We don't often stop to think about the freedom that automobiles have given people day-to-day, especially women. Their impact, ribbons of asphalt over the land, the pollution of half-combusted gasoline, and the dependence on the resource of petroleum, are discussed in other forums. But we feel keenly that plans to move people out of cars and into public transport or worse, would erode the ingenuity, spontaneity, and independence on which modern life thrives. It is an automobile in the garage that signifies to the typical American woman that she need not wait until someone -- a taxi, a busdriver, a [male] relative -- is free and willing to move her in space in service of her needs and ambitions.
Austin's Capital Metro -- the agency that runs huge, barely-patronized city buses, and paints over the windows so the paltry ridership cannot be detected -- evidently does not consign its administration to public transportation, nor should it.
There is room for improvement, in consumption, supply, and even our national character* as regards chasing diversion down an 8-lane highway. As a solution emerges, we will be on board. But in the meantime, our humming Lexus IS300, the Platonic Ideal of a rocket camouflaged as a Dowdy-Dinosaurmobile, remains our cherished, blessed acquisition, and the Wall Street Journal's report (subscription required) on certain adjustments Lexus must make in the vehicle line half-saddens us, while certifying our inventiveness in avoiding its well-advertised and showy competitors.
Next week, Lexus plans to show the successor to its compact IS 300 model at the New York Auto Show. The old IS 300, which Lexus positioned as a sporty sedan, has fared poorly against rivals such as the Infiniti G35, BMW 3-Series and Acura TSX and TL.
The immediate changes have to do with four-wheel drive. Lexus is also offering a SUV hybrid engine, followed by a hybrid sedan in 2006.
*Tao Te Ching 80
If a land is small and the people few
And the rulers recognize what's needed
The simple ways of courtesy
Are happily and gladly heeded.
For people need so little
To live their lives aright
Are food and home and clothing
Not enough for pure delight?
Though nearby lands are close enough
To hear their roosters crow
The people will be so content
That not a one will want to go.