Changing Ends at Half Time
Absorbing some of the recent debate over the new fuel efficiency standards, not to mention the hovering controversy over congestion or VMT pricing — or even the closing of segments of Broadway to car traffic in NYC — I was reminded of a passage I recently came across in a lecture by Phil Goodwin, now emeritus professor at University College London, back in 1997:
I think we are engaged in one of those historic transitions which looks quite different when you are in the middle of it, from what it looks like in retrospect – a bit like the great liberal reforms of the 19th century. The abolition of slavery, and of child labour; the introduction of free, compulsory education; the concept of public health; the construction of a system of drains; running clean water; the right to vote. All of these, at the time, seemed revolutionary, or threatening, or infringements on the liberty of the citizen; or too expensive, and there were long arguments. In retrospect, they seem logical, fair, efficient, and absolutely good value for money. Subsequent generations even wonder why it took so long, and why there was so much fuss about it.
I see transport as similar. Mass car ownership offered us a control over time and space which no previous generation has ever had, and we took it up willingly and enthusiastically. But it has got out of hand. It has now started to defeat its own advantages. There is much talk of a ‘level playing field’ – but playing fields are never level, which is why we change ends at half time. It’s now half time – literally: we are probably about half way to the levels of traffic that would eventually apply if trends continue unchecked, and that just won’t do. So we need to find a better way, or better ways.
It may all seem very complicated just at the moment. But we do our children no favours if we confine them to a car-dependent mobility. And I think our grandchildren will wonder what took us so long.
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 7:30 am and is filed under Cars, Cities, Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.