Nearly every aspect of social, economic, and political life in California is linked by its transportation systems. These systems can be seamless and somewhat transparent when they work well, but their failings can be glaring and deeply problematic when they leave people, goods, or places behind.
Debates over how to address the state’s long-standing focus on serving automobile travel continue to rage. Should California invest in new public transit systems to lure drivers out of their cars and onto gleaming, new rail lines and low- or no-emission buses? Or should it mandate plenty of free parking at every new development to make it easy for drivers to reach their destinations without traffic-snarling searches for parking? Should we increasingly rely on the emerging mobility service providers to ease parking hassles and improve access to public transit? Or should we discourage these disruptive new services in favor of more traditional means of travel? The answers to the questions may seem obvious when considered in isolation, but when taken together they can collectively result in outcomes that undercut one another.
The car-friendly answers to these questions aim to give Californians access primarily by improving auto-mobility, while the travel-alternatives-friendly policies aim to provide access by de-emphasizing auto-mobility. Note that these policies are not limited to transportation but entail land use and development policies as well. Transportation policies that favor driving encourage land developments designed to accommodate cars. Conversely, land uses that put destinations close together encourage travel by means other than cars. Sorting out which of these policies to pursue in which urban, suburban, and rural contexts will go a long way toward determining the transportation future of California.
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