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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sustainable Transport


I assume we’ll want to sustain any mode of transport only if we judge it to be effective and desirable, and of course, only if we think we can afford to sustain it. Over time, we’ve abandoned any number of modes that failed those tests — horsecars, trolleycars, and pullmancars, among others; and we’ve kept those that passed the tests — most notably motorcars, airplanes, and ships. In retrospect, it seems we’ve been pretty draconian in rejecting transport modes that have failed in the market place of public favor.

Now the test for sustainability is being pressed most vociferously against the automobile, because cars pollute a lot, use a lot of land, injure and kill a lot of people, and consume a lot of petroleum. More than that, and perhaps most important of all, automobiles have accumulated a growing circle of critics who regard cars as instruments of evil, deserving to be rejected into the dustbin where the world’s sinful and dangerous instruments are consigned.

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