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I would love to see a parallel universe, where collective transportation obtained the upper hand. Where countryside railroads are still operating, and where roads/highways haven't consistently led to the expropriation of millions of people worldwide, and to the current car-oriented urban nightmare. See Ivan Illich for a demonstration that car-oriented urbanization is hostile and counter-productive, as opposed to what he calls "convivial tools" (empowering technologies).

Would we still have the problem of climate change?

Would we be on the same level of development?




For collective transportation to succeed, collective living has to succeed. That is, a lot of people should live densely enough in towns. This is what you see in Germany, Netherlands, (northern) France, England, for instance. Public railways are well-developed there, and have been for a century or more.

But you can't expect the same in the US Midwest, for instance, where countryside and suburban living is prevalent. It's just impractical, so cars reign supreme.


>> It's just impractical, so cars reign supreme.

And a dedication to dense urban living would also seriously impact the development of those regions. Remote mining/lumber towns. Enormous farmsteads. The loan cowboy walking a fence for days. These are romantic concepts but they are also how resources are extracted efficiently. If people only ever stayed near mass transportation hubs North America would not be the powerhouse it is. To this day, huge areas of economic activity rely on that most common of tools: a person with a truck able to go where needed on a moment's notice. Beyond the suburbs, when your power goes out at 3am or your farm catches fire, the first and most likely only people on the scene will be driving their own vehicles.


Those regions would still have trucks to work with. In some ways they would be better trucks because they wouldn't have to sort though the trucks aimed at people who don't need a truck. When inspecting a fence line you want a slow truck with a lot of suspension travel. When you fill the bed of the truck you want a suspension that doesn't point the headlights at the sky, and don't care that the suspension system that can do this results in a rough unloaded ride.


Nothing angers country people more than city people telling them whether they should be allowed to drive a truck. Emissions control, gas over diesel, even all-electric is open for discussion. Just don't suggest that they use an app to call an uber when smoke comes over the horizon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Fort_McMurray_wildfire


What proportion of car owners do you think are also farmers or miners? I would have thought many more cars were in use by commuters who could take public transport if it were available.


It's not just farmers and miners, but the extensive support system that grows up around these activities. People living in mining and farming towns have to regularly drive longer distances than battery technology will support.

For example, I am taking classes 5 days a week, but live 100 miles away in a farming community. Due to the nature of the course work, a significant portion is hands-on and cannot be done online. The campus has no charging stations and only relatively recently have electric cars had sufficient range.


Also, remember that if a new electric car is capable of performing a commute just barely within its range, it won't be in 5-10 years once the battery is sufficiently worn down, so you can forget about buying used.

Oh, and once it's cold out, you might find out that you now no longer have the range to make it to where you need to go on a single charge. Maybe the car tells you in advance, or it doesn't and it runs out of juice, which a simple jerry-can isn't going to solve for obvious reasons.

Electric cars are inferior to gasoline-powered ones in the long term due to their very nature as a consumable product and require more expensive maintenance to continue being useful than a gasoline car will over its useful lifetime. That is, if the car company even bothers to make replacement batteries, since the battery is the bulk of the cost of the car in the first place.


I'm in a similar boat. My car has been recalled (airbag issue). The nearest dealer who can do the service is 175km away. Being in a "town" of over 10,000 people doesn't mean you have honda/ford/toyota dealership nearby. The nearest tesla dealer is over 600km away. I have never seen a tesla round these parts and doubt I will for many years.


It took decades of car-centric design for American cities to be converted to sprawl. It will take decades more to converge back on livable cities.


That isn't really true. While density does help, suburbs are still dense enough to support transit if everyone uses it. The problem if only a few people who don't need to drive drive anyway (and there is no real incentive for them not to - there is no traffic!) the whole fails. One the other hand, in the world where transit is common cars are expensive and primitive because there isn't manufacturing scale.

Countryside living in some parts of Europe gets a bus even half an hour - enough to be useful for people who have a choice (but still annoying)


City centers are too large! Take the train downtown from your suburb, sure. Then what? Walk 3 miles to work?

If you need a car at your destination, then shared transportation moves way down the list of preferred options.


In many dense cities (NYC, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris) transferring from a suburban train to a subway train is often walking like 0.05 mile, or even not at all. Then you have to walk maybe 1-2 blocks from a subway station to work, sometimes zero (in NYC at least).


That sounds ideal. And explains why cities without subway system, have no commuter train service either.


It is called a transport network. The train connects to anther train, bus, subway, or any of a number of others ways to get around. Not quite as convenient as parking next to the door, but if the network is good it isn't far off, and overall it can be faster.


Up to 3 miles is also easily doable on a bike


In the UK at least you often are not allowed to take a bike during rush hour on the busy train lines.


If it's your daily work commute, you just leave a bike at the destination train station. Where I've lived and commuted in Sweden and Japan, train stations have huge bike parking lots for this reason.


> where countryside and suburban living is prevalent. It's just impractical, so cars reign supreme

That a car is practical in many situations, i have no doubt. However being on the countryside doesn't mean you can't get trains near you. Half a century ago in France most folks on the countryside had a train station within walking range (or at least biking range) with a few trains going through every day.

But these stations/rails have been discontinued in orchestrated policies dismantling public services (along with the hospitals, schools, etc). You can clearly see the result of such policy on a map of railway networks in France through time:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/Railway_...

Simply because modern capitalist politics consider the countryside as an enormous farm or waste dump doesn't mean it is the only way.

Also related, some french regions still have countryside buses going regularly and for a cheap fare (1-2€). It's simply a matter of policy/will.


France has four times the population density of the United States.

This doesn’t even begin to factor in just how sparse rural areas of the United States really are.

The places that would see the most benefit are the suburbs, and ironically many blue states would benefit the most; and also have a rampant amount of NIMBYism to prevent this from ever happening.


> France has four times the population density of the United States.

Fair enough. But that doesn't refute entirely the idea that collective transportation could (not necessarily would) be more efficient / ecological.


It has its place, where the population is dense.

In principle every city should have a well-running light rail or subway; and high speed trains can (and should) connect major metros.

In reality, politics and NIMBYism makes this impossible.

Eminent domain was meant to address this but somehow it’s abused for realtors and small-scale owners and not so much for grand, infrastructure projects that it was meant for.

The United States could have gone a very direction, but we’re living with the legacy of Robert Moses—-who even then had to battle NIMBYism—who favored roads and cars.


>some french regions still have countryside buses going regularly and for a cheap fare (1-2€)

Better still, sometimes they are completely free, in villages with high tourism.


Public transportation didn't succeed as much as it should have probably because a significant amount of people hate it.

Schedules, dirty environments, people uncomfortably close to each other during traffic hours, static dropoff locations.

We might get there with Uber-like carpods if autonomous driving ever succeeds.


> We might get there with Uber-like carpods if autonomous driving ever succeeds.

In theory, why not? However, this relies on car-oriented road infrastructure as it is today, which has a serious environmental price (seriously look it up), and also some social impact. So it's still a very "expensive" solution.

But even given roads, it would be interesting to run a survey of ecological impact of autonomous electronic vehicles compared to conventional (gasoline) cars. I'm pretty sure an autonomous vehicle full of electronics would have a considerably more negative impact, if only because of all the gasoline needed to mine/refine all the fancy rare earths and metal you'll need for that (but there's considerably more externalities to account for).

Also worth considering: here in southern France it's really not uncommon, when the bus is not too crowded, that i just ask the friendly driver to take a small detour and drop me where i need. That's the kind of thing you can envision in a civilized society, where not everyone is only thinking about their own personal duties and desires.


I much prefer public transport and only use a car because its kind of necessary where I live. (South Africa)

I think you'll find it interesting to learn about thow the car corporations convinced the US govt to focus on motorways instead of public transportation, which had huge implications for the way the US works.


>the car corporations convinced the US govt

but US govt is the representative of what significant amount of US people want.

Public transportation sucks because it doesn't take you to where you want, when you want, from where you want.


> but US govt is the representative of what significant amount of US people want.

How so? When you have a "choice" between a limited set of candidates, serious restrictions on voting rights (eg. following a conviction), and when candidates aren't bound to any form of contract (they can promise anything, do the opposite)? Also, what's even a democracy in an age of mass corporate media? I don't know about the USA, but here in France all major media are owned by billionaire sociopaths, and i can count on one hand the number of nationwide independent newspapers. Also, voter turnout for last USA presidential election was only 62% of voting age population, not accounting for minors and immigrants. That's not even close to representing anything.

That's nothing like a "democracy" (power of the people). Democracy is when people make decisions for their lives. Not when they have to choose between a few power-greedy politicians to make decisions for them.

> Public transportation sucks because it doesn't take you to where you want, when you want, from where you want.

Only because we let governments/politicians dismantle public services to the point they're essentially useless. It is not the case everywhere, and was not always the case through history.


>How so?

The government people are elected by the people.

>When you have a "choice" between a limited set of candidates

Choice is still a choice. If there is a limited set of candidate then they can themselves try to be the candidate (not implying that it is easy)

>serious restrictions on voting rights (eg. following a conviction)

Reasonable restriction

>when candidates aren't bound to any form of contract (they can promise anything, do the opposite)?

Democracy doesn't care about that. Its up to the people. Its still democracy even if people choose lying politician.

>Also, voter turnout for last USA presidential election was only 62%

People are free to make decision to vote or not vote, democracy doesn't mean people are forced to vote.

>Only because we let governments/politicians dismantle public services to the point they're essentially useless. It is not the case everywhere, and was not always the case through history.

Where is the case of public transportation that can take you where you want, when you want and from you want ?


> The government people are elected by the people.

By a tiny fraction of the people, because we are presented with no alternative. Most people would rather give their own opinion than elect corporate-sponsored sociopaths. Also for perspective, given our respective country's history, "the people" voting used to be white men above a certain age, if not only landowners.

> Choice is still a choice.

That's not how consent works: not being able to refuse is not consent. If you're unfamiliar with this concept from other areas of human life, you can read up interpretations of GDPR consent regarding cookie banners.

> they can themselves try to be the candidate (not implying that it is easy)

It's more than "not easy". It's rigged. In France there's at least a semblance of equal chances: if you get a certain number of mayors to support your candidacy, your campaign is paid for by the State and all candidates have free campaign clips produced by national television (following their directives) and broadcast on most channels ; also this will cover printing fees for your ballots. Also, donations to political campaigns are only allowed from individuals (not companies) and have a limit (a few thousand euros). Also, there's strict regulations (though never respected) on airtime equality between candidates/parties for the whole duration of the campaign.

Despite these better chances, the system in France is still rigged through other means and the result is terrible as well. But at least in France there's an appearance of plural opinion during the campaign. The United States doesn't even try to pretend.

> Reasonable restriction

I strongly disagree. Everybody breaks the law rather often (because there's so many of them) but whether you will face consequences is mostly a factor of race and class. For example, higher-classes kids doing drugs are usually not the target of police repression and therefore have no fear for their voter rights.

Also, it's just one of the many factors leading to people not able to vote. See for instance voter purgers, or for when they are in fact capable to vote, gerrymandering.

> democracy doesn't mean people are forced to vote.

I agree. However, no matter who votes, those who refuse to vote will still be governed against their will. That's not democracy: democracy is empowering citizens to take decisions in their lives and the lives of their communities. Government is the powerful entity above that prevents people from taking decisions in their lives and the lives of their communities.

> Where is the case of public transportation that can take you where you want, when you want and from you want ?

Trams, buses, trains, shared bikes, shared cars. There's a bunch of those. They may be slightly less convenient in some situations compared to an individual car. However, when you take into account maintenance cost and breakage factor, you're not necessarily better off. If you're not convinced, i recommend reading Ivan Illich who does a perfect demonstration that walking is faster and more efficient (when everything is accounted for) than car transportation. Of course i'm not saying everyone should always walk. There's plenty of good reasons to use a car, if only for accessibility concerns.


>not being able to refuse is not consent. If you're unfamiliar with this concept from other areas of human life, you can read up interpretations of GDPR consent regarding cookie banners.

Disagree, and I don't agree with GDPR.

>In France there's at least a semblance of equal chances: if you get a certain number of mayors to support your candidacy, your campaign is paid for by the State and all candidates have free campaign clips produced by national television (following their directives) and broadcast on most channels ; also this will cover printing fees for your ballots. Also, donations to political campaigns are only allowed from individuals (not companies) and have a limit (a few thousand euros). Also, there's strict regulations (though never respected) on airtime equality between candidates/parties for the whole duration of the campaign.

I don't called this rigged, this is just how to game to be played.

>Trams, buses, trains, shared bikes, shared cars

None of these take me where I want, when I want and from I want.

Bus: I have to go to the bus stop, at the specific time and it arrive at another bus stop.

>They may be slightly less convenient in some situations compared to an individual car.

slightly less convenient for you but its highly inconvenient for many other people, including me.


If what my cousin told me of driving in South Africa still holds from back when he went there to get his master's degree, I dont think I could blame anyone for being more comfortable not driving.


You can see that today if you visit any big cities that have a functional public transit system. London, Berlin, Barcelona, Singapore, etc. Sure there are still certain things that are easier if you have a car, but most of the time you don't need one.


I would love to see a parallel universe where mass transportation was never developed or desired and population levels remained low with an emphasis on local production and self-sustainability.


To answer shortly to your questions. 1 - No; 2 - No.

Expanded explanation. Due to economics you'd invest in a more expensive technology, using more manual labor, having less free time to think to more advance tech, which in turn leads to slower development. Using more manual labor would also, in turn, lead to less need for coal and oil demand and that would mean lesser climate change problem. My 2 cents


> you'd invest in a more expensive technology

How can collective transportation be more expensive than cars, as a whole? Most western countries had really well connected railroads going in all the very small towns and did that for pennies compared to the overall price of car society.

The overall cost of cars is not just the individual car. It's also infrastructure that caters to cars, which requires roads everywhere (otherwise your car is pretty useless), parking spaces.. etc..

While i agree with the conclusion (better for the environment, and probably for everything else), and i agree manual labor is usually (though not always) preferable to industrialized labor, i don't understand why collective transportation would require more manual labor.


In cities you'd have instead of roads for cars, to cover each individual need, rolling sidewalks, going all different directions. Which means a lot of interconnected stuff to cover everything. If I want to go to my friend who is 3 blocks to the right and then a U turn and 5 more blocks to the left currently I take a car and I am there in 5 minutes. But if this society where individual cars don't exists but something else covers that highly customized needs for each individual - how you'd envision said technology? I would envision sidewalks on different levels, interconnected with elevators, and all of them on winches and trolleys and whatnot. Hence a lot more expensive technology to deploy/maintain. Or are we talking Sci-Fi and some alien technology became available to us?


It sounds like you live in an american city. I live in Stockholm, and people here mostly don't even dream of driving to each other or stores. It's expensive to park and own cars. Instead we have a large bus, tram, train, and subway network, and that's all that's needed.


>I live in Stockholm, and people here mostly don't even dream of driving to each other or stores.

So it sounds like they don't dream of it in the same way that many people in the US don't dream of being chauffeured everywhere in an Uber. It's so expensive that it's not even within the realm of possibility.

Having "good" public transit as an option is very nice. I once lived in a city like that. But it's not hard to see why a lot of people (and not just in the US) choose suburbs and sitting in traffic as the option that sucks less than the others.


WHAT? I think parent was talking about trams.


Have you never taken a bus?


Only the rich would have spacious living arrangements, and in larger cities only the rich would own anything at all. The rent would be very high. Anyone below, say, upper middle class would live in crowded slums.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_rent

You can see this today in dense cities where everyone leaves as soon as they have kids because they can't afford space.


Housing cooperatives are very common in cities and are an attempt at breaking this cycle; you don't own your home, but a share in the apartment block. Because it is not operated for profit, the rent is so low that you can afford to accumulate and invest your capital in other ways (such as creating a business).


I visited a few housing co-ops near the university where I went to school, and you couldn't find a more disgusting, run down place to live in the city if you had tried.

That was more of a rental than an ownership situation, which I suspect changes the equation a bit. Either way, co-ops are definitely not a magical solution.


> Only the rich would have spacious living arrangements, and in larger cities only the rich would own anything at all. The rent would be very high. Anyone below, say, upper middle class would live in crowded slums.

I'm sorry but how is that different from the present situation? There's slums around most cities in the world, including here in France or in the US. People may more than half of their wage (sometimes all of it) to get stuck into often-indecent housing. For most people, ownership is not even a dream, because the worry of having to struggle for monthly survival does not give you time and mindspace to dream.

In fact, i would argue a serious public policy for public transports would have opposite consequences. The very real rural exodus has been exacerbated by public policies favoring life in big cities, but we could turn the tide. The continuing closing of many local shops (bars, bakeries, smaller supermarkets) on the countryside has consequences: it makes life on the countryside less possible/attractive without a car, it makes life more expensive for those who have a car, and it destroys social life and neighborhood culture.

So the problem of housing is very real. However, it's an artificial problem. There's tons of unhappy people stuck in the ghettos around the big cities (here in western Europe the rich live in city center, not the suburbs), and tons of empty houses on the countryside to be bought for the equivalent of 5-100 months rent in the city (good opportunities for ownership), but there is no government program to make the connection between these two worlds that do not know each other.

Also, even in the big cities, the prices are not driven by population but by speculation. For example, in Paris it's more than 1 million empty housing units (not secondary housing, actually ABANDONED housing), which is more than two apartments for every homeless person in the whole of France. Why are there laws (private property) to prevent people from having a home, that's another debate. But it's evident from statistics all across the western world that there is something wrong, and if someone in power really wanted to help anyone (spoiler: they never do) they could just do it by snapping their fingers.




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