Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Action sooner rather than later

As much as alternative transportation people (including myself) would like to see bicycling and walking promoted there doesn't seem to be any massive shift toward use of these modes, even in places where they consider such things in their transportation planning. That means rehabilitating an antiquated American transportation system. Almost nobody would argue that America's transportation system is not in serious need of attention, especially since the deadly bridge collapse in Minnesota and close calls in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The various estimates I have seen for bringing all of our highways up to modern standards run from hundreds of billions to a couple of trillions of dollars, more than one year of our collective spending on all forms of transportation in America. My preliminary best guess for the automated personal transit system under discussion here is between fifteen and forty trillion dollars, a vast sum to be sure, but when compared to the amount needed to maintain a system that kills more than 40,000 individuals every single year, it seems like a relative bargain. In addition, the system should eventually pay for itself and generate revenue, unlike the current road system that mostly just drains money from governmental coffers. Therefore, it seems to me, the sooner we stop trying to maintain an increasingly antiquated and dangerous road system and start building a modern one, the better off all Americans will be. Other major reasons for urgency include but are not limited to; need for reducing dependence on petroleum for fuel, need for curbing greenhouse gas emissions (transportation is over 1/4 of our national energy consumption), and the need for faster and more convenient transportation for the masses.

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