In 1972, I was hitchhiking south to Florida and got a ride in a Caddy with two guys who seemed a little down and out. The car was definitely on its last legs. The engine was rough and rust had eaten away significant chunks of the car. Talking with them I was surprised at how nonchalant they were about their car’s reliability especially when the window next to me suddenly cracked all by itself. Feeling like the car was about to collapse in on itself, I asked them if they weren’t concerned that the car would leave them stranded? “ No problem, Man” they said, “ We’ll just ditch her. We got a Harley in the trunk.”
I think our transportation system is the Cadillac and we need to put a Harley in the trunk-NOW. These guys, assessing the likelihood that their car was not going to make it, decided to plan for the future. Surely, we are at least as capable as these two in thinking about the future. So, do we put the Harley in the trunk?
In our case we are talking about transportation systems and not rusty Cadillacs, but the idea is the same. We should be able to plan for a future where most transportation occurs without the car. By relying solely on the car and locking ourselves into carcentric transportation we are ensuring that we’re leaving on our trip with a very creaky vehicle and no Harley in the trunk
The people who say, “ People won’t give up there cars. “, are generally right. Given the way we have constructed our world, other than in the most urbanized environments, being without a car is tantamount to a kind of suicide. We need to gradually reconstruct this world. At first we need to move towards a friendlier structure for those who choose not to drive so that people can more easily choose to give up their cars. Then we need to start deconstructing the impediments to viable public transportation. Finally, we need to build the new infrastructure. Throughout this process we need to move steadily forward laying the foundation for the new infrastructure. We will need to make long-term decisions and stick with them. We will only achieve this by bringing those who have vested interests in the continuation of the existing transportation into the decision making process. This will not work if we “win” by having a majority.
The keys to this change are creating demand for alternative modes of transportation, moving incrementally, but consistently, and changing our mindset. It is critical to note that the key is creating demand not creating alternative transportation infrastructure. Building the actual infrastructure will be in the future though we need to be certain that we make room for it as we go along. There is nothing new in this type of thinking we can see this type of planning prior to the widening of a highway. As bridges are built or interchanges added, all the new construction is built for the future wider road. Planning for the future is not some impossible concept. The leap from leaving room for increased highway capacity to the concept of planning development to encourage alternative transportation and to build in such a way as to make the future public transportation as efficient as possible is neither that different nor that difficult.