Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Not to Get Rid of Cars...

The problem of cars is one of costs and benefits (good god I sound like an economist). Right now the costs are hidden (100 deaths per day, parking req's built into zoning laws, single-use zoning, fed funding of freeways...). The benefits are manifold. We now enjoy mobility never before seen in human history, which is benefit enough.

But, in a market where costs and information are not transparent, what happens? Mutation. Now, our trains are a joke. Airlines are good, but costly for fuel, while rarely turning a profit, and amid frustratingly crowded airports. Our cities are sprawling in ways that make ppl nervous. And other consumer options wither up and die.

The point isn't to get rid of cars, but to promote more efficient ways of transporting. That will give us more efficient cities - more mobility, quality of life, etc for the same cost. Or if the peakers are right, maybe similar quality of life, with less fuel.

Getting rid of cars as an academic or political goal is rather futile, and even arrogant (and this coming from a bike guy). And if the neighbor wants to drive an SUV, that's his choice. I'm not comfortable means-testing ppl's needs for cars - that's why I hate the anti-sport ute bashing.

The problem is that this is an environment that has been promoted at the cost of consumer choice, at the cost of consumer financial well-being, and at the cost of civilizan safety. In the long run it has put us over a barrel militarily, and now leaves us in a situation where everybody driving priuses (prii?) really isn't going to change anything.

However, mixed use, mixed transport, neighborhood-oriented cities, do move us in a direction that is more efficient, more organic regarding individual market choices, and more robust regarding international resources. Think of it as diversifying your urban portfolio. Loading up on sprawl may be similar historically to loading up on enron. Or not. Who knows?

5 comments:

Matt (Your Student) said...

It's either:
'riding your bike? join the times kid, gas will be around forever'
or
'riding your bike? you are a true hero, i wish i could ride my bike but my car is too important'

Blah Blah Blah

Hey, you think i'm idealistc with the whole unified faith and heart's passion talk, but getting people to give up their SUVs? Now that is idealistic.

But you keep trying you cute hippie liberal.

Seriously though, if we can unify heart's we can eliminate SUVs, so lets work together!

Michael said...

Fair enough. But I gave up on the eliminate the SUVs crowd. They're annoying and too willing to impose their values on everyone else.

However, if oil starts to decline anytime soon, we have built ourselves into quite a tight little corner wouldn't you say?

Thanks for the comments!

Jackie in Adelaide, South Autralia said...

You can make incentives - In Adelaide (Australia) over the last couple of years parking costs in the city centre have increased substantially and the times on many of the convenient parking slots decrease (4 hour maximum) so that now it is cheaper and easier to catch the bus to work if you work in the city centre. The bus is generally reliable, clean and a pleasant way to travel. Some days I walk - 1 hour of mostly pleasant walking with the last through the parklands around the city. That said what we need now is more buses travelling the routes from point to point in the suburbs rather than everything converging on the centre.

So what makes this acceptable here in Adelaide. Australian populations are more accepting of restrictions on personal freedom to benefit what is seen as greater society good. Either that or we are a bunch of sheep who are so apathetic we can't be bothered to oppose the nasty government. The beach, the pub, the barbie is calling - stoicism is king.

There again Foucault has something to say about governmentality. Attitudes can change - smoking must be one of the best modern examples. Leadership helps (sorry but you are all out on that one at least in government - just realised that is a cricket metaphor and probably lost on the US populus) but one should not underestimate the power of a few determined people particularly if allied with rising fuel costs and increased extreme weather events and if backed by a few pressure groups. We need more academics like you. Keep plugging away!!

I tend to think oil running out is the least of our problems.

Of course London (UK) has gone one step more draconian and charges a fee to go into the city centre. Always thought it was nuts to drive in the centre of London anyhow - the underground was always faster and bikes were sometimes faster still. The slow pace of the traffic at least makes it safer for people on bikes.

By the way I hear you are getting a visit from another cute hippie liberal in the not to distant future.
cheers
Jackie

lib said...

haha am i meant to be the cute hippie liberal? i'm glad that its you commenting and not my friends!

Michael said...

Hi Jackie! This is great I love the internet. Glad you're reading! The next few years really will be interesting.