The Demise of the Car

#1
Via The Oil Drum The Demise of the Car
...
Obsolete InfrastructureFor half a century, the auto-highway complex has been a conduit for political power, and myriad players have self-interested reasons to maintain the system. However, the contraction of motorized transport in the West – a natural outcome of high oil prices and debt saturation – will gain further strength as various states (or countries) simply run out of money to build new roads.
As discussed in California: Bellwether for the Rest of America, the highway-rich landscape of the Golden State (for example) sucks up 90% of its transport budget. But California roads are now among the worst in the nation, costing drivers some of the highest on-road expenses merely as a result of poor surface conditions.
To the extent that states can no longer maintain roads to an adequate standard, infrastructure will become stranded.
We see the same related effects in US airport infrastructure as many regional airports have either seen a huge reduction in traffic or have shut down completely. (The US Postal Service and its current financial difficulties also reflect the emerging trend, as the USPS is obligated to deliver mail to remote locations even as postal revenues drop on the higher cost of – you guessed it – energy and gasoline.)
Eventually, drivers will be asked to pay higher tolls and other fees to maintain roads, as public funds, in a time of flat economic growth, are diverted to other services. This will then compound the transition as the costs of maintaining and running a car go even higher. Every car driver is now subsidized. As the subsidy goes away, more drivers will be forced off the road.
Yes, it is painful for both politicians and the public to acknowledge that much of our infrastructure is no longer needed and cannot be redeployed. The public is only now becoming aware that the energy costs of road-building and road-maintenance have gone through the same price revolution as the price of oil. Governments at all levels find that simply keeping the existing roads operable – and not even in particularly good repair – requires enormous annul sums of capital. And, the per-mile construction cost of new roads is prohibitive.
When the national highway system was originally constructed, of course, oil prices were at an inflation-adjusted level of around $12-$14 per barrel. That oil prices now trade at 8 times those levels has completely changed the economic return on road building. Unsurprisingly, the demand for asphalt has crashed back to levels last seen in the early 1980s.
[h=2]End of the Grand Public Subsidy of Roads[/h]The United States has only just begun a long reduction of public spending on roads and highways.
The current administration has shifted only a few percentage points of the transport budget from the auto-highway sector to public transport -- but that shift will grow larger as the years progress.
And while it took many decades for such a shift to develop in the US, the same process will be more rapid in the developing world. In other words, the advance, peak, and decline of motorized transport in China and India will be much more rapid as these nations and their giant populations arrive more quickly to the limits of oil based transport. Indeed, there is already evidence in the data that oil adoption rates have slowed considerably as the majority of new energy demand comes online to the powergrid.
...
I don't buy some of the stuff in the rest of this article. Oil will probably get substantially cheaper. Kids will want cars as long as they want to sex in their backseats, there's a recession and student debt is high and demand is low, but this bit is interesting.

Roads are a major cost to government, much of the US highway system was built by Ike on the pretext of it being essential for the countries defense. It's been a great benefit to the economy but it's very costly to maintain and states have been deferring maintenance, which partly explains the fall in demand for asphalt. Road maintenance deferred is more expensive road maintenance as eventually roads are reduced to gravel and have to be rebuilt practically from scratch. As in much of europe there are high levels of public debt.

I suspect roads will move increasingly to being expensively tolled as governments direct tax dollars elsewhere, to things like neglected energy infrastructure and spiraling healthcare costs. Team Dave are looking at privatizing more roads, I doubt Labor would do much different. It'll be a stealthy transfer from a undiminished tax burden into other probably much larger tarifs borne by the bilked consumer as we've seen with rail in the past couple of decades but the voters have been successfully suckered like this before.

Unlike in the US the UK already has high gas taxes but expect more road tolls, congestion charges etc. A viable public transport network in the UK at least exists, even if it is pricey and often of appalling quality. Wages are liable to be considerably suppressed in the coming years as capital holds the whip hand. This wil push poorer drivers off the roads and onto public transport.

The article mentions there's already falling demand for cars:
...
Europe’s Debt Crisis Seems Bad? Look at Its Car Industry[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Just how bad are things in motoring Europe? On Wednesday Peugeot reported it lost over $993 million in the first half of 2012 alone. The same day, American maker Ford announced second quarter net income of just over $1 billion world-wide — but a $404 million loss in Europe, where the company now expects total losses to exceed $1 billion by year’s end. Meanwhile, General Motors Europe affiliate Opel-Vauxhall has lost a whopping $14 billion since the start of the century, and is almost certainly facing the same sort of layoffs and plant closures Peugeot has announced.....What’s more, the sector is almost certain to see more bad news on the revenue front. According to the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (EAMA), [/FONT]new car registration declined by nearly 7% in the first half of the year[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]. All told, projected total sales of 12.4 million cars in 2012 would represent a nearly 20% slide in volume over 2007, when the current string of annual shrinkage began. Forecasts that once saw activity improving by 2013 now push returning health in the sector beyond the recessionary horizon now stretching far off into the European distance....That dismal outlook on the demand side is compounded by concerns over excess supply. Industry analysts say auto manufacturers in Europe maintain around [/FONT]30% more production capacity than the market will bear[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif].[/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]...
Again that's a recession effect, buying a new car is a luxury households will defer in hard times, but that might be the shape of the future, car transport becoming a luxurious indulgence of the top deciles once again. [/FONT]
 
#2
Oil prices will rise as the cost of getting it from deeper and less prolific wells becomes the norm, especially in the UK tax and insurance are the major obstacles to car ownership. As the government tries to squeeze every last penny out of the motorist and hauliers it will see a drop in car purchasing and usage, people will travel shorter distances and use public transport, this however will also start to become expensive.

The pushbike will start to make a comeback for 5 - 20 mile commutes. Railways will in my opinion will need to be expanded, maybe reopening the branch lines that Beeching cut back in the 60's. The time of the fossil fuel car is coming to an end, it will be hydrogen cell and elastictrickery cars that will become the norm and unless they become affordable motoring will once again become the preserve of the rich.
 
#3
..... motoring and air travel will once again become the preserve of the rich.
My edit. I totally agree with your view on the future of motoring, anyone who thinks that we can continue the way we're going with fossil fuels is seriously deluded, and the pinch is going to come sooner than the majority of people realise.
 
#4
Oil prices will rise as the cost of getting it from deeper and less prolific wells becomes the norm, especially in the UK tax and insurance are the major obstacles to car ownership. As the government tries to squeeze every last penny out of the motorist and hauliers it will see a drop in car purchasing and usage, people will travel shorter distances and use public transport, this however will also start to become expensive.

The pushbike will start to make a comeback for 5 - 20 mile commutes. Railways will in my opinion will need to be expanded, maybe reopening the branch lines that Beeching cut back in the 60's. The time of the fossil fuel car is coming to an end, it will be hydrogen cell and elastictrickery cars that will become the norm and unless they become affordable motoring will once again become the preserve of the rich.
I hope you're right, but I'm very afraid that we're so psychologically/emotionally welded to cars and car use that we won't stop until it becomes a physical impossibility. My gut feeling is that the psychological factor is even stronger than the vested interests/profit factor.
 
#5
Electricly[sp] powered 44t artic, now that I want to see. My lot trialled a wagon that had LPG as well as diesel but it seemed to die a death, imho they just put the wrong driver in the vehicle.
People will develop an alternative to fossil based fuel, hydrogen fuel cells, super effecient batteries and chip fat oil will make more of an impact and as for "public" transport works well in major towns and cities provided the user works 9 to 5, for the rest of us it isn't worth a toss.
Oh well back to horse and cart, sack barrows and narrow boats.


CG
 
#7
One thing the article points out is rising web use is diminishing the desire for cars, they cited kids social networking. I think they over stated that but telecommuting is rising and employers are increasingly ditching free parking.

In California I noticed more an more tech firms laying on long distance commuting coach services that are actually very popular with workers. Of course nearly all these people still have cars as shopping and socializing is nearly impossible without one.

I used to commute regularly by car and quite enjoyed it. For the past few years the customers I work for actually prefer me to be working at home a couple of days a week. Gas got more expensive and I'm too mean to pay a few hundred quid a month for parking at work. Now it just sits in the garage with a flat battery. Fortunate enough to be able to get about comfortably on bikes and trains. I've actually started to find it irritating when I find a reason to drive.
 
#8
Oil prices will rise as the cost of getting it from deeper and less prolific wells becomes the norm, especially in the UK tax and insurance are the major obstacles to car ownership. As the government tries to squeeze every last penny out of the motorist and hauliers it will see a drop in car purchasing and usage, people will travel shorter distances and use public transport, this however will also start to become expensive.

The pushbike will start to make a comeback for 5 - 20 mile commutes. Railways will in my opinion will need to be expanded, maybe reopening the branch lines that Beeching cut back in the 60's. The time of the fossil fuel car is coming to an end, it will be hydrogen cell and elastictrickery cars that will become the norm and unless they become affordable motoring will once again become the preserve of the rich.
E-bikes are the coming thing there.

Normal ones that assist pedalling upto 25km and once the UK sorts its laws out then there are those that do upto 60MPH are readily available.
 
#9
There was a lot of noise about taxing companies for each parking space they have, I am sure that will raise it's head again soon. The continuing raising of tax on fuel knackers not just average Joe but causes increase in everything and makes the UK more uncompetitive than it already is.

The country will start to slip back to local manufacturing and purchasing, as it will be to expensive to fly foodstuffs in unless super container ships powered by nuclear power will be constructed. people will have to move closer to where they work so long distance commutes will be out. We are heading for a population and transport shift that will be huge and massive upheaval will occur until it gets sorted.
 
#10
Meanwhile,a think tank with leanings towards the Labour Party are suggesting increasing petrol prices.They reckon we should all be using public transport.
...
And the other mob of disgraces has made a large contribution to creating a ludicrously expensive and often unreliable public transport system in the UK. Which in turn led to a great deal more car traffic, congestion and higher road maintenance costs. They now going to use a similar dodge by introducing widespread tolling road tolling doubtless with PFI's and huge hidden subsidies that dip the tax payer/consumers pockets. Think the UK motorist is getting throughly shafted from both sides.
 
#11
I had high hopes that Obama would inject capital and breathe life into the much neglected US railroad system, create more lines, modernise existing infrastructure, etc., and encourage industry to transport their product by rail. Trains are 'greener' and cheaper than road haulage. I'd love to have been able to commute by rail too, I once had a 120 mile round trip daily commute, my route followed a disused railroad track for almost the entire journey!
 
#12
I think people adapt reasonably quickly to short-term shortages at least: It was noticeable during the tanker drivers' strike that cars on the motorway were fewer and slower. It is possible that we will look back on this era of relatively cheap personal transport for all as a golden age and we will recount anecdotes of breathtaking wastefulness with wistful disbelief.

On the other hand, there are now so many vehicles on the roads that driving is rarely an undilluted pleasure. The reasons that motors are indespensable exist because of them, and are more often than not seen as negative things anyway; fragmented families; out-of-town shopping centres; and long commutes being some obvious ones. When you add these reasons why we 'need' cars to the out and out downsides of; increasing running costs; road deaths/ injuries; use of resources; expensive infrastructure; and pollution, you start wondering whether life couldn't be better without them. It is great to be able to hop in the car and head off to the beach on a summers day, but how often does that happen? When it does happen, is most of the day spent in traffic? Are we hanging on to a dream long gone?
 
#13
To summarise it is going to become increasingly more expensive to get anywhere within this UK. The motorist is a cash cow but look at the poor train commuter, fare rises above inflation for the last 3 or 4 years and another whopping rise due in January. We are all being F****d over if we want to get anywhere.

I like to think people can generally adapt their behaviours to react to this. Car sharing has become more prevalent and I have saved well over a grand in fuel costs by doing this over the last 2 years, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to think of the amount of money not going into the taxman's coffers as a result.

In addition, a lot more pedal cycles seen in this location which can partly be put down to Olympic fever and partly due to the fact that per mile this is the cheapest way to get around, and often the quickest if your journey is under 5 miles.
 
#14
There was a lot of noise about taxing companies for each parking space they have, I am sure that will raise it's head again soon. The continuing raising of tax on fuel knackers not just average Joe but causes increase in everything and makes the UK more uncompetitive than it already is.
...
I think the commuting coaches I mention above were a response to Arnies environmental legislation in California.

Of course parking is a cost to employers and I heard since 9-11 some countries have reg that prohibit under building parking in office towers (fear of truck bombs!) which means it has to be on the surface which imposes some very high real estate costs.

You are quite right about constantly hiking fuel taxes hurting an economy already in recession. It's also a regressive tax that hits less well off consumers which reduces demand for other goods and services. Of course high rail fares and widespread tolling would have a similar effect in the longterm.
 
#15
The other factor is population growth which is slow in the UK but still happening and racing along in the US. That puts more burden on road infrastructure cause it to decay more quickly, more cars, more HGV's moving goods about. More congestion if single occupancy vehicles are a norm. More parking spaces eating up real estate in a crowded country like the UK. This all means more cost and with blue collar wages shrinking probably having to come out of less revenue.

Only positive aspect in the UK a lot of the population will be OAPs on miserly pensions making full use of their free bus pass.
 
#16
Oil may not 'run out' as quickly as people think. Developments in drilling and so forth will make previously inaccessible deposits open to exploitation, and the search for new deposits goes on (shall we have another Falklands thread?) but it will get more expensive.

Tolling has to happen. If we shift to electric vehicles, for instance, how do we make them pay for the wear they cause to roads? If we tax electricity, how do you distinguish between someone charging the car and boiling a kettle? That opens a world of legislative hurt. And that's before we get to (in the UK) coming power generation undercapacity (thanks, Labour). The issue for tolling is political courage, and politicians will dodge the decision for as long as they can. But it's the only sustainable solution.

But with transport a big problem is mindset: we continue to apply technology to make old ways of doing things work somehow 'better' instead of going after something more results-led. In a post-industrial economy, we don't all work in factories and mills (another conversation/thread for another time...) so why do we still assume that we all have to go to a place of employment to work?

In many respects the most efficient form of transport is email and it's time for transport policy to broaden its scope to encompass that which it's now able to. Working from home has a lot of benefits. It prevents many parts of the country becoming mere dormitories; it increases exponentialy the effectiveness of any Neighbourhood Watch scheme; it solves the nursery/parents going back to work issue for many and so is more socially inclusive; and many other things besides. That means allying transport policy more closely to housing and other policies and creating better links (no pun intended) to strategies on communications and IT.

I'm not advocating it as a total replacement but we need to start thinking in terms of a journey hierarchy: is my journey necessary; if so, is it necessary now... and so on.

The only person who isn't going to like all this is the Chancellor, who's gong to see fuel revenues go through the floor. But that would also mean being more honest and realistic about general levels of taxation.
 
#17
There was a lot of noise about taxing companies for each parking space they have, I am sure that will raise it's head again soon. The continuing raising of tax on fuel knackers not just average Joe but causes increase in everything and makes the UK more uncompetitive than it already is.

The country will start to slip back to local manufacturing and purchasing, as it will be to expensive to fly foodstuffs in unless super container ships powered by nuclear power will be constructed. people will have to move closer to where they work so long distance commutes will be out. We are heading for a population and transport shift that will be huge and massive upheaval will occur until it gets sorted.
Is this scheme still running?
'Tax' on workplace car parks begins in Nottingham - Telegraph
 
#18
How long before bicycles in their various forms are registered and therefore a source of taxatation and a whole lot of jobsworth to administer the system? All in the name of making life better for you of course.
 
#19
How long before bicycles in their various forms are registered and therefore a source of taxatation and a whole lot of jobsworth to administer the system? All in the name of making life better for you of course.
The Swiss require you to buy a sticker for a few quid every year to use a bike.

It's not a bad idea, the bureaucracy is minimal you just fill in the sticker and retain part of it at home, it includes accident insurance, helps in identifying discarded stolen bikes and also raising cantonal revenues as foreigners often get fined for not having one.
 
#20
The Swiss require you to buy a sticker for a few quid every year to use a bike.

It's not a bad idea, the bureaucracy is minimal you just fill in the sticker and retain part of it at home, it includes accident insurance, helps in identifying discarded stolen bikes and also raising cantonal revenues as foreigners often get fined for not having one.
They've just done away with it: PRO VELO SUISSE - Vignette vélo

Not quite sure why ... the Swiss cyclists' association wanted it kept, and it certainly wasn't expensive -- a couple of francs at the checkout of any supermarket.
 

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