The end of the automobile era

Chris Kok

Credit: Steve Schirra

Environmentalists have been arguing for years about the need to end oil usage in the United States. Their chief culprit is the automobile.

They say we need to make more efficient cars and cars that run on alternative fuels such as solar, electric or hydrogen power. While it is good that they are trying to stop pollution, their solution is not effective.

It is time to get rid of the automobile.

Since the development of the car and the interstate highway system, suburban sprawl has been out of control. A drive through modern America is enveloped with the scenery of parking lot after parking lot. Big, spread-out neighborhoods are being built where forests and farm fields once existed. Workers are being forced to drive increasingly farther for job opportunities. This is a waste of many resources: land, time and the materials used to make the car.

Also, cars are unsafe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,636 people were killed in 2004 due to traffic accidents. This doesn’t even include injuries. Bad weather, dumb drivers or the occasional freak accident ruin thousands of lives per year.

Another problem with cars is they are annoying. They are loud, especially if they have bad brakes or are supercharged. They disrupt the community. Life would be more peaceful and sociable without cars.

Currently, there is no way the United States could operate without the auto. But with planning, the car can be made a thing of the past.

What America needs is quality mass transit. There is no reason why students at Kent State should not easily be able to travel to Cleveland, Canton or Youngstown without a car. The United States could also develop inter-city transit on the level of Europe.

While Americans are slowly moving across this country at 65 mph, Europeans are flying by on rail at 180 mph. Not only are they moving faster, but also they don’t need to worry about where the cell-phone wielding driver in front of them is going. In the United States, we are stuck in a traffic jam because someone didn’t use their blinker.

Abolishing cars may seem unrealistic because we have been raised in a society based on the automobile, but it is possible. Developing denser communities will not only save land, but also make effective public transportation possible. The possibilities for this are outlined at

Without cars, Americans would not be known for being fat; they would get regular exercise. Without cars, who would have to worry about paying for insurance or having to worry about an alternator going out? No longer would people need designated drivers; they would instead catch the metro.

Ultimately this is a question of human survival. With human population growth continuing as it is, at some point people will run out of room. In the meantime, natural habitats and farmlands will be destroyed so that people will have a place to park their cars. The automobile society is unsustainable and will have to end at some point. It is better to plan for that end than to stumble upon it.

Chris Kok is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].