Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The Death Volt for Mass Transit?
I've been reading a fair bit about the vehicle and it seems pretty interesting. Unlike the EV1, GM's first aborted attempt at an electric zero emission vehicle (and the subject of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"), the Volt seems much more practical. You don't need to build a charging station; it just plugs directly into the wall socket. And, it looks pretty cool as well:
Compare that with the pod-like shape of the EV1 - which made you just want to broadside it into a diitch while you passed it on the highway in your Hummer - and its a marked improvement. You can read about it on GM's website/blog hybrid.
But here's my thought.
All these enviro converts are clamouring for a zero-emission vehicle. They watch the development of lithium battery stacks and breathlessly await news from the Electric Vehicle Conferences out in California. Some say such a car is a few years away, some say a vehicle fully capable of the daily demands of the commuter is decades away.
All the while, the key method enviro activists and transit advocates are using to get our lazy asses onto buses, subways and GO Trains is guilt. "You're polluting the environment", they say. "Do you know how many tonnes of greenhouse gases are eliminated with every full bus?" they ask.
What happens when a zero-emissions (read: zero-guilt) car comes along? What will be the compelling reason for commuters to use public transit? If a zero emission car is finally put into production, will environmental activists be making presentations to the provincial government asking for an increasing in funding for roads? What is the endgame here?
There is obviously a portion of the population who ride smelly buses that are packed like sardines because they are trying to do the right thing. Will those people still take transit if their personal vehicle is cleaner than the bus or streetcar she is on? And how will they handle the decline in revenue caused by a decline in ridership?
I suppose if gridlock continues to be a problem, as it is here in the GTA, then an argument can be made for greater transit funding. But that also means new hybrid or zero emissions buses and trains. There will need to be completely new spending to adjust to this "new reality" that your personal vehicle is now cleaner/greener than most of the existing bus and train fleets.
So, the enviros could be shepparding in a new era of zero emissions vehicles, while presiding over the decline or even the demise of signficant public transit.
The TTC must be hoping GM et al never find the key to a long lasting battery for their vehicles. If they do, they'll be in for quite a shock. Yeah, I went with it.
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