You know what narks me? It’s the argument that we have to build lots more roads because people have to drive so that they have personal mobility.
It’s an argument from the road lobby that is basically saying wherever you go, you have to be able to take your car.
And it gets traction because in much of Australia, the alternatives are crap. PT often does well for commuting to work, if your trip is along a frequent route, but for most it’s awkward to live the rest of your life without driving, unless you confine yourself to places within walking and cycling distances.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no reason we can’t set up our cities so that people can live their lives without having to drive. Check this short, reasonably amusing, advert:
(Catch the Gordon Ramsay cameo? Better quality, but shorter, version here.)
This guy in the advert manages to do a myriad of activities in just one day, without ever getting behind the wheel of a car. He has personal mobility.
In Melbourne, people who come into the CBD without their cars don’t complain about a lack of personal mobility for getting to lunch, or meetings, or running errands. Most things you need are within walking distance, and the trams run every few minutes if you need to get further.
But most of the rest of the city misses out on this convenience. If the whole metropolis was covered in a grid of trains, trams and buses running every few minutes all day, backed-up by better pedestrian and bike facilities, then we could all leave the car behind more often, or even choose not to have one, with no consequent cramping of our lifestyles.
And while some may claim Melbourne’s population isn’t dense enough to do this, count the cars on a main road in any developed suburb and it’s obvious that if you really wanted to get a substantial number of trips out of cars and onto PT, services every few minutes would be viable.
It can be done right. And it does make a difference. As the Wikipedia article for New York City notes:
New York is the only city in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (in Manhattan, more than 75% of residents do not own a car; nationally, the percentage is 8%).
New York City’s dense population and low automobile dependence help make New York among the most energy efficient in the United States. The city’s greenhouse gas emission levels are relatively low when measured per capita, at 7.1 metric tons per person, below the national average, 24.5.