Friday, January 29, 2010

Without buses, rail will fail

Development and transport are systems that achieve critical mass and then cannot easily be changed. One hundred years ago U.S. cities and towns had extensive streetcar systems and were connected to each other by electrified rail. The current U.S. system of autos and sprawl was forced upon us.

This system is economically and environmentally unsustainable, and is propped up by USD trillions in subsidy and ignored externalities.

Superimposing rail solutions on top of autosprawl will not work. Instead, we must dismantle the system gradually by turning to buses, then streetcars, then bicycles and walking.

3 comments:

coordinationspecialist said...

This is a ridiculous rant, as if you can impose a one-size fits all graduated system for public transit and livable communities. The point is to get people out of their cars with reliable, affordable, convenient and attractive public transit as well as building walkable streets to increase access to transit and community amenities. As a society we are never going to be willing to pay for all of the externalities of auto use whenever we put our keys in the ignition. What free public transit -rail or bus- can do is take away the cost element of getting on a train or a bus.

fpteditors said...

coord:
Why do you perceive a rant? It is simply the truth, does it endanger your income? As far as imposing, that is being done now. And if you believe that the fossil fuel/auto industry will allow convenient and attractive transit without being forced by a mass movement, then you are fooling yourself.

Bob Davis said...

It's all very well to encourage bus travel but transit buses have an "image" problem. They are perceived as "poor folks" transportation. Their poster boy is Ralph Kramden. Trains, even if they go through poorer neighborhoods, still have a positive, "railroads built America" aura. And getting people out of their cars is an uphill battle to begin with. Only when fuel prices, parking fees or traffic congestion become intolerable will most Americans consider non-automotive transport. The private car is usually faster and more convenient than public (or as one writer called it "collective") transit. Cars are available 24/7, and you don't have to wait for them. It not part of the public consciousness yet, but when the era of near-universal automobility comes to an end, you can be sure that the entertainment celebrities and government big shots will still have cars, while the rest of cram into buses, pump along on bicycles or walk, like present day third-world countries. I can envision a bumper sticker (with a nod to the NRA) that reads: I Wil Give Up My Car When They Pry My Cold, Dead Fingers from the Steering Wheel." Just for the record, I have gone through "transit dependent" periods in my life.