The first two parts included the physical drawbacks of cars (part I and part II). After summing up in the second part on the most obvious physical problems we can continue with the socio-economic.
This type of transport has a lot of problems of social and economic type. Experts are aware of this but a significant percentage of the population still do not have a clear understanding of why cars are bad and how they affect our cities and countries. Perhaps, this series of articles will allow to take a fresh look at this accustomed type of transport.
Where to begin with in the review of the socio-economic problems of cars? The first logical problem is the driving license. As it is known, to drive a car one must get a permission to drive. And even though I do not want to belittle the benefits that a person gets with a driving license, since the driving skill remains for life, as well as the ability to drive a car (if you renew the license), but in today’s realities, when there is a significant number of alternative types of transport (public transport, bicycles, taxis and so on) and autonomous cars are seen on the horizon, all that raises the question about the reasonableness of obtaining a driving license. And besides, to “get a driving license” is not a trip to the store for a bottle of water, but a process that takes relatively much time and money.
In the UK the price that will cover all the expenses associated with obtaining the permit is equal to about £ 1353 (~ $ 1950 or € 1750 on 2 June 2016). In Russia, for example, the price ranges between 20 to 50 thousand rubles (~ $ 300–750 or € 270–670). As a different example: Moscow, where the price of a theoretical course (which is mandatory) is 45 thousand (~ $ 670 or € 600) at the State Technical University (MADI, one of the institutions that has a license to organize such kind of courses), not including practical lessons, health certificates, exams and so on. In both cases a relatively large amount turns out which can be spent either on things like entertainment and food or on something serious like paying 1–2 months of your rent (you can rent an apartment near the MADI for forty thousand rubles a month).
Regarding time, the whole procedure of obtaining the driving license including training will take roughly 150–200 hours depending on the country. Combining the price of the procedure with the number of required hours it becomes clear why the number of those who want to get a simple driving permit decreases among youth (on the topic: 1, 2, 3).
In comparison, for the same time and money, depending on the selected language and student abilities, one can learn a language to A1, A2 or B1 levels, that is, from the basics to a relatively good level of knowledge. And knowledge of a language will help in your studies, during travelling and during the job search, and, as a result, it will actually save money or will allow you to make money.
But, let’s go on to the next step. We got our driving license and are happy about starting to drive. The cost of the car falls in the economic problems category; we will not dwell on it and let’s assume that we bought a car. The first things to do after the purchase will be a couple of bureaucratic procedures like registering the car, obtaining license plates, purchasing insurance, doing maintenance checks and so on. Once again — time and money spend.
After all the required procedures we are now alone with our car and we can start using it. At first we are happy — why wouldn’t we?! We passed the driving test, bought a car, went through the bureaucracy, spend a certain amount (if not a significant) of money, but we got freedom! No need to wait for a bus, ride a bike in the rain, we can go on a trip throughout our country and so on. In fact, this Range Rover ad perfectly conveys our feelings:
We drive in a beautiful empty city, leave it to enjoy nature and so on. Up a certain point this is true, but then the euphoria passes and real life begins.
It turns out that our roads are not that empty as the automakers present and driving in the city is not as relaxing as expected. Depending on the country, sometimes or often, but you will have to waste time in traffic jams. The surrounding drivers do not always behave adequately and it also creates additional stress for us.
The driving euphoria decreases a bit when the first fine for speeding, wrong parking or other violation arrives. You do not have to be a dangerous driver to get penalties — anyone can become distracted and inadvertently break the rules. The euphoria passes, when you spend money on gas and parking. Parking itself creates additional stress to the driver — at some places there are simply no free parking spots and you are forced to park anywhere you can find an empty spot, after spending 5–10 minutes of search. Additionally some roads are not free, and that also is not a plus.
After buying the car it turned out that if you live in a country with good roads then you will not be able to race on them because of the speed limit (which we discussed in the second part) and fines. If you live in a country with bad roads and less strict laws, you will still not be able to feel the speed — no one will race on these road pits. Why did I then buy these “hundred in four seconds” and “max speed 230 km/h”…
But still, even with all these disadvantages we win — we do not need to be a part of the morning crowd in the metro or bus. And so we live for some time. A year, two, three, five, ten and then suddenly we feel that driving becomes less comfortable — there are more cars on the road, traffic jams are longer, the periodic car repair used the money intended for other purposes, the fuel cost has increased. In general, it turned out that we are not the only ones who want to escape from the hated public transport system to our personal space.
And now, after being stuck in a traffic jam, we, together with other drivers, demand from the city authorities to do something with the situation. The mayor’s office is aware of the problem of increased traffic and they have figured out how to solve the problem — just make the roads wider and that’s it! The city turns into a construction site; we are familiar with this situation as there were occasional renovations which led to traffic jams, but it is OK, a couple of congestions and soon we will get an excellent wide road.
Having solved the problem of traffic jams, we demand from the City Hall to solve another problem — we need more parking space. The City Hall understands this demand and the authorities start to increase the number of parking spaces and build more garages. After all the work we are in harmony — the number of traffic jams is decreased as well as the search time for a parking space, but it does not last long.
Again, some time passes by and the number of cars increases and increases. At some point even large city roads do not solve the traffic and parking problem. Pedestrians, being dissatisfied with the increased noise, pedestrian subways and overcrossings, decreased quality of public transport, lack of bike paths and other problems, start to demand from the authorities to improve the situation. The city, during the reign of motorists turned in a noisy highway, has become uncomfortable to live in, it is hard to breathe due to the emissions and the region has become extremely environmentally unfriendly. Some cities have even died from excessive motorization…
I hope this little story did not frighten the reader, but this type of narration was necessary to understand all the problems that the motorist and the city face. Many points were listed: the high cost of this type of transport on each stage of operation, additional bureaucracy, the stress while driving, time wasted to find parking, traffic jams, harm to the ecology and the socio-economic environment and so on.
The third part has affected the socio-economic problems and in the next part they will be summarized and explained in a more detailed manner, in particular it is necessary to tell about the harm to the city and the economy and to clarify in what cases cars can even kill a city.