I think it is very possible for a city to use only public transportation. There are enough different kinds of public transportation for this to be possible. Look to cities like New York and San Francisco where it is easier to get from one end to the other without your own car. To go from San Francisco to Berkeley might take hours by car. Public transportation will get you there in a fraction of the time. Unfortunately, there are too many cities where the transportation system is limited. Also, the general independent nature of people is an obstacle. We want a car so we can go wherever we want, be it the seven-eleven off the bus route or a scenic state park for outside the city limits.
A city, sure! But I’m not so sure about a country. Public transportation is great in densely populated urban areas, where there’s a lot of people moving in much the same general directions, and even in the suburbs. But in rural areas, there just aren’t enough people to make it efficient (either in an environmental or economic sense). I guess it’s possible that you could have an entire country densely populated enough to rely solely on public transportation, but I’m not sure I’d want to live there.
Absolutely! However, it would require some massive infrastructure changes. Many cities are built on a grid pattern to provide easy automobile access to drivers, but often the public transportation system does not run quite so efficiently. If we built a commuter train on a grid system and did away with the roads completely (leaving paths wide enough for walking and bicycling), I think that people would find it much more convenient. This would also help make the public transportation system more accessible and less confusing to people. One problem that people have with using public transportation is that they have to wait a long time between rides. If everyone in the city used public transportation, the trains could stop by a station every minute instead of every twenty minutes like BART or every two hours like Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor (two California public transportation systems with which I am familiar). My town of Davis has a very nice bus system, but I don’t use it because I have two great bicycles and I like to travel more spontaneously.
Also, homes are often built too far from the places where people work. I think that it would be awesome to design a city where homes (both apartments and houses) and businesses stood side-by-side and maintain a certain vacancy rate in the homes so that people can easily move closer to where they work when they change jobs. This way, the majority of the population could walk or cycle to work. In addition to helping the environment, this would also improve people’s health.
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