The End Of The Car Age

Written by Boston Biker on Apr 28

Anyone paying attention knows that the mode-share (as those in the transportation biz call it) has been shifting.  Less people are using cars, and more people are using other things to get around.

In my mind roads are a public utility, who’s purpose is to move people and stuff around.  There are a lot of ways these people and stuff can get around.  We could use cars, trucks, buses, trains, trolleys, walking, carts, bicycles, horse and buggy, dog sled, etc.  These methods all have pro’s and con’s.  An efficient city would use the methods best suited to its people, and economic activity.

For a long time people thought the best way to use roads, was to cram them full of cars and trucks, and as such they kept running into the same problem. They would build a road, then a bunch of cars and trucks would drive on it, the road would get clogged, so they would build bigger roads and then these bigger roads would get clogged, so they built bigger roads, etc etc.    These larger roads lead to people moving out of the city centers and out to the burbs, so you had decreasing tax bases in cities, and lots and lots of commuter traffic.

This downward cycle got pretty bad.  We ended up with giant multi-lane highways through the centers of cities.  Inner cities devoid of people, traffic, air pollution, obesity, and a lot of other problems we didn’t think would happen.  All because we decided the best use of the public utility that is our roads, was to fill them with cars and trucks.

But that is changing, rapidly.  In our modern, technologically advanced cities, filling our streets with cars makes very little sense.

Gilles Vesco calls it the “new mobility”. It’s a vision of cities in which residents no longer rely on their cars but on public transport, shared cars and bikes and, above all, on real-time data on their smartphones. He anticipates a revolution which will transform not just transport but the cities themselves. “The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people,” he says. “There will be less pollution, less noise, less stress; it will be a more walkable city.” (via)

We have seen this trend right here in Boston.  The entire Big Dig (for all its failings) was basically removing an eyesore highway that bisected downtown Boston.  Highway overpasses are being removed in Somerville, in JP, and elsewhere.  The city is being re-designed to accommodate human beings, not cars and trucks.  With beneficial effects for its citizens.

This trend will only increase with a multitude of factors contributing to the decline of car use.  Uber, Zip Car, Hubway, self driving cars, better and more public transportation, cycling and walking infrastructure are all chipping away at car ownership and use.  The high cost of car infrastructure (like car parking), the poor health and environmental effects of cars, rising income inequality, combined with new expectations of ownership (the so called sharing economy) have all converged to really put the hurt on car mode-share.

The upshot is that you should expect a future filled with cycling, walking, and public transportation, not single use car trips. We have reached “peak car.”  This will usher in a new era, one significantly better for everyone.

Have you given up your car?  Do you use ride share services instead of owning a personal car? Have you switched to walking, cycling, or public transportation?  If you have a car does it get much use?  Has your personal mode-share changed?  Let us know in the comments.


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One Response to “The End Of The Car Age”

  1. By PaulCJr on Apr 29, 2015 | Reply

    I live in Brockton, work in Brockton, so my car doesn’t get much use. I mainly walk and bike around my city since its urban design lend self to that. My car is mainly for interurban travel to get me to other cities to bike and walk in.

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