The United States shouldn't be so car-dependent

I word it this way because I know cars are still needed for certain things and certain situations. But wouldn’t it be nice if we (in general) just used public transit, walking, and biking more often?

  • Parking spaces waste so much land. Bloomberg estimates that we have about 2 billion parking spots in this country. (Why Parking Lots Are Not Full, Even on Black Friday - Bloomberg) With a conservative estimate, just the spaces alone would take up the entirety of Massachusetts and then some. If there’s a spot I think really needs big parking lots, it would be wholesale grocery stores and lumber stores. Not everyone would want to do delivery, though if that were popularized, the parking lots could be smaller.

  • Cars take up way too much space on the road. Biking, walking, trains, trams, or the bus all take up so much less space. Were this the more popular route, rush hour wouldn’t result in sluggish arrival times. Then again, rush hour on Japanese subways…well, at least they get there on time, but that creates another problem. For that, I would say…they need more subways, or to have it be less popular to leave all at once.

  • Cars pollute the road a lot. Now the push for electric vehicles would solve this problem somewhat, as well as our dependence on countries with oil. It’s just that electric vehicles don’t solve the other problems. Either way, having a whole vehicle full of people is more energy-efficient.

  • Driving is dangerous. It could be designed much more safely, especially for pedestrians. We prioritize speed so much we don’t really think about safety well enough. To be honest, cars should take lowest priority on roads. Walking, biking, and public transit, in that order should take priority. Plane crashes make big news, but car crashes don’t usually. Car crashes are far more likely. To be honest, some think that TSA’s off-putting security measures increased car demand enough to kill more people (Analyst: TSA methods 'will kill more Americans on highway' | TheHill)

  • Roads take up a lot of space. Freeways are much, much wider than a double-track rail line. A car train exterior is less than 11 feet (, section 1.04.03). A single freeway lane is 12 feet long (Mitigation Strategies For Design Exceptions - Safety | Federal Highway Administration), and there’s often at least four of them, plus a median. When politicians claim that rail displaces houses, they should really think about how freeways are far worse, while also being unsustainable at that. The Katy Freeway is the most extreme example in the world. It’s uses 26 lanes at one point (Bragging rights or embarrassment? Katy Freeway at Beltway 8 is world's widest) and yet it still has congestion.

Cars are useful, in my opinion, more as a backup form of transit, kind of like when public transit and walking can’t get you somewhere. I feel the same about fossil fuels, too, that they are better as backup fuel. Cars are also are useful in emergency situations like COVID-19. But in general, I think the United States would benefit far more for leaning more towards bus and rail travel.

I didn’t mention plane travel as much, because although plane travel for long distances works to solve some of the car problems, there’s quite a list of things trains provide in comfort and lack of stress that planes don’t. And if it’s high speed, it would be faster than driving. High-speed rail would be even more energy-efficient than a plane.

I agree completely. But there’s so much culture of cars as a status symbol, not to mention individualism, that makes it more of a challenge here.

I want to add another problem: Cars waste our time and attention. 30 minutes in a car is 30 minutes we can’t work, 30 minutes we can’t read, 30 minutes we can’t text message people… when we aren’t driving, we can safely do whatever we like within reason.

Heh, I almost think of using public transit as my own sort of individualism against the car culture! But yes, thanks for reminding me, there’s also a culture thing here about it.

I imagine it depends on where you live. Public transportation is more feasible in big cities than smaller towns, as places out in the boonies (and even a few larger cities) don’t always have a public transportation system. Walking and biking could still work in those places, as long as you don’t have to travel too far.

Though even a lot of places are poorly set up for even those. America seems just super designed around cars first and foremost.

By the way, a note for California residents:

If you’re in California, and you want to protect #HighSpeedRail, then let Sacramento hear that you want this!