Why is the U.S. so dependent on cars?


Announcer

Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from www.HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark

Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. With me, as always, is the overly and effervescent Charles W. Bryant.

Chuck Bryant

I'm vescent. I'm not effervescent.

Josh Clark

You're effervescent whether you like it or not. How you doing?

Chuck Bryant

Great, sir.

Josh Clark

You seemed like you were in the best mood this morning.

Chuck Bryant

I don't know. It's Monday morning, compared to Friday afternoons when we usually record. There's a slight change. But hey. I'm fired up.

Josh Clark

You sound like it this morning.

Chuck Bryant

Today is the first week of the rest of our lives.

Josh Clark

Sadly. Chuck, how did you get to work this morning?

Chuck Bryant

I drove to the subway. Then I took the subway to work.

Josh Clark

You took the subway?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Terrible. I drove to work, so let's go with me.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

I'm like the fast majority of Atlantans.

Chuck Bryant

Driving?

Josh Clark

Driving to work, yeah. I remember there was this huge - this is ultra local, but I'm sure it happens all over the United States - there was a proposed rail line from Lovejoy, way down south in the southern suburbs of Atlanta, that was going to up come up to Atlanta proper, the city.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

The people who came out against this came out against it like it was a proposal to murder one of everybody's kids.

Chuck Bryant

The 500 people who live in Lovejoy?

Josh Clark

No, it wasn't just Lovejoy. People in every county this rail line was going to go through, there were elected representatives coming out against it. Everybody was arguing against this public transportation. Simultaneously, they were throwing their support - because there's horrible congestion below the city. It's probably the worst.

Chuck Bryant

Worse than north do you think?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

They fought the MARTA going too far north, too.

Josh Clark

MARTA, by the way, everyone, is our public rail system, our sad public rail system. Atlanta is one of the major cities in the country. We have a cross. We have a plus sign for a transit system.

Chuck Bryant

There are a couple of little lines that spurt off of it now, but not much.

Josh Clark

I've never seen them.

Chuck Bryant

North goes northeast and straight north, too.

Josh Clark

I should say, in my defense that I could drive to I guess, art center stop or something like that and then hit the rail.

Chuck Bryant

That's kind of worthless.

Josh Clark

Exactly.

Chuck Bryant

It's great for me, though.

Josh Clark

It is. Chuck, you are well-served by our transit system. Generally, the argument against transit is that the poor will use it go rob houses in the suburbs.

Chuck Bryant

Oh. I thought they thought they'd start living along the line.

Josh Clark

The argument I've always heard is that it would increase crime. Can't you just see people laden with flat screen TVs and all sorts of other things? They have the burglar mask on, and that money sack with the dollar sign it. They just came from some wealthy suburbanite's house, and now they're using public transmit to make their getaway, right?

Chuck Bryant

I could see it.

Josh Clark

Yeah. That's one reason it's stalled. As I was saying, to solve this congestion problem down south, the proposal is to make I-75 from five lanes to 11 lanes in each direction.

Chuck Bryant

I wish I had a stat to back this up, but I've always heard that making roads wider does not do much to ease congestion.

Josh Clark

No. I've heard that as well.

Chuck Bryant

Cars will fill it.

Josh Clark

It's kind of like...

Chuck Bryant

If you build it, they will come.

Josh Clark

Right. It's like giving condoms to teenagers. They wouldn't have sex if you didn't give them condoms, but once you do, they're just like rabbits, you know?

Chuck Bryant

It's ridiculous.

Josh Clark

The debate continues. I'm actually surprised after reading this article we're about to talk about, written by our esteemed colleague, John Fuller.

Chuck Bryant

Of Stuff From the B Side.

Josh Clark

Yep. Very hip, young, soft-spoken man!

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That rail is even alive these days.

Chuck Bryant

Have you ever taken a train ride, like an Amtrak trip?

Josh Clark

I have. I don't remember where I went. I was kind of young, but it was pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant

It's really cool. I wish they were a little more comprehensive and cheaper. It's kind of expensive.

Josh Clark

Yeah, it is. Do you also realize that it's federally subsidized?

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Oh yeah. Amtrak is subsidized by federal money.

Chuck Bryant

I guess it needs to be these days.

Josh Clark

So you pay for Amtrak, pal.

Chuck Bryant

Do I get free tickets or anything? Can I cash in on that?

Josh Clark

No, you can't. Let's talk about it, man. If you look around, we take for granted just how much we rely on the car. Like Fuller points out in this article, the very designs of our cities, of our shopping malls, of everything is made with the car in mind.

Chuck Bryant

It's hard to imagine a life without parking lots. What if everything were street cars, and subways, and trains, and things?

Josh Clark

I can't even conceive of it.

Chuck Bryant

What if parking a lot were green space? Like you still had your shopping mall, but it was just surrounded by a park. That'd be awesome.

Josh Clark

It would be awesome.

Chuck Bryant

But it's too late.

Josh Clark

Not necessarily. There's a movement from mixed-use development and walk-able cities.

Chuck Bryant

True. Atlanta, we have our own thing going with the -

Josh Clark

Belt line proposal.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I got really excited about that when I first started hearing it. Then I read the finer points. It is great, but it's going to be finished when I'm like 70.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

It's like, cool. Maybe I can have kids and grandkids that will enjoy it.

Josh Clark

Hopefully it'll be wheelchair accessible for you.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Let's give a little background, all right? In 1832, New York -

Chuck Bryant

Let's go back in time.

Josh Clark

Okay, let's do it. We're in New York. It's the 1830s. There's newsies everywhere.

Chuck Bryant

Extra! Extra!

Josh Clark

The Irish are fighting one another. It's crazy. Let's not spend too much time here. It's 1832, and New York has just installed the first street rail line, and it's horse-drawn. You see the little horsy right there?

Chuck Bryant

I can smell it.

Josh Clark

Can you hear it?

Chuck Bryant

Uh huh.

Josh Clark

Let's get out of here, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I see Daniel Day Lewis coming after us.

Josh Clark

With a meat cleaver. Okay. So now, my friend, we're in New Orleans. Only slightly less dangerous!

Chuck Bryant

I'm slightly drunk.

Josh Clark

1835. What do you mean, slightly?

Chuck Bryant

I'm not sure.

Josh Clark

New Orleans has just opened its first street rail line, and, Chuck, if you want to go ahead and flash forward with me to 2009 - take my hand -

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

Here we are.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

This same rail line is still in use.

Chuck Bryant

In New Orleans?

Josh Clark

And it's just as dangerous here.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

Let's go back to the studio.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

So rail lines have been around for a little while.

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah.

Josh Clark

A long while, actually. Longer than the car! Apparently, there was a - what is it called - zeitgeist, when a bunch of people come up with the same idea at the same time?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That happened with the automobile.

Chuck Bryant

Uh huh. Germans, mainly!

Josh Clark

Yeah. A guy named Gottlieb Daimler; he is widely viewed as the first to come up with the real functioning automobile.

Chuck Bryant

Right, that could get you from Point A to Point B. He named the car after his daughter, named Mercedes.

Josh Clark

Yep. That may sound familiar.

Chuck Bryant

He hooked up with a guy named Carl Benz.

Josh Clark

Hold on. I've got to say hats off to you, chuck, for your extra dedication to throwing that little German accent in. What was that, Bavarian?

Chuck Bryant

Yes. I thought it was interesting to think what it would have been if it had been the Daimler-Benz instead of the Mercedes Benz. Good name.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

But certainly, now it's the iconic Mercedes-Benz. They were the first ones, like you said, to come up with a working car.

Josh Clark

In 1884, right?

Chuck Bryant

Uh huh. And years later, they looked to America, because we kind of perfected that scene and started building highways, so they looked at us and how to build the autobahn superhighway.

Josh Clark

Yes. And there was a guy who, again, by historians is widely considered the man who did perfect that scene, as you put it. A guy named Henry Ford. Industrialist, fascist, eugenicist - at the very least, a supporter of eugenics!

Chuck Bryant

Yep. Dentist!

Josh Clark

Why not? Probably in his spare time! He was something of a renaissance man. The reason he's credited as perfecting the automobiles is because he applied the principle of the assembly line.

Chuck Bryant

I think he created that term, actually.

Josh Clark

He did. He didn't come up with the assembly line himself. He did coin the term. He applied that to car manufacturing. All of a sudden making one car by hand, by one person, which took forever - he just popped it on a line where each person had their own job, and he cranked out I think 14 million cars.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I think between 1913 and 1927, they built 14 million Model T's.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Which is a huge jump because in 1915, there were only 2 million cars, and that was when there were about 100 million people in the United States.

Josh Clark

That's a lot of cars, especially for it having been considered kind of like a plaything of the rich.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it was almost like a toy.

Josh Clark

Like a personal submarine is today.

Chuck Bryant

Maybe so. They weren't even that well liked at first because they were clunky, and the smelled bad. I know John said one of the early names for a car was stink chariot, which I thought was pretty funny. It couldn't stink worse than horse manure, or could it?

Josh Clark

It could.

Chuck Bryant

I guess it's a different kind of stink.

Josh Clark

I kind of like the smell of horse manure.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, but what if it was coming out of - that was the emissions at the time.

Josh Clark

I'd be in heaven.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

How do you control those emissions, I wonder.

Josh Clark

With corks.

Chuck Bryant

Don't do like Kramer did on "Seinfeld." Remember when he fed the horse ravioli?

Josh Clark

Beef-a-Roni.

Chuck Bryant

Whew!

Josh Clark

That was a tangent. Chuck, let's talk about rail lines. We can't forget about rail lines. They actually opened up the country. Back before John Candy was in a covered wagon and that's how you really got around, you ended up devolving into cannibalism. It was nothing but hardship.

Chuck Bryant

There were no roads, really.

Josh Clark

Basically, you had to have a murder rap on you back east to take a covered wagon out west.

Chuck Bryant

Although, there were no interstates or freeways. There were local roads.

Josh Clark

You were literally a trailblazer, which is why Portland has that name, trailblazer.

Chuck Bryant

Interesting.

Josh Clark

Well, that's an assumption of mine.

Chuck Bryant

You're full of facts.

Josh Clark

So the railways opened this up. Actually, they were wildly successful. They are considered to have created the modern industrial state of the United States that we view it today.

Chuck Bryant

Totally.

Josh Clark

They opened up the continent. I think 1.2 billion people were using rail lines every year by 1920.

Chuck Bryant

That was at its peak. It peaked in 1920. That's about 106 million people living in the United States then, carrying 1.2 billion. It's pretty clear that every American was probably traveling by rail several times a year.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Or maybe several times a week or day. Who knows?

Josh Clark

It also opened up the rest of the country to ordinary, everyday people. Before, it was pretty much horse-drawn carriage, maybe a Model T, but with the absence of roads between towns -

Chuck Bryant

Not very comfortable.

Josh Clark

They were bumpy. People just kind of stuck around their town. With a rail line you could go -

Chuck Bryant

Some people didn't even leave where they were born their entire life.

Josh Clark

There are people who do that still today.

Chuck Bryant

That's just weird. I remember when I took my grandmother, who lived to be 101 and passed away a couple of years ago, when we took her to the ocean for the first time, she was like in her 70s.

Josh Clark

What did she think of it?

Chuck Bryant

I'll never forget. I was like 12. She walked out to the ocean and stood there and went, "Well, it's big." I swear to God. That's all she said.

Josh Clark

Granny Bryant's famous quote.

Chuck Bryant

We actually called her Granny Bryant. That's funny.

Josh Clark

Did you?

Chuck Bryant

Uh huh. She pretty much turned around and was like, "Well, let's go home." Go back to Tennessee.

Josh Clark

That was it?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Once you've seen one ocean, you've seen them all, pretty much. So rail lines are really making a huge impact, but they kind of fell to the wayside even though cities like New York and Boston started offering commuter stops. It was still a train. It wasn't all that convenient. It was good for long distances. With some refinement of the automobile and some huge marketing campaigns and lobbying, and some unholy alliances -

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. We'll get into that.

Josh Clark

The automobile started to play more and more of a role.

Chuck Bryant

Streamlining to the manufacturing. Of course, like any manufacturing process, it got a little cheaper too.

Josh Clark

That's huge.

Chuck Bryant

For the consumer.

Josh Clark

Once prices started coming up - ultimately, no matter how played upon your brain is by PR firms, no matter how little of a choice you're given by huge monopolies, ultimately it comes down to the consumer's choice. That's something that's easily forgotten.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. We talked about that in our econ audio book.

Josh Clark

Definitely. When consumers are given a choice, they almost invariably choose the cheaper option. When cars started to become competitive price wise with maybe a rail service, people started buying more and more cars.

Chuck Bryant

And you didn't have to depend on the rail services schedule, of course. All of a sudden, you were in control of when you went somewhere and how far you travelled, and you didn't have to worry what the rail line said about it.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Which is still a criticism today of public transit. Cars offer freedom. It's as simple as that. They also offer more privacy too, which I think a lot of people value.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And an ability to engage in road rage, a national pastime here in the United States.

Josh Clark

Which is a little more removed than subway rage, if you remember? What was that girl's name, Soulja girl?

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah.

Josh Clark

Who went off, again, on MARTA, our beloved MARTA!

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. You can find that on YouTube still, I'm sure.

Josh Clark

What would they type in, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

Soulja girl. If you want to watch a nice subway rant! There's nothing like road rage, though.

Josh Clark

No. So rail lines is kind of fading into the background as far as public transportation goes, and taking on more and more of a role as good transportation, commodities transportation. There's also those street rail lines were were talking about. Actually, most cities, whether huge or not, had public transportation in the form of trolleys.

Chuck Bryant

L.A. had one of the biggest trolley and street lines. The red cars and the yellow cars is what they were called. They connected. This was way back then. They connected five counties. It was really vast, and they were pretty much squashed.

Josh Clark

That's what we're getting to now. This is arguably the death blow of public transportation.

Chuck Bryant

National City lines?

Josh Clark

National City Lines.

Chuck Bryant

This is where I think it really come down to.

Josh Clark

Let's go ahead and say we found in our research two views of this. I read an article by a guy who says the scandal is a myth, so not everybody is on board that this actually happened the way it said.

Chuck Bryant

Right, but we do have some facts.

Josh Clark

Let's do it, Chuck. National City Lines!

Chuck Bryant

National City Lines was a group that formed made up of, I think it was about eight companies. That included General Motors, Firestone, Standard Oil of California, and Phillips Petroleum. Clearly, the big hitters in what would be the burgeoning auto business.What they wanted to do was buy up the street car systems and replace them with buses.

Josh Clark

They did, and they did it quietly. What they did was - it wasn't just buses, but all the tires on these buses were Firestone.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

All the gas put into these buses was Standard Oil, and all the buses were manufactured by GM.

Chuck Bryant

Basically, all of a sudden, automobile, whether it was a bus or Model T's that was the way to get around.

Josh Clark

Yeah. The trolley line was dead.

Chuck Bryant

It's referred to as the Great American Street Car Scandal.

Josh Clark

Also, if that sounds vaguely familiar, you may have seen "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

Chuck Bryant

I was going to mention that.

Josh Clark

That informs one of the subplots in there, right?

Chuck Bryant

Loosely masked, but definitely based on that whole scene.

Josh Clark

So back in 1947, there was a guy who was actually a trolley enthusiast. He was from a wealthy family. His name was E.J. Quimby. He was a naval officer.

Chuck Bryant

He sounds wealthy.

Josh Clark

He was, but he bucked the family trend of just being wealthy, and took a job managing trolley lines in New Jersey as his first job after college.

Chuck Bryant

Nice.

Josh Clark

I guess then he went into the Navy after the war, or during the war. He noticed what National City Lines was doing, because he was right there. He'd been there while they were burning up all these trolley services. he figured out what was going on, and he wrote this letter with all this detailed evidence to every person he could think of that had anything to do with federal, state, municipal, elected officials, transportation - anybody who had any say in it got a letter from this guy, across the country.

Chuck Bryant

So he started this whole thing for people to start paying attention to this?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Really? Didn't know that!

Josh Clark

A lot of people say it may not have ever been noticed if he had not brought it to everyone's attention. He did it so thoroughly.

Chuck Bryant

Was he killed shortly thereafter?

Josh Clark

No, he wasn't. Remember, he was from a wealthy family.

Chuck Bryant

True.

Josh Clark

He did such a thorough job that National City Lines was indicted by the justice department for breaking antitrust laws.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Josh Clark

Right. Now in 1947, we've got them by the short and curlies. Obviously, National City Lines is going to go under. These people are going to all be taken out behind the woodshed and be shot in the back of the head for trying to - one of the charges was - monopolize ground transportation in the United States, which is pretty huge.

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah. Very huge!

Josh Clark

They were actually acquitted of that charge.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, they were. They were found guilty of a lesser charge, guilty of monopolizing the sale of buses. Come on.

Josh Clark

They were found guilty. What happened, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

They were fined $5,000.00.

Josh Clark

The whole thing, National City Lines, which is owned by GM, Standard Oil, and Firestone, was fined $5,000.00. Which in 1947 even wasn't that much for a corporation?

Chuck Bryant

Not for all those corporations at all.

Josh Clark

But the executive sure had to pay, right, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

They did.

Josh Clark

How much?

Chuck Bryant

One dollar.

Josh Clark

One dollar apiece.

Chuck Bryant

A symbolic fine of $1.00. From an outsider looking in, you would see this "lesser charge." It's pretty much the charge. I don't know how they got around it. I don't know if there was some nefarious bribes or anything like that. I know that some conspiracy folks think so, but it still hasn't' been found out, really.

Josh Clark

So the fact that that case was tried and convicted in 1947, it didn't catch the public eye all that much. it was actually a district attorney, or a federal attorney, I think, named Bradford Snell who in 1974 testified before the Senate and really drummed up public ire about this occurrence that had happened a couple of decades before. It wasn't really considered a scandal or huge, nefarious plot until Bradford Snell came about.Again, still, not everybody's on the same page about whether this was a nefarious plot. No one actually disputes that GM and National City Lines were trying to sell buses across the country. They're saying, "Monopolize ground transportation? Prove it." you can't really prove motivation like that, or clearly, the federal prosecutors couldn't. As one guy pointed out in a Mountain Express, which is a paper out of Asheville - I read a cool article out of there about this - the result was still the same: the death of the trolley car.

Chuck Bryant

Absolutely.

Josh Clark

Whether that was the intent or not, that was still the result.

Chuck Bryant

That was the intent.

Josh Clark

I think one of the reasons why this became such a source of irritation among the public when Snell came out was that it was 1974, which was -

Chuck Bryant

Kind of right in the middle of the energy crisis, wasn't it?

Josh Clark

That was part of it, but it was also around the birth of the Environmental Protection Movement.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, sure.

Josh Clark

We have the nascent EPA, and people are starting to think about -

Chuck Bryant

Pay attention to that kind of thing.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I think also faith in corporations had been lost time and time again. People were kind of getting fed up with it, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's a good point.

Josh Clark

So, Chuck. We were talking about public transportation and cars' being in a horse race to see who was going to serve or which was going to serve the United States. There was also another sub-race going on between what exactly would fuel those cars.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, gasoline or ethanol.

Josh Clark

Right. Henry Ford designed the Model T to run on either one.

Chuck Bryant

Which is pretty interesting to think back! This country could've gone in a whole different direction, man.

Josh Clark

It totally could've. Ford was actually a huge proponent of ethanol. He called it the fuel of the future, which was kind of weird because it had been around for several decades already and used to power all sorts of equipment. I think Ford also said that one year's yield of an acre of potatoes can be used to fuel the machinery to cultivate that acre for the next century.

Chuck Bryant

But we went with gas.

Josh Clark

We did go with gas. Do you know why?

Chuck Bryant

I'm not sure. I know gas was just sort of a dirty byproduct at the time, of crude oil production.

Josh Clark

Yeah. They were looking for kerosene. They wanted kerosene to light things, and no one really had any use for gas.

Chuck Bryant

At the time.

Josh Clark

Once some oil fields opened up - have you ever heard of a little movie called "There Will be Blood"?

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Once oil fields opened up in Texas around that time, oil suddenly became cheaper. Gas became cheaper. Advances in the refining process became cheaper, and ethanol was more expensive. It was as simple as that.

Chuck Bryant

Yep. And Daniel Day Lewis, once again, drinks our milkshake, which we've mentioned before. It was a long time ago.

Josh Clark

Yeah, it was. So with the National City Line scandal going on, there was one real, last nail in the coffin! That came from a president, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yep. The cars were in full swing. People were digging it. What we needed now was major interstates to connect everyone together. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act, which created about 42,000 miles of highway from coast to coast. The rest is history, literally.

Josh Clark

Also, that one act really changed the American economy a lot, too.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the way we spend our money.

Josh Clark

Not just that. Think about, fast food is one.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Roadside attractions.

Chuck Bryant

Drive-through food. Billboards! John was taking about billboards in the article, which I thought was pretty cool.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I came across this study by these two guys named Shapiro and Hassett. They reckon, I guess you could put it, that every year cars on the highway system, automobile use, generates $314.7 billion for businesses in the United States. That's direct, like you drive up to a McDonald's. You drive to the mall. The fact that automobiles exist generates that.

Chuck Bryant

You know what else happened to help this along?

Josh Clark

What?

Chuck Bryant

New zoning laws were created when businesses were built, and for the first time parking spaces were required, a certain amount of parking spaces per business, which still exists today. What happened was some cities abandoned sidewalks altogether at this point, and they pushed businesses back further from the road in favor of parking lots. Places that were pretty easily accessible by foot or by bicycle, all of a sudden they were a little further away, and they weren't as accessible. The only way you could get there was by your car. So thanks a lot for that, too.

Josh Clark

I don't know. Public transit, does it have a chance?

Chuck Bryant

It's making a comeback now because gas prices are so high now. The car production has reached a ten-year low last year, john said. It dropped 18 percent last year.

Josh Clark

Yeah, but that was because gas was $5.00 a gallon. Do you remember MARTA ridership when up through the roof? It doubled or tripled.

Chuck Bryant

That was awful.

Josh Clark

Then gas goes back down, and everybody's like, "What the heck's MARTA?"

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, but I think people are starting to realize a little more, coupled with the environmental impact, public transport is coming back a little bit, but it'll never overtake cars.

Josh Clark

Consider this, though. The Cash-For-Clunkers program in and of itself supports automobiles.

Chuck Bryant

The recently defunct, as of today, actually.

Josh Clark

Oh, it ended?

Chuck Bryant

Uh huh.

Josh Clark

Did they go through all three billion dollars already?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know. It was a hugely successful program.

Josh Clark

I know they sold an estimated quarter of a million cars with just the first $1 billion.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

That's a lot of cars.

Chuck Bryant

It is.

Josh Clark

Yeah, you save four miles per gallon I think was the requisite.

Chuck Bryant

Was it? Weird!

Josh Clark

Yeah. So the American obsession with cars continues. To answer this question why are we so dependent on it? How did it become the dominant form of transportation? Because it was cheaper at the right time!

Chuck Bryant

Yep. That's what consumers want.

Josh Clark

If you want to know more about this, there's all sorts of cool links on the LMI page on this article, type in "Automobile dominant form of transportation" in the handy search bar at www.HowStuffWorks.com.Chuck, let's plug real quick, too.

Chuck Bryant

What are we plugging this time?

Josh Clark

Let's plug the blogs and the webcast.

Chuck Bryant

Josh and I have a shared blog called Stuff You Should Know. You can access it on the right side of the home page of our website. We write about interesting things, and newsie items, and people get into scrappy debates.

Josh Clark

Do they? That is social media, my friend.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. The Friday blog recap is getting a lot of traffic now. People, we welcome you. If you want to say something about the show, log on on Fridays, and tell us what you think.

Josh Clark

The webcast is live at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time every Wednesday!

Chuck Bryant

Video.

Josh Clark

Yep, and you can find that on your blog post at that day. It's also on Ustream and Facebook.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So there's the plugging. Plugging is over, which means it's time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant

Listener mail, Josh. I'm going to call this "We Shall Use Our Powers for Good." We have a regular email buddy, Christopher, that writes in a lot. He's a really cool guy. He wrote in and asked us to give a shout out to blood platelet donation. He and his family have been donating platelets for years.He says beginning at the end of August, it's a very critical time when blood and platelets are needed the most. "People know a lot about blood donations and how important that is, but few people know about platelet donation and other forms of donation the Red Cross and state blood services take and what they're used for."Platelets, for example, are used for chemotherapy and leukemia patients. These treatments destroy platelets, which are essential for the clotting of blood," which is a very big deal!

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

"And patients frequently require platelet transfusions to allow their blood to clot if they get injured. Platelets are needed all the time, especially with the increase of cancer and leukemia cases in recent years. Blood services also accepts red blood cells and plasma to help other patients and people in need."His family has a freakishly high platelet count. When they donate, one single donation goes to help three or four people in need.

Josh Clark

Cool.

Chuck Bryant

It's pretty cool. Most people's single donation goes to help at least two patients. He said it takes a little longer, about an hour and 45 minutes, which is one reason why they don't get as many donations. That's just the process though, and they really need it.He actually wanted us to podcast about it, so maybe we'll do that one day.

Josh Clark

Maybe.

Chuck Bryant

Go give blood platelets, people.

Josh Clark

Did you know that my girlfriend's blood saves infants?

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

She lacks a type of herpes that most people get by age five, but you're not supposed to get it before age five, so very few people are without this type of herpes.She's one of them, so her blood is used directly to save infants. How crazy is that?

Chuck Bryant

Did you know that a gaze from my wife saves baby puppies all over the world?

Josh Clark

That's awesome.

Chuck Bryant

She just looks upon them.

Josh Clark

That's very cool. She should exercise that.

Chuck Bryant

Beat that, Umi.

Josh Clark

Yeah, Umi. I want to see a Umi and Emily saved-down.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Let's do that. Donate blood platelets, and blood, and plasma. It's very important.

Josh Clark

And puppies.

Chuck Bryant

And puppies. Josh and I are going to do that today.

Josh Clark

All right. If you have an email about what you can save, send it to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.

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