Self-driving cars seemed futurist a century ago; today, it seems out of touch to focus on cars at all. Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by. Rates of car ownership are decreasing. Bikeshare, rideshare and carshare programs are gaining in popularity and acceptance, as are transit-oriented communities.
So why continue to design and plan for a car-based society? Transit innovation is possible, and is indeed inspirational, in many non-North-American cities. The TransMilenio bus rapid transit system in Bogotá, Colombia, for example, comes to each bus stop every 10 seconds and carries close to 40,000 passengers per hour, 1.6 million per day. (Every 10 seconds — can you imagine?) In the United States, it feels like all that innovation is connected to the automobile with app-enabled carsharing, ridesharing and even the renting out of one’s driveway for extra revenue. While this sort of invention is a welcome addition and helps reduce the problem of one person driving alone in one car, it has the potential to lessen our belief in public transit as a public good as greater numbers of people turn to these customized solutions for getting to work.Car share is something that I think will be huge in the coming century . . . and I suspect we'll spend a lot of the next century undoing some of the damage done during the second half of the 20th century's headlong embrace of the car culture. Better transit and land use planning is going to be of far greater import than driverless cars.
The Segway of tomorrow!