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The End of Car Culture

July 1, 2013



Cars at a restaurant in the 1950's. Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life Pictures — Getty Images.

Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life Pictures — Getty Images.

Mimi Sheller, Director of the mCenter@Drexel, is quoted in a New York Times Sunday Review article by Elisabeth Rosenthal on the end of car culture. Rosenthal asks whether we are reaching the end of 20th century car culture, with growing evidence that the U.S. reached “peak driving” and is now in a downturn.

Here is an excerpt:

“Different things are converging which suggest that we are witnessing a long-term cultural shift,” said Mimi Sheller, a sociology professor at Drexel University and director of its Mobilities Research and Policy Center. She cites various factors: the Internet makes telecommuting possible and allows people to feel more connected without driving to meet friends. The renewal of center cities has made the suburbs less appealing and has drawn empty nesters back in. Likewise the rise in cellphones and car-pooling apps has facilitated more flexible commuting arrangements, including the evolution of shared van services for getting to work.

With all these changes, people who stopped car commuting as a result of the recession may find less reason to resume the habit.

On top of that, city, state and federal policies that for more than half a century encouraged suburbanization and car use — from mortgage lending to road building — are gradually being diluted or reversed. “They created what I call a culture of ‘automobility,’ and arguably in the last 5 to 10 years that is dying out,” Ms. Sheller said.”

Read more from the New York Times article.

From Elisabeth Rosenthal, “The End of Car Culture”, the New York Times, Sunday Review. A version of this news analysis appeared in print on June 30, 2013, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The End of Car Culture.