cars

Cars.

Well, actually not cars, but transport in general. I guess I’ve had a fair bit of time to think about transport, even if I’m not in the transport field (public transport, private, car industry, transportation industry, anything), maybe just a layman thoughts.

I dislike cars, for a long time. Since, a long time. I resisted taking driving lessons – my parents almost forced me too, after a lot of badgering. I didn’t want to take driving lessons because I felt it was an expensive waste of money (driving lessons and testing in SG isn’t cheap), because I thought driving in the city is lame, because I prefer taking public transport (habit? foolishness?), because I don’t have a car, because cars are expensive (they always say), because I didn’t enjoy driving, because I don’t have a value system where I feel good because I can drive.

But I got my license, eventually. It wasn’t like super flying colors or anything but it sufficed. I can drive well enough, I am comfortable driving, I can navigate, I know most of the roads here (I also always used to navigate from a physical map while my father drove).

I’ve driven some amounts in a few countries while travelling. It was ok. Not particularly enjoyable still, but it suffices for getting around.
I’ve driven some amounts in SG, it’s useful when things need to get done.

I still dislike driving! Even getting past the initial difficulty, and being technically competent, I still don’t like it!

But I can appreciate and like fast cars, sporty cars, Formula 1 cars, Ferraris, quick accelerations, etc etc.

But I think I am too rational, that I am too aware of the risks of the road – errant drivers, inattentive drivers, drivers straying off their line, drivers cutting into other paths, drivers driving distracted on the phone, mechanical failures, human failures. I lament driving for the risks of the road, for the need for me to keep paying attention, for wanting myself to be as physically fit and alert when driving. I lament the need to maintain a physical machine with oil, gears, batteries, steel, rubber. I lament the need to wait for traffic lights, parking, for the aircon to cool down the car, etc.

Driving and owning a car is merely trading one set of inconveniences (of public transport), with another (of maintaining a vehicle). At some point, each makes more sense.

Which brings me to my perpetual headache of car ownership vs public transport and how it’s all still such a huge mess.

Problem
– It is difficult to drop private transport until it can be totally and wholly replaced by public transport, in a better way.
– Specific use cases that are strongly better with a private car, will keep people anchored to their cars.
– Owning and investing in a private car will trigger increased usage of the private vehicle even when not absolutely necessary. Because sunk costs “it’s already paid for”, and because just-in-case “what if I need my car”

Car ownership costs
– car value
– fixed taxes, insurance, season parking
– upkeep/maintenance
Variables / consumables
– fuel
– tolls
– miscellaneous parking
– upkeep/maintenance

If fixed costs are a high %, then people will likely opt to keep using it, otherwise they are “wasting” the fixed costs invested in, and which is depreciating in a fixed manner regardless of use.
Hence costs need to be more strongly shifted over to variable costs if we want to encourage flexible usage.
Fixed costs are already paid, even if person opts to use public transport – in this case you would end up “double paying”, which doesn’t make sense. Unless public transport is still less than variable costs. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But one shouldn’t have to keep making these choices! Public transport should and must always be cheaper and better! That’s the government’s responsibility!

But frankly, the ultimate calculation is in time value costs. How much is your time worth? How much does it bring value to you to save that 15 mins, 1 hour of your life, allowing you to do other things in the limited lifespan?

How then do we get out of this vicious cycle?
Free public transport if you already own a car? – doesn’t make sense
Bundle public transport costs into private vehicle ownership? – could work but high costs!
Free public transport for all? – unfair for those who do not travel? high govt costs? abuse?

It’s not easy to disrupt the equilibrium the world has found. All the infrastructure, policies, habits are all crafted and moulded around the current balance of private-public transport. Ride sharing, Uber, shared bikes, shared escooters are all disrupting it, but not sufficiently yet. A better taxi booking system does not a revolution make.


Update 2018-07-17: https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/paris-study-free-public-transportation-for-all/523772/ Paris is seriously considering. Why not?

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