Recent Krugman’s blog post Dont keep on truckin and its source The Real Petroleum Prices just reveal one thing not mentioned in this blog post: its not the gas prices that the US has to struggle with. It is their infrastructure system and the fact that America is not built on the back of horses, but of the front seats of cars.
My own experience in Schaumburg tells me that for every little shopping tour I need the car, for everywhere I want to go, I need the car and bicycles, same as pedestrian routes, are an uncommon sight. Without car I couldnt get to work, I couldnt get to buy food, I couldnt do pretty much anything. Comparing that to both Germany and China, it becomes clear why gas prices lead people to be stranded in suburbia. As Krugman says, the way Americans live right now, meaning the way housing is done, the way city planning had been done and the way public transportation is handled, will lead to enormous investments that have to be done in order to make the turnaround in this country.
Speaking figures, consider the following:
Passenger transportation is dominated by a network of over 3.9 million miles of highways (almost entirely constructed and maintained by state and local governments) which is pervasive and highly developed by global standards. Passenger transportation is dominated by passenger vehicles (including cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles), which account for 85% of passenger-miles traveled. The remaining 15% was handled by planes, trains, and buses. A “passenger-mile” is one passenger transported one mile. For example, one vehicle traveling 3 miles carrying 5 passengers generates 15 passenger-miles.
By contrast, freight transportation is handled by a variety of networks including truck, rail, air, ship, and pipeline. The largest carriers of freight, by weight, are trucks (60%), followed by pipelines (18%), rail (10%), ship (8%), and air (0.01%). Other modes of transportation such as parcel and intermodal accounted for about 3% of the remainder.
As of 2003, there were 759 automobiles per 1,000 Americans, compared to 472 per 1,000 inhabitants of the European Union the following year. The U.S. intercity passenger rail system is relatively weak. Only 9% of total U.S. work trips employ mass transit, compared to 38.8% in Europe. Bicycle usage is minimal, well below European levels. – Wikipedia
Looking at the cities with public transportation systems, it does not look better. We are speaking of a country with more than 300 million inhabitants with a size being among world’s largest countries. This means a huge investment, a huge business opportunity and hopefully soon, a huge bunge of tenders out in the market calling for low cost / high efficiency bids.