35. Suburbans in the City

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The Chevrolet Suburban is one of General Motors’ most enduring triumphs — the longest-running nameplate in automotive history, to use the industry jargon, and the original SUV. In production since 1935, it’s grown from an all-American family vehicle, perfect for loading up the kids and heading out into the country, into an 18-foot-long status symbol for VIPs — including titans of finance, A-list celebrities, politicians and the occasional drug lord. It’s even the first vehicle to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While the Suburban used to be about suburbia, it isn’t anymore. In this episode, we talk with Angie Schmitt, a journalist working on a book about the pedestrian safety crisis in the United States, about how the Suburban’s rise foretold the modern SUV boom, and just how dangerous these land sharks can be.

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34. Department of Bikeland Security

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Making change happen in a big, complex, bureaucratic city is really hard. One guy who knows all about that is Shabazz Stuart, the Chief Executive Officer of Oonee, a Brooklyn-based startup company that is developing secure bike-parking kiosks at major transit hubs in and around New York City. For this episode, Shabazz joins The War on Cars crew in the studio and Aaron traverses two rivers and travels all the way to New Jersey — New Jersey! — to lay eyes on the new secret weapon in The War on Cars. Plus, we’re doing some live events. Check out the Show Notes for more details. 

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And check out the new podcast from our friends over at TransitCenter. It’s called High Frequency

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33. WCAR Drive Time Radio

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Is the Hyperloop for real or are easily duped elected officials the only people it will take for a ride? Do e-bikes have the power to transform the suburbs? Why should politicians and the press say “crash” instead of “accident”? What’s the best way to convince people to live a car-free life? On this year-end episode, Sarah, Doug and Aaron answer these questions and more from listeners fighting their own local versions of the War on Cars. Plus, what were the best transportation-related developments of 2019? 

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32. Kara Swisher Says Car Ownership is Finished

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Last March, renowned tech journalist and prognosticator Kara Swisher wrote a New York Times opinion piece with the headline, “Owning a car will soon be as quaint as owning a horse.” In it, she declared she would sell her own car and vowed she would never again own an automobile. “The concept of actually purchasing, maintaining, insuring and garaging an automobile in the next few decades? Finished,” she wrote. That column set off thousands of outraged commenters — and activated the radar at The War on Cars. We sat down with Kara at the Vox studios in downtown Manhattan to talk about what it’s like living without wheels of her own, why she loves scooters, and whether we’ll ever get the
Star Trek Holodeck we’ve been promised.

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31. You Get a Car!

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It’s one of the most famous moments in daytime TV history, but what really happened when Oprah Winfrey gave a brand new Pontiac G6 to every member of her studio audience? Leave it to The War on Cars to take that memorable (and very meme-able) moment and connect it to larger questions about mobility, access to economic opportunity and even the perverse way in which Americans pay for healthcare. In a country where everyone needs a car just to be a contributing member of society, what happens when that vital lifeline is severed? Are stories of 12-mile walks to work and individuals who help their fellow employees by buying them a car really “heartwarming,” as local news stories like to say? Or are they instead signs of a society that has failed at the basics? Is anything actually solved when solving people’s transportation woes is turned into a televised spectacle?

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30. The Automotive Police State

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For a century, the automobile has been sold to Americans as the ultimate freedom machine. In her groundbreaking new book, “Policing the Open Road,” historian and legal scholar Sarah Seo explodes that myth. Seo shows how modern policing evolved in lockstep with the development of the car. And that rather than giving Americans greater freedom, the massive body of traffic law required to facilitate mass motoring helped to establish a kind of automotive police state. Is a car a private, personal space deserving Fourth Amendment protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures?” Or is a car something else entirely? It’s a question that courts have struggled with for decades, ultimately leaving it up to the police to use their own discretion, often with horrifying results, especially for minorities. In this revelatory conversation with TWOC co-host Aaron Naparstek, Seo offers an entirely new way of looking at the impact of the automobile on American life, law and culture.

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SHOW NOTES: 

Buy Sarah Seo’s book, “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.”

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29. What Uber Hath Wrought

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For a few years after Uber launched in 2009, it seemed like the on-demand ride-hailing service might be an advance in the war on cars — a way for more people to share fewer vehicles and to reduce overall automobile dependence. Fast forward a decade, and the rise of Uber (along with Lyft) has instead resulted in increased congestion, reductions in transit ridership, and the exploitation of a precarious workforce that the company would love to make obsolete altogether. In this episode, we talk with New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac about his new book, “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” in which he chronicles the rise and fall of Uber’s co-founder, Travis Kalanick. We hear what Mike has to say about the cult of the founder and the way Kalanick’s winner-take-all mentality has negatively affected the streets of the world’s cities.

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28. The Problem With Public Meetings, Part 2

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In Part 1 of “The Problem With Public Meetings” we took you inside a frustrating community meeting in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and urged compassion and understanding for neighbors who aren’t quite yet on board with The War on Cars. Here in Part 2, we’re taking you to yet another community meeting, this time, in Park Slope, Brooklyn where diplomacy fails, the action gets kinetic and a TWOC co-host is physically assaulted by a bike lane hating conspiracy theorist meditation instructor. Yes, you heard that right. How do you know when it’s time to stop working to find common ground with parking-obsessed, car-addicted, change-averse members of your community and simply focus on their utter, total and overwhelming defeat in the arena of local politics? Strap on your helmet, soldiers. Get ready for The Battle of 9th Street.

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27. The Problem with Public Meetings, Part 1

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In the battle to make cities better for walking, biking and transit, there’s no more important front line than local community meetings. So when a flyer advertising a town-hall forum about the New York City Department of Transportation’s alleged “war on cars” began appearing in Brooklyn neighborhoods, we knew we had to attend. On this episode, we discuss what happens when regular citizens gather to discuss losing precious parking spaces to benefit the greater good. What are some tactics advocates can use to bring people around to their point of view? Given the typical format of these forums, is finding common ground even possible? Is there a better way to conduct public meetings or is screaming at each other in a church social hall a necessary evil? [NOTE: Due to some late-breaking developments, this is part one of a two-part series on public meetings.]

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26. Dying for Change

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Twenty-one people riding bicycles have been killed this year on the streets of New York City. That’s more than double the number of bike fatalities in all of 2018. In early July, after a terrible week in which three people on bicycles were killed in quick succession, more than a thousand demonstrators showed up in Lower Manhattan’s Washington Square Park for a “Die-In” to demand that officials take more aggressive action to make streets safe. In this episode, we hear from Die-In participants and Doug, Sarah and Aaron talk about advocacy, activism and change-making. Is it better to be polite and work within the system or disobedient and disruptive? Who in city government should be the target of these urgent calls to action, the politicians or the police? What can we learn from the work of other grassroots social and political movements throughout history? And do NYPD bicycle cops ever actually ride their bikes or do they only use them as crowd control barricades? 

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