Charles, you are advocating for an enormous investment in traffic monitoring infrastructure, but fail to explain how much this might cost, or how it would be funded (it's also a hopeless pipe dream, like most of your "plans"). It's hard to take you seriously as a result.


This obsession to pair "culture" with innocuous objects is tiresome.


@1 -- Shit dude, its obvious. You have things like automated ticketing for speeding. This can easily pay for itself, and is much cheaper than paying cops to pull people over. It also avoids racial bias, and all the other problems that come from cops pulling people over. You also have automatic tickets for driving in a bus lane (something people have been trying to get for a long time).

Unfortunately, none of that is legal right now. A city like Seattle can't do that. It needs approval from the legislature. Every time we try, some representative will talk about how it curtails our freedom, and how it is just a slippery state towards a police society.

Yet, as Charles pointed out, the same thing exists on our public transit, and in many other public areas. Thus his point is valid. Driving is seen as a right, and a necessity, while taking public transit, or visiting a public institution is not. If you don't want them taking a picture of you getting on the train, don't ride it. But taking pictures of my automobile -- that is outrageous.


@2 -- Are you saying there is no "car culture" in America? Seriously?

Shit, just do a search for "car culture" and you find articles like this: or this: There are a seemingly endless supply of references when you do a search for "car culture". Maybe you should have started with that before suggesting Charles made up the phrase.


There should be cameras installed at every crosswalk in Seattle.


@4: It's just my opinion and I didn't suggest with Charles started it. At what point does someone who takes a car to work and back into "car culture" or have a cup of coffee in the morning into "coffee culture".

It's just become a way to cast shade, either positively or negatively. And, in my opinion, overusing the word.


Cities are designed around cars. The only way to switch to a public transport society would be to completely redesign cities.

That'll never happen. We can't even switch to the fucking metric system for christ's sake. Cars are here to stay. It sucks, I despise cars too, but is this really the hill you want to die on?


@3 Charles wants every vehicle on the road monitored at all times, which would require a vast network of cameras. Automation will be problematic, because the system he envisions is much more complex that a red light or school zone scenario. Data storage alone would require an enormous initial investment, not to mention ongoing storage costs.

This does not strike me as a system that would pay for itself. Look at it this way: if your theory was remotely plausible, don't you think the for-profit companies that develop, install, and service traffic camera systems would be lobbying for expansive vehicle surveillance regulations, and putting Mudede traffic monitoring systems up all over the country? That's not happening, which is a strong indication that this sort of widespread traffic monitoring system is not the license to print money you think it is.


@6 -- At what point did you become a fucking idiot who can't grasp the ideas behind a simple comment or article? Who knows.

In the context of this article, Charles makes the case that "car culture" is responsible for the fact that automobiles remain lightly monitored. This is not about someone driving, but someone feeling like driving is an essential right. That it is akin to walking, or hanging out in a park. But it is not just individuals who feels this way, but an entire culture, or subculture. This subculture has real political power. Most often this power is indirect, and hard to pinpoint. But on occasion it is as obvious as the NRA lobbying congress (

This explains why cameras are ubiquitous in public spaces, but SDOT is not allowed to put them on the streets to monitor for speeding. If you are trying to balance public safety with privacy, then it is completely backwards. It sounds absurd, only if you ignore the power of this powerful subculture.

Got it -- or should I break out the puppets?


@10 -- What an absurd premise. There is nothing about his essay that suggests he wants to monitor every car at every moment. What he does want is the same thing I want, and the same thing the city council wants and the same thing the mayor wants: The ability to put cameras up to monitor cars for speeding, and other illegal activity. Would they be everywhere? No, of course not. For the same reason we don't have those expensive displays that show fast you are driving on every street. But we sure as fuck would have one on MLK. We would probably have one at Seward Park Avenue.

You are ignoring the fact that we have these, right now. It is just that they are limited to school zones. They would be in a lot more places, if the city was allowed to put them in. Tickets from speeding cameras bought in more than $6 million for the city*. That money is redirected to safety improvements in school zones. Got it? After paying for the cameras and data storage (shit dude, really?) the city has left over money, that they use to pay for other things. They would like to expand this program, and put them in other problematic areas, but aren't allowed to. The state won't allow it.

Oh, and even if it does cost money, so fucking what? Just raise the car tab tax.


Charles; "you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means"
A typical automobile might weigh 4000 pounds, not tons. An Escalade is close to 6 thousand pounds, half of 6 tons.

@9 are you saying cities are not older than 113 years? (from Wikipedia: "produced by Ford Motor Company from October 1, 1908, .. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, which made car travel available to middle-class Americans") My house is only a few years younger than that.

@10 & 12, If autonomous cars became popular there would be a lot of cameras on the road. Also, autonomous cars would be a lot easier if you could get rid of those unreliable human drivers. Don't forget a branch of Alphabet "knows what you did last summer" and more to the point, they know about most politicians too, plus they have enough money to buy the ones who have no shame and/or believe they are immune to consequences. Whether they would want to use that power for what seems to be fairly minor project is another question. Even if Google doesn't know where you are right now, then Apple does and they are also working in the field.


Of course there is a "Car Culture". Trillions of dollars have been spent over the last century or so telling Americans that their car is a reflection of their value as a human. There's really nothing that Seattle Government can do about that, try as they might.

In the meantime, our roads are increasingly congested and poorly maintained and our bridges are in precarious states. The city is giving developers big sloppy kisses by not requiring them to provide sufficient parking for all of the infill that's happening, theoretically in the name of "affordable housing".


Wouldn't "...hit and run cases in south Seattle expose the fact some humans beings are shitty, unethical low life creatures" be a more accurate headline? The vast majority of drivers have NOT hit another human being and taken off.



THAT'S the pedantic hill you want to die on? Last time I did maths 4,000 lbs = 2 TONS, emphasis on that crucial plural "S".


It's long amazed me that vehicular homicides are treated like glorified parking tickets - often as misdemeanors - whereas other homicides are treated as felonies.
It's often the case that vehicular homicides are looked on as accidents, with limited culpability for the driver. How else do you explain that it takes multiple DUI convictions in WA state to rise to the level of felony? If car culture didn't exist, there would be far greater level of punishment for drivers who injured others, or destroyed property.


Why blame cars? Why not blame pedestrians? Walking around everydamnwhere and running into cars.

Sure, they hardly ever "hit and run". More likely, they just lie there ... not saying a damn word ... while motorists and bystanders all around them are losing their lunch.



"are you saying cities are not older than 113 years?"

Of course not, but older cities were redesigned, and city architecture from the start of the 20th century on, was modified with cars, rather than pedestrians (or mass transit) in mind.

Cities and suburbs have much higher populations than 100+ years ago. Trying to re-redesign them back to be pedestrian friendly would be much more complicated, not to mention it would face intense resistance.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to get rid of cars and live downtown. I'm not gonna hold my breath on that happening in my lifetime though.


@14: Yes, the car culture is well entrenched in the multi-vehicle Vel-DuRay estates and summer homes.


Can we talk about pedestrians for a moment? Most pedestrians seem to have a death wish. Maybe they don't teach this anymore, but when I was a child, I was taught to look both ways before crossing a street, even if you have the right-of-way. I see people non-stop just stepping out into the street without even a glance. Homeless/crazy people wander around in the middle of the streets without a care in the world. Certain demographics in particular loiter in the streets, and defy every rule of pedestrian crossing as a "fuck you" to "the man”. I jaywalk all the time, but only when it’s safe to do so, for both me and oncoming traffic.

There's the same percentage of the population that are assholes as there has always been, but since there are more of us in the same amount of space, you're more likely to run into one (sometimes quite literally).

How much does society spend on even attempting to change driving behavior? We've not only thrown up our hands as though there is absolutely nothing we could possibly do to make the driving public better drivers, but we've never even tried. Traffic cops sit on their asses handing out speeding tickets to the lowest hanging fruit - generally drivers going a bit too fast. They never seem to be around for the real assholes who weave in and out of lanes, drive way too close, going waaay too fast, hold up traffic while they make illegal turns, etc.

The Seattle city government spent millions of dollars lowering the speed limit to 25 MPH so that all those pedestrian assholes who shouldn’t have been in the street in the first place, won’t die when my car hits them. And of course the unintended consequences of that idiocy is we increase road rage and accidents because half the cars are trying to obey the law (it’s really, really hard to drive only 25 MPH down a large open multilane blvd) and half the cars are driving the speed we should all be driving. This discrepancy has only made driving in this city more dangerous to both drivers and pedestrians. But I suppose this will be used to rationalize putting speed cams at every intersection.

(FTR, the above is just my observations - I’m not commenting on the particulars of whatever word salad of the day that CM is serving up for lunch)


@3 Ross, I'm genuinely surprised that you're all-in on the government surveillance regime. That's really scary thinking. I’m not keen on living in a society where my every movement in public is being actively monitored and tracked by government agencies. But I guess you feel it’s along the lines of “if you haven’t done anything wrong, what do you have to hide?” or maybe you just feel those sorts of privacy rights are worth giving up on in the name of security?

Technology like speed cams and red light cams are absolutely horrible.

It buys into the worst of humanity and politics - that we as individuals and as a society are incapable of personal responsibility, and therefore we need government to be the nanny state (which in time leads to a fascist state). Basically there are too many assholes in our society to do anything about them specifically, so we’ll just dip to the lowest common denominator and assume everyone is an asshole. Politically, we can’t do anything about the guns, violence, lack of education, kids growing up in poverty and/or shitty parenting, only to continue a cycle of poverty and/or shitty parenting, and so on... but what we can do politically is eventually turn the entire country into North Korea. It’s amazing how those on both sides of the political spectrum seem so eager to (unwittingly) get there.


Charles is exactly right and also just watch this. Watch it. Look at traffic in 1906. Granted the earthquake happened the next day. However it is instructive of morality through time.


The good news is that nearly every car on the road now is already equipped with satnav, as is nearly every driver's person through their phone. Granting access to this data should make catching anyone using an automobile to commit or flee a crime so darn simple. You don't have to access data of all vehicles or non-involved drivers, just those in proximity at the event.

The pubic highways and streets are a controlled space, where measures are rightly taken to ensure public safety. With all that steel driving around, the danger is ever-present. Yet often the only measures taken in freedom-loving America involve a few suggestions (in the form of laws and signage) and costly and inefficient troupes of police patrols. The surveillance we allow in public transportation would be just as, if not more appropriatly installed on every traffic light and stop sign, aimed at the license plates of every vehicle.

Charles's point about the disproportionate use of surveillance on and around public transportion highlights the fact that as a society, we perceive this as "dangerous" (requiring constant surveillance), probably because we also perceive those who use PT as "dangerous" (lower-class, and therefore potentially criminal). Those who drive vehicles (which are veritably dangerous, except when idle), are given the benefit of the doubt, and their privacy is respected. This is arguably due to a "car culture" supported by a class structure which views the freedoms and privacy of non-drivers as suspicious.


@25 GF, or... maybe the reason public transportation is monitored as closely as it is is for the safety of the public using it for its intended purpose, including BIPOC and those of lower economic means. It serves as a deterrent to bad actors who can take advantage of the vulnerability of the public who are using it.

And if there's a mass death event (like a bomb) in public transport, the entire system will literally shut down for a period of time, and it will deter the public from using public transportation going forward.

The ramifications to society are much greater than a SOV killing someone.

Please wait...

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