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Transportist: Going backward to go forward
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Going backward to go forward
There is an adage that “you have to spend money to make money.” To attain a long term of stream of revenue, you need to make an initial capital investment.
I told my children to take small manageable bites of food, rather than stuffing their mouths, so they can finish faster (they won’t have congestion in the mouth). But when you rushed them, they were still tempted to put everything in their mouth all at once, and take forever to chew and dissolve their food. So eat slower to eat faster.
The day I wrote this I found myself at Arncliffe Station in the mid-day with a nearly 30 minute wait for the next train in the northbound direction, so I caught a southbound train to Rockdale (two stops south), and then a northbound express train that skipped Banksia, Arncliffe, and Tempe, getting me to Redfern sooner than if I had waited. Sometimes you need to go backwards to go forward.
All of this is to say as we have climbed Mount Auto, we will have to climb down before we can climb Mount Next, a transition that will take decades as we will have to reverse things we have done (retrofit an auto-oriented landscape) in order to get to a future with more sustainable access. (EVs are better than ICEs, but are not of themselves “sustainable”).
So conditions for the automobile traveler (which is to say, most travellers in the US and Australia, and many other countries) will get worse before sustainable travel gets significantly better.
All transport networks are positive feedback systems (vicious or virtuous circles): more begets more, less begets less.
Herbert Mohring noted that public transport is effectively a positive feedback system (has network effects), so that more customers require more service, and the additional services reduce schedule delay (one bus is every 60 minutes, two buses is every 30 minutes).
The same of course applies to streets. A world with one driver has few highways. A world with many drivers has many highways, and speeds are faster, and highway distances shorter.
Martin Mogridge argued (I am simplifying) that in a dense city where everyone took public transport (bus or rail), the travel time would be lower than if everyone used automobiles, as congestion effects would be easily managed with the greater space efficiency of transit. But in that dense city where everyone took transit, if you took a car, you would usually be better off, because that congestion is so low, and the car gets you point-to-point on-demand, and doesn’t require waiting or transfers. And this is generally true, in any city, it is faster to take a car than a bus (or other public transport that uses the same streets as cars). And so the equilibrium is that people take cars until the congested travel time by car equals the travel time by grade-separated pubic transport for the same corridor.
So when we are moving from a state in which almost no one uses sustainable transport (transit, walk, bike) to one where many people do, we will need to take road space from cars for buses, trams, footpaths, and protected bike lanes. The worsening of road traffic conditions for cars (due to the loss of lanes and introduction of new bottlenecks) will be faster than the improvement of conditions for sustainable travel (selected bus or bike lanes won’t help much unless they cover long corridors). So in addition to the construction period in which neither service is available (no lane for car and no bus or bike lane), there is a long deployment period, where the network is in a largely disconnected and incomplete state.
It will get worse before it gets better.