Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Peak Driving and the Need for better infrastructure

The New York Times has a piece on the decline of driving by recent generations and what does that matter for the economy. It gives some hypotheses as to why driving has taken such a decline. One is indirectly alluded to is that people now can use mobile devices and can feel more connected. I think that is partially true. One has to think about what the car use to mean in the past, and that was freedom, freedom from boredom. If you were bored at home, and given the lack of TV channels and the internet, the car was an escape from your own thoughts. However, today the car is boredom given the huge amounts of traffic that one has to deal with. We are a more populous place, and in our city centers our population has outpaced the number of roads to support them. So driving is now the boredom. People can surf the internet, explore thousands of pieces of media all from home. The claim is that technology is making people feel more connected so they don't have to meet in person, and there may be a degree of truth in that but people still want to get together. However, the new generation is opting to take mass transit since with the advent of the smartphone though the ride is longer, they no longer are as bored since they can distract themselves which is something they cannot do while driving. The car right now is the vehicle of maximum boredom. People would rather spend an hour in transit doing something and getting somewhere, vs 40 minutes of just getting somewhere. The smartphone has enabled mass transit in new ways because it reclaims some time. If traffic dropped, and transport was 20 minutes vs an hour consistently. I think driving would go up. What do you think, what is making people want to drive less?