Welcome to Advent Policy Briefs! It's been 5 years since I've committed to a daily writing challenge. 2016's This is Me radical confessional blogging project remains one of the most powerful experiences of my life. While this challenge is a week shorter and public policy oriented, it's a long overdue requiring of myself to publish more and adapt to the inevitable online fora of politics. I also very much hate Christmas, and this challenge gives me a perfect reason to tune most of that noise out.
Here's the first of 24 not subtle ideas to stop destroying the planet and administer human dignity.
Advent Policy Brief 1: De-Assetize Cars
I made myself a promise when I moved from a small town to a big city: always live where I wouldn't need a car.
My opposition to personal vehicle ownership is coloured by neurodivergence, environmentalism, health conscience, and personal experience.
My feelings fall into "moral OCD" and "logical discord". I'm genuinely offended by the expectation that "functional" or "successful" people are presumed to want to own vehicles. At my core, I believe the relationship wealthy nations have with cars and meat is literally destroying the planet, and, as much as I can, I will refuse my complicity in car culture.
I have a full driver's license, and I'm a safe and adequate driver, but I greatly prefer the experience of being driven. Uncrowded tram or train are my ideal transit experiences. I see riding shotgun and playing DJ/navigator as better ride than driving.
Privileged urbanites I lived among in Ottawa and Toronto chose car-free life overwhelmingly to require active transportation in their daily lives. Yes, complicated parking logistics and environmental conscience are factors, but the notion that "people who prioritize their health choose against owning cars" sticks with me regardless of how impractical the implication may be for my changing geography.
I did manage in two less than ideal transit cities. I survived a year in St. Catharines a decade ago and just wrapped two years in Saint John. I can affirm from experience that life in an isolated but walk-able small town is much more manageable than living centrally in a small city with inadequate transit.
The demographics of transit riders is telling. Students, seniors, and developmentally (dis)abled adults ride the bus in Saint John. Lawyers, scientists, and journalists ride the bus in Ottawa. The blatant class-sorting demonstrated on inadequate transit systems creates a cycle of devaluing transit as a public service. The cycle depends on capitalist pro-car ideology.
I do not value this ideology, and I will not consciously reproduce it. Keep in mind that I don't form object attachments like a neurotypical; asking people to stop driving to achieve indefinite survival seems like a fair deal to me.
I came around to the idea of banning personal vehicle ownership. But what does that look like in practice? People still need vehicles, but individuals can't be trusted to make responsible decisions with or about vehicles.
We de-assetize them. Let's ban the sale of vehicles and prohibit accounting practices that legitimate vehicles as assets for private citizens and corporations.
If you want a car, lease one from a public agency. Currently owned vehicles can be grandfathered in until the vehicle fails inspection or the owner dies. A government buy back program would recycle vehicles as they retire. Vehicle theft would become obsolete.
A central agency managing the country's entire fleet of vehicles could mindfully transition the Canadian vehicular economy towards planned excellence. The same agency that runs public transit should run vehicle leasing.
Transit policy must solve the real problem: getting people where they need to be in the most time-efficient and environmentally responsible way possible. The synergy of centralized vehicle administration would fast-track electrification & hydrogen adaptation, streamline emissions & safety standards, and integrate automated high-speed transit corridors.
Politicians and public administrators need to make peace with taking cars off the road, regardless of how unpopular it may be.
Within an overarching national transit strategy, I insist on directives to de-assetize vehicular administration in Canada. The public service must be empowered to execute a buy back program and manage procurement, leasing, maintenance, compliance, and logistics for all Canadian ground transit vehicles.
A model of public vehicle ownership could gear lease fees to income, normalize car-sharing, provide emergency short-term access, and dramatically increase the proportion of wheel-chair accessible vehicles on Canadian roads.
So yeah, the government should own every vehicle.