Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Transportation and Related Planning

In response to a query about the role of electric vehicles. I answered as follows:

With respect to electric vehicles, my thoughts are that they may be a small part of a longer term solution and probably restricted to rebuilt/walkable urban and suburban neighborhoods for the use of the elderly and/or infirm. The top priority with respect to fossil fuels and other energy resources is demand side management. The chief priority in planning the role of the automobile is to reduce automobile use by 80% in the next 20 to 40 years. We are currently burdened by a terrible oversupply (including owned and overstocked inventories at factories and dealerships) of fuel inefficient and poorly designed internal combustion vehicles. If these vehicles weren't so poorly designed, there could be a significant opportunity to convert them to hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. But they are very poorly designed. Perhaps the current population of vehicles should be deconstructed and parts reused or recycled. New vehicles should be exclusively, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric, except maybe for long-term transport and work vehicles.

There could be tremendous amounts of work generated by the reconstruction of neighborhoods and the rearrangement of production, distribution, and communication systems to make them neighborhood friendly. In addition, a great potential for work lies in the field of deconstruction of transportation and related infrastructure adaptation. Parking lots could be torn up and converted to community gardens. Streets (and rail systems) could be torn up and converted to walking and bike paths (and perhaps slow electric vehicles for the infirm) and others altered to be less wide, restoring the liveability of housing located on these very noisy busy passageways. Parking garages could be torn down and replaced by mixed use developments. Highways could be dedicated mostly to bus travel, long distance transport, and perhaps some, if not many, of them torn down and reclaimed as natural and agricultural land. For automobile and small truck usage, it would be optimal to encourage the development of vehicle-sharing cooperatives. All vehicles left in use must be quiet, and slower (with the exception of busses, work vehicles, and long range transport). With respect to transport and distribution systems (and production systems) relocalization and neighborhood telecommunications (including teleconferencing facilities) should be the major goal, greatly reducing the need for long-range travel, especially that which is not related to the long range transport of necessities.

Relocalization of production needs to be encouraged whenever feasible.

With much love and care,

Mike Morin


  1. This Christmas with all the travelers stuck in airports, I concluded that we need to get rail happening again. In Canada, our country was built through the blood, sweat and tears of so many, but it made us a Nation. We went from coast to coast by rail. So did most of our supplies. Now there is one short passenger train, costing 4 times as much as airfare.
    Trains are the best way to travel long distances, and the West Coast express in BC is faster than any automobile but it only runs at rush hour.
    Drivers need to get out of their car habit. This will take much work to decondition them.

  2. One of thr major problems with rail is the noise pollution. Having lived close to a rail line, I know first hand that it is a terrible nuisance.

    Can large trains be made to be quiet? I'm sure that is possible to make busses quiet. I have traveled across country (US) on Greyhound busses two and a half times. It is always an interesting experience (albeit tiring) with respect to viewing the geography and meeting very interesting people.

    The main thing we need to do is reduce the demand for long distance travel. Certainly for business purposes, as we evolve to neighborhood and personal tele-commuting technologies, the need to fly or take a train will continue to decrease.

    Perhaps families could teleconference more (e.g. for Christmas), but you can't hug and kiss and feast together over the tube. The ideal, the goal, would be to bring families back living together geographically, physically.

    I would think that there would be a limited role for trains, both freight and travel, especially if they can be made to be quiet and safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and the much reduced number of automobiles on the road. Busses would be superior for shorter trips because they have more flexibility in the route they can take. For long distance travel, the use of "sleeper" busses, would take away the biggest complaint that I and others have about bus travel.

    Part of the beauty of comprehensive planning for transportation is that we could set social goals, assess demand for the various modes of travel and budget accordingly.

    Thanks for your reply.