Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Re: Will We Ever Get Out of Cars? by Marco Gonzales.

We will if and when a better process appears to carry individuals directly and rapidly to their real destinations. Decades ago, society chose automobiles for the individual transport essential to economic wellbeing and social lifestyle. But simplistic slogans, “get people out of cars,” ignore the mission and don’t offer an equivalent alternative. The real “squandering”, Mr. Gonzalez, is 20-plus years’ attempt to reverse the public’s demands with nearly 40 percent of transportation funds wasted on mass transit. Meanwhile travel has increased 120 percent, new roads only 32 percent, and transit absorbed a meaningless 1.3 percent of growth. That’s the real reason for the 53 hours per year lost in congestion, and regionwide, $1.8 billion yearly cost you mention.

But the San Diego Association of Governments keeps right on attempting to build its way out of congestion with mass transit even though a whole new transit system would be needed every 12 to 18 months. Mass transit has less market share than Ford’s Edsel. Ford stopped production after two years instead of increasing it.

Of course new roads fill fast! There’s a lot of catch up after 20 years of meeting only one-fourth of the real needs. A desirable commercial product would empty the shelves too; and not be replaced by an inferior one.

Underused transit requires more, not less land per trip than the auto/highway system. Can San Diego fill a 60-passenger bus every 2 minutes on every rush hour arterial lane to replace autos? Apparently, in its attempt to promote less rural land for transportation, Save Our Forests and Ranchlands doesn’t care about inefficient urban use.

Except in a few very dense “back East” cities, mass transit and autos energy use per trip is similar. The Department of Energy shows that buses use 15 percent more energy than autos. Improving autos is the positive approach. A reduction of less than 2 miles per gallon saves more than the entire transit system uses.

Want more proof autos are the “The Way to Go”? Metropolitan Transit System headquarters in downtown San Diego, a few steps from the trolley line, has a massive multistory parking garage alongside.

But there truly is a technology-driven way to go. Automated cabs on narrow guideways use one-fourth the land and half the energy. And people will use this form of public transport. Like private autos, it preserves the fundamental transport of individuals. Punch in the destination and away you go.

But retrograde “more of the same” planning Gonzalez and associates advocate and massive failure of mass transit are blocking both development motivation and funds.

Perhaps Gonzalez should flex his legal-leverage muscles to entice action in new positive direction. Then a meaningful incentive to “get people out of cars” would begin to materialize.

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