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Keller @ Large: We Need Our Cars

BOSTON (CBS) - For the last 11 years, people in cities around the world have marked September 22 as "World Car Free Day," a moment to, as its organizers describe it, "remind the world that we don't have to accept our car-dominated society.

Listen to Jon's commentary:


No question about it, from congestion to pollution to the sheer danger involved, modern civilization's love affair with the automobile has plenty of negative consequences.

That's why Governor Patrick on Monday was touting car-free commuting and the state's decision to extend the event to a week-long affair.

But the difficulty of identifying viable solutions was evident when my colleague Ken MacLeod politely questioned the governor about why, if going car-free is so important, he had commuted to work that day in a hulking SUV?

After trying to laugh it off, and promising that he would try to take the T to work later in the week, the governor noted that his work schedule had him running all over the place and required driving.

Yes, welcome to the club.

Obvious security reasons require the governor to stick with private transport, but regular folks also have solid safety reasons for wanting to transport themselves and their families that way.

And the truth, as the governor surely knows, is that we are simply not realistically equipped to wean ourselves away from our cars in any major way.

Access to wheels and the open road is a crucial part of the economy, and we have never demonstrated anything close to the financial and planning commitment required to elevate public transportation over the car.

We might have taken the billions poured into the Big Dig and gone another way instead, but we didn't, and everyone in power - Democrats and Republicans, unions and the chamber of commerce - was part of that decision.

So while Car-Free week is a well-meaning stunt, as is the governor's belated practice of what he preaches by taking the T to the State House today, it's no substitute for a serious, long-term commitment to ditching the car that would be among the most difficult and controversial political decisions ever made.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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