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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Altoona’s car dependency must end

Gracie Gioiosa

I got my driver’s license last March. What could be better than finally being able to drive? For me, and so many teens in the United States, driving represents freedom. After all, commercials on TV, pictures on the cover of magazines, ads disguised as cameos in movies and today’s many posts on social media all promote the idea that cars are the ultimate liberator. However, due to automobiles wreaking havoc on our cities,  the car-centric culture America has constructed must come to an end. 

Car dependency is beyond isolating and coming out of a pandemic, this is the last thing we need. Having cities reliant on cars for even short trips makes getting together with friends something that has to be planned out and in today’s fast-paced world leaves Americans using social media as their main form of communication

Unfortunately, this is the reality most Americans find themselves in. Having an infrastructure that revolves around cars only contributes to the epidemic of loneliness and isolation that  Americans are facing according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Having poor public transportation and roads that are dangerous or nearly impossible to safely bike and walk do not just limit our ability to get places, it also hampers the amount of space available for groups to gather making places like greenspaces, community centers and sit down local cafes a rarity. To the extent that they do exist, they’re usually underfunded or struggle to keep their doors open. This is not because of a lack of interest in so-called “third spaces”, but rather because reaching them is far less convenient than going through the chain coffee company’s drive-thru while you’re already out driving. 

Having car-dependent cities is not the only reason for America’s loneliness problem, but bettering infrastructure to be more community centered is undoubtedly a start to remedying it. More cities where walking, biking and quality public transportation is the norm would inevitably lead to more much needed connections being fostered. 

Looking at Altoona’s unpredictable weather patterns it is easy to scoff at the idea that investing in infrastructure more suitable for people would be logical. But, that argument fails to consider that The Netherlands, a country with a mean temperature of 68 Fahrenheit and routine bouts of snow, wind and rain has the highest number of routine bike trips. Additionally, the push towards people centered travel should not just include biking or walking paths, quality and reliable public transportation must also be provided. 

Altoona being a city geared towards the people that live here is not some foreign and unrealistic idea. On August 7, 1954, the Altoona and Logan Valley Electric Railway Company completed its final trip. This electric trolley system stretched all over Altoona and Logan Valley, but today all that remains of Altoona’s lack of car dependency is a $20 DVD copy sold at local historical societies around town. I am not trying to romanticize the early to mid 1900s, but how cool would it be to have reliable public transportation? Not only for practicality, but also for building the sense of community Altoona has seemingly lost throughout the years. Our city’s once robust downtown that lit up because people were able to easily access it has largely disappeared, but it is not ignorant to think that we can get it back. In fact, we must in order to revitalize our town. 

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About the Contributor
Gracie Gioiosa
Gracie Gioiosa, Reporter
After enjoying the intro to pub class so much last year (especially when we got into opinion writing!), I decided to join the news staff this year as a junior. Other than writing, I love reading, biking, running, listening to podcasts and being outdoors. After high school, I hope to go to college and law school and move to Pittsburgh. Until then, I can't wait to have a fantastic year writing for the Mountain Echo!

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  • A

    AlMar 27, 2024 at 11:24 pm

    As a ex-Altoonan, I was around during the wonderful 50,s and we had beautiful and nice looking cars and yes we cruised 11th and 12th Avenues and stopped at Ray,s Diner on 12th Avenue! We enjoyed shopping at Gables, and went to the Young Men,s Shop and got the greatest hotdogs at Texas Hotdogs, bought our insurance at Parson,s Insurance Agency. We even had a Montgomery Wards back in the day. Yeah, we loved our cars and still do.

  • M

    Matthew diehlMar 19, 2024 at 7:44 am

    Exactly, since Altoona is only 9.792 square miles (95.88 total miles) it should have bike lanes and also better trains. Altoona used to have lovely public transport like the electric railway but it was discontinued after
    March 31,1957 over half a century ago. Our city should be able to have better public transport and bring back electric railway and bike lanes.