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Driving’s dim future

Richard Glover, Sydney Morning Herald
… People say the car will soon disappear – priced out of the reach of all but the rich. Yet it’s tough work imagining life without the car. Around here, it’s a part of life; a strange tumour wrapped around our essential organs.

For the past five decades, the car has been the ultimate symbol of escape – the tool that unshackled you from your parents. It has been the ticket to freedom. The badge of adulthood.

Often it was the site of the first kiss, the two of you squeezed together in the back seat, your over-excited breath creating your own foggy screen of privacy. How perfect that the fogginess rose in lock-step with the passion – a light mist for a chaste kiss, a dense pea-souper for more serious excertions.

Later, in marriage, it provided an excellent conclusion to any argument. “I’m sick of you; I’m off to Bronwyn’s,” she would say, grabbing her keys, running down the steps, before loudly accelerating down the driveway, the squeal of tyres providing an automotive exclamation mark.

Try that using public transport. “I’m going, you know I am, just as soon as I find my Blue TravelTen. Oh, and do you know where we put the late-night bus timetable? Because just as soon as I find it, oh boy, I’ll be gone.”

The exit-by-bus may be more environmentally sensitive but does it have the intended drama?
(30 May 2008)
Contributor Russell Kilbey writes:
A funny/sad tribute to a disappearing way of life from well know Sydney ABC radio personality and writer Richard Glover.

BA: We’ll need to watch movies from the 30s and 40s to recall the drama surrounding train travel.

Earthlog: The era of fast cars is over

Charles Clover, The Daily Telegraph
Goodbye va-va-voom

Like other people with sporty children, we spend a lot of time on motorways. On the way last weekend to a regatta- which was ironically stopped because of high winds – we was struck by the sudden rationality of our fellow drivers.

Very few people were exceeding the speed limit by a large margin. Only two exceptions burned past in five hours of driving, company car drivers or adrenalin addicts. Most families, like us, were trying their best to do some eco-driving – eeking as many miles as they could out of petrol at 116p or diesel at 128p a litre.

…it is now wholly in the consumers’ interests, to whack the car manufacturers with the toughest emission regulations they can meet – and to set them a tighter target for 2020. Mileage-claiming MEPs need to face facts: the va-va-voom era is over.
(29 May 2008)

Gridlock led 27 pct of drivers to abandon trips

Joan Gralla, Reuters
Traffic was so bad in 10 major U.S. cities that 27 percent of the drivers surveyed gave up and went home in the past three years, a study said on Friday.

Some 66 percent of the motorists said they would change how they commute if gasoline prices rise to $5 a gallon.

The two most popular gridlock-busters were working from home, an option selected by 30 percent of the drivers, and improved public transportation, also favored by 30 percent of driver, according to IBM, which said it polled 4,091 drivers in its May survey.
(30 May 2008)

Overcoming car culture a bit like waiting for Godot

Adele Horin, Sydney Morning Herald
Western Australia has a lot to teach the nation about learning to live with rising petrol prices. But its FuelWatch – or should that be FuelBotch – scheme to be launched federally, is the least of it. Some Perthites apparently like FuelWatch – though I have yet to meet one prepared to drive out of their way to save a couple of cents a litre.

At the very time political leaders should be bold, preparing us for the high fuel and energy bills that climate-change policies necessitate, and finding ways to shield the poor, Kevin Rudd toys with lowering the GST on the excise on petrol, and adopts a scheme from WA of dubious merit.

The pity is WA has much better ideas to offer the nation. It has done more to tackle an entrenched car culture than any other state. Its hyperactive and hyperbright Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, has not just talked about getting people out of their cars, improving public transport and building railways. She’s done it.

While Bob Carr and Morris Iemma have announced, then abandoned, a series of public transport strategies over 11 years, and delivered instead tollways and tunnels, crushing traffic congestion, and diminished train services, MacTiernan has almost doubled the size of the Perth railway network in seven years. Her crowning glory is the 72-kilometre Perth-Mandurah rail link through Australia’s fastest-growing urban region, that opened in December. She launched the project and six years later rode the first train.

Under her watch, Perth has also got an extension and spurs to the northern suburban rail line that was built in the 1990s by the previous state Labor government; a series of gleaming new stations, including one in the city that makes our Town Hall station seem even worse; an integrated ticket system, still a pipedream in Sydney; and an enviable $80 million investment in a bicycle path network.
(31 May 2008)