This is a really simplistic understanding that misses a lot of why cars became so popular in the first place. They were replacing horse-drawn carriages, while being faster and also less (locally) polluting than horses, and much cheaper and easier to own and maintain. They were inarguably an improvement in many ways.
The trouble is that horse-drawn carriages were never the primary mode of transportation before their automobile replacements. People walked and (at least in the few decades before cars dominated) rode bicycles everywhere, because walking is free outside of the cost of time, and bicycles can be made very cheaply while being much faster and requiring little extra time, energy, or money. Mass transit was the far more significant innovation of the 20th century, we just ignored it here because America has always been and is increasingly becoming a self-destructive nation.
Americans–not solely, but more than and for longer than anyone else–have built our cities as though each homeowner is landed gentry, albeit often only on quarter or half-acre lots. There are understandable reasons why this would be desirable, as owning a plot of Earth feels much more secure than depending on such contingent social relations as public housing or–even worse–living at the mercy of a landlord (this is, of course, ignoring the contingency of private property rights, on their own). To provide the land necessary for single-family housing, we’ve all had to spread out to scales and patterns of development that can only be served by cars–could only have been served by horse-drawn carriages in the past.
Much like a stand-alone home would’ve been an enormous luxury in the past, so too would’ve been the amount of non-human-powered private transportation that you see in the U.S. I don’t necessarily see this as an issue, either. Admittedly, I’ve always loved cars, and though I only drive my own infrequently, I love it, too, but that’s because it feels like a luxury. I moved to Beaverton from New Hampshire because the zoning reforms of the past two years seemed an acknowledgment by the Portland metro area of that fact, and signalled that the state was ready to change things. Then, I arrived here, and saw brand new multi-level parking garages being built next to MAX stops, and old low-density housing next to transit that ought to be redeveloped yesterday, next to the same sprawling auto-centric development that I’d left on the East Coast. There’s a lot of hypocrisy over here, even if I can all the same appreciate that people know they ought to do better. There’s still missing the realization that a single-family home with a car serving it is a luxury, and not one everyone wants, and certainly not one everyone should be forced to have.
Cars are not an insane idea, but they are absolutely unfit for the purpose of moving lots of people, and I expected a region that touts itself as “progressive” to be further along the path to the realization that they are at least not the sole viable means of transportation, and more, that developed countries show it is far from the best for people who work in service, and not industry. However, contrarily, the people in charge of deciding the physical construction of the region are those same landed gentry would’ve-beens who are still marveling at the self-propelled carriage, instead of the efficiency and humanity of high-density, transit-oriented development.