Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why #freetransit?

Our complex society is made up of systems. Many of these systems, autosprawl, for one example, consist of fixed, hard, assets that cannot quickly be changed: oil fields, refineries, tankers, highways, cul-de-sacs, automobile manufacturing plants, and much more.

In order for a system to return economy-of-scale, there must be a significant use of that system -- critical mass.

This system is based on waste -- the auto is intuitively a wasteful way to move people -- and the system generates waste -- each single home in the cul-de-sac must have its own lawn-mower, ping-pong table, leaf blower, etc.

So how does a wasteful system maintain critical mass? By subsidy, no other way. The costs the the system are ignored, deferred, passed to the taxpayer, the biosphere, or the future.

Cheap oil has peaked, climate change is here, and the bill for such waste is due.

Why do we advocate free public transit? Because it does two things. It reduces demand for oil more quickly than it can be replaced. This will take money and hence political power away from the oil industry. Second, it directly addresses the critical mass of the autosprawl system. When public transit is free, people will move to urban areas, sell their cars, and demand that cities be clean and safe. The auto will become a niche item. No one will want to spend millions on superhighways for a handful of cars.

While alternative fuels are important, we should keep in mind that putting solar panels on sprawl may extend its life and allow autosprawl to retain critical mass longer than what is safe for the biosphere.