Driving on the Carpool Lane

So, I’m all over the place today, each one of the readings “pushed a button” on me, and now I don’t know exactly about what I want to write about.

My first thought was about the carpool lane, about changing people’s culture towards a car sharing option instead of driving alone. If there is an underutilized lane in the highway is the  carpool one. Generally I used the highway when driving somewhere with my family; and that one, is a lonely trip. Everywhere you look around all you see is people driving alone, making their own contribution to the carbon footprint. Of course, that is not only a problem of the users, it’s a problem of the transit system that is not reliable as we would like it to be. As mentioned in the book, as good that is delightful to use transit.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in 2006 Chile went through its greatest change in the transit system. The old “yellow bus” system was completely eliminated and in place Chileans were given “Transantiago”, the Chilean version of “Transmilenio” (the Colombian system). The problem was that the new system design was no finished at all, but politics are a powerful force and the new transit system was in place. The result, people arriving late everywhere, low income families poorly served by the system, huge agglomerations of people in the stations, most of them going crazy because of the situation and jumping on the bus, one way or another and without paying their ticket, resulting in great loss for the government and the companies allowed to operate along the transit corridors.

Of course, people couldn’t wait until Transantiago was fully operational and with some help from the financial institutions people started to buy cheap cars to get their jobs and to resolve the issues that the new transit system placed in their lives. By 2011 a study on the effects of transport policies on car use (The Effect of Transport Policies on Car Use. Montero and Salas, 2011) showed that since the implementation of the Transantiago the city of Santiago experimented a thirty percent increase on the number of cars in the city, with a significant impact on carbon emissions and pollution in an already polluted city. Not all that increase is because of the Transantiago, the arrival of Chinese cars at extremely affordable prices also helped (coincidence?).

My final thought is that you can try really hard to change people’s culture about carbon emissions, but those changes have to be supported by good policies instead of bad politics. Most of those changes might come from very unpopular policies, but as long as our elected officials don’t understand how important these changes are to us and our future generations, the result is only one, more lonely drivers on the road and a very lonely trip for me in the carpool lane.



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