Eleven point plan for eliminating the private automobile
This post is a follow-up to the thread on peakoil.com called, "How to eliminate the private automobile." The thread takes as a premise that cars are viruses. The term "private automobile" is defined in this post by gg3.
- Invent self-guiding cars that can't crash into pedestrians, cyclists, and each other. Regulate auto speed with governors. Tie use of these technologies to insurance premiums. In the future, private autos may evolve into "pod cars" that link physically to form ad hoc trains.
Result: you're not really driving any more. Driving becomes less appealing because motorists lose the feeling of control that comes from being behind the wheel. Safety is improved for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Expand car sharing programs (e.g. City Car Share) and make them more convenient. Car sharing is a step towards eliminating auto dependence entirely. Use RFID, GPS, and mobile phones to make sure shared cars are always available in convenient locations. Provide lockers where users can store child car seats, shopping bags, et cetera. Make a child car seat that's easier and quicker to install on the go.
Result: take the "private" out of the private automobile. Participants share cars rather than owning them. People who use car sharing programs also use public transit more often than car owners.
- Stop expanding free highways. When traffic demands dictate the need for a new lane, build self-funding toll lanes for people who want to stay in their cars but get out of the traffic. Over time, change existing free highways and lanes to toll roads so that the highway system funds itself.
Result: Lower highway spending removes a subsidy on driving, discouraging waste. For drivers in the disappearing free lanes, traffic worsens and driving becomes less attractive. For those in the toll lanes, driving becomes more expensive.
- Start a PR campaign to discourage automobile use. Mimic the anti-smoking and anti-DUI campaigns of recent decades. Make driving unpopular.
Result: driving becomes less appealing.
- Hold automakers, fossil energy companies, and motorists responsible for the externalities of petroleum use (e.g. pollution deaths, property damage due to climate change).
Result: the expense weakens the auto industry, raises the price of petroleum, and encourages greater transport efficiency. The victims of climate change are compensated for their real economic losses.
- In U.S. (and everywhere else where petroleum is cheap) raise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to match those in Europe.
Result: driving becomes more expensive and less practical.
- Fully fund public transit, especially rail. Focus on intra-city transit (e.g. SF MUNI) over commuter rail (e.g. BART or Caltrain) but promote both when possible. Develop high speed rail for long distance travel. Use a hub and spoke model for bus lines, incorporating computers, GPS, and mobile phones into their scheduling so that buses are always full.
Result: commuters do not need to drive to get to work.
- Invent lightweight, protective exoskeletons for cyclists to make bicycling safer, even at relatively high speeds (>60 kph). Promote electric-assist bicycles that are faster and can cover more varied terrain than pedal power alone.
Result: bicycling is safer, faster, easier, and thus more appealing. Bicycles and related technologies replace cars for most short to medium distance trips.
- Faster broadband (>100 Mbps) makes working from home totally seamless. High quality videoconferencing replaces most meetings.
Result: the need to commute to work is eliminated for many, along with a good percentage of auto trips.
- E-commerce expands to include almost all shopping. People only go to the store for specialty items. Webvan (or the modern equivalent) is reborn. Delivery is handled either by the Post Office or by dedicated firms (FedEx or UPS) so you get a single delivery with many items. The fuel efficiency of trucks is improved and they can run on biodiesel if necessary.
Result: the inefficiencies of shopping malls are eliminated. People conduct commerce within walking distance or through the Internet, rendering a large percentage of car trips unnecessary.
- Build urban neighborhoods and communities. Promote neighborhood watch groups, community gardening, and neighborhood cohesiveness. Allow the suburbs to revert back to small towns or cities.
Result: people have more to do near their homes and fewer reasons to physically leave the neighborhood. Communities thrive and people are happier. Crime declines and quality of life improves.
This plan is a work in progress and I welcome more ideas for the transition to a car-free future.
Update (8 November 2005): Remarkably, not everyone is in complete agreement that the private automobile should be eliminated. The car-defenders include Jalopnik, who writes, "Car lovers, know thy enemy." My plan is also cited by The Auto Prophet, who calls me, "A car hating greenie with socialist tendencies and a fetish for bicycles." The Auto Prophet may not be without socialist tendencies himself: I hear his car is Swedish.
Others do not hate my plan. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at Sustainablog comments that although, "A few of these concepts seem unworkable and even a little bizarre . . . a combination of some of the more practical ones could have positive effects." Eric at Long live the network opines, "What i really liked was, exoskeletons for bikers." However, I think he was envisioning the exoskeleton as some kind of power-assist device, as opposed to protective gear. I should have been a little more clear on that.
Update (10 November 2005): J G Halmayr at Ride is writing a thoughtful, point-by-point critique of my plan. I am commenting on his rebuttals and revising my points as he exposes weaknesses in them.
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