"I Don't Believe People Are Going to Give Up On Wheels"

Michael Schrage, a MIT Sloan School of Management transportation research fellow, explains why he thinks people will never give up on driving and what he thinks the options are.

Schrage says that the U.S. is suffering from a chasm between the utopians and the pragmatists when looking to the transportation future:

Full Story: We Can't Reinvent the Automobile



There is nothing "utopian" about transporation spending parity

There is nothing "utopian" about making motorists pay their fair share, or reducing the hundreds of billions of dollars a year in public funding for private automobiles----not to mention the half-trillion dollar a year oil war---and increasing mass transit spending for the half of America that doesn't, or can't, drive.

Motorists---especially the white, conservative, suburban variety---might think they have a right to hog the precious tax dollars that would otherwise go to mass transit, schools and other social services, all while preaching that socialism is wrong, but they have no such right.

The sooner they face this fact, the better.

Smarter Roads, Smarter Cars, Dumber People

This is the MIT approach at its worst. There are no solutions except for flashy new technologies.

New technologies obviously can be useful, but it is absurd to support all new technologies indiscriminately, and to ignore political solutions.

Notice that he even thinks it is a wonderful thing for people to talk on their cell phones while they are in congested traffic and for kids to sit in the back seat and watch television. In fact, the roads would be safer without those people on their cell phones, and those kids in the back seat would be healthier if they spent more time outdoors and less time sitting in cars watching television.

Likewise, we could have a better discussion of his claims if they were written, rather than on video. It is easy to see that, because he is on video, he is just talking off the top of his head. Notice his confusion at the beginning, where he says the hard-headed pragmatists are the ones who want traffic-calmed zones; he would have corrected such blatant errors if this were in writing, and he would have given more thought to all of his responses. This use of video versus writing is a very clear example of how flashy technology can dumb down the discussion, but I think that he needs to use video, because it would be too easy to reply to his ideas if we had them in writing.

Incidentally, Sloan School of Management was initially endowed by and named after Alfred P. Sloan, who was president, chairman and CEO of General Motors

Charles Siegel


Like so many people yammering about the automobile and transportation technologies of the future, he seems oblivious to the fact that all of it (even the so-called green technologies) is dependent upon oil.

A common fallacy

A common fallacy that is made when discussing the future:

People like X, therefore X will continue to exist in the future.

Who cares if people like X? How is this at all relevant to what is sustainable? There is absolutely no discussion of the material constraints which will make it impossible to implement these amazing new technologies at the scale required to maintain the car culture.

"It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his career depends on him not understanding it." I'm afraid this is what's going on with Mr. Schrage.

smart growth pipe dream

Charles, I see you haven't given up on your smart growth pipe dream, at least not yet.

Conventional Opinions and Smart Growth

I have some unconventional opinions, but my support for smart growth is one of my very conventional opinions, shared by virtually all environmental groups that work on city planning issues.

It would me more accurate to say: "environmentalists have not given up on smart growth" because smart growth has proven in practice that it can reduce auto dependency and create more livable cities.

Charles Siegel

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