Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mayor Petro Vs. the Private Car

Private cars, often containing only one or two passengers,  move only a minority of its people but hog most of Bogotá's street space.
Here's some of what Mayor Gustavo Petro said at yesterday's transit forum at Los Andes University:

"Destimulate the use of the private vehicle will help us move more efficiently, more humanly."

"There's a twisted incentive in favor of the private car, which is collapsing the city."

"The more street lanes that are opened, the worse that congestion becomes."

"If each private car owner decided to share his car, the congestion would drop 60%."

Petro says pedestrians get first priority,
cyclists second, mass transit third and private cars last.
Petro's right, as is his statement that pedestrians should receive top priority for transit, followed by bicyclists, public transit and finally private cars.

About 100,000 new cars enter Bogotá every year. The city can't possibly hope to build enough new roads for all those vehicles, and wouldn't have the space to even if it had the money.

And, many cities' experiences the world over have showed that expanding road space just promotes driving, filling up those new roads fast. The city is left as congested as before, but millions of dollars poorer and with more pollution, noise, stress and expense.

Passengers may feel squeezed, but buses move many
more people per square meter than cars do.
Priorities? A bicyclist works his way between
cars on Ave. Septima in central Bogotá. 
Petro seemed to call for 'education' for car owners to 'rationalize' the use of their vehicles. But other countries' experiences have shown that car owners will use the vehicles they have access to. Part of that is rational, since you can often get places faster and more comfortably by private car. However, for the city, it's a case of 'The tragedy of the commons.' An individual's benefit creates a much larger cost for the community as a whole, in increased congestion, pollution and expenses. (Of course, most car drivers do not consider other personal costs, such as the cost of gasoline and the health impacts of being sedentary.) Driving is also driven by lots of societal pressure and huge amounts of propaganda, as a glance at any newspaper or television program will show. In fact, I heard Petro's anti-car comments on RCN Radio, where they were followed by a car ad.

Buy a car and get status, power, importance and the pretty girl:
square meters of auto ads in a single daily newspaper.
Petro should push ahead with his idea of creating a congestion charge like London's. Car owners will not curtail the use of their vehicles unless they feel it hit their pocket books.

A TransMilenio station on San Victorino Plaza. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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