As We Start Moving Again, Let’s Do It Better
2020欧洲杯体育在线网投June 24, 2020
For a few weeks this spring, we stopped moving. Driving fell by almost , flying by , and . In a world built for movement, immobility was a welcome rest for some—but it also hurt, especially businesses like airlines, hotels, stores, and restaurants. We are now moving again, slowly, but we may never go back to where we were. And we shouldn’t. Instead, we should build a new system for people to move around—a system guided by six simple ideas.
The problem, to put it simply, is that people move too much in the United States, and they move inefficiently. The average American uses in transportation than the average European, mostly due to urban sprawl, too many cars, and cars that are very inefficient. There are per person in the United States than in Europe, and, for the same trip, a car in the United States uses around than a car in Europe. from transportation are almost three times higher than in Europe, and are more (per capita).
This car-based system has accumulated over a century and will not go away soon. Therefore, the first priority is to make cars more efficient or electric. Fuel economy improved , but the gains since have been modest. Electric vehicles are still only about of total sales. Both problems can be solved with tools we have used before: rules on what cars can be sold and help for consumers to buy cars that are more efficient or electric. We just need more of both.
2020欧洲杯体育在线网投A second goal is to help the U.S. auto industry make money from smaller, fuel-efficient cars, a goal that has proven elusive since the 1970s. During the last crisis, the government gave nearly $90 billion to automakers to to make fuel-efficient cars or as . Now, the Trump administration that the industry was supposed to meet. We should, instead, nudge automakers, with money and penalties, to greater fuel efficiency.
Improving cars should be paired with a strategy to get people onto buses, metros, bikes, or their feet. Our third priority, then, should be to encourage density, which makes non-car mobility options viable. That the country faces a housing crisis is well known. Also well-known is : build more houses, chiefly by changing the that discourage multi-family units. In a country where a house equals wealth, policies to reduce housing costs are fraught. But there are around the country that solved this predicament. We need only copy their experience.
The fourth priority must be to reduce car use. The federal gasoline tax, unchanged since late 1993, is at the same level, adjusted for inflation, , when the federal government first passed one. State gasoline taxes have not even . Very few cities in the United States charge cars for , and the are far too permissive. The country spent on highways, while the system , and . Our obsequity toward the car must stop.
To get people off cars, however, we need viable alternatives. Our fifth priority then should be public transit, a sector hit hard by and especially hurt by the idea, , that riding a bus or a train is risky. In 1919, there were , and that number has fallen, today, to 10 billion—a one-third decline while the population tripled. This is an equity issue: poor people and minorities , and we need public transit to improve economic opportunity. We know what to do: focus on safety, affordability, frequency, ease, and integration. It just takes political will—and, often, does not even .
In a denser environment, our final priority should be to take —as are doing in by to add bike likes or for pedestrians to walk, play, or dine. The benefits go beyond transportation: walking and biking, and even green spaces improve . The more places people can reach on foot or a short bike ride, the healthier they will be, and the more sustainable our transport system will become.
These six ideas are, at once, simple and difficult. Some are technically easy but politically hard. Others are made harder by the crisis, like saving public transit or countering urban sprawl, especially if people look for more space to support a teleworking lifestyle. But the old system was broken. The crisis has not upended that system, but it has undermined some of its core pillars. It is up to us to only fix what needs fixing and let the rest wither.
Nikos Tsafos is a senior fellow of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
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