The car, directly and indirectly, accounts for about one-seventh of the U.S. GNP. It requires a vast and costly infrastructure of roads and asphalt, which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. It leaves fragmented communities, degraded habitat, an altered global climate, smog, wasted time from traffic congestion, and much else in its wake. The car also offers a remarkable level of personal independence and convenience, making people reluctant to try alternatives.
Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) stop at Pioneer Square, Portland.
When transportation is seen as whole system, the challenge is to find the optimal mix of transit modes for the least total cost. This cost should take into account the full current and future costs of each alternative, including all hidden subsidies.
Improved transit access will occur through the creation of effective competition between many different travel modes. The hierarchy of least cost transportation mode alternatives runs from: walking (least expensive), biking, bus, para-transit (vans, pooled transit), light-rail, commuter train, inter-city rail, ferry, carpool, to personal car (most expensive). The car itself is being reinvented as the Hypercar, initially a hybrid gas-electric car, which will eventually run off hydrogen-powered fuel cells and be designed for disassembly and remanufacture.
With the creation of a more efficient, effective, and accessible public transit system, a strong alternative will be provided to the single-occupant vehicle. These alternative multi-modal transportation systems (increased use of bikes, ride-sharing, rail, etc.) will save individuals money, Health, and reduce stress.
Such systems greatly enhance the appeal of Human-Scale Neighborhoods, connecting them to nearby work, shopping, and recreation without making them car-dependent. In turn, as Compact Towns and Cities provide a physical form allowing neighborhoods to grow more dense, alternative transit modes grow increasingly cost-effective, with more riders served per dollar of investment. Infrastructure should be constructed without severing the neighborhood fabric. It should preserve connectivity, providing safe and pleasant passage for both people and wildlife. This implies that land-use planning and transportation planning must be conducted in parallel and optimized in tandem.
In order to maintain Connected Wildlands, it is essential that transportation connections not disrupt the movement of both land-based and aquatic animals. Examples include salmon-friendly culverts and tidegates that provide transportation and flood-control services while remaining accessible to migrating salmon. Wilderness overpasses and underpasses permit free movement of animals above and below highways.
Match the physical form of neighborhoods, towns, and cities to the capacities of a multi-modal transit system, which offers simultaneous access by walking, biking, bus, rail, and other modes. Allow different modes to compete fairly with each other to optimize the whole system's performance for least total cost. Ensure that transportation and infrastructure systems do not fragment habitat.