That’s not a peak oil alarmist or a tree-hugging car-hater. That’s CIBC World Markets, trying to figure out the impacts on the economy.
Hence we must narrow our focus on those Americans where a European style shift in driving habits is currently feasible. People can’t simply abandon their cars if they have no other means of getting around, particularly in terms of getting work. There must be at least a public transport alternative.
As it turns out, roughly 57 million American households that own a vehicle have reasonable access to public transi4, slightly more than half of the number of households who own a vehicle (Chart 11). And applying the 80% vehicle ownership rate seen in Europe to this target group suggests a 10 million reduction in the number of registered vehicles in the US.
Where will this decline come from? The focus is on those who can least afford to operate a car when gasoline costs $7 per gallon. No less than 80% of low income Americans (or roughly 24 million households) with less than $25,000 annual income own a car. With gasoline bills surging to record highs, they will be the first to come off the road.
And presumably, he’s not even considering people that will accept a smaller or more expensive property to move closer to transit.
Meanwhile, in Olympia, increased funding for transit isn’t on the table — not even for buses that could help every jurisdiction in the state. Sound Transit 2, which could be the largest public transit investment in the state’s history, is on a knife edge.
And WSDOT is still talking ($) about $2.6 billion in highway improvements in Skagit County. (hat tip: Wesley Kirkman) The world has changed, but the machine keeps rolling along.
As 78% of real estate agents report clients showing “greater interest in city living”, we have NIMBY opposition to density, denunciation of “social engineering,” and opposition to the one technology — rail — that could support that density, while supporting bus technology subject to the same price pressures as cars.
What reality are these people living in?
Bradford Plummer at TNR says it best:
To put things in perspective, only about 5 percent of Americans used public transit to commute as of 2005, compared with about 50 percent in Japan and Europe, where pricey gas has long been a reality. It’s not clear whether the United States could scale up that quickly by, say, 2012, though it sounds like, among other things, it would be a good idea to get started now.