established Sept. 1st, 2002
Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 5 #
Life just loves to get in the way. Lately it's been one thing after another, leaving no time for blogging, but then what do you expect when this is a hobby and not a job. Anyways, back to the debate...
Point 5: Hold automakers, fossil energy companies, and motorists responsible for the externalities of petroleum use (e.g. pollution deaths, property damage due to climate change).
Result: the expense weakens the auto industry, raises the price of petroleum, and encourages greater transport efficiency. The victims of climate change are compensated for their real economic losses.
One of the basic tenants of civilization is that it spreads risks out among a larger population, allowing us to accomplish feats that the simple family unit could not. Farmers grow more food than they need so someone can design a better tractor instead of trying to grow their own food, and so on. We accept this as part of life, including the externalities of everything that we do. Motorists already shoulder the vast majority of the externalities of petroleum use, since motorists vastly outnumber non-motorists.
Weakenng the automakers on purpose is just not going to fly in America. There's too many jobs that are tied to the automotive industry to get the public behind something like that. "let's make our economy worse!" is just not going to be an effective rallying cry, and that's exactly how it would be viewed by most.
J G Halmayr @ 17:42
Happy Thanksgiving #
J G Halmayr @ 06:23
The Debate Grows #
If you're following the 11 points debate, make sure you check out the Bavarian Falcon, (love that name!), as Croak has joined in with some excellent points about a PR campaign I didn't consider. Dorri from IF It's Got An Engine... has also joined in in my comments section, as has Stephen (no website, but the one who pointed out the cool Opel car commercial). Croak tried to post in my commentc section, unfortunately it won't accept over 2500 characters, and it's not somethin I can change. The debate grows, why not join in?
J G Halmayr @ 16:38
Eleven Ponts To Nowhere, part 4 #
We've come to the 4th point in John's plan for eliminaring the personal automobile...
Start a PR campaign to discourage automobile use. Mimic the anti-smoking and anti-DUI campaigns of recent decades. Make driving unpopular.
Result: driving becomes less appealing.
There's not much to argue about here, a solid PR campaign is a logical step in getting any mesage across. So, we'll move on to some of John's responses.
Again I appreciate the helpful critique: this is fun. I should probably remove the part about pork barrel highway spending because it detracts from the purpose of the point. As for the HOT/no new freeways part of the idea, that needs a little revision.
What about a freeze on new, toll-free highways? Currently, highway planners envision what they think traffic will be like in, say, 2020, and then build lanes accordingly. What if they maintained the existing highway infrastructure as is but put a moratorium on new free roads? That is, if you want a new lane, it will have a toll on it. In the longer term, I would advocate changing free highways to toll roads, gradually.
Anyway, the point of this would be to remove a government subsidy on driving, which encourages waste. If you have to pay for something based on how much you use it, you have an incentive to conserve. This is why I think moving to a toll highway system would cause people to drive less, in aggregate.
Stoppng road expansion altogether, or making any new roads toll roads would have an immediate effect on the popularity of driving, but in my view it's rather draconian and would have an impact on the economy as well. Anyone know of any kind of research done on this, research that was not poliically motivated either way? There would be so many factors involved in stopping freeway expansion, and a lot of unintended consequences could arise. We need some good data to see if this is a valid idea or something that could trigger more problems than it solves.
I've thought of something I didn't consider with the car-sharing idea. I've been analyzing it strictly as a numbers game, and in that aspect I still think it doesn't make enough of an impact on personal car ownership. It does, however, introduce Americans to the idea of life wthout a car, and the best advertising there around is word-of-mouth. In that regard it does have some value to John's argument, and could have a bigger effect than numbers alone suggest.
J G Halmayr @ 05:17
Debate Later, Exam Now #
There won't be an installment of the 11 points debate this morning. I have an exam today, covering automatic transmissions, and I just don't have any extra brainpower left right now. Once class is over I might post something, we'll see. So far the debate has been a lot of fun for John and I, each of us pointing out things the other has missed, strengthening both our arguments.
Credit must be given to John. Unlike most who want to change the way the world works, he actually has a plan, has thought it through, and is open to criticism so he can refine it. That's damn rare in today's world where a lot of activists seem to function solely on emotion. Doing something without thinking it through for possible unintended consequences is rather popular among activists and poloticians, and while it may make them feel better, solving problems by creating new problems is not waht I would call progress.
Of course, automobiles rank right up there among unintended consequences, as I'm sure Henry Ford never imagined the problems of today when he brought out the Model T. Enough rambling for now, I've got an exam to study for and in case you're wondering, since I've never really mentioned it on this blog, I'm a student at NADC (Nashville Auto Diesel College) studying to become an automotive technician.
J G Halmayr @ 04:30
It's The Simple Things #
Thanks to Gaijinbiker, here's possibly the coolest motorcycle t-shirt ever.
You can get yours from Autumn Riders.
J G Halmayr @ 14:57
Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 3 #
John's third point is...
Stop expanding freeways. No more bridges to nowhere. Develop self-funding toll lanes for people who want to stay in their cars but get out of the traffic.
Result: driving becomes less appealing and more expensive.
The three links are to articles about the wasteful spending included with the latest highway bill from congress, and an article about the rise of toll lanes. The pork-barrel spending by congress doesn't seem to be either for or against the elimination of the private automobile, perhaps John will expand on this more, so I'm going to assume he's for decreasing highway funding overall. This would require the states to shoulder a larger burden of highway construction and upkeep, something that would logically be funded with higher taxes levied against drivers.
What form thoe higher taxes would take is anybodies guess. More tax on fuel, higher registration costs, upping the sales tax or income tax, the list is endless. Whatever the form, the result is as John predicts, driving a car becomes more expensive. Unfortunately, it would also effect the economy, making it more expensive to transport the goods that we need and want. Taxes would have to be raised rather high to make a significant impact on car ownership, with a resulting bigger hit to the economy, and very few politicians suceed by making higher taxes one of their agendas.
The third article about toll lanes is an example of how to increase the cost of car ownership, especialy if you make entire freeways toll roads, which is not likely. We went through three years of road construction on I65 here in Nashville so an HOV lane could be added that no one uses. Three years of conjested traffic wasting fuel to add a lane that could save fuel, but doesn't, because no one car pools. Brilliant. It would make more sense as a toll lane and have a bigger impact on fuel useage, but driving people away from their cars? Not unless they turn the entire interstate into a toll road, and I don't see that happening.
J G Halmayr @ 04:14
John Responds #
John has responded in the comments sections to point #2, and he makes some very good points. Here's his response...
According to this car sharing site, "Car sharing organizations typically maintain a ratio of 20-50 members for each vehicle in their fleet . . ." I agree with you that car sharing is not for everyone. For example, it is not a viable solution for commuters, who drive a long distance, park the car at work, then drive home. For people who don't leave a city often -- stay-at-home moms who use their cars for shopping trips, for example -- it makes a lot more sense.
I don't understand your scalability argument. Typically car share programs have parking locations where cars are stored. You walk to the lot, pick up your car, drive it to your destination, and then drive back to drop it off. If your membership increased in number but not in area, you could simply increase the number of cars available at each location. If the membership increased in area, you could get more pickup/drop off locations. As long as your pool of cars doesn't get too diffuse (too many locations), I don't see why your ratio has to change as your program grows.
Some of these car sharing organizations are private clubs/businesses (others are nonprofits) so clearly it has some financial viability!
20-50 members per car?! Wow, that makes the service just about useless for the average driver. You would have to be someone like a stay at home mom to ever benefit from it. If 20 members per car gives you maximum profit (all other things being equal), then there's no way to scale car sharing up to a level that would make a real difference. It's not even worth mentioning.
J G Halmayr @ 16:03
Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 2 #
John has responded to criticism of his eleven point plan to eliminate the private automobile. He points out that cars that can automatically drive themselves take away the feeling of being in control that drivers enjoy now. If you don't have to command the vehicle you might as well be riding the train. For someone like me, who enjoys the act of driving itself, yes, it is a loss of control and I would probably want a manual override for the auto-drive system, but to the average driver it gives them even more "control" over their life.
No longer is your commute time dedicated solely to the act of driving, now it's extra work time, play time, you time as the advertisers would call it. It combines the independance of the personal automobile with the convienance of public transportation without many of the drawbacks. Forgot something at the office ? No problem, just turn around instead of trying to figure out which train you need to take. Staying late at work? Don't worry, you set the schedule, not some nameles transit authority. Going to grandma's out in the country? Just turn off the auto-drive when you get off the interstate. It won't drive peopke away from personal automobiles, it will only reinforce the attachment people have towards them.
Now on to point #2...
Expand car sharing programs (e.g. City Car Share) and make them more convenient. Car sharing is a step towards eliminating auto dependence entirely. Use RFID, GPS, and mobile phones to make sure shared cars are always available in convenient locations. Provide lockers where users can store child car seats, shopping bags, et cetera. Make a child car seat that's easier and quicker to install on the go.
Result: take the "private" out of the private automobile. People share cars rather than owning them. People who use car sharing programs also use public transit more often than car owners.
Car sharing is a neat little program that allows you to "rent" a car when you need it instead of owning one. For some people it works extremely well, but it does have a problem when you try to apply it to a large portion of a population, scalability.
The more poeple who use the system, the larger the infrastructure that is needed to maintain it. The more users, the greater the ratio of cars to users ha to become to meet demand. Ten people in a population may require that 15 vehicles be available, scale it up to 100 users, and you'll need somewhere around 200 vehicles, and it just gets worse the bigger you go. More cars per person equals less money made per user, requiring higher prices to maintain a profit. A neat idea, to be sure, but not something that is going to make a dent in private auto ownership.
J G Halmayr @ 04:12
Another Good One #
Stephen posted a comment about the high quality of some of GM's comercials, especialy ones we don't see here in the US. He posted a link to an Opel commercial, and it's damn good! Here's the link.
J G Halmayr @ 03:48
Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 1 #
Some people just hate cars. Hate them so much they want to eliminate the personal automobile from the planet. John Markos O'Neill is one of those people, and has an eleven point plan to do just that. Let's take a look at this plan, point by point. Today we tackle #1.
Invent self-guiding cars that can't crash into pedestrians, cyclists, and each other. Regulate auto speed with governors. Tie use of these technologies to insurance premiums. In the future, private autos may evolve into "pod cars" that link physically to form ad hoc trains.
Result: you're not really driving any more. Driving becomes less appealing because motorists lose the feeling of control that comes from being behind the wheel. Safety is improved for pedestrians and cyclists.
John is not paying attention to the trends in the automobile business. This is exactly what the industry is moving towards, eliminating the need to drive your car manually when a computer can do it for you. Many people face a long commute, and it's dead time for them, but if you car drives for you, then it's time you can accomplish other things, such as work, playing videogames, watching a movie, reading a book, or surfing the internet. Far from making driving less desireable, it would be seen as a way to improve your standard of living. Us car nuts, of course, prefer to control our vehicles ourselves, but to the majority of the population a car is just another appliance.
Sorry John, but this point doesn't help your argument. Maybe you'll do better with point #2 tomorrow.
J G Halmayr @ 03:21
Adding Another Decade To The Excuse #
Reading some articles about the Domestic nameplates catching up to the Japanese in terms of quality, I've noticed a disturbing trend. Back in the disco days of the 70's, American cars had some major quality issues. Then came the 80's, and articles at the time said that the domestics had learned from their mistakes and were catching up, but that it would be difficult to win back customers that experienced the earlier vehicles. In the 90's it was the same story, except the articles said that it would be tough to win back customers that owned the cars from the 70's and 80's. Now we're in the 2K's, and it's the same spin, except the articles are now throwing in the cars from the 90's as mistakes too. Three decades of cars that drove customers to the import nameplates, but somehow the domestics are always catching up to the Japanese.
J G Halmayr @ 07:39
The Relentless Pursuit #
Toyota showed off a pursuit version of the Avalon at SEMA, and it should serve as a warning sign for the domestic manufacturers.
The Japanese are relentless. First the attacked the economy car market and now rule it. Then came midsize sedans, and we know how that ended. They took Chrysler's baby, the minivan, and fumbled for a bit, but never gave up and are now starting to dominate that field. The assault on the full-size truck market is already underway. Now comes this Avalon, a preliminary shot at another domestic dominated market.
It's all long-term thinking on the part of the Japanese manufacturers. Whatever segment they take on, they believe they will have the best car for it, and just don't give up until they achieve it. Toyota calls it Kaisen, which means continous improvement, not sure how Honda and Nissan term it, but whatever it's called it spells trouble for the Big Three.
J G Halmayr @ 07:20