The Car Habit Is Tough to Break

transport_panel.jpg

"People are addicted to their cars," said John Street, the Mayor of
Philadelphia, at a panel on transport yesterday during the C40 Large
Cities Climate Summit. He was identifying what he saw as the major
challenge for cities striving to make their transport systems more
environmentally sustainable.

That remark prompted a comment later from Jim Press, president of
Toyota North America, who was in the audience. "It’s not an addiction
to cars, which makes me feel a little like a dealer," he said, to
general laughter. "It’s an addiction to personal mobility." Press went
on to say he thought part of the solution to the problem of pollution
in cities could be a car-sharing scheme (with Toyota supplying the
cars, of course) in which people could take mass transit to a city
center, then pick up a car to get to their precise destination.

Street, despite his earlier anti-car rhetoric, seemed suddenly interested. And no
one in the room appeared to think there was anything odd about the idea
of reducing pollution by giving people new opportunities to drive cars.

The exchange was typical in a discussion that focused on alternative
fuels for existing and future motor vehicles, or on different types of
motor vehicles, rather than on the reduction of the vehicles
themselves. Certainly, mass transit (and getting more funding for it
from central governments) featured heavily among the strategies touted
by the municipal leaders on the panel, and all of them acknowledged
personal cars as the biggest villain. But they seemed reluctant to press the idea that people could ever be convinced to give up their autos.

Representing the promise of better living through better fuels was
panelist Ken Fisher (above, left), a senior vice president from Shell
Oil. He acknowledged the deficiencies of ethanol and other fuel
alternatives that require huge swathes of land and plenty of energy to
produce, but he held out hope for "biofuel from waste, not food," like
cellulose ethanol.

Apirak Kosayodhin (above, right), the Governor of Bangkok, bemoaned
the difficulty of getting motorists to relinquish road space for Bus
Rapid Transit in his city of legendary traffic jams — where car
ownership continues to soar, and where significant pollution reductions
have been achieved only by focusing on means other than limiting vehicular traffic.

Only Luis Eduardo Garzán, the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia (where former mayor Enrique Penalosa promoted radical cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly measures),
briefly mentioned bike lanes. Other than that, the conversation had
little to do with encouraging entirely pollution-free forms of
transportation — or shall we call it "personal mobility"? — such as
bicycling and walking.

At this rate, that addiction is going to be hard to kick.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Hoboken Launches First Citywide Car-Sharing Program in U.S.

|
Today marks the launch of what Hoboken officials are calling the first citywide car-sharing initiative in the country, with 42 shared cars parked on the streets of the mile-square city. The "Corner Cars" program, which is intended to reduce car-ownership rates, could provide a model for expanding car-sharing across the Hudson. What happens in Hoboken […]

50 DOT Fleet Vehicles Replaced By 25 Zipcars

|
The Department of Transportation will soon be using Zipcars instead of city-owned vehicles, Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced at a press conference yesterday. The initiative is intended to reduce unnecessary driving by DOT employees and could yield significant savings if expanded to the city’s entire passenger vehicle fleet. […]

After Hit-and-Run Death, Neighbors Press DOT to Tame Traffic in Astoria Park

|
Park advocates, a local civic association, and Council Member Costa Constantinides are calling on DOT to implement traffic calming around Astoria Park after a hit-and-run driver killed a woman just outside the park last month. The effort could grow much larger than changes to the intersection where the crash occurred: Pressure is mounting for DOT to reimagine the way motorists drive around […]