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What Would Happen if there were no Cars?

Kim Fernandez over at the IPMI commented on a survey taken in the UK that showed that 44% of ‘older’ drivers would not give up their cars under any circumstances, and that only 18% would if transit choices were better and 5% would do so to protect the environment. Kim posits that this means the picture is not as rosy as once thought (most surveys show that young drivers aren’t driving at the rate they did years ago.) I take this to mean that she is looking to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Fair enough.

I have been thinking about this and the future of the parking industry aside, I wonder about the ramifications of reducing the number of cars on the road.

First, what about the economics of the situation. A very large portion of the world’s economy is based on the manufacture, driving, and powering of private vehicles. Tens if not hundreds of millions of people are involved in this part of the economy. What happens to them if in fact the picture Kim envisions gets rosy and the number of cars on the road is decreased.

Second, it seems to me that we never ask a very important question. Yes, the young today aren’t getting their driver’s licenses like we old fogies did at age 16, but when are they getting them? Are they never driving cars, or just wisely putting off buying cars until they can afford them, say at age 30 or so, when they begin their families and transportation becomes more complicated? The last survey I saw noted that although drivers were down upwards of 40% for 16 year olds, by they time they were 30, all but 10% were driving.

And remember, as the population increases, that means that the same number or more cars are on the road, just that the percentage of people driving at certain age levels is less.

Don’t get me wrong. If the private vehicle is truly destroying the planet, we should do something about it. As we have. Emissions from gasoline powered vehicles are down by orders of magnitude from the Belchfire V12s we drove when I was a kid, and they are getting less and less as the years go by. Certainly EVs will move, if not lower, pollution. And if we get smart about it, and generate electricity using non air polluting sources, we can save the environment even more.

It seems to me that we need a multilevel approach to the transportation problem. One size doesn’t’ fit all. Like the survey mentioned in the first paragraph noted, some like to walk, others bike, others take public transit, and others (a bunch) drive. If we want to change those paradigms, we need to make all types more convenient, and more user friendly.

I don’t think we are going to legislate cars out of existence. New York and London may try, but if all those drivers on the Cross Bronx Expressway or the M25 suddenly stop driving and take the train, will there be enough room on the trains?

They still haven’t repealed my favorite law, that of unintended consequences. The only problem may be this: What if the consequences are intended?

JVH

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