Alternatives to the automobile

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A human-powered quadracycle parked on a Canadian urban street amongst the cars.

Current technological developments suggest that the present car system will be replaced.[1] Established alternatives to the automobile include public transit (buses, trolleybuses, trains, subways, monorails, tramways), cycling, walking, rollerblading and skateboarding.

Bike-share systems have been tried in some European cities, including Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Similar programs have been experimented with in a number of US cities, including Annapolis, Maryland, Alexandria, Virginia and Arlington, Virginia.[2]

An emerging alternative is personal rapid transit, in which small, automated vehicles would run on special elevated tracks spaced within walking distance throughout a city, and could provide direct service to a chosen station without stops. Another possibility is new forms of personal transport such as the Segway PT, which could serve as an alternative to automobiles and bicycles if they prove to be socially accepted.[3]

All of these alternative modes of transport pollute less than the conventional (petroleum-powered) automobile and contribute to transport sustainability. They also provide other significant benefits such as reduced traffic-related injuries and fatalities, reduced space requirements, both for parking and driving, reduced resource usage and pollution related to both production and driving, increased social inclusion, increased economic and social equity, and more livable streets and cities. Some alternative modes of transportation, especially cycling, also provide regular, low-impact exercise, tailored to the needs of human bodies. Public transport is also linked to increased exercise, because they are combined in a multi-modal transport chain that includes walking or cycling.

According to the MIT Future Car Workshop, the benefits of possible future car technologies not yet in widespread use (such as zero-emissions vehicles) over these alternatives, would be:[4]

  • Increased mobility in rural settings and in some other areas where traffic jams are not severe
  • Possibly higher social status
  • Overall a better provision for privacy
  • Profit for the multinational firms producing cars, and possibly for their employees

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dennis, K., Urry, J. 2009. After the Car. Cambridge: Polity.
  2. ^ "About Bike Share Programs". Tech Bikes MIT. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Jane Holtz Kay (1998). Asphalt Nation: how the automobile took over America, and how we can take it back. ISBN 0-520-21620-2. 
  4. ^ Transology: M.I.T. Future Car Workshop