Door To Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World Of Transportation, by Edward Humes
This book would have been a much better book had the author not tipped his hand repeatedly to show his bias against passenger vehicles. Adopting the usual arguments by those who want to promote public transportation and large amounts of walking, the book attempts to scare readers through presenting horror stories of vehicle accidents, and doesn’t really have any real proposals to support important infrastructure except the familiar leftist desire for more taxes and more burdensome regulation on the behavior of drivers, all of which means that this book is likely only going to appeal to those who happen to think the same way the author does, an audience that does not include me. The book mixes generally sound and intriguing discussion of logistics with unsound discussions about personal transportation, and the author’s whining about the inefficiencies that result from freedom is particularly galling and offensive. As a result, this book is a mixed bag, not as good as it could have been had the author approached the desire on the part of Americans in particular to be able to drive where they want to go and buy what they want to buy and have it shipped to them with any degree of understanding and approval.
This particular book of about 300 pages or so begins with an introduction wherein the author complains about the crazy commutes of Americans, who spend a lot of time and money on their personal transportation. The author manages to spend some time talking about Carmageddon and the way that Americans are carpooling less and less often and struggling with the transportation infrastructure that would be necessary to support both our personal and our logistical transportation. The author spends some time talking about the port of Los Angeles (showing off some feminism and environmentalism) and also talks about UPS’ ORION efforts at saving on gas, which I was involved in personally. There are lots of discussions about car accidents and their causes and the author shows a great deal of outrage at the way that injury and death via an automobile are seldom prosecuted to any great degree unless the driver was distracted by a cell phone or drunk or otherwise impaired. Quite honestly, this outrage becomes increasingly tedious, even when the author speculates on a future of automated vehicles that are nevertheless not owned by people.
Books like this are driven by the dyspeptic feelings of their authors, but when the author’s point of view does not correspond with that of the readers, and when an author has a great deal of fondness for promoting mass transit and logistics but a decided animus towards personal transportation, that bias makes a book like this impossible to take seriously. Look, we get it. You walk and bike and don’t like feeling hunted down by drivers who are trying to do too much at the same time. Or you drive and are a hypocrite because you can’t appreciate the importance of freedom for others the way you enjoy it yourself. You casually adopt the language of the stroad from Strong Towns and likely buy into their dream of high-density life, but that is not the sort of life that Americans want. We have the dispersed living and driving patterns that we do because Americans want space of their own and the ability to move freely around it in with vehicles they happen to own. The author appears not to appreciate that fact, but unless he wants to move to Europe or Japan he can learn to deal with it.