feast their eyes on are seen from the car. We don’t hike those peaks and we don’t camp in the desert and we don’t fish those rivers. We satisfy ourselves with a drive through Vermont in the fall.

Is this because we don’t care?  Or are we afraid?  Isn’t this because we have developed a full-blown, relatively unfettered capitalist culture that says we must always be pursuing growth, becoming bigger and better, have more than our parents, that the silver medal is simply not good enough?  In other words, do we have a culture that allows us to get out of the car and enjoy nature anymore?  We are barely retaining art, music and physical education in our schools, life is increasingly competitive; what is this teaching us about the most nourishing aspects of life?

Is it materially better to view those leaves from behind a windshield than sitting before a TV screen? Are people meant to view beauty or experience it? Do we spend so much time working to afford mobility and modern convenience that we’ve no time left to savor an experience. Must we substitute a snapshot of it?

Is a vehicle a means to an end, in this case literally meaning to get us from here to there? Other things can move us and that’s both literal and figurative. A vehicle is a tremendous metaphor.

This is America. Here we proudly claim we’ll fight and die for freedom. We find mobility and freedom synonymous. This attachment extends wholeheartedly to our cars, our right to buy what we want and drive what we want.  It’s changing; people are seeing the wisdom of more fuel efficient cars, but that psychology is absolutely tied to the price of gas, artificially low right now and within a few years absolutely going to turn around and sock us.  Peak oil is here, and few understand that gas prices are artificially low currently, and for only a brief moment.  Still, the car culture is cult-like. Speak out against cars and you’ve got enemies from big oil to the Big 3, not to mention the truckers, classic car buffs, motor-heads and bikers. They’re everywhere. Now I think we could include Tahoe driving soccer moms too.  We just can’t seem to imagine any other way of doing our daily business.

Ok Joseph, lets start right here, and I will do my best not to be coy and simply feed you lines.  I am a parent and I work, right now from home.  I drive A LOT.  But I don’t love my car, and I expect many women in my situation would say that.  Driving exhausts me. I can remember the thrill of learning to drive, but doing so every day, especially the multiple, repetitive trips to get my children, take them to events, drop one off and pick up the next, all the while driving right back up the hill I live on about 15 minutes from the heart of the city, well I hate it.  Not only is it boring and mindless at middle age, it is uncomfortable as well as guilt producing, because I know that with multiple trips I am wasting gas.

But I put up with it like everyone else, because until recently I have not seen what my alternatives are. You make it sound as though we all have luxury vehicles that we adore driving as much as possible.  My car is a work horse, and any luxuries it has, such as heated seats, I feel entitled to due to my various aches and pains – which most of us have by now (I am 51.)  I live in a city that has a flat downtown but a hilly suburban residential area on almost all sides.  My knees prevent me from biking (we tried a bike rack, I can’t lift bikes, ok so I need to work out more and get stronger, yet another ride into town to the health club for that.)  The bus service comes remotely near where I live two times during the day:  7:45 a.m., and 3:45 pm.  There is simply no way I could get by on those times.  This is an argument for investing in new mass transit, not “shovel-ready” projects that do not shovel us forward!

We live in a frenzied, competitive time, and the current recession has only made us all desperate.  We make trade-offs.  Driving is the cost of having work that allows me to put my children first, and being at home means I am not close to where I need to shop during the week. Of course I try to conserve trips; I bet most of us do.  We are not just tired; we really do not want the expense or the moral guilt from using gas.

I tried a hybrid; I really wanted to do the right thing.  It was an uncomfortable car, and it did not get the fuel economy the company claimed it would.  I feel terrible driving a regular, internal combustion car, and terrified about the major event that comes in a few short months, when my son turns 16 and we hand him the keys to the car.  (Note:  by the time this book went to print, those keys were a given.)

I don’t want your ideas to be unpopular.  I have learned a great deal from you, and am convinced by your concerns.  But you do seem to make it sound like the way out is easy, even quick.  I dare to hope again, even after the painful lessons brought home by such urgently imploring illustrations in, for example, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

I believe the future depends on each one of us making the right choices, and that we are out of time to simply leave the solutions to our children.  We already lost that battle; I was learning about pollution in grade school and was taught it had to be handled by us when we grew up. Right. I do have faith in our project and I think so many people want to do the right thing.  It’s a matter of educating – our task here – so that people can come to see alternatives as I have now.

© Andy SingerI imagine I could be the most unpopular man in America to suggest that it’s the end of the road!  But that is what I am here to say.

That’s right. It’s all downhill from here. We are past due when it comes to changing our models of mobility. We’ve fouled the air and water with our inappropriate, destructive methods of movement. We must change now because the rest of the world is about to follow that model and that would be suicide.

I put my 177 pounds into a 4000-pound vehicle to move me efficiently from here to there. Inappropriate and unnecessary. It’s got the power of 300 horses, but most of the time I could make the trip on one horse. Inappropriate and unnecessary?  Overkill.  Folly.

It’s got the technology to protect me from a hundred different threats from numerous directions. Of course, I could kill and maim so many others with it by hitting pedestrians or a school bus. But I’m not alone. Not only is my personal safety covered, much of the transportation infrastructure and regulatory policy is designed to carry my weapon (car) safely and efficiently.

I have an incredible amount of comfort within my weapon. I’ve Beethoven or The Beatles filling the air in crystal clarity. I’ve heated leather seats, automatic climate control, automatic cruise control, automatic lighting and even my windshield wipers do my bidding without my asking.

I’m not sure which came first but it’s clear that our vehicles are our living rooms today. People are working, moms and dads, all the time to pay for their vehicles that average 10% of income. If one works all the time, there’s no time to be in the living room. So now our phone is in the car, our kids watch movies in the car, our many beverages have a place of their own there and our meals are consumed while we race from here to there.

I absolutely telephone, write checks, drink hot chocolate and even eat my lunch on the run.  I know these things are wrong, but I do not do them out of carelessness or callousness.   I do them because as a working mother who wants to be there at 3:15 for her children, everything I do, from work to volunteering to exercise to doctor appointments and shopping is fit into so few hours.  Why not wait for the weekends?  Sports and more sports, with my children.

How did this insane lifestyle evolve?  Though I love it, I hardly work just for fun.  I work because we have three children to put through college, despite my husband’s fortunate salary and because of course our 401K is in smithereens.  I work because I am driven to make a contribution and give back what my education and privileges have allowed me to become.  But all this and parenthood too has meant driving is not a mere matter of convenience.  To me it often feels like survival!

I am not saying you have put up a “straw man” argument, because I cannot argue in general with the materially self-indulgent nature of our American culture. In fact I think in many ways we have been lulled to sleep by it.  But I do think that we also want to do better, that we have been deprived of zero emission cars for decades, and have not seen our alternatives.  You are helping us wake up to possibilities; especially to the urgency and the possibilities of the moment.

Our love of cars and convenience has created the convenience store phenomenon. That’s what we call those stores that have terrible selections of the unhealthiest products at incredibly high prices. Doesn’t this sound like addictive behavior to you yet?

Oh yes, I was talking about folly. I was talking about the end of the road.
I imagine that we’re all conservative on some levels. We conserve our air and water, put nuts away like squirrels and know that inappropriate, destructive behavior is unsustainable. The way we’ve evolved our transportation systems and networks has been anarchic. We could not see today’s vehicles when we designed roads years ago. We didn’t have the best transportation planners, engineers and designers working on the project. It’s been a haphazard development, and some might claim that to be the reason things are so good.
But the result is a system of roads and expenses that support them that I believe to be at the end of its useful life. Roads can be decommissioned, utilized during a period of transition and saved as a neighborhood museum. Industries can re-tool. Priorities can be re-set.
Some people will be sad and some angry at the end of the road.  Sadness comes, perhaps, from nostalgia, from the hearts of the romantics still wedded to their cars and roads. Anger comes from those who perceive that someone is taking away their weapon, or freedom, or comfort or power.
Some people are always looking down. They are proponents of the myth of scarcity. There’s not enough. It’s ending too soon. How will we deal with our shrinking pot of finite resources?

© Andy SingerI suppose the points I am making do come from a sense of scarcity.

But not just of peak oil, which I am well aware of and care about tremendously.  Nor do I want to be yet another American who lives a life, however hectic, at the expense of others all over the world.  Yet life, even our freedoms, come in context.  I am bringing up my family in a country that does, in its competitive culture, take my time, my peace, even my ability to act upon my deeper values, away from me.  I sound like a relatively wealthy victim, I know, with a lovely middle-class house and lifestyle.  I do experience our American culture as so wildly competitive now that children lose their childhoods to incredible pressure way too early.  But I am not ready to trust some radically new lifestyle.  So keep talking, but don’t be too cynical. Show me the way out.

Other people are looking up. They see an infinite number of options, solutions, ideas and alternatives. That’s the optimism I remember from school as the essence of being American. We don’t look down and say, “Too bad, there’s not enough oil. When oil burns it’s killing us. Let’s just burn it and fight over it anyway.” I was taught that we’re smarter than that. I was taught we are adaptive and rewarded by our bullishness.
That’s right, just like on Wall Street, there are bulls and bears. On these streets, Main Streets, the mean streets, real streets, we’ve got some serious change coming. Embrace the end of the road, embrace the change and ride it. Know that it’s coming and be a part of the solution. I don’t know about you but after 52 years, I’m ready to do the right thing and stop going along, just another part of the problem.

I want to embrace this idea; I will embrace it.  But it is overwhelming. I still hold back on the hope that we can save this planet for my children and my future grandchildren, and yours. I would be lying to say I am without fear and doubt. I would not have signed on to this project with you, if I had no optimism in me.  I have indeed seen the difference one person can make, and what a whole group of organized people who are prepared to work and sacrifice for the greater good can accomplish.  Perhaps we are just planting seeds here, but I want more than that.  Because our planetary and cultural challenges are absolutely dire, I want to see a difference now, before it’s too late.

I may have to rely upon your optimism while mine builds, and while I write to try, with you, to convince others that we can do this thing.  Because I do agree with you, it is the end of the road as we know it.   And I will start by saying I am up for experiments, but I am afraid.  Of what?  Change.

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The EVolution of the EV Revolution

My wife Zan Dubin Scott  and I are activists for electric cars. We didn’t mean to be, but we were kind of forced into it.

Back in 2002, I chanced upon a website where people were talking about electric cars.  The things they were saying sounded almost too good to be true. These were not the low speed EVs sometimes derided as golf carts, these were full function, highway capable cars, trucks and SUVs. I had recently installed a 3 kW solar photovoltaic system on my house, so all of my electricity was now generated by sunlight falling on my roof. Since I had always tried to reduce my gasoline usage, it seemed a perfect solution to buy a car that could run on those very same kilowatt-hours. As it happened, only Toyota was willing to actually sell their EV, the versatile RAV4, a small SUV. After our first test drive, we jumped at the chance, bought one and took possession of it on winter solstice 2002.

We were now running our house and our car on sunlight, no pollution well-to-wheels, no more of our money going to foreign countries for oil, and just as important, none of our money paying for the bombs and bullets that were killing our soldiers. We thought everyone would follow our lead. The future felt bright in spite of the turmoil in the world at the time.

One week later, we were informed that Toyota was stopping production on their EV. The electric vehicle program was unceremoniously shut down, leaving thousands of eager customers in line for a car that was no longer available.

Here we were with first hand knowledge of a technology that could literally change the world for better in massively significant ways; elimination of all pollution connected to driving a car and most of the pollution connected to running a household; keeping hundreds of billions of dollars from leaving the country to purchase foreign oil, money that could instead be used to hire workers to install solar panels and windmills; and finally, eliminating the need to fight wars over oil. We’ve never fought a war for electricity, and we never will.

Yet the one piece of the puzzle that could make all of this happen, the vehicle that ran on electricity, was taken away. Given that we, along with a few dozen other Californians, knew this truth first hand, we decided to become activists and fight the car companies over the crushing of their cars. It was very clear to us that the whole world needed to understand this truth, and as soon as possible. Being naive, we had no idea how hard it would ultimately be.

There followed three years of protests in the hot sun and the pouring rain, around the clock in some cases. Whatever it took. We protested in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego in front of car dealers, state regulators and, as depicted in the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, we protested for 28 straight days around the clock in front of GM’s training facility in Burbank, CA.

Our efforts got picked up here and there, including in the LA Times, Washington Post and the New York Times. And when the film premiered in June of 2006 the whole story was finally revealed in great detail. It was then that everything changed.

The film resonated with Americans who had been brought up on rumors of magical additives and super-carburetors that had been quietly bought up and hidden from the public, all to keep everyone from reducing their need for oil. Well, rumor or true, those paled in comparison to a car that not only ran without any gas at all, but also ran quicker, ran quieter and didn’t pollute one bit. “Zero Emission Vehicle” they called it, ZEV for short. These cars represented everything the carmakers despised. They required virtually no maintenance and lasted a long time, and considering that the auto industry gets about 40% of its profit from parts and maintenance, the car industry wanted nothing to do with them.

As thousands, and then hundreds of thousands of Americans saw the film, word spread that this technology did indeed work. It worked so well in fact that years later, the original cars from the California experiment were still running exactly the same as when they were new. With no maintenance and no deterioration, and the ability to run on domestic fuel with no pollution, people were starting to pay attention.

Then the hammer came down – $4/gallon.

I had thought maybe $3/gallon would do it, but I was wrong, we blew right through that price and SUVs kept rolling out of the car lots. But, when the magic $4 was announced as the nationwide average, you could feel the shift. The price continued to go up and people began to hurt a lot. The pundits speculated on the ultimate price, while the most pivotal Presidential election in our lifetime was heating up. The high price of fuel, coupled with a growing recession, mortally wounded a domestic auto industry saddled with bloated, inefficient vehicles.

We now find ourselves in a different world from just a few years ago. The Obama administration is intent on reducing pollution from dirty fuels and also reducing our dependence on foreign oil. As external costs are internalized in the price of oil, and the scarcity of peak oil is fully understood, the cost of gas and diesel will rise dramatically.

Coincident with this, we now find that every carmaker on the planet is in development on plug-in vehicles of all shapes and sizes. From powerful motorcycles to small city cars, from blindingly fast sports cars to trucks capable of hauling 60,000 lbs, all manner of plug-in vehicles are racing to get to market first. We find start up companies in Silicon Valley competing with the “Crumbling Three” of Detroit. There are even start-ups rising Phoenix-like out of the ashes of GM facilities in Indiana. And all of them are competing with well-funded companies out of China and India. China is even publicly announcing that it will lead the world in EV production, a shot across the bow of Carlos Ghosn’s Nissan who lays claim to the same goal.

On the ground, our little protest group had morphed into a grown up advocacy organization with 15,000 active members and a sophisticated working board that helps federal and state regulators and legislators devise incentives to get plug-ins to market. We are the go-to organization for media the world over when they want to report on this movement from the perspective of the consumer, because we are those people. We have been using this technology for six to ten years and know what it means to drive a car that doesn’t pollute, doesn’t make noise and doesn’t put our country at risk. Soon, all our friends and neighbors will get to experience what we’ve been experiencing, and this time, there’ll be no attempted murder of a technology, just sweet revenge.

By Paul Scott

Paul Scott, a lifelong environmental activist, co-founded Plug In America (PIA) in 2005 to galvanize support and advocate for the manufacture of Electric Vehicles and plug-in hybrids that reduce America’s dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. As one of the nonprofit organization’s most visible leaders, he is regularly interviewed by media coast to coast and works with auto industry officials, consumers and local, state and federal policymakers to advance clean car technology.

Paul helped create Don’, PIA’s predecessor, a grassroots group that single-handedly prevented some 1,000 production EVs from being destroyed by the auto companies that manufactured them. His work with both groups has included strategic campaign research, planning and execution. He is among the key figures featured in “Who Killed the Electric Car?” the 2006 documentary distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Paul works professionally as a consultant for SolarCity, a solar installation firm. He owns a Toyota RAV4 EV, which he drives on sunshine generated by the photovoltaic panels on his own roof in Santa Monica. He is President of the Electric Vehicle Assn. of Southern California and Vice President of Plug In America.

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End of the Road: Oil Addiction is Ripe for Intervention

Once again, sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles are outpacing car sales. Have we already forgotten $4 a gallon gas, plunging SUV values and presidential warnings of oil addiction? Are we driving down the road to renewed prosperity, or further dependence?

In their forthcoming book “The End of the Road,” local authors Joseph McKinney, president of Oregon Roads Vehicle Leasing and Sales, and co-author Amy Isler Gibson write that these price fluctuations reflect the challenge of adjusting to a long-term trend of decreasing oil supply, global warming and increased pollution from the unbridled rise of gas guzzlers. They also question the Obama administration’s plans to fund vast transportation infrastructure projects that will encourage continued dependence on the car and result in a continued strategic dependence on foreign oil.

Instead, the authors argue, we must redesign our roads for cleaner, more efficient, humane passage, with complete streets designed as boulevards for walking, biking and public transportation. Central to their argument is the need to dethrone the car and replace it with neighborhood electric vehicles if we are to reclaim our urban core dominated by the infernal combustion engine.

But why now, when prices are so low? Because they aren’t. In 1998 the International Center for Technology Assessment pegged the true cost of gas between $5 and $15 a gallon. Such external costs as government subsidies for oil companies, pollution-related health care, infrastructure needs not funded by gas taxes, military expenditures to maintain oil supplies, environmental protection and cleanup were borne by society, but were not factored into the price at the pump. Add inflation over 10 years plus two new wars, and the current true cost of a gallon of gas is even higher.

Because the price of oil does not include external costs, it is priced as a subsidized commodity, lower that what the free market would determine, perpetuating our addiction. As oilman T. Boone Pickens notes, this has led to the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.

In 2007 Lane County residents paid out $637 million to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, currently building the tallest structure in the world. While we baked in gas lines last summer, Dubai residents skied their indoor winter playground.

President Obama agrees that we are oil addicts, claiming “… admitting to oil addiction without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the 12-step program.”

That demand will slacken with higher gas prices was proved last summer. People drove less, making beneficial changes such as walking, riding a bike, carpooling and trip chaining. But as the need for public transportation grew, service was ironically cut due to higher fuel charges.

I am an educator by training, but I don’t have faith that education can thwart addictions. Like an addict, we’ll do what we can to get our fix, even if it means turning food into bioethanol, raising the cost for ourselves and threatening the source of sustenance for those with marginal incomes.

Blame evolution for our predicament. Psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired to respond to threats that are close at hand. We don’t immediately see our mileage cut in half or twice the pollution for short distance trips with a cold engine.

In 1980, when oil imports accounted for about 30 percent of our needs, presidential candidate John Anderson called for a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax. Had we adopted that tax, the resulting decrease in consumption could have cut pollution-related health care expenses and reduced taxes that support military spending, now half the world’s total, most of which is dedicated to protecting Middle East oil supplies. Additionally, we would have raised about $100 billion per year to fund increased mass transit, additional bike routes, alternative energy, and improved roads and bridges.

But our addiction spoke, we rejected Anderson’s proposal as well as his candidacy, and we now import more than 60 percent of our oil.

So, we are left with the ever-present problem of how to raise the price of the drug to discourage the addict’s use. This will take an intervention from the top of our government to reverse an addiction to oil that threatens our nation’s health, wealth and security. And it will take our collective will and some inconvenience as we make personal changes necessary to achieve energy independence. But without this leadership and our acceptance, the addict will not change his ways.

By Jim Wilcox
2.12.09/ Appeared in Eugene Register Guard: Thursday, Feb 12, 2009, p. A9

Jim Wilcox is executive director of the BikeLane Coalition, which works with businesses, government agencies and nonprofit groups to increase cycling for short distance inner city travel. He was recently appointed to the Lane County Roads Advisory Committee.

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End of the Road: Transportation Politics

© Andy Singer

© Andy Singer

A contribution by Andy Singer

By now, it should be obvious that private automobiles are environmentally unsustainable. Yet many people still cling to the fantasy of “Green Cars”. Such people tend to focus only on alternative fuels and the emissions that come out of a car’s tail pipe. They ignore the fact that half the greenhouse gas and pollution a car will emit during its lifetime is created in its manufacture and disposal …and in the manufacture and maintenance of the roads on which it travels. The plastics in a car’s body, interior and tires, the steel in its frame, the lubricants it uses, and the asphalt and concrete it drives on all require petroleum to manufacture and maintain.

The focus on alternative fuels and tail pipe emissions also ignores other unsustainable aspects of automobiles. Salts and de-icing agents used to keep roads free of ice and snow are increasingly polluting our waterways and leaching into wells and drinking water. Cars kill more animals that hunters and experimenters combined—hundreds of millions per year, many of them endangered species. They kill over 45,000 humans each year, just in the USA and permanently maim millions more. The roads they travel on and their massive space requirements (for parking and maneuvering) destroy wild lands—blighting them with sprawl. At the same time, these space requirements also destroy dense, vibrant inner cities– blighting them with parking lots, traffic, and noise, taking away space that could be better used for housing, retail and non-transportation purposes. This creates inefficient communities because the farther apart people live from each other the more resources, energy and time must be spent transporting them to their jobs and essential services. Smaller electric “Smart Cars” won’t eliminate these problems and they won’t eliminate the threat of global climate change, the US dependence on foreign oil or even traffic congestion.

The solution for climate change, air pollution and oil dependence is simple—we need to get people to stop driving …or drive a lot less. This requires better land-use laws that promote denser, walkable/bikable communities and major investments in public transit to connect these denser neighborhoods, towns and communities to each other.

To fund these land use and transportation changes, we need to tax driving (or fuel use) at a rate that reflects its true cost and use the proceeds to subsidize automobile alternatives. We’ve known this since the early 1960s and countless books have been written on the subject.
Yet, despite this knowledge, we continue to build new roads and highway lanes. The Federal stimulus package contains over $15 billion dollars for new highways and bridges, even as the existing highway infrastructure crumbles or collapses from lack of maintenance.

Why is this? Why are we still building new roads despite all the evidence that doing so is suicidal? What are the political forces that prevent us from moving in the direction of progressive transportation policy? To answer this question, we need to know the history and the role that state departments of transportation, turnpike authorities and highway agencies play in transportation politics.

Prior to World War Two, the bulk of the country’s population lived in cities or towns. Suburbs existed but they were built around suburban rail stations and were fairly dense and walkable. Automobile manufacturers like General Motors had exhausted the rural and suburban market for cars and were looking for ways to sell cars to city dwellers. In 1923, General Motors’ president Alfred Sloan, said, “(the leveling of demand for new cars) means a change from easy selling to hard selling …(it is necessary to do nothing less than) reorder society, …to alter the environment in which automobiles are sold.”

Because people in cities had great public transit and interurban rail systems, GM and other auto makers decided that they needed to eliminate these systems or convert them to buses, thus inducing urbanites to buy cars.

GM began building buses as early as 1925 and formed and owned a controlling interest in Greyhound. For years it tried to buy up urban rail transit systems on its own and convert them to buses but this was going too slowly. So GM got together with Standard Oil of California, Firestone, Mac Truck and Philips Petroleum to form and finance a front
company– National City Lines– whose job was to buy up urban rail networks and convert them to buses.

They also lobbied for two important pieces of the legislation. The first was the Hayden Cartwright act of 1935. This required states to dedicate their state gas taxes to highway building, rather than putting them into the state’s general fund. This ensured a steady supply of money for new highways.

The second piece of legislation was the “Public Utilities Holding Company Act” of 1935, which required electric utilities (who owned most of the rail transit systems in the US) to sell off all their streetcar lines. With hundreds of streetcar companies dumped on the market, simultaneously, in the midst of a depression, they could be purchased very cheaply. GM’s front company National City Lines was thus able to buy up and dismantle rail transit systems in over 200 US cities.

In 1949 GM and its partners were convicted of conspiracy, in a Chicago court– a conviction that was upheld by a federal appeals court. Unfortunately, the punishment for destroying America’s transit systems was a slap on the wrist. Each company got a $5000 fine. No one went to jail …and the companies pocketed BILLIONS of dollars from the increased sales of cars and buses.

This is very much like what Microsoft did to its internet competitors in the 1990s (only much worse). In both cases, companies conspired to destroy the competition. By the time the legal system caught up to them, (through endless appeals), the competition had been eliminated and Microsoft or GM had changed the facts on the ground, making any fines irrelevant.

So auto manufacturers had a big role in destroying public transit. There were other factors, but public policy and politics were big ones. Having done this, the auto manufacturers needed more roads and highways for their cars. In 1920’s and 30’s America, building roads across county and state lines was legally and practically very difficult. So carmakers and the car clubs they created (like Triple A) turned to state and federal governments.

In this 1920s photograph, the man on the left is Robert Moses, then a little know government bureaucrat in New York State. Beginning in 1920, Moses helped successive New York governors to streamline state government and literally created the modern government “Agency”. He was also the first to create the modern highway department or “Authority”. In the early days, the preferred way to finance roads and bridges was with tolls. “Authorities” were government-sanctioned corporations that borrowed money by issuing bonds to pay for the construction of a particular road or bridge. The bonds were paid off by charging tolls.

Because drivers flocked to the new roads and bridges in record numbers, banks quickly realized that toll roads were a great investment and they became willing to lend Moses (and other state highway agencies) huge sums of money based on projected toll revenues. All this money built yet more roads. More importantly this money represented tens of thousands of jobs …for unions, engineering firms, construction firms, lawyers and public relations firms.

The ability to hire all these employees, gave Moses and other agency managers incredible political power. The highway agencies were no longer beholden to politicians to give them money. Quite the opposite, their control over toll revenues gave them power over the politicians and enabled them to extort even more money out of state legislatures.

One man who learned this from Moses was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He’s seen here, sitting to the right of Moses, when he was governor of New York. When FDR became president in 1932, he borrowed many of Moses’ ideas and created federal agencies like the WPA and the Bureau of Reclamation, to help revive the US economy. He also borrowed Moses’ love of the automobile and many of the WPA’s projects were highway projects and bridges for cars.

Prior to Moses and FDR, political power lay strictly in the hands of the wealthy and in physical communities. If a party boss wanted to be reelected, he had to give jobs, money and graft back to the community in which he lived. In the new system — the agency system — political power lay in broader groups like unions, professional trade associations, and interest groups associated with a particular agency. All of these groups went across physical community boundaries. Thus, political power ceased to be community based. A party boss could now put a freeway through part of his neighborhood, or destroy it entirely and still be reelected. In the new system, civil servant agency chiefs and the agencies themselves wielded ultimate political power. Politicians came and went, but the chiefs and the agencies remained. Sometimes the politicians could control the agencies, sometimes they couldn’t. Term limit laws in many states have only made this problem worse.

To this day, much of what happens in politics is agency driven. You have intelligence agencies, defense agencies, energy departments, state university systems, housing authorities, space agencies, each with its own constituent base. Defense agencies have created a “military industrial complex”. The Bureau of Reclamation and its dams and canals have created a vast web of interests around irrigation and water policy and highways have created what I like to call “The Highway industrial complex”.

The nature of agencies (like private businesses) is that they try to grow larger and more powerful in order to get more money and jobs for themselves. Agencies that have external sources of revenue, outside of legislatures, have more political power. State university control of tuition dollars and private research grants would be an example of this. Agencies that don’t have external sources of revenue have less power, like certain welfare agencies that are entirely dependant on the legislature for their budget. By the mid 1950s, highway agencies had managed to get exclusive control of billions of dollars in state and federal gas taxes. In this way, they became the most powerful political force in state politics. Politicians who crossed a highway agency were quickly ejected from office. Engineers or public officials who crossed them often had their careers ruined.

This basic paradigm of revenue control and agency politics is the reason that America has built and continues to build so many roads. It’s the reason that little or no money goes to transit and that the number of cars, oil consumption and sprawl continues to grow.

In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Transportation or “MnDOT”, for short, can spend over $5 BILLION dollars per year, much of which doesn’t even pass through the legislature but comes directly from state and federal gas taxes. To give you an idea of how much money this is, the entire state budget of Minnesota was only $26 billion in 2003. So highway spending was almost a fifth of all state spending! MnDOT’s control over this money gives it incredible political power. To ensure this power, it wrote a provision into the state constitution MANDATING that state gas tax dollars have to be spent on highways. The agency literally owns legislators– people like Mark Ourada, a former Republican state senator whose private road-building employer received 74 million dollars in MnDOT contracts. They introduce legislation on the agency’s behalf and generally do its bidding. To quote Kent Allin:

“The culture of MnDOT is to act the bully, throw one’s weight around and villainize anybody who stands in your way and not worry about wasting tax dollars. …MnDOT is trying to bully us into giving it exactly what it wants, regardless of whether it is lawful or responsible to do so. I believe we have been pushed to a point where we either assert our oversight role …or tacitly admit that we are totally ineffectual in that role with respect to MnDOT.”

Kent Allin was a 21-year state auditor who was fired in 2002 for blowing the whistle on no-bid MnDOT highway contracts.

This same sort of thing happens in most other states …and there are many behind-the-scenes stories suggesting that other state DOTs operate in much the same manner -–using their political muscle to push through new highway projects and bully their opponents into submission. They do this either directly or through local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). If you are interested in learning more about highway agencies, I strongly recommend “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro. It’s the most detailed examination of highway agency history ever written and it won a Pulitzer Prize. Outside of a few reforms in New York State, little has changed since the book came out in 1974.

So, if we want to stop sprawl and get more money for transit, we need to stop highway agencies from building roads. There are two strategies for doing this. The first is through “road pricing”– the use of taxes and tolls to try and reduce demand. Now, on the surface, this sounds logical– increase driving costs and people will drive less. But the key is who gets these increased fuel tax and toll revenues. Right now, it’s the highway agencies that are getting this money so it just gets used to build more highways.

Highway agencies have always used their financial and political clout to squeeze still more money out of state legislatures– either in bonding bills or as outright appropriations. When the economic downturn hit in 2000, states began to run huge deficits. Suddenly there was no more money to squeeze. In desperation, highway agencies began turning to other schemes to generate new revenues for highway construction. One of these consisted of bringing back toll roads in what they refer to as “Fast Lane Tolls.” In this scheme, DOTs issue bonds to finance the construction of special “fast lanes.” Commuters who want to use them pay a toll, which goes to paying off the bonds. Once the lane is paid off, it reverts to a normal lane.

The highwaymen sold fast lane tolling to voters by implying that it was “Road Pricing.” But true “Road Pricing” is designed to deter people from driving at certain hours or in certain places. “Fast lane tolls”, by contrast, are merely a way to finance new highway construction. Fast lane tolling was slipped into the federal highway bill a few years back. Environmentalists and activists either failed to notice it, until it was too late, or didn’t oppose it, thinking that it was “Road Pricing”. The NY Times predicted fast lane tolls would pump at least 50 billion dollars into new highway construction over the next ten years. State versions of the legislation have passed or are pending in many states including Minnesota. Additionally, DOTs are converting HOV lanes into “Hot Lanes”, allowing single occupancy drivers to use the lanes if they pay a toll, generating additional revenue for new highway projects.

Clearly, the moral of history is this– Tolls and gas taxes are useless at deterring highway construction unless the money goes directly to transit or goes into city or state general funds, where politicians can control it. If it goes back to highway agencies, more highways will be built and the agencies will only gain more political power.

In general, it’s better if politicians control tolls and gas tax revenues rather than the highway agencies themselves. This is because the politicians are elected and are at least somewhat accountable to voters. By contrast, highway agency directors aren’t accountable to anyone. It should be noted that true “road pricing” only exists in London, Singapore and a couple of cities in Scandinavia and Latin America, where toll revenues actually go to automobile alternatives. So, the devil is in the details of most legislation and you need to look where toll revenues are going to go. Also, before you can redirect toll revenues, you have to eliminate or amend the state constitutional provisions that dedicate them.

The second way of controlling highway agencies does exactly that. It was partly inspired by what happened in New York City and is best represented by a piece of federal legislation called “ISTEA”. In 1970 Governor Nelson Rockefeller was able to combine Robert Moses’s New York City highway department with New York City’s transit agencies to form the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or “MTA”. Under the new structure, toll revenues could be used to subsidize transit …and the new agency no longer had a stake in building roads. It could just as easily build transit projects, since, either way, it got to spend the money and grow itself.

© Andy Singer

© Andy Singer

In 1991, the U.S. Congress passed “ISTEA”– The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. For the first time, a portion of federal gas tax dollars were set aside for non-automotive projects. If a state highway department wanted to get this money, it had to come up with a non-automotive project on which to spend it– either transit, commuter rail, bicycle or pedestrian. The thinking was that this would give state highway departments an incentive to diversify and become truly integrated “Transportation” departments– thus forcing a change of culture within the state agencies.

ISTEA paid for bikeways, light rail and commuter rail systems in dozens of US cities including parts of Minnesota’s Hiawatha light rail line. ISTEA also produced a small shift in the culture of highway agencies, since many state DOTs hired new engineers and coordinators who specialized in transit, bike or pedestrian engineering. Often, however, they were relegated to a lower status within the agency and, as always, new highways kept getting built. The states that did best tended to be the ones that already had strong transit agencies and substantial transit infrastructures.

This first incarnation of ISTEA set aside a third of all federal gas tax dollars for non-automotive projects– nearly $50 billion out of a $150 billion dollar 6 year budget. Six years later, when the act was reauthorized as TEA-21, highway spending was increased to $150 billion, while transit spending was kept flat. Loopholes were added that allowed off-ramps and other highway oriented peripherals to qualify as “Pedestrian Improvements”. Also, ISTEA left state gas tax dollars untouched, still firmly in control of state highway departments. The most recent incarnation of ISTEA – “SAFETEA-LU” — has only made matters worse.

We would need to beef up TEA to give 100% of federal gas tax money to non-automotive projects. Only then would we see a substantial change in state agency culture and an end of new highway construction. This is something we should try to do in 2009, when the act is reauthorized. Also, we need to introduce federally mandated targets for reducing “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT). This way, “reducing driving” will become the standard by which we judge the success or failure of a transportation or land use project. Right now the standard is “Improving Level of Service” for cars, which is a disaster.

Lastly, as people drive less (due to increased gas prices and economic decline) gas tax revenues have fallen. For this reason and to do an “end-run” around state constitutional amendments dedicating gas taxes to roads, other taxation and transit financing schemes have been proposed. The main one of these, similar to “road pricing,” is to tax people based on how many miles they actually drive. Whether such schemes or even basic city road pricing will ever get started in the US is hard to say but New York City seems to be edging towards implementing some sort of road-pricing plan.

Thus, the best way to combat highway agencies is to cut off their money supply, partially or entirely, and integrate them with transit agencies. All or a portion of tolls and gas tax dollars should be diverted to transit projects and urban revitalization. We need to see the gas tax, in part, as a “Sin Tax”, similar to the tax on alcohol or cigarettes, where part of the proceeds are used to counteract the negative effects of driving. As we look for dedicated funding sources for transit and urban revitalization, we must look towards gas taxes, mileage taxes or highway tolls as a source of revenue and make the legislative changes that will enable this to happen. This will be politically difficult to do but, with the will and the organization, it is definitely possible.

Working in our favor is the fact that building and maintaining fixed rail transit provides even more jobs than building highways. With skillful political leadership, a broad array of groups can be led to support transit projects and improved land use laws, including many of the same groups that currently support highways– unions, contracting firms, architecture firms, heavy industries and groups representing voters who are unable to drive, like the elderly and handicapped.

We are facing a serious environmental and resource crisis. So called “green cars” might buy us a little extra time but they are not a serious solution. The only real solution is to make the political and funding changes that will enable us to overhaul our nation’s land use and transportation systems. With a little luck and hard work, maybe we can pull it off.

Andy Singer, 8.3.09

Andy Singer is a cartoonist and alternative transportation activist in Saint Paul, Minnesota. You can see more of his work at

© Andy Singer

© Andy Singer

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End of the Road: Tranno Letter

I’ve read articles, letters to the editor and now a front page story on an issue that some claim to be a top priority; potholes. But the most important element in the debate is not discussed. Transportation is all about friction and weight. People are not taking personal responsibility for the problem.

The problems with street surfaces have grown in proportion with the growing size and number of our vehicles. Families used to share one car and drive fewer miles in vehicles that weighed 2700 pounds. Now 70% of vehicles sold locally are trucks and SUV’s.  SUV’s average over 4500 pounds. The wear and tear of our roads is directly related to the weight of our vehicles.

A practical and appropriate method to address paying for our streets would be for DMV to sort their database and assess fee’s based on the curb weight of each registered owners vehicles. People who walk, bike and ride mass transit would not be required to pay for pothole repair.

Perhaps a “curb weight tax” will hasten the movement away from the large vehicles, which make roads unsafe for small, clean and efficient vehicles. Roads that support only lightweight vehicles need significantly fewer repairs.

But wait. Any spending on roads today is folly. We’ve exhausted the fuels and fouled our environment with a system based on internal combustion and diesel powered, room-sized, tank-like vehicles. Instead, utilize those assessments, fees and tax dollars in the design and construction of the infrastructure for our transportation future.

To the Editor, Eugene Register-Guard, March 3, 2008

J.L. McKinney

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End of the Road:Clean-burning Cars Ignite Fight Within Dealers’ Ranks

Man Running from Car - © Carbusters

Man Running from Car - © Carbusters

When Monty King called around his Oregon Vehicle Dealers Association in recent months to gather opinions on Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s strong-arm push for clean car rules, he found the unexpected.

The dealers weren’t necessarily opposed.

“The overwhelming response was, `We like clean air, too,’ ” said King, who works in Salem as president of the auto group. The dealers also said, ” `we don’t see it’s that big of a deal.’ ”

Though some auto dealers had furiously battled Kulongoski’s plan in the Legislature and had sued the state when the governor went ahead anyway, the industry, it turns out, is not a monolith of opposition as Kulongoski’s plan proceeds.

Joseph McKinney, CEO of Eugene’s Oregon Roads Inc., points out the difference in opinion within his own business sector. And McKinney – admittedly a breed apart from many dealers – is enthusiastic about the governor’s plan.

The governor’s order will require that all cars sold in Oregon meet California’s famously tough auto emissions standards the same year the Golden State’s new rules take effect: 2009. They require auto- makers to cut car emissions by 25 percent and SUV and heavy truck emissions by 18 percent.

Opponents say the rules will raise the price of new cars, thus reducing sales, and many argue that the changes won’t do much to reduce overall air pollution.

The state is rushing to institute the plan by late December, so the rules will be in place for the 2009 model year. If Oregon’s plan advances, the Washington Legislature already decided that the northern state will follow suit, which will create what activists call a clean car corridor from Canada to Mexico.

Hoping to stop those dominoes from falling, another Oregon auto manufacturer’s group and four Oregon car dealers squared off with
the state’s attorneys on Nov. 7 in Marion County Circuit Court. Both sides asked for summary judgment.

Now they’re all awaiting a ruling by Judge Mary Mertens James that will decide whether Kulongoski can go ahead – or, conversely, that the governor’s new rules are unconstitutional.

Fault lines:
The clean car drive has proven a dicey issue for a few of Oregon’s new and also used dealer associations.

The Oregon Auto Dealers Association, which represents 200 franchise new car dealers in the state, didn’t join the lawsuit because doing so wouldn’t have reflected the views of the organization’s total membership, said Greg Remensperger, association executive vice president.

“We represent all of the dealers in the state of Oregon,” he said. “The majority of them are of the same mind, but not everyone is.”
The 57-year-old Oregon Independent Auto Dealers Association also has its dissenters, said McKinney, Eugene’s iconoclastic dealer and an OIADA member. The organization sent out a message urging members to let the governor know that the clean cars initiative was the work of “environmental extremists,” McKinney said.

“(But) it was not a message from the OIADA,” McKinney said. “It was from one of the members on their board: a used car guy, a broker in Portland.”

Four car dealers – from Coos Bay, Wilsonville and Portland – joined the national Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to oppose Kulongoski’s plan in court. The dealers are Coos Bay Toyota, Suburban Ford, the Don Rasmussen Company and Ron Tonkin.

Medford-based dealer Sid DeBoer, chairman and CEO of Lithia Motors Inc., did not join the lawsuit but said he doesn’t support the governor’s efforts. Lithia is one of the largest full-service new vehicle retailers in the United States, with 89 stores and 179 franchises in 12 states, with total revenue of $2.75 billion in 2004. DeBoer believes that the new-car requirements won’t be effective in cleaning up the air, an assertion disputed by supporters of the rules.

“We’ve been encouraging him to support an increase in the gas tax,” DeBoer said of the governor, “to encourage people to buy more economical cars and also to improve our highways in Oregon so people aren’t stalled in traffic burning gas needlessly and emitting both carbon dioxide gases and polluted gases by not getting where they need to go.”

“Lithia’s totally for having clean air. We’re an Oregon company. I was born here and raised here. But this is foolishness,” he said.
None of the auto dealers based in Eugene-Springfield is on the plaintiff’s list, and that’s significant, McKinney said.
“Dealers are good neighbors. Dealers are not the big, bad guys up on a hill that you might think. They have to operate in their community.”

Joseph McKinney of Oregon Roads Inc., based in Eugene, agrees he’s not the typical auto dealer — he’s an activist who sings in the Eugene Peace Choir. But he says many new and used car dealers in Oregon support the proposed emissions standards: “It’s the future of the car business.”

McKinney, meanwhile, has linked arms with Oregon State Public Interest Research Group activists to promote the technologies the governor’s plan eventually would require.

His Eugene-based Oregon Roads Corporation does $12 million in sales a year leasing fleets of cars and trucks to businesses across the United States. Still, McKinney is not your standard auto dealer.

He’s a self-described “leftist” who has campaigned for increases in the minimum wage because he believes in a “trickle up” theory. He sings in the Eugene Peace Choir. He’s been arrested at the Pentagon.
But he says he’s not the only dealer who supports clean cars.

“It’s the future of the car business,” he said. “The new car dealers I
talk to; they’d prefer clean air. They’re not opposing progress.”
The dealers and manufacturers bringing the lawsuit contend, however, that the clean car standards will add “thousands” of dollars to the price of a vehicle, reduce the demand for new cars and make a sizable dent in their revenues.

McKinney, on the other hand, says the evidence in the marketplace proves the reverse.

Hybrid cars are hot commodities, he said. They burn gas, but they also run on electricity part of the time, so they’re cleaner. They also get upward of 50 mpg.

Chuck Gittere, fleet sales manager for the Eugene-Springfield based Kendall auto group, said he can sell “as many as Honda will let us have.”

“Demand is really high,” he said. “We don’t have any Civic hybrids in stock. Toyota is sold out also.”

Manufacturers are responding. This week, Toyota announced plans to boost production to 600,000 hybrids a year by 2008. In September, Ford said it would ramp up to produce 250,000 hybrids per year in 2010. Both are 10-fold increases.

Hybrids are in such short supply that they retain their value, McKinney said. “Right now the (Toyota) Prius has the best resale value of any car on the street,” he said.

Two-year-old Prius hybrids sell for only $2,000 less than their new price. Other cars can lose upward of $10,000 of their value during the same period, McKinney said.

“Dealers profit selling hybrids,” he said. “There are lists of people for these hybrid cars. People pay list price for hybrids when, on the other hand, there’s a $5,000 rebate on a ’05 Ford Explorer.”

Front Page Article: Eugene Register-Guard, by Diane Dietz
Published: Saturday, November 19, 2005

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End of the Road:Acknowledgements

Carwars © Carbusters

Carwars © Carbusters

A great many people contributed to this book directly or indirectly. We thank first of all our incredibly accomplished, knowledgeable essayists, Andy Singer, Paul Scott and Jim Wilcox. Each of these writers is working hard in their professional and personal lives to bring about the kind of changes we advocate for in this book. We do not all agree on all the issues, but share the same values. These men are treasures in their communities and the world’s. Many others granted us permission to use their words and images; there are too many to list and we are truly grateful to all of you.

We are deeply grateful to Andy Singer for freely and graciously sharing his wonderful cartoons. Thank you Andy, for your excellent writing and hilarious, thoughtful images. You help lighten up and enlighten a potentially painful topic. Change is hard even when it’s wanted.

It is a particular delight to live and work in a community with a Mayor, Kitty Piercy, whose vision is so thoroughly about sustainability and a truly healthy world. We appreciate her contribution and constant encouragement. No one has ever stood up for, or thought about, the balances of community more than she has. She has given her life to these issues.

Deep thanks to our families, who put up with busy parents and partners being even busier way too long. You sustain us; you motivate us. Our most heartfelt appreciation goes to Saul Isler, editor extraordinare, and a highly accomplished fiction and non-fiction writer in his own right. You are a renaissance man, tremendously talented and sensitive to language. Yup!

Finally, there could not be a better work partner than Joseph McKinney. Disagreements were never once arguments. Joseph is an incredibly gracious, knowledgeable, values-driven businessman. I admire the way he lives his life, and he has taught me a great deal. I am going to venture to say, and say it for him because he is a busy guy, that he feels just the same about working with me. Me? I generally know more than I say, but I try not to take that too seriously because I would rather be learning every single day.

We hope you take our vision to heart. The time is now; the money is being spent; the moment will pass too quickly. You can contact us on our blog:

Amy Isler Gibson

Joseph McKinney

Eugene, Oregon

August 2009

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The End of the Road: Forward, by Mayor Kitty Piercy

© Carbusters

© Carbusters

As Mayor I am called to lead the community and to be a public servant, to make policies based on a positive vision for our future.  I must look for practical solutions to the challenges that face us.  The End of the Road explores opportunities for both vision and practical solutions.

The title of this book, The End of the Road, is a metaphor for where we are as a society, as a community.  We have come to a place where global warming and finite resources make it imperative that we think anew. Necessity is the mother of invention and profound change is necessary now. Governments and public agencies have a key role in crafting strategies to bring about change.  We can no longer count on cheap distribution of fuels nor accept the damage caused by their usage.

The End of the Road challenges the existing system of unsustainable growth. It suggests that we can use less money and fewer resources and still maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle.  It suggests that we do not need to do without the things we require, want and love, we simply need to eliminate waste.  The savings will pay for the transition.

The authors, Joseph McKinney and Amy Isler Gibson, point with optimism to entrepreneurs who are creating a sustainable model instead of continuing to accrue wealth at the expense of others. They label this concept a step back, but not backwards, claiming we have missed a transformation link in our great race forward.

The authors of The End of the Road show how one of the most complex problems we face may have a simple answer:  lightweight rechargeable transporters that can take you from home in 15 minutes or less – to your workplace, school, shop or mass transit connector.

These authors challenge our community and region to prioritize and coordinate such an effort.  This is a timely dream. I hope you will read this book and join Joseph, Amy and myself in planning for a future that is truly sustainable.

Kitty Piercy, Mayor,

Eugene, OR                                                                   May 2009

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The End of the Road: The Twisted Tale of American Horsepower.

We will begin today to publish the recent work of Amy Isler Gibson (Ph.D. philosopher, former professor of ethics and theories in psychology) and Joseph McKinney (President of Oregon Roads, the largest auto fleet leasing company in Oregon) entitled “The End of the Road:  The twisted tale of American Horsepower”.

This book proposes an interesting approach of the mobility issue in the US and is the result of a collaboration between various people who share a common purpose with different paths. We will better now let you read the summary of the book that we’ll publish part by part every Friday.

Franz Marc, Red and Blue Horses, 1912/ Cover picture of "The End of the Road"

Franz Marc, Red and Blue Horses, 1912/ Cover picture of "The End of the Road: The twisted tale of American Horsepower"

The End of the Road is a controversial call to reconsider our American infrastructure, right now before our “stimulus package” is lost on projects with little long-term value. Most thinkers in the area of transportation and energy focus on changing the car; the engine.   We argue that roads themselves must be restructured to encourage and accommodate new, healthier types of transportation and vehicle use.  We propose solutions that are achievable, imperative and locally adaptable.

Accepting the premise that global warming and peak oil demand extreme, immediate transitions, Joseph McKinney, CEO and President of Oregon Roads, Inc., presents a highly critical, whistle-blowing, assessment of his (the auto) industry.  He does the math to show how much it really costs to drive a large internal combustion vehicle. He shows how a shift to “village vehicles” and roads that can make them safe can reduce carbon emissions by 25% in the near future.  This is only an intermediate step, but it is imperative and affordable.

Amy Isler Gibson provides commentary in the role of an educated, curious and at times challenging consumer in this informal, conversational book.  Jim Wilcox and Andy Singer, well known figures in the anti-car movement, take the issue even further with their respective essays.

Andy Singer provides many cartoons that help bring levity and lightness to a hard topic.  The Emperor – the auto industry – has no clothes left.  It has failed us and cannot be rescued in its current form.  Nor can our infrastructure provide us with “shovel- ready” projects without fresh ideas.  “Fresh” is the food for thought presented by these passionate, knowledgeable writers who put themselves into the consumer’s shoes, at least until better transportation is available and supported.  The result: a vision of health that goes beyond reducing carbon footprints to imagining lives and communities no longer dependent upon current, deadly modes of transportation.

Andy Singer, Jim Wilcox and Paul Scott, innovators all, have kindly provided essays that enrich this discussion.  Citations throughout and at the end of the book lend weight to our argument and our dream for the next in transportation innovation.

You can get in touch with Amy Isler Gibson and Joseph McKinney at:

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