Many conversations tend to somehow end up revolving around transportation. It’s good, because transportation is a complex issue that does not have clear solutions. We can only get anywhere if we talk about it.
However, I think there are some worrying trends in the conversations about what our future should look like. The current outlook seems to be that our immediate future would consist of highways full of self-driving electric cars. These are some of the usual reasons:
On the public side of things, the general shift seems to be towards electric buses, for much the same reasons. I have even heard ideas around the battery recharge time dillema:
There are many good explanations on the harms of car-centric planning, how they have damaged our cities, our health, and our freedom. If you want to look into it, the youtube channel notjustbikes is a brilliant resource.
In my mind, the harms of the car are fact. But they are harmful in spite of generating greenhouse gases, not because of it. Turning our cars electric, and making them self-driving won’t solve a large chunk of issues, but it doesn’t fix the problems it claims to solve without some serious drawbacks:
Electric buses seem to only further extend this set of issues. It is clear that policies should be made that encourage people to not need cars, and the only way to do that is to make public transport the first class mode of transport. In countries with existing public transport, the future of buses should not be electric buses, but rather trams.
Trams seem to be the original self-driving electric cars. Using rail not only makes the job of the driver easier, it is safer for surrounding traffic due to its predictable path. Trams are simple in design, not relying on complicated transmissions, or batteries and their management systems. This makes them easier to maintain, troubleshoot, and fix. Trams therefore tend to last a while, with some being in continuous service for more than 50 years.
Trams also utilise steel wheels on steel rails, making for lower rolling resistance than buses. The use of rail also means that even long trams can easily navigate tight and winding city streets, a feature that actually allows for them to service areas that might not be feasable for buses to. They also use regenerative braking, which lowers mechanical brake use.
Our car-centric mentality is one that needs to change fast, and one way to get it done is for city planning to accomodate public transport first, leaving private cars as an afterthought. A city with trams that service all roads, that leaves little to no space for cars to exist is far better in my opinion than a city with multilane roads chock full of self driving electric traffic.