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Public policy and innovative transportation

Modern transportation has significant impacts on humans’ life and health, on human well being and economy and on the sustainability of nature and human kind. The public is not only passive transport users, but has operative legal status in the design of transportation. Most of the ways are public domain, transportation affects nature that is a public domain, and hence the rights of use and the extent of use of these public domains are public matters, moreover in most countries transit services are controlled and subside by public money.

Any change in transportation scheme may be a solution to some problems, but will arise new dilemmas. These dilemmas are connected to the anticipation of the past and fears and prospects of the new systems future. Changes demand new constitution and new solutions. It is a hard mission to change public trends and achieve a consensus about the need for transportation change and the mode of change.

Innovative systems and new dilemmas

Prejudice anticipation of the past.

Along the history of transportation evolution, many interests have been evolved and pierced their roots deep in the economical, cultural and social texture. The process has been done according to anticipation of relative stability and sustainability of the existing transportation systems. When advocating automatic intelligent transportation system one should consider not only the utilitarian benefits but also the negative impacts and the justification of this change.

Any change of transportation scheme will prejudice those who relied on the existing situation. Innovative automatic intelligent transportation system could prejudice anticipation of many society members and professions that relied on existing situation, as drivers, mechanics, car industry, transit services, insurance companies, policemen, and many others.

It is unjustified to revolutionize transportation world by closing a defined region drastically for entrance of existing cars, allowing only automatic intelligent vehicles to enter. Drastic acts are unfair, undermine anticipation for stability and may cause insecure and individual or social breakdowns that might cause damages that will overshadow the benefits of the transportation revolution, or provoke hard resistance that will achieve a converse outcome.

New fears of the future

Innovative transportation could raise the general level of life quality, but may cause drastic unemployment with severe repercussions. Negative effects of transportation innovation will not be limited to certain members of society but to the all society. Transportation is a significant factor in many states economy and a wide base and source of taxes. Therefore any shake of transportation stability must be done delicately and cautiously.

New moral dilemmas

Many times we incorporate technologies and machines with human characteristic the same way children revive their toys; therefore we blame technologies with vice or praise them with virtues. Evidently, machines have no soul and technologies have no spirit, but human beings have. People can utilize technologies in moral ways or abuse them. Atom power can be used as a positive energy source or be abused as a mass destruction weapon. The Internet can be used as a blessed media to exchange information, ideas and enhance global socialization and peace, or be an evil mean to dissipate vicious philosophies. Advance in biotechnology can find new medications or create new diseases.

Every technological progress rises new moral or ethical questions. These questions cannot negate the technology but should set limits on the use of the new technology, or curb the progression pace to be in-line with public readiness. Innovative transportation may be abused or be harmful; these possibilities should be considered in advanced in order to avoid unnecessary damages. Here are few illustrations.

  • New sources of time

– Too much comfort or cheap and easy transportation may overflow the transportation network with redundant idlers, who will block routes. Jobs that will be fulfilled by machines may create dullness of many people and a source of malbehaviour.

  • Social gaps

– New efficient technologies enhance the social gaps between those who can afford them, and those who can not.

  • New Land resources

– Automatic intelligent transportation system may free lands in populated areas that are used for parking and ways. What is the right way to use the free lands?

  • New design

– New concept design arise new problems of setting priorities between many factors as safety, environmental care, sustainability or price.

New political debates

Transportation systems are expected to satisfy diversified needs – safety, efficiency, availability, environmental friendliness, trustworthy, cost effectiveness, speed, comfort, fun, sport, social equality, or image expression.

Different philosophies, policies or attitudes may set different priorities. Some may prefer high speed, but others safety or easy riding. Families may prefer large vehicles while bachelors might prefer small ones. Pizza’ restaurants may ask for small moped like cargo vehicles, but bridges constructors need high capacity vehicle. Socialists may wish uniformed vehicles, and capitalists may demand different classes.

Interests and philosophies hide behind real politics. In order to understand transportation politics, one should inspect the various interests that play, their rolls, their power and influence, and the relevant philosophies that may lead. Philosophies and outlooks regarding rudimentary issues are lying, or should be laid, under transportation design. Transportation design depends on basic important questions like freedom of transportation as a basic human right, human responsibility to well being of future generations, environment quality and human life quality, the sacredness of life and risking human lives, socialism or liberalism and many other important questions. As usual, there are extreme solutions or many moderate and reasonable solutions trying to set balances and limit between conflicting interests or outlooks.

Here are few examples:

  • Liberal attitude recognize and respect the wishes of every individual to be free to realize his wishes and satisfy is emotions and sensitivities – thus buy and use which vehicle he wants regardless the impact on society. Socialist outlook may ask individuals to give up part of their freedom for the benefit of society, thus may ask individuals to buy and use a common vehicle.
  • Emotional sensitivity may lead to a system that could answer many different wishes or vagaries, rational sensitivity may lead to a transportation focused system that could be standard, monotonous and repetitious.

Negotiation with the public

When individuals deliberate upgrading a private system it usually take days, weeks or months, when organizations deliberate it may take weeks, months or years, but when countries deliberate it may take decades.

Process of decision making by public is a complicated one. Entrepreneurs who want to sell the public an innovative transportation system should face tedious and almost impossible way of negotiation. This kind of negotiation process combines marketing in free markets with lobbing in democratic style, negotiation with public representative or directly with the public via the media. Positive response by way of wide public consensus is crucial and should be important part of any innovative transportation design.

The elusive and misleading public as a negotiator

The public is an elusive negotiator who reappears in different costumes under different hats:

  • Once as an assembly of customers who welcome better transportation systems, than, under different conditions as an assembly of skeptical and critical customers who hesitate to try an innovative system.
  • Once as a potential partner in the enterprise to implement a new transportation system, who wishes for the success of the entrepreneurship, and agrees to contribute public rights of ways or capital, or elsewhere, as a tough negotiator who asks for great share in the partnership with the entrepreneur.
  • Once as a partner who has a common interest with the entrepreneur to enlarge profits, than, under different conditions, as an assembly of customers who wish to pay minimal price and receive the best service.
  • Once as an assembly of taxpayers who wish to pay minimum taxes to their executive leadership, or elsewhere as taxpayers that demand high level of public facilities, including transportation.
  • Once as an assembly of taxpayers who wish to avoid tax payments, and than their representatives who wish to elevate the taxes.

Negotiation with this misleading and elusive “partner” may found to be impossible or unfair. Entrepreneur who face the public negotiator may reveal that not only it is hard to find out what is the real public interest, but that the interests of the public are volatile and the interests of public representatives may be different than their patrons.

Complex, long, indecisive and endless negotiation

We tried to prove that automatic intelligent transportation systems are better than the existing transportation systems, but a logical prove is not enough to change public opinion. The negotiation with the public is not a mere process of persuasion and reasoning, it is a process of changing cultural habits, emotions, fashions and delicate balance with many interests that may be impaired by any change. This negotiation supposed to be complex, prolonged, indecisive and endless.

The general psychological suppression of road dangers may illustrate the scope of the problem. Many people pass more time daily on the road than they do sitting around the dining table. But although transportation is an important part of modern human life, it seems that the issue suffers from bad public relations – compare the volume that the average daily newspaper devotes to sports events, to that regarding transportation and you will agree. Cruel terror attacks, war crimes or natural catastrophes that may cause less damage, hit the headlines, but the thousands who are killed annually in road accidents, are almost disregarded. The weight that is given to road safety is negligible in relative with other political issues like national or social security.

An unreasonable, nonchalant, common attitude to the routine dangers and inconvenience caused by vehicles can be explained by psychological suppression. Children are more frightening of imagined monster than from unbuckled safety belt; and adults tend to believe that they have chances to win a large prize in the lottery rather than being involved in a car accident. Changing these believes by rational argumentation is not enough. Perhaps the effective way to change public opinion is by brainwashing, but this is a dangerous and unrecommended method, especially when used by public delegates.

Negotiation with public representative may be harder than with the public. Public representatives have tendency to sustain existing equilibrium, to avoid risks or initiation of new set of problems and conflicts.

When public authorities should take decisions the known and familiar systems are always preferable, they have the tremendous advantage of total no-risk of scrutiny or criticism.

Investing public money, or trying a new transportation system by politicians seems unreasonable. If the system will fail there is a high risk of criticism supported by aggressive opponent, and if the system will be successful it may cause aggressive criticism by new unemployed people, or provoke misgiving of unknown order.

Transportation public economy

Transportation schemes contribute and absorb huge sums of public money. Public policy lies under practical decisions of public budget allocations. Here are few examples.

  • Traffic congestion could be mitigated by budget decisions – The budget distributors may decide to allocate more money for building more highways or interchanges, or reduce the demand for transportation by elevation of gasoline prices, or taxes for road use. It is possible to subsidize public transit services, or encourage the use of small vehicles or bicycles.
  • Society can cope with road accidents by shifting budgets from the means to prevent accidents to those that cure their victims, or vice versa, or by shifting budgets from national security or art and culture to road security.

Budget allocation is a practical way for politicians to express their beliefs and outlook. Do they arriving to their decisions by pure morality and wisdom?

It can be heard from economists that governments should take care for infrastructure and build sound ground for transportation, while the citizens should use the infrastructure efficiently. This assertion assumes that there is a total separation between infrastructure and vehicles. As mentioned above this assumption may not be clever. Transportation is a significant common factor in the cost of every product and service, and hence wide definition of transportation is most important to economical growth.

Changing public opinion – Tapping information, spreading new ideas

For most people, ideas such as Intelligence Transportation Systems (ITS) or Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) are unfamiliar, or regarded as a science fiction. Information concerning new technologies and their feasibility should be widespread, even before technologies are completely mature. People who are aware of such ideas and become accustomed to them will be prepared to accept them when the technologies start penetration and emerge into the markets.

Prior knowledge with regard to existing and forthcoming existing technologies is essential. This information is important to those who plan their future, choose a profession, position or business, or require accommodation. Certainly, those who deal with public policy and are concerned with medium or long-term transportation planning or construction should be aware of the wide scale of possibilities and take them into consideration. The knowledge that the world of transportation is not immune to instability will ease the process of new technology implementation.

Support by public opinion

Organizing public support is important in order to encourage new transportation technologies. Wide support is needed to encourage incredulous citizens or decision-makers that might be afraid to take risks. Vigorous resistance to any change in the existing situation is well anticipated by those who enjoy the existing situation, but support is questionable.

A few identified groups may be predefined as those who are naturally inclined to support better transportation systems.

  • Financial private interests

– The deficiencies of conventional transportation systems are so remarkable that they can sustain many businesses that may provide relief to the drawbacks. The potential markets for those businesses are huge and so must be the motivation of anyone who wants to challenge the well-rooted habits and interests.

Businessmen who will be open-minded to the potential may be highly motivated to support automatic intelligent transportation technologies. It should be born in mind that against anyone who will try to improve transportation efficiency, stands somebody who became accustomed to earn from opposite deficiency. We believe that supporters with financial interests are the best candidates to move a reform in transportation.

Anticipation or beliefs that advanced transportation technologies are new fashion and modern trends may evoke a new gold rush in the stock exchange markets, similar to the success of Internet company shares.

  • Organizations that fight road accidents

, or accident victims, may be emotionally supporters of new systems that will avoid or minimize transportation hazards.

  • Environmentalists

who understand the appalling impacts of the existing transportation scheme on the ecosystem are natural supporters of change for less pollution-emitting systems.

  • Politicians

may find transportation issues a good ticket to ride on, but this may be only after the issue has reached a certain level of acceleration, and the ticket might be for a short or limited distance.

Evolution but not revolution

Cautious and evolutionary endeavors and steps should be made to upgrade the world of transportation. Transportation schemes involve many non-fixed factors, like emotions and interests, which are driven by chaotic disorder. Interference with this disorder may end in unanticipated outcomes.

Breaking fixed conventions by interim solutions

Without new technologies, much can be done to improve the existing transportation systems. Few important features of automatic intelligent transportation, as compactness, standardization or consolidation can be changes by new attitude without new technologies. Adopting new attitudes and breaking fixed conventions can make progress toward a more rational transportation system. Here are few examples that can be implemented for an interim period until better technologies will crystallize and penetrate markets.

  • Compacting transportation systems

– If it would be easy to achieve public consensus to use carpools or minicars by minimally occupied vehicles driven by single person in rush hours, great progress would be achieved by using the existing system. Car manufacturers cannot be blamed for not suggesting small, attractive minicars. People do not buy minicars for many reasons, and occasionally because their preference for their car to be larger than their neighbor’s is far more than their concern about the hole in the ozone layer. When compact cars will be fashionable like compact discs or compact computers the situation may be changed.

  • Substitute assets by services

– Main deficiencies of the existing scheme are derived from the fact that many owners maintain private cars as an asset, and not use the vehicle as a service. Diversified car rental services can change the picture. The Station Car is an excellent idea that could be implemented relatively easily. The station car idea is placing a pool of minicars in certain parking lots, where it would be possible to rent the minicars for short trips and to leave them after use in one of the parking areas. Car rental companies, that may establish new types of business of mass, cheaper, short distance rentals could implement the idea. If taxi drivers – who let their spacious cars with personal drivers to customers, can make a living – why should this not work when the customer rents only a small car?

The traditional idea of a Station Car deals with minicars for urban use. The idea can be improved and deal with family cars, vans, or heavy-duty cars traveling out of the cities. This type of service may cause many people to abandon the idea of purchasing a relatively large family car to fit the common denominator of rare family needs.

Car bank – The concept of car banks can be implemented by using reliable and standard cars. The customers of the car bank would be able to deposit their cars in the bank when they were not required, or could draw cars from the bank when required. The depositors would receive “interest” – rental fees minus bank commission, and the drawers would pay rental fees plus bank commission. The rental fees would have limited flexibility with regard to supply and demand. The car bank would regulate the mass of cars on roads and parking lots, and would make the use of cars, in general, more rational.

Facing conservatism

Conservatism sensitivities could be changes by incremental evolutionary steps. It can be reminded that the deprived coal miners who were afraid of unemployment because of the industrial revolution proved that fears of future technologies are irrational. Changes that improve the quality of life of the majority benefit every member of society, including those who pay a relatively high price at short term. Nonetheless, societies need to prepare the ground for cultural changes; free time demand solutions as leisure, sport or education culture.

Democratic decisions

We substitute and skip the deep philosophical discussions of the best transportation solution by assuming that balance should be found between all the conflicting demands by democratic means. As mentioned before, the best transportation design is a compromise that balance conflicting interests and doctrines. Choice of the best transportation scheme is a complicated matter that touches the all society. The well-known democratic procedures of decision-making, including fair opportunities to convince and be heard, are nice as well to transportation decisions.

The democratic decisions could be decided in three main locations:

  • Primarily, in the natural way of free markets choice.
  • By executive business organizations that will be consortium of private and public sectors.
  • In democratic institutions.

Democratic principles fits to decide the best transportation means. Unprofessional people should not decide engineering questions, but everyone has a right to choose between rational alternatives of feasible technological concepts.

When mentioning democratic principles it should be pointed out, that this principles protect minorities rights. In the transportation conjunction the deprived interests should include the neglected interests of the past. Reiteration of former mistakes when changing transportation systems is absurdity; lessons should be learned from the experience and mistakes of the past. The public financial support and contribution to automatic intelligent transportation system may be destined to support the interests that have been neglected by transportation development – as environment reserve, safety, or wise socialism – and leave matters as transportation efficiency, availability, or service quality to private business interests.

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