The automobile has long been celebrated as a preeminent symbol of individual freedom. Whenever a politician or citizen group calls for redirecting our tax monies toward public transit, inter-city trains, walkable communities, bike lanes, and so forth, the automobile and highway lobbies sneer that such choices are “politically motivated” and threatening to our “freedom.”
Moreover, the lobbies say, spending more money on transportation alternatives would betray a long-time “social compact” that federal and state gas taxes be earmarked for highway construction and improvements. Gas taxes make roads and highways self-funding, the argument goes. This deeply entrenched – and erroneous – mythology has long prevented a re-thinking of how Americans should finance transportation and of the more ecological, socially attractive alternatives.