Friday, July 9, 2010

The AAA's Deplorable Lobbying

If you have a car, you may be familiar with The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). I've generally thought of them as towing insurance, and the desire for that protection is the reason why my family and I have been members for a long time.

But I know that AAA has a dark side. They were key players in visioning and pushing for the current freeway system in Greater Los Angeles, at least as far back as the 1930s, and they haven't stopped lobbying for history's dirtiest and most dangerous mode of transportation. Just take a look at their political action website The Road Ahead.

This lobbying, and my complicity in it as a AAA member have bothered me for some time. Accordingly I will probably let my membership lapse when it expires in a few months (the fees have already been paid). However, it does go to show you the damage that can be done by owning a car. Every good and service you buy for your car feeds an industry with a stake in the status quo. These industries are not shy about spreading their car-centric ideology, and they have a long track record of success on that front.

I may get towing insurance elsewhere. But maybe I'm deluding myself, and that company will be lobbying too. I guess there's no real solution but to get rid of the car altogether. Alas, I am not willing to make that move at this time.

All I can do at the moment is state clearly that I reject the lobbying agenda of AAA. Cars should be hit up with all manner of taxes and fees to compensate for their tragic environmental, social and economic impacts, and we should be building cities that prioritize the needs of pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists, not motorists. To the extent that I drive, I do so because of the tragic legacy of poor planning and infrastructure decisions, not because I want to.


  1. Many cellular phone companies offer roadside assistance, for a small monthly fee. They don't have an incentive to lobby for car infrastructure, so this might be preferable to AAA membership.

    Also, there's an organization out there called Better World Club- a AAA-like auto club that provides roadside assistance, map and travel services while lobbying for environmental causes. I'm thinking of switching myself. It's a little more expensive, and you lose the special-DMV privileges of AAA, but unlike AAA they do offer bicycle service.

  2. That's definitely worth looking into.