I recently spoke to the Pittsburgh City Paper for an article Bill O’Driscoll was writing about electric vehicles. I had a slightly different take than most EV enthusiasts: changing the source that powers a large vehicle does not begin to address the rest of the problems caused by developing our cities and countries around privately-owned vehicles.
“An electric car is “still a multi-ton vehicle that requires a lot of money and resources from all over the world to produce,” notes Lolly Walsh. Walsh, a staffer for advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh, speaks as part of the loose-knit international Car Free Network. “If we just develop a different type of car … it’s just going to push back any change that we need to make.”
Land use is one of the major problems with structuring our transportation system around cars — electric or otherwise.
Why isn’t an electric car the magic solution that everyone wants?
- An electric car is still dangerous to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers.
- An electric car requires a tremendous amount of land to rest and operate.
- An electric car depends on coal-powered electricity in most situations.
- An electric car will not alleviate congestion.
- An electric car will not level the mobility playing field.
Free Public Transportation Now
As I’ve said before, we should invest in excellent public transportation that is:
- Free (to the user)
- Predictable (schedules available at all stops and on phones)
- Attractive / Beautiful
- Frequent (always less than a ten minute wait)
- Everywhere (less than a ten minute walk from most locations)
- Efficient (Local and Express)
- Resourceful (should maximize options of local terrain. Pittsburgh for example could use streetcars, along side ferries and the incline to take advantage of our rivers and hills)
- and has the right of way against all other modes of travel.
Better, Safer, Faster, and Reliable Public Transportation is the Answer
Investing in superb public transportation (in cities) is the way to go to make transportation accessible to everyone. The public transportation that we have in the US is basically an insult — no wonder so many people will do almost anything to avoid it.
Making public transportation spectacular is a much more economical and environmentally-friendly lift than ignoring all the other pitfalls of electric vehicles.