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What the end of cars would mean for the aggregate industry

By |  July 23, 2020
Photo:

Yanik

I jinxed myself on the way into work the other day.

A day earlier, I commented to a colleague that I had not encountered any traffic during my daily commute from the suburbs to our downtown Cleveland office since the world opened back up. The lack of traffic to and from work was one of the few benefits spurred on by the pandemic.

Of course, the day after that conversation, an accident created a traffic jam into the city, and that months-long streak of uninterrupted drives was snapped.

As annoying as traffic is, eliminating cars from roads is certainly not the answer. The New York Times might have you believe that, though. It published a column July 12 in its Sunday Review opinion section titled: “The End of Cars.” The headline associated with the story’s online version had a similar message: “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing.”

While opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo makes a case to eliminate cars from Manhattan, he argues that Manhattan could also set the example for the rest of America to successfully eliminate cars within U.S. cities.

If cars were eliminated within cities, what becomes of city roads? And if we eliminate or dramatically alter city roads, how much aggregate will cities demand?

Manjoo’s transition away from city roads calls for expanded sidewalks, two-way bike lanes replacing car lanes, concrete barriers protecting bikers, and dedicated bus lanes. All of these would demand the continued use of construction materials, but altering our infrastructure in such a dramatic fashion would take a toll on the amount of materials aggregate producers sell.

Give an inch, take a mile

Sure, New York City traffic is horrible. But eliminating cars from New York City roads and expecting other U.S. cities to adopt the Big Apple's model is quite the stretch. Photo: Bim/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Sure, New York City traffic is horrible. But eliminating cars from New York City roads and expecting other U.S. cities to adopt the Big Apple’s model is quite the stretch. Photo: Bim/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Still, who’s to say the elimination of cars (and the subsequent transformation of roads) stops with cities? Would activists take aim at the nations highways next, calling for mass transit as the one-size-fits-all solution? If the goal is positioning New York as the shining beacon, who’s to say New York doesn’t set new goals that drift us farther from an infrastructure system that functions pretty well for the rest of America?

Manjoo loses me early into his column when he writes: “There is little evidence that public transit is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in New York or elsewhere.” Come on, now: Everyone can surely agree that packing people into confined subway cars and buses without masks – as was the case in the first weeks of the pandemic in New York – is a bad idea.

Although the timing of Manjoo’s argument couldn’t be much worse, the aggregate industry must defend itself against such threats. If we don’t speak up, how are we to progress? If we don’t promote the positive daily impact aggregate has, how can we build a coalition of support? And if we don’t stand up to overreach, what will our businesses look like down the road?

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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