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I hear the arguments pro and con, but still we are missing the point, which is that the anti-car sentiment must be separated from the anti-CO2 emissions argument.

  • Cars need not carry their fuel with them, as already discussed. Even if they do, battery technology improves constantly. According to this article batteries on the brink of commercial availability are five times better than the best ones available right now. That translates into about a 500 mile range for a GM EV-1 car.
  • "Think about the way you drive" doesn't prove anything, because we shouldn't be talking about future perfect trains compared to today's cars. If slow acceleration is important--and as a hybrid driver I assure you that it is, because of hysterisis loss in the rubber of the tires--then change the way cars accelerate. That's why the 2CV can pass me in the morning.
  • No particularly good statistic about long distance car travel leaps immediately to mind, but the seven lane Tappan Zee bridge in New York, on a route perhaps comparable to the sort that a high speed interstate railroad might take, carries 135,000 cars per day. If there are perhaps 1.2 people per car average, that's about 60 million passengers per year--a favorable comparison to a train running in Japan's heaviest traffic corridor.
  • Also, I don't see what's wrong with waving a technological wand around. Is there some problem with thinking that technology--of both cars and trains--will change in years to come?

Jerome is correct in saying that one of the big problems is the subsidy of oil. One might work on that problem and then find out whether cars are still undesireable. In the meantime, nobody can prove which will be better in the long run, so making a political pro-train decision based on rough comparisons of today's technology is not going to give the best answer.

Incidently, here is a pretty long list of American cities where the use of mass transit has increased recently: http://www.apta.com/media/releases/050926gas_prices.cfm

by asdf on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 09:59:05 PM EST
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