Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Electric cars versus Transit: Is it time to choose again?

Most have heard by now about the ''Great American Streetcar Conspiracy" with GM, Firestone, Standard Oil - and even Mack Trucks - through a company called National City Lines, worked to purchase and dispose of trolley and light rail lines in favor of rubber-tire buses in the 1950's. The film released a few years back: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," was about the demise of the 'red line' trolley in Los Angeles - the land of the new American travel path: the 'freeway.'

The unintended consequence of this 'revolution' was that less attractive bus systems began to lose ridership big time as the love affair with the private auto in post-war America took hold.

As we look out upon the sea of automobiles moving in and out and around our urban areas on ribbons of expensive highways, while a skeletal system of public transit struggles to compete and to maintain balanced budgets with public subsidies, there is no doubt that the auto 'won' the hearts of Americans in the post WW II decades. And it took but a handful of decades to make the private transit systems unprofitable.

We quote this statistic: 50 million passengers rode the public transit system in the Lehigh Valley in the year 1950. By 1971, this figure dropped to 2.6 million! That loss of volume resulted in service cuts and fare increases until the public sector had to assume responsibility for a community asset that could not be let to disappear. In 1972, LANTA, the bi-county transit authority was created so that many who did not or could not own autos or drive had a public transit alternative.

Recently, fuel shortages and high energy costs and a movement to counter Urban sprawl has us at another crossroads. How the next few years sorts out with our mobility choices will have an impact on our nation likely for another set of decades to come.

Will low-cost, fuel efficient or alternative powered private automobiles be developed and marketed to replace the existing vehicle fleet or will governments - national, state and local - expand their support and funding for public transportation so that it again truly becomes a viable alternative to driving?

An interesting article on the electric vehicle versus transit is worth reading and pondering:

Which way should our future be influenced to unfold? And who is going to win or lose this next competition?

1 comment:

Semen Rendi said...

Find the latest used and new cars for sale.
Great used car deals and prices.
More here houston used cars