Irrational devotion to cars spurs Monument plan naysayers

November 19, 2010
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The following comments regarding the Centre and South Transportation and Streetscape Action Plan, specifically the Monument Square proposal, were submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

I defer on the discussion of technical feasibility of the proposal. While a careful consideration of technical details is warranted, I’m surprised that so many JP folks are traffic planners and civil engineers in their spare time (friendly sarcasm intended).

Rather I comment on the core of so many of the arguments expressed by opponents to the Monument proposal—the continued irrational devotion to the private automobile. The arguments against autocentric culture/public policy are familiar: sprawl, destruction of town centers, mayhem and death on the roads, permanent damage to the natural environment, etc. The auto and oil industries are part of an industrial/political/military alliance that has historically relied on resource exploitation and belligerent foreign policy. Visions of a greener, more sustainable future generally include fewer cars, less sprawl, lower carbon footprint, more density, more public transportation, more bike lanes and town centers that people can walk to.

Tragically, local application of such a vision is compromised by the drumbeat of the auto god. A proposal to improve a public space and adjacent infrastructure (the Monument proposal) is met by howls of protest from the following people: owners of businesses, in some cases a quarter mile away from the site, objecting to losing precious parking spaces; civic leaders from nearby neighborhoods who think we ought to accommodate drivers that love downtown JP but also want it to be convenient to drive to and park, like a strip mall in Anytown, USA; parents who believe that the state government should make their hectic parenting lives easier by making policy decisions that favor the automobile; drivers who cringe at the thought of being inconvenienced while they inconvenience the planet with their continued devotion to the beloved car.

One public commenter wondered why some folks seem to be hostile to car drivers. I’m not hostile to car drivers. I am hostile to their efforts to continue to shape our shared world around private auto use. The autocentric program was always and remains today essentially a get-rich-quick scheme for oligarchs and their cronies in government, with no cares about the consequences that we live with today.

JP Business and Professional Association, you can be reactionary, as you were/are on trolley restoration and as you are now on Monument Square. Or you can look forward. The environmentalists, the cyclists and the organic foodies are your natural allies. They support locally owned business. They are your customers. Let’s follow their lead and leave the car behind. If we don’t it will be the end of us.
Matt Henzy
Jamaica Plain