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Criticism of the existing transportation scheme

The poised state of transportation scheme

It is not by accident that the existing transportation systems have evolved to the present point survived and passed along through ordeals of generations in a continued process of evolution. The existing transportation systems have many benefits that raise the quality of human life. Existing vehicles offer freedom to many individuals and successfully serve many people with available mobility. Existing transportation systems have been evolved and gradually proved with accordance to the ambiance, and include a wide diversity of vehicles which are adapted to different needs, wishes and emotions.

With respect to the ground transportation industries a new reality has been evolved and created. Large scale industry, by products, and many jobs are orbiting the automobiles and trains industry. Roads have been built to accommodate the existing motor vehicles, as well as gasoline stations, repair services, roadhouses, shops, motels, and inns. Warehouses and cargo transfer systems have been built in accordance to the standards set by the transportation industry.

Traffic efficiency, order and safety problems created systems of complicated laws, supervision and enforcement. The risks encumbered with transportation methods created a sophisticated scheme of financial risks division, and large insurance industries have been established on the grounds of the risks that have stemmed out of transportation scheme.

In spite of the praise of existing transportation systems we count below its weighty weaknesses.

Weaknesses of existing transportation systems

Important interests neglected

The existing transportation scheme has accumulated many weaknesses during a long period by neglecting important interests that could not “pay the attorney’s fees” and have suffered from lack of advocacy. Behind most of these interests there are no definite individuals or groups.

The “deprived” interests are not confined to minorities’ interests that have been spoiled by the majority. The minorities focused interests has abused and exploited majorities, making use of the fact that each individual of the majority has very limited interest, and he is therefore nonchalant, ignorant of his deprivation, or lacks the battle spirit needed to combat the minority interests. “Public guards” who should have the insight to protect the general public interests partly fail to discern the problems.

Here are the prominent interests that have been neglected:

  • Nature and environment

– The existing transportation schemes have been evolved so far trampling nature and environmental interests, exhausting limited resources of energy like fossil fuels, polluting the air with toxins, perforating holes in atmosphere, causing greenhouse effect and acid rains, emit noises, endangering wildlife and fragmenting wildlife domains.

There are indeed environmental organizations who advocate the interests of nature and environment. Unfortunately, individuals making personal, practical decisions when choosing transportation means, do not seriously take into consideration the interests of nature and environment. The unsatisfactory state of roads and vehicles proves the above point to be true.

  • Future generations

– Many of the negative environmental impacts of transportation systems will arise in the future. In the meantime immediate interests easily wins. Who advocate the future generation’s interests? When will many individuals assimilate this insight? Maybe after humanity will suffer hardly from predecessors’ damages.

  • Children, elders, or invalids

– Transportation designs are oriented chiefly for the “industrious” vehicle users, neglecting those who do not drive.

There is a mutual dependency between those who lack the ability to drive and those who can; parents are young children’ drivers, or children are elders’ drivers.

There are no efficient transportation solutions for youngsters, elders or many invalids who cannot drive a car. The drivers and the rushing vehicles orient transportation schemes while neglecting those who suffer from slow reaction, defective range estimation, reckless children, and pedestrians or bicycles riders.

  • Poor people

– The public answers to the transportation needs of those who can not afford or use a private vehicle is public transit services. Public services are planed to be most economical for their owners with minimum consideration of their customers’ real needs.

  • Interests of the exceptions

– Transportation, as well as other systems in the economically world, designed to serve the widest common demands, and neglect the exceptional and anomalous. This is logical and understandable when dealing with complicated systems, but transportation have one unique character – the exceptional fault does not result only in material losses, but with death or body injuries. Indifferent attitude to traffic accidents as an inevitable exceptional outcome of the scheme is unbearable.

  • Interests with no tangible value

– Since transportation is human made; the evolution of this scheme was oriented by material valuableness. Interests that can not be materialized as valuable commodity or service have been neglected. Among this important invaluable interests it is possible to count the general public health and life longevity, public time, the freshness or the air, the cleanliness of rain and water, the sun radiation, the joy of life, fears and nervousness.

Management of transportation resources

The “world of transportation” is a Babylonian tower managed by many, each pulling the strings for their own interests and benefit. Without one enlightened manager this “world” includes conspicuous follies.

In every sound industrial factory there is an inspiration to avoid unused 

resources like industrial time and space and to exploit the use of the machinery. This inspiration does not work in the inefficient “transportation factory”. When comparing the transportation world to industry process, there is no need to be industry and management expert to point out the follies.

  • Machinery low production

– Imagine a textile factory producing undershirts that include thousand machines, each one work an hour every day, produce each day only ten undershirts, and standstill most of the day. This absurd imagination is actual fact in the “transportation factory”. Most vehicles that stand unused most of the time carry out most of the transportation, and when they do work it is for a short time, with low production. Vehicles with capacity to carry few riders in high speed carry one person in low speed.

  • Senseless space consumption

– To continue with the allegory of the undershirts factory, imagine that the whimsical management of this absurd factory ruled that those thousand inefficient machines should be moved every day in the factory plant. During the day they should stand on the north zone and during the night at the south. Seems to be absurd. Not at all in the “transportation factory”. All the inefficient machines consume double parking space – usually, spaces in cities commercial or labor centers that are unused at nights and weekends, and spaces in dwelling zones or sleeping neighborhoods that are unused during working hours.

  • Bottlenecks

– On industrial production line it is well known that much consideration should be given to avoid bottlenecks that may hamper the whole process.

In the transportation world bottlenecks are well recognized. Traffic congestion and traffic jams are widespread without effective solutions. In many modern cities most of the people want to reach the same places, on the same ways at the same rush hours, and all of them are stuck in the same bottlenecks.

  • Low degree of synchronization between the production line and the products

– Existing common transportation systems based on vehicle movement on roads and highways. Except for train transportation, generally there is a total separation between vehicle developers and manufacturers, and road constructors. Relatively clumsy authorities develop infrastructure, while agile private corporations perfect cars. Infrastructure limps like a lame duck, hardly catching the pace of cars emitting from industrial lines to roads.

The outcome of the hybridization between the public and the private sector is the same outcome of plowing with bull and ass – low degree of synchronization. That avoids the users’ abilities to exploit the capabilities, speed, volume and other potentials of their vehicles. The average car is designed to reach high speed quickly and easily, but in many urban areas, it is easy to gain the impression that most traffic uses low percentage of the car speed potential.

Vehicles geared with the ability to move fast are stranded in inadequate roads and traffic jams, hampered by curves, crowded traffic, limited sight fields, road signs, inefficient traffic police, awkward traffic regulations, or by drivers who lack driving skills, experience, or knowledge.

Heavy trucks are main cause of road deterioration, but when the road builders and heavy truck manufacturers and users act in low degree of harmony, damages to roads are not in the accounts of trucks industry.

From contemplation only, it is easy to conclude that infrastructure is a narrow bottleneck in the existing transportation system. If one manager had been ruled the transportation world vast investments in research and development of new cars would have been transferred to development of infrastructure or better the interface between vehicles and roads.

  • Various products use the same production line

– In sound industrial factory every production line is tailored for its products. In traditional transportation scheme different products ride on the same line and cause disharmony. Heavy trucks, buses, small cars or motorcycles are using the same ways on the same time, regardless of their difference objective and dimensions.

  • Bubble effect

– Small-moving particles may consume big volume, because of their movement. It can be dubbed bubble or foam effect. The existing transportation scheme creates many bubbles that can be minimized. These bubbles cause misuse of lands and contribute to sprawl of habitat areas.

The private car ownership creates redundancy of transportation means, waste and inefficiency – The private means are not shared by many, vehicles stay unused most of the time when their owners don’t need them, and occupy parking land when unused. The car ownership is incentive to buy the asset that serve all or most of the owners needs, including the rare ones; that results in heavy duty or large vehicles filling transportation limited volume, by small amount of users.

Nevertheless, a note in favor of the private car – The comparison of the “transportation factory” to industrial factory was done for the sake of argument, but we have to admit that it is partly misleading. Private cars are unique machines, their main vocation is not high productivity but to be available when needed to support manpower productivity. With regard to this mission they have no alternative in the traditional transportation systems, but from the point of view of innovative possibilities much can be done.

Shortcomings of transportation economy

Price tags of the transportation resources

Setting prices of products and services according to principles of free market is a practical economically way to balance supply and demand, and to encourage efficient use and production of services or products. As demonstrate herein this common rule does not fully applied in “transportation economy”.

  • Pricing the use of public roads

– When one buys or rents a car the price he pays is set by the free market, but when he use the ways he generally dose not have to pay at all. Pricing the right of way in public roads is not simple, partly because of practical limits, but mainly because of philosophical and sociological outlook.

It is common belief that every human being has a natural right to live, to be healthy, to breath fresh air, to drink fresh waters, to enjoy the sun or the earth. Naturally, nobody should pay for the gifts of god and nobody is the property owner of nature. This attitude is probably one of the reasons that most people are free to use the public ways – they belongs to everyone and are part of basic human rights and freedom.

In modern world that is driven by money, many questions may be raised against this outlook. Defined parcels of land are subjected to ownership, natural resources are mined and being sold, minerals, chemicals, fossil fuels and even water are defined as private property. People pay, by indirect taxes or by direct tolls for tapping water, for garbage and sewage collection, or for entering seashore. If public authorities collect private money for public services, why it should not collect money for the use of paved public roads?

In most cases (- exceptions are toll roads), you pay the same price, or to be more accurate you do not pay at all, If you are diligent traveler or stay at home. You pay the same price to travel on rush hours or when traffic is sparse, to travel on congested road or vacant ones, to travel with large vehicle or with small one. You pay the same price to travel frequently or rarely, to occupy the way for a long time or short one, to travel in a heavy duty truck that harm the roadbed or in a tiny car. Also you pay the same to travel in an occupied vehicle or in an empty one, in a dangerous vehicle or in a safe one, in a pollution emitter or on a bicycle.

There are imperfect answers to the questions raised above. The public collects the price of road use indirectly via gasoline prices, taxes on gasoline or taxes on vehicles, but this collections are not fine tuned due to limits of practical means of measure and collection. New technologies may help in the future to create more accurate measuring and collection for roads use.

Whatever the reasons are the lacking of price tags for transportation resources have negative impacts. Many weaknesses of transportation could have been mitigated by simple economic rules of supply and demand. If using the roads in rush hours had been cost more, many would have recalculate using low occupied vehicles, or the timing of their travels. If using cars with high volume had been cost more, many would have rethink of the congestion impacts when deciding to buy a new voluminous car. If using trucks that deteriorate roads had been cost more, many users would have use few small trucks instead of big one. If polluting the air had cost more, low pollution vehicles have been more common and widespread.

  • Pricing car use

– Most of the traffic in modern states is caused by private cars. The car industry encourages car ownership rather than car rental, therefore, most people who can afford a private car are car owners who do not use public transit.

In the private ownership orientation there are fixed expenses regardless of car use, such as cost, insurance or amortization, and relatively small amounts of fluent expenses, as gasoline, oil, or repairs and maintenance. This method encourages car use, and many times the purchase of voluminous vehicles that encompass the relatively rare needs of the buyer and his family, while the vehicles are being used mostly for tasks far limited than their capacity. While keeping this orientation in mind, it is common to see many family cars accomodating one person to work and back every day, or couples using pickup trucks on their way to a cinema.

If car rental had been more common, available and cheap for short periods of time, many people would have forsaken their private cars while the rented cars would serve needs and not the common denominator of needs. Car transportation would be more efficient had there been a free market of car rentals in so far as people would be paying for vehicle usage or earning money while someone was using their car.

  • Pricing invaluable assets

– It may be unnoticeable but many things in the materialistic world do not carry price tags. It does not mean they have no value, their value is set many times by courts in tort claims. Nevertheless, they have no price tags, whether because they are so invaluable, because nature hasn’t any business talents, or because it is difficult or impractical to define their price.

Transportation economy includes many components without price tags; all these components are an integral parts or byproducts of transportation schemes. Without price tags these components are not calculated when they should be, not when making new transportation plans, or not when setting car insurance premium. Among those components without price tags we can name many invaluable products or byproducts of transportation, most of them effect dramatically the quality of life.

    • Life longevity

– The consequences of road accidents.

    • Health

– The result of traffic environmental effects and road accidents.

    • Public and individuals time

– Waste of indefinite working hours or leisure time caused by traffic congestion, by inefficient public transit, or by the need of parents to transport their children.

    • Emotions

– Not much attention is given to the price of anxiety caused by transportation. Many are agitated by traffic congestion, or afraid of road accidents. It is impossible to measure the anxiety of many worried parents when their children have to cross a road alone or walk by roads.

    • Human productivity

– It is hard to calculate the low productivity of nervous or exhausted employees who start their working day after the morning rush hour.

    • Exhaustion of nature limited resources

– There is no price on environmental damages, there is no price to unrecoverable damages to flora and fauna, no price for damages caused to wildlife fragmented by nets of roads or killed by speeding vehicles. The prices of fossil fuels may be set, but there is no value to the fact that this limited resource may be exhausted entirely.

Partial, unperfected answers

In order to achieve more efficacy and safety, there are many solutions and ideas to enhance the utilization and improve the management of existing transportation resources, Improvements can be done without innovative technologies or revolutionary changes, and must be considered, before comprehensive reform.

  • Public transit services

– Transit by buses, taxis, trains, light-rails, monorails, or jitneys, designate to attract more people to communal transportation. Transit may attract more commuters and enhance the productivity of transportation resources.

Public services have some benefits, but they seem to be inspired to be most economical rather than suffice the customers needs. Trains or buses are inspired to cram in as many commuters in a solid uniform vehicle carried by a minimum amount of drivers in the most profitable corridor for the transit systems.

Apparently this inspiration should create more productive and profitable systems that would defeat any rivalries, but in reality it is different. Public transit services do not attract many people out of their private cars, they need subsidies, and some of them, although a monopoly lose profits.

There are indeed certain demanded profitable lines, but they do not reflect on the whole scheme. Usually there are short peak hours and long hours of low demand, or highly requested zones or lines very low requested. The uneven division of commuters movement and public interest to bring transit to desolated places, spoil calculations and hence productivity and profitability.

The fixed lines and timetables of public transit may be economical to the transit companies, but waste a lot of commuters’ time and money. Passengers have to reach the transit stations to and from the origin and destination stations, wait for the fixed timetables that do not coordinate with their schedule and are delayed in many stops designed to serve large scale of exchangeable commuters.

  • Betterment of infrastructure

– Building more roads, freeways, highways, interchanges and parking lots may help to open bottlenecks and enhance traffic fluency. But besides the financial cost, roads and parking lots sprawl, consume lands in a prodigal manner which “injures” the nature.

  • Making the private car usage more efficiency

– Encouraging car pools, adding more rent-a-car services and enhancing services like car stations, may reduce traffic and congestion, but good solutions as these do not succeed to take off.

  • Traffic control and regulation

– Regulations may prohibit car entrance to city centers, or other congested zones, minimize vehicle usage by direct or indirect taxes, by gasoline prices, by toll roads, or by High Occupancy Vehicles (-HOV) lanes. Division of congestion and rush hours may be done by varied working hours and schedules. Usually regulations solve problems in a limited manner by shifting them to less painful problems.

  • Systems integration

– Inter-modal plans like “park and drive” or feeding lines of buses to railway stations may integrate different means for a better general usage.

  • Enhancement of alternatives to large motor vehicles

– Transportation improvement can be accomplished simply by encouraging pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles or small cars that consume less parking and road space in result create less pollution and noise than the bigger alternatives.

  • Transportation oriented planning

– Transportation oriented planning may solve or ease problems. Living and working along free transportation corridors or dispersing traffic concentrations may solve or ease congestion problems.

  • Communication facilities

– Existing communication facilities may enable people to shift limited transportation needs with communication and ease the transportation problems

The cost of blood

Use of traditional transportation methods is dangerous. A battlefield has resulted from what originally was intended to be good quality of life. Civilization that has invented sophisticated medical systems to prolong life and relieve human pain, has increased suffering in the scheme of dangerous transportation.

People have become accustomed to taking for granted the fact that a large number of human beings and animals are injured daily, and are found dead due to road accidents and traffic pollution. It assumes to be an inevitable part of modern life.

It is not anticipated from human technology to be absolutely flawless and safe. Even in well-scrutinized systems there is always a limited and calculated risk of flaw, and the modern world would have been hardly developed if ultimately flawless system had been criteria for operation. Transportation technologies are not exceptions to this rule, but they are unique because flaws in transportation technologies cause everyday death and bodily harms.

Does society have a right to undertake and impose calculated risks or adventurousness on individuals? Perhaps it may be understood, although hardly acceptable, that public consensus can take up limited calculated risks when deciding to use systems that endanger human life or health but have significant benefits that may balance the risks. Can this argument be a general excuse? Are we endangering life any differently when rushing in an ambulance to a hospital to save a life or travelling for leisure?

Subject to the assumption mentioned above, we raise a few questions that are philosophical, moral, legal and practical:

  • What is the degree of calculated risk of life and health of individuals that society allowes to burden on itself?
  • What is the responsibility of society to control risks when the public overburdens itself with this kind of risk?
  • Are human societies guilty of sacrificing human life and health on the altar of transportation?
  • Did we do our best to avoid these risks?

We believe that a society that decides to take calculated risks on human life and health of their community, should undertake a counter burden to do the best to avoid these risks. It is easy to be impressed that there is lukewarm attitude to these dangers, and societies do not do what obliged to relieve the burden and duty laid upon.

Complex and sophisticated schemes of insurance organizations and laws of absolute liability have been evolved in order to divide the financial risks of individuals by traffic accidents. Huge insurance frameworks are existing in order to divide risks among numerous customers, but small amounts from their turnover, if at all, are directed to find and support creative solutions to road accidents. The insurance solution gives financial remedy and lip service, but not a moral and practical solution.

Paradoxically, many people are making their living by the sustainability of the risks. The car industry enjoys the shortening of vehicles life cycle caused by accidents, Insurance companies are sustained by the accidents premiums, and mechanics live on the repairs.


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