“Local governments need to think of ways to force commuters out of their cars,” writes Erin Sherbert in the Silicon Valley weekly MetroActive. One way, Sherbert boldly suggests, is for public transit to mount “a progressive public relations campaign” that basically makes drivers look like a bunch of selfish jerks.
“We put smokers on the fringe and that’s had an impact,” Kent Bausman, associate professor of sociology at Maryville University in St. Louis, tells Sherbert. “You can follow the cigarette example, have ad campaigns demonizing cars, saying it’s a bad steward of the environment.”
Public transit proponents might already be fighting an uphill battle. A recent survey of more than 2,000 Washington, D.C., area commuters conducted by a graduate student at George Mason University found that “people who drove to work alone were more emotionally satisfied with their commute than those who rode public transportation or carpooled with others.”
It follows then that a bunch of satisfied drivers would be unlikely to switch to a public transit commute they consider less pleasant—at least without some (or perhaps a lot of) prompting and prodding. Bausman says the idea to make ads slamming solo commuting “is ripe for the picking, to make mass transit look cool and a civic responsibility.”