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Slaves to the Auto

June 06, 1993

As a resident of Southern California all of my life, I have grown up in a society based on the production, purchase, use and service of the automobile. The solutions to our growing population and out-of-control traffic problems will not be toll roads through pristine wilderness areas or building "smart roads" that will end up hurting business, but a serious change of thought and realization that we must move away from gridlock to mass transit. At the same time, we need to redefine progress from the number of roads built and "improved" to find real solutions to our transportation problems.

Whole cities are dedicated to and built for the automobile. According to New Perspectives in Transportation Research, the "portion of all land in downtown Los Angeles used for driving, parking or servicing cars is two-thirds." Automobiles are destroying our life system and humanity on planet Earth. Vehicles account for half the smog and over a third of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Last year, cars in this country poured more than 10 million tons of pollutants into the air.

We need a transportation revolution in America, and especially in the Southland. We need to take our heavy subsidies and tax breaks out of the auto industry and reinvest in public transportation. With investment in public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian right of ways, we'll create a more diverse job market that could utilize existing industrial centers to produce light rail and mass transit systems. This switch will also reduce smog, cause fewer accidents and lessen our dependence on the insurance and oil industries. This change does not mean that we will suddenly become less independent or lose access to our jobs. For example, Portland, Ore., has done a lot of serious work to prevent what has happened in Orange County. Since the early '70s, the volume of cars entering the downtown has remained the same even though the number of jobs has increased by 50%. The future for a strong economy and a clean planet requires a serious rethinking of our dependence on the automobile.

BRIAN CHRISTOFFERSEN

Yorba Linda

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