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Old 07-13-05, 12:59 PM   #1
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Shanghai's Traffic Problems Snarled by Car Culture

Here's a good article from the New York Times that goes to shows:

1. You can build all the highways you want for future expansion, but the cars will fill up any efficiency within years or months.

2. Trains and public transportation is only part of the solution if properly funded, but ineffective if inproperly funded.

3. Only one line in the article mentioned the word "Bicycle" but did not see this as part of the solution.

A City's Traffic Plans Are Snarled by China's Car Culture

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By HOWARD W. FRENCH
Published: July 12, 2005
SHANGHAI, July 9 - When officials drew up the blueprints for the redesign of this city in the early 1980's, nary a skyscraper punctuated the low-slung horizon, whose buildings mostly dated from the decades of Western control early in the last century.

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Stuart Isett for The New York Times
Passengers on the new Shanghai subway often ride on overcrowded trains.

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Stuart Isett for The New York Times
Roads on the south side of Shanghai filling up with commuters leaving the city during an evening rush hour last month.
The hugely ambitious plans called for Shanghai to be built anew. And among the top priorities in a city previously dominated by bicycles was avoiding the most common plagues of the automobile age - unmanageable traffic and unbearable pollution.

To that end, enormous sums were spent on spectacular bridges, elevated highways and a brand-new subway system. But today, glance out the window of one of this city's 3,000 high-rises around 6 p.m., when snarling masses of horn-honking cars tend to congeal in gridlock, and it is hard to escape the impression that Shanghai, at least for now, is losing its bet.

As people in this richest of Chinese cities have grown more and more affluent, they have displayed an American-style passion for the automobile. But for Shanghai, as for much of China, getting rich and growing attached to cars have increasingly gone hand in hand, and have produced side effects familiar in cities that have long been addicted to automobiles - from filthy air and stressful, marathon commutes to sharply rising oil consumption.

China accounts for about 12 percent of the world's energy demand, but its consumption is growing at more than four times the global rate, sending Chinese oil company executives on an increasingly frantic search for overseas supplies. The country's top environmental officials have warned of ecological and economic doom if China continues to follow this pattern. But in cities like Shanghai, where automobiles account for 70 percent to 80 percent of air pollution, nothing seems capable of stopping, or even slowing, the rapid rise of a car culture.

This is not for lack of trying. In one attempt to slow the growth of automobile traffic, the city has raised the fees for car registrations every year since 2000, doubling them over that time to about $4,600 per vehicle - more than twice the city's per capita income. Many drivers illegally register their cars in other cities, where the fees are much lower, and the result is a never-ending cat-and-mouse game with the traffic police.

The traffic efforts have been coupled with a major expansion of the public transportation system, which comprises gleaming new subways and the world's fastest train, a magnetic levitation vehicle that zips to the airport in under 10 minutes.

The steep growth in automobile traffic here, however, seems to mock the city's efforts. The original blueprints for a major expansion of Shanghai's road network, drawn up two decades ago, predicted that Shanghai would pass the threshold of two million cars in 2020. In fact, that figure was reached last November.

"The estimates we made 20 years ago have been proven wrong," said Li Junhao, chief engineer of the city's Urban Planning Administration Bureau, in something of an understatement. "The development of Shanghai has been beyond our imagination."

Even interim traffic estimates here have fallen far short. Two years ago, the city government rushed orders for the construction of a new, elevated loop expressway for central Shanghai, because other elevated expressways were already saturated at peak hours. "Just one year after some roads were completed, they reached vehicle flow volumes that were forecast for 15 to 20 years from now," said Yang Dongyuan, a professor at the School of Transportation Engineering and vice president of Tongji University.

Meanwhile, the city is expanding its subway grid well beyond the 310 miles of track first planned. Two new lines are being added to the original 15, along with another 192 miles of track. Even so, the subway system, gleaming and clean though it is, is one area where traffic has failed to meet projections, with less than half the expected ridership on some lines. The reason, experts say, is that there are not enough trains, resulting in overcrowding, which further encourages people to ride in cars.

To be sure, Shanghai's failure to master the challenge of the automobile reflects a mixture of forces, both economic and cultural. Foremost is the city's economic performance, which has been fast even by Chinese standards, and has outstripped even the most optimistic projections.

Add to this a flourishing consumer culture that equates car ownership, however costly, with personal freedom, prestige and success.

In this regard, Yu Qiang, a 31-year-old salesman, is a model citizen of sorts. Mr. Yu spent more than $20,000 last year to buy his first car, a Chinese-made Buick, so that he could drive to work each morning instead of relying on public transportation.

Because of heavy traffic, the seven-mile commute usually takes a full hour. It includes dropping his 5-year-old son off at kindergarten and his wife, who teaches, at her school.

"A new subway line will be completed to my neighborhood later this year, and I'm hoping many other people will ride it so that the traffic will get better," Mr. Yu said. "I'll keep driving my car, though. It's more comfortable because I can listen to music, use the air-conditioner, and it's not crowded."

Mr. Yu then made a comment that sounded like a city planner's nightmare and a car salesman's dream. "In China everybody wants to have a car, and I'm just one of them," he said. "We think of it as changing our lives." As for the traffic implications, he added, smiling, "The government has a lot to do to improve the traffic, and I believe they will do it."
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Old 07-13-05, 02:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
Here's a good article from the New York Times that goes to shows:

1. You can build all the highways you want for future expansion, but the cars will fill up any efficiency within years or months.

2. Trains and public transportation is only part of the solution if properly funded, but ineffective if inproperly funded.

3. Only one line in the article mentioned the word "Bicycle" but did not see this as part of the solution.

A City's Traffic Plans Are Snarled by China's Car Culture....

Mr. Yu then made a comment that sounded like a city planner's nightmare and a car salesman's dream. "In China everybody wants to have a car, and I'm just one of them," he said. "We think of it as changing our lives." ...
Gee I thought only Amerikans have car culture. Whats next..NASCAR in Manchuria?

(1) This may be true in certain cities and certain other places at certain times, but it is hardly always true. In many rural regions of developed countries the highway system has been adequate for decades.

(2) "Properly funded?" And just what is the definition of that? Too often government programs have the 'golden rule of funding:' if they don't work, it's because they don't have enough money. If they do work, they obviously should receive more money. Public transit involves huge fixed costs; and if its a bus system, the buses are stuck in the very same traffic that cars are stuck in.

(3) The role of bicycles in the overall transportation system is a very small one. Commuters can use them for short distances in reasonable weather. But the vast majority of value added in transportation consists of moving goods and high income workers around. Bicycles can't ship things as large as airplane engines, as cold as ice cream, and aren't reliable enough for lawyers en route to a court hearing. Even avid cyclists have automobiles as backup system.

The Chinese fellow is right...cars change lives, and change them for the better, overall. With better fuel technology, restrictions on horsepower in urban areas, and other such changes, automobiles will do less environmental damage in the future.

roughstuff
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Old 07-13-05, 02:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
To be sure, Shanghai's failure to master the challenge of the automobile reflects a mixture of forces, both economic and cultural.
Unfortunately, "failure to master the challenge of the automobile" is what Shanghai has in common with virtually every other city with more than 600,000 inhabitants. Just take a look at, uh, I don't know, how about New York for an example?

The bicycle worked for Shanghai residents before, so why wouldn't it work even better now with all the new roads?

On an unrelated note, this article also shows that whatever pretenses the Chinese government may have had to Communism in the past are a sham now. They should really stop pretending.
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Old 07-13-05, 02:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roughstuff

(3) The role of bicycles in the overall transportation system is a very small one. Commuters can use them for short distances in reasonable weather. But the vast majority of value added in transportation consists of moving goods and high income workers around. Bicycles can't ship things as large as airplane engines, as cold as ice cream, and aren't reliable enough for lawyers en route to a court hearing. Even avid cyclists have automobiles as backup system.

roughstuff
However none of these things you mentioned are shipped in CARS either... They are shipped in trucks that are mostly full when loaded. Cars are rather poor efficiently for transportation... that chunk of square footage that it takes to move one or two passengers about is what causes congestion. In this regard, both mass transit and bicyles are far far better... just as TRUCKs are far better at moving airplane engines.
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Old 07-13-05, 03:04 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by rigid4life
The bicycle worked for Shanghai residents before, so why wouldn't it work even better now with all the new roads?
Sadly for the same reasons that our wonderful US road structure is not filled with cyclists... Auto drivers show little respect for the other users of the roadway and the large relative size and weight of their vehicles tends to be a disincentive to other users of the road.
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Old 07-13-05, 03:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roughstuff
(3) The role of bicycles in the overall transportation system is a very small one. Commuters can use them for short distances in reasonable weather. But the vast majority of value added in transportation consists of moving goods and high income workers around. Bicycles can't ship things as large as airplane engines, as cold as ice cream, and aren't reliable enough for lawyers en route to a court hearing. Even avid cyclists have automobiles as backup system.
There is no valid reason why bikes should no longer be a valid means of transportation in shanghai, they are as reliable for getting a lawyer to court as a car, like Yu Qiang's which can do 7 mph. To make bikes a part of the city tranportation system you need residential buildings mixed in with the industrial and commercial buildings to keep commuting distances down. Aero engines can be carried in buffalo carts.
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Old 07-13-05, 03:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roughstuff
Gee I thought only Amerikans have car culture. Whats next..NASCAR in Manchuria?

(1) This may be true in certain cities and certain other places at certain times, but it is hardly always true. In many rural regions of developed countries the highway system has been adequate for decades.

(2) "Properly funded?" And just what is the definition of that? Too often government programs have the 'golden rule of funding:' if they don't work, it's because they don't have enough money. If they do work, they obviously should receive more money. Public transit involves huge fixed costs; and if its a bus system, the buses are stuck in the very same traffic that cars are stuck in.

(3) The role of bicycles in the overall transportation system is a very small one. Commuters can use them for short distances in reasonable weather. But the vast majority of value added in transportation consists of moving goods and high income workers around. Bicycles can't ship things as large as airplane engines, as cold as ice cream, and aren't reliable enough for lawyers en route to a court hearing. Even avid cyclists have automobiles as backup system.

The Chinese fellow is right...cars change lives, and change them for the better, overall. With better fuel technology, restrictions on horsepower in urban areas, and other such changes, automobiles will do less environmental damage in the future.

roughstuff
Answer:

1. You can praise the rual life all you want but that is not going to fix Shanghai's problems. The people of China are not going to relocate in the middle of nowhere for jobs. The situation in Shanghai has been repeated countless times in cities all over the world. There is no turning back and once the roads are built and it will never be enough. Within 50 years, most of America will be living in cities and many burbs will be as large as cities today but the roads in use will be the same we have today.

2. Public transit involves huge fixed costs. Ageed.

But road construction cost much more than public transportation as noted by our billion dollar transportation bill that passed. We spent a fraction of the money on public transport but the majority of the funds will be used to construct additional beltways and freeways. Rapid bus transit systems like in South America do not exist in the U.S. or most cities because the motorist will not give an extra lane for this service. If we funded transit systems like we funded the interstate, would we need new highway construction?

3. How did we move goods and high income workers in 1904 which was a hundred years ago? There were no airplanes, motorcars or an interstate for that matter but high income workers did commute and good in large quantities did travel. In fact, this was the case in China until recently and continues in a handful of car free cities. The motor dependant society was a creation of the second half the 20th century and millions today have no idea how we got along without this machine prior to 1914.
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Old 07-13-05, 03:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewP
There is no valid reason why bikes should no longer be a valid means of transportation in shanghai, they are as reliable for getting a lawyer to court as a car, like Yu Qiang's which can do 7 mph. To make bikes a part of the city tranportation system you need residential buildings mixed in with the industrial and commercial buildings to keep commuting distances down. Aero engines can be carried in buffalo carts.
How did lawyers commute in Shanghai before the automobile? Did lawyers work in Shanghai before the motor car explosion or is this a new profession that just arrived in China?

My guess is that lawyers have been working in China (and other high income workers) for over 150 years! They found other ways of transportaion (train, bicycle, bus, horse) and continued business as usual.
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Old 07-13-05, 05:02 PM   #9
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The Chinese fellow is right...cars change lives, and change them for the better, overall. With better fuel technology, restrictions on horsepower in urban areas, and other such changes, automobiles will do less environmental damage in the future.

Ain't gonna work. There's no way the earth can handle a substantial percentage of the Chinese consuming at anything close to western levels. There isn't likely enough oil. There isn't likely the capacity to absorb the C02. Something is going to have to give.

Given the low apparent likelihood of the Chinese getting a clue we in the west ought to moving toward decreasing our energy intensity as fast as possible.

The latest warning we've been given is an unprecedented dieoff of seabirds because of ocean warming off the US west coast. This is potentially a much bigger story than the (horrible) events in London. Terrorism we know how to deal with. Ecosystem collapse is another matter alltogether.
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Old 07-13-05, 05:22 PM   #10
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Now the Chinese are going to discover the hard way what became apparent to US highway engineers as early as the 1960s, that more roads = more sprawl and congestion.

China's caught the car-cancer, the tumor will just grow and grow, while their government and populace do all they can to feed it.
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Old 07-13-05, 06:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cycleup
The Chinese fellow is right...cars change lives, and change them for the better, overall. With better fuel technology, restrictions on horsepower in urban areas, and other such changes, automobiles will do less environmental damage in the future.

Ain't gonna work. There's no way the earth can handle a substantial percentage of the Chinese consuming at anything close to western levels. There isn't likely enough oil. There isn't likely the capacity to absorb the C02. Something is going to have to give.
Terrorism we know how to deal with. Ecosystem collapse is another matter alltogether.
Good one.

I wonder if this "Space" program China's developing is nothing more than a military weapon for the upcoming war for oil?
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Old 07-13-05, 08:38 PM   #12
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China will surpass USA in gasoline consumption in 5 years and India not long after that. As of May 2005, the wholesale price of refined premium 93 octane fuel is 63.33 USD per barrel in the east cost of USA and 54.46 USD in Singapore.

cite: http://www.opec.org/home/Monthly%20O...f/MR062005.pdf
adobe page 21.

Thatís right gas is cheaper in Singapore. Because they are the hot 10% growth area. The USA is a bigger but flat market. World consumption will double in the next decade or two. Problems with cars and bikes in larger Chinese cities have already been well documented at various web sites.

It is hard coming from the USA telling the world to stop doing what we did. Hard to tell South America to stop cutting down the rain forest and hard to tell Chinese not to buy cars, after we have wasted so much over the years. Even harder perhaps sitting down and taking our position as a lessor consumer. Those ovens with wheels are just so shiny and cool and effective male makeup.

If I could I would push the "all fuel dried up" button. But then I have to wonder how would Birdseye, Green Giant, Campbell 's Soup, Hunt, Arthur Daniels Midland, Conagra, Cargill, and Tyson's deliver all that substandard food to us all?
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Old 07-13-05, 08:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
Because of heavy traffic, the seven-mile commute usually takes a full hour. It includes dropping his 5-year-old son off at kindergarten and his wife, who teaches, at her school.
This really saddens me. Wouldn't matter if it was Shanghai or LA or anywhere. It's just sad. And stupid.
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Old 07-13-05, 11:37 PM   #14
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Good one.

I wonder if this "Space" program China's developing is nothing more than a military weapon for the upcoming war for oil?
Please.
If we wanted to rain down nukes on you, China would've already done it.

Let's keep the fear mongering and ignorance at home please.
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Old 07-14-05, 12:32 AM   #15
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China's car addiction, and India's etc saddens me no end. And we Americans, Canadians, etc have to lead by example and do without cars, live in accordance with a sustainable world, try not to be superconsumers.

No doubt China's "space program" is a subterfuge for a military conquest program, and the way to head that off is for Americans to stop buying Chinese stuff. Trade off quantity for quality and buy American/European.
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Old 07-14-05, 03:54 AM   #16
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In the 1980s, a famous UK architect went to Shanghai to help them with their modernisation plans and noted (with approval) how many people used bicycles.
"Yes" replied the Chinese planner, "we hope to solve that problem within a few years".
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Old 07-14-05, 07:10 AM   #17
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No kidding.

China won't bomb us, ever... we're their best customer, and they own lots of our Treasury debt! You don't kill the b*stard who owes you a ton of money.


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Please.
If we wanted to rain down nukes on you, China would've already done it.

Let's keep the fear mongering and ignorance at home please.
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Old 07-14-05, 07:31 AM   #18
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This really saddens me. Wouldn't matter if it was Shanghai or LA or anywhere. It's just sad. And stupid.
That was a good quote.

When I was a bus commuter, a seven mile ride would take about 35 minutes. Their seven mile commute takes an hour so they travel at 7 mile per hour! They could walk to work/school at that speed or just buy each member a heavy 35 pound beach cruiser!
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Old 07-14-05, 07:45 AM   #19
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Please.
If we wanted to rain down nukes on you, China would've already done it.

Let's keep the fear mongering and ignorance at home please.

http://www.space.com/news/china_dod_030801.html
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Old 07-14-05, 07:49 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by genec
However none of these things you mentioned are shipped in CARS either... They are shipped in trucks that are mostly full when loaded. Cars are rather poor efficiently for transportation... that chunk of square footage that it takes to move one or two passengers about is what causes congestion. In this regard, both mass transit and bicyles are far far better... just as TRUCKs are far better at moving airplane engines.
Well, the lawyers are in cars, but maybe we can put them in the ice cream trucks and freeze them to death. There is alot of square footage in a car, on a per passenger basis, yes. But the car has much more flexibiloty about when, where , and how it can go. Mass transit is locked into a fixed route, especially if it is subway or trolley based. It is the flexibility/freedom that cars give us that makes us willing to put up with so many of the hassles they otherwise cause. I think in the future we as a society will try to minimize those hassles; but not eliminate automobiles.

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Old 07-14-05, 08:40 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by cycleup
The Chinese fellow is right...cars change lives, and change them for the better, overall. With better fuel technology, restrictions on horsepower in urban areas, and other such changes, automobiles will do less environmental damage in the future.

Ain't gonna work. There's no way the earth can handle a substantial percentage of the Chinese consuming at anything close to western levels. There isn't likely enough oil. There isn't likely the capacity to absorb the C02. Something is going to have to give.
Well, all you really are doing is projecting a trendline of C02/Fossil fuel consumption into some indefinite future and saying...'"that won't work." Such straight line projections have been used to predict global famines and massive human die-offs from starvations, on what, five separate occasions in the last 20 or 30 years?

We are making investments improve fossil fuel efficiency and the higher prices [which I hope will prevail for the indefinite future ] will provide even more of an incentive to do so. In the USA and Europe we get a much greater amount of GDP per BTU or fossile fuel than we did thirty years ago. This is one reason why the sharp increase in oil prices haven't hurt the US economy anywhere near as much as people expected.

The real irony of it all is that, once we wean western economies from their dependence on fossil fuels and oil prices collapse (in real terms, like they did in the late 1980s-1990s) the oil dependent Arab countries will be mired in poverty and, of course, it will be the fault of us Westerners.

Even worse, as the shortage of potable drinking water becomes an international issue, the mideast is even more F**ked. Who is the world leader in desalination technology? Israel!

It is indeed, an exhilirating time to be an American!

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Old 07-15-05, 09:39 AM   #22
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China will surpass USA in gasoline consumption in 5 years and India not long after that...
Hi slagjumper

The OPEC report you linked talked about current oil prices but didn't say anything about the projection quoted above. I'm interested to learn more, do you happen to have a link for projected oil consumption of U.S. versus China? Thanks.
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Old 07-15-05, 11:59 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Roughstuff
Well, the lawyers are in cars, but maybe we can put them in the ice cream trucks and freeze them to death. There is alot of square footage in a car, on a per passenger basis, yes. But the car has much more flexibiloty about when, where , and how it can go. Mass transit is locked into a fixed route, especially if it is subway or trolley based. It is the flexibility/freedom that cars give us that makes us willing to put up with so many of the hassles they otherwise cause. I think in the future we as a society will try to minimize those hassles; but not eliminate automobiles.

roughstuff
How about minimize autos.... go to euro style "SMART CARS" and small hybrids... things that simply take up less room for individuals than the Detroit SUVs and Hybrids.
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Old 07-15-05, 12:20 PM   #24
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Chinese people have always looked to the USA for a role model of how to develop into a "modern society". Older Chinese (my Dad) never forgot how the Flying Tigers came to China and mounted an air defense of China.

My Dad was a grunt assigned to guard the Flying Tigers fighters. He saw the American fly-boys with .45 semi-autos on their hips, driving big jeeps, smoking Camels, and that really impressed him. So when he came to the USA, he naturally started living out the Big American Dream, part of which was Big Block GM V-8 "boats". He and all of the other Overseas Chinese in the USA "infected" all our our relatives still in China that this was a really great vision of the future.

So, now that China is more capitalized, it is no big surprise to me that the seeds which were planted over decades, through illegal correspondence smuggled across the Hong Kong border have sprouted, and the cultural plant that is growing in China is very American-looking... not Euro-style.

America is called "The Golden Mountain" by Chinese people. Only one of my relatives has emigrated to Europe, many others have come here. They don't look to Europe, they look to the US.

The most powerful export from the US is... culture.


Wang

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Old 07-15-05, 02:25 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
How about minimize autos.... go to euro style "SMART CARS" and small hybrids... things that simply take up less room for individuals than the Detroit SUVs and Hybrids.

HAve to agree. As I said, i think there should be a very strict horsepower maximum for city vehicles. Why should they be able to exceed speeds of say, 40 MPH max? It would make it easier for cops to catch criminals (Since their cars could not go fast enough) and eliminate alot of the pollution caused by overpowerful, oevrweight vehicles.

Nonetheless, with your suggestion you'll notice: (1) We are chagnging the nature of cars; not getting rid of them. And (2) we are not building mass transit.


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