Automobiles as a Mode of Transportation

Information and Opinions Regarding automobiles as a Mode of Transportation

by Bob Fleming

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My name is Bob Fleming, and I am very interested in seeing a greatly improved transportation system for Seattle and the surrounding region.

There are many people that are trying to convince people to stop driving cars and to use mass transit instead. I am, to some extent, one of those people, but at the same time I try to be realistic.

There are many reasons why people drive cars and don’t use mass transit. In most cases better mass transit will not resolve the reasons why an individual chooses to drive. The goal should not be to get everybody to give up their cars, but rather to keep improving mass transit so that more and more people will decide that, at least for some of their trips, mass transit will be more convenient and cheaper than driving. In other words, don't try to get large numbers of cars off the road, but at least reduce traffic enough to be noticeable and to put less pressure on improving the highway system.

Reasons Why Many People Won’t Use Mass Transit

CONVENIENCE — Many people just don’t want to give up the convenience of getting in their car, right at home, at a time of their own choosing, drive themselves whichever route they want, listen to the radio or CD enroute, stop off someplace along the way if they want, and arrive right at their destination. Using mass transit means leaving according to the bus or train schedule, walking to a stop or station, riding with a bunch of other people, possibly standing, and walking from the arrival stop or station to their actual destination. The situation becomes worse if transfers are necessary, and also worse if necessary to walk and wait outdoors in bad weather.

TIMING — Many people need to travel at times when transit service is poor or not operating, such as people working night shifts or who need to leave early in the morning before the service is available. Others do not have enough time to get from one place to another unless they drive themselves. For example if a mother has to be at work by 8:00 in the morning and her child care doesn’t open until 7:00, it is entirely possible that if she uses mass transit the trip will take more than an hour.

TOO FAR FROM TRANSIT SERVICE — Many people live too far from a transit line to use the service, or their destination is too far from a route.

THE ROUTES WON’T WORK OUT — In many cases there is no direct transit route from one location to another, and the transfer points from one route to another are too far out of the way and/or there is a long wait to make the transfer, so that a trip that will take thirty minutes by car may take two hours by transit.

TOO MUCH TO CARRY — If someone goes shopping and buys many items, or even one large item such as a television or computer, carrying it home by transit is out of the question.

MULTIPLE DESTINATIONS — Leave home in the morning for a four-hour-long temporary job, then go the the community college for two classes, then to the book store two miles away, then three miles to the beauty parlor or barber shop, then a mile to the grocery store for some groceries, then several blocks to your bank, then stop by two miles away to visit a friend for fifteen minutes, then, finally, three miles to your home. Try that on public transit!

Reasons Why Some People Will Choose Mass Transit

CONVENIENCE — There is a stop or station close to home, and one close to the destination. The time of day and route are such that auto traffic is slow, congested, and subject to serious delays on some days because of an accident or weather. If public transit in this case is fast, relaxing, comfortable, and dependable, the driver may very well decide on a less stressful trip by transit.

DEPENDABILITY — if the transit mode and route are such that it is separated from auto traffic so that it is not affected by weather or traffic congestion or accidents, a rider can depend on arriving at the destination at the same time every day, day in and day out, so does not have to leave home early in case of a delay such as can happen when driving.

COST SAVINGS — Let’s say that somebody that’s been driving every day realizes that with the cost of gasoline, oil, tires, periodic service, insurance, parking, and occasional repairs, in their case it is costing about twenty dollars a day to commute. Then they find out that their neighbor is paying four dollars a day to commute by transit. “Eureka! So what’s a little inconvenience. I can save sixteen dollars a day by using mass transit!”


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©2006 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 7 September 2015.

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