Covid-19: Carmageddon Beckons Unless Work from Home Continues

Yves here. Covid-19’s impact upon local and regional economies depends very much on pre-existing conditions. For instance, California’s destructive wildfires are even worse than they would otherwise be due to dependence on prison labor…which now has such a high level of infection that there are pretty much no conscript firemen.

One former strength of many cities that has become a weakness is having good and well-used public transportation. As this article suggests, Australia’s two biggest cities are in a world of hurt. I can’t comment on Melbourne, but Sydney’s city planners went to some lengths to discourage commuting into the city by car, including making parking in the central business district scarce and therefore expensive. Sydney had efficient and pleasant “trains” as well as an extensive bus network and ferries, which the locals freely acknowledged were a heavily-subsidized bennie for the middle and upper middle income denizens of coastal suburbs to the north of the city (Sydney at least then was fiercely egalitarian, so there was some discomfort with the well-off having artificially cheap commutes). And as the article alludes, Australia showed significant population growth after it liberalized immigration in the early 2000s.

Australia is over 80% urban, with population concentrated in its four big cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. So they are more afflicted with the downside of density than other places. I wonder if reader in other major cities can comment as to whether they see Covid-19 induced increases in car use as a looming or even current problem.

By Leith van Onselen, Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. Originally published at MacroBusiness

With social distancing likely to be the norm over the next several years, the notion of sardine-packing residents into trains, buses and trams is obviously no longer viable if Australia is to contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

This has raised concerns that capital city traffic congestion could worsenafter restrictions ease, with commuters tipped to shun public transport and opt for the security of their own cars:

Melbourne could emerge from the pandemic with worse congestion, with surging truck numbers tipped to fuel future traffic snarls as people shun public transport.

New data from obtained by the Herald Sun shows thousands of previously unseen trucks and cars flooded Melbourne streets as restrictions were eased.

The figures, collected by Here Technologies, tracked movements between April and June reveal an alarming uptick in traffic despite many people working from home and have sparked warnings Melbourne is heading for a congestion crunch.

The number of trucks thundering down Punt Rd rose by nearly a quarter over this time while the Tullamarine recorded 289,798 extra truck journeys over the space of a month.

The research also showed 30 per cent of people are receiving online orders once per week, up from 17 per cent before restrictions were introduced.

Here Technologies director of business development, Daniel Antonello said these were new challenges likely to create bigger gridlock problem as people return to work.

“We believed its going to be very congested and its obvious it’ll happen pretty quickly,” he said.

“As people were going to work and deliveries remained up we saw a glimpse of that.

“There was much more traffic in Melbourne in July than in April but much of the population was still working from home.”

Mr Antontello said authorities would have to address a bottleneck of extra motorists because of concerns over public transport.

This view is partly corroborated by a reported boom in used car sales:

Used cars are increasingly hot property in Australia, with a new report recording a 30 per cent surge in prices since April as buyers rush to avoid public transport and new car dealers face stock shortages.

According to data from Moody’s Analytics, July used-vehicle prices broke records for a second month running, recording a 16.2 per cent rise on pre-pandemic prices and a whopping 30.8 per cent increase on prices during the April 2020 slump…

An avoidance of public transport paired with new-car stock shortages has seen consumers rush to get their hands on a fast, affordable and temporary transport solution.

Sydney’s and Melbourne’s transport systems were already operating at breaking point before COVID-19, thanks to 15 years of extreme immigration-driven population growth. Clearly, they will not be able to cope with a sudden surge of travelers on roads.

The only solution is for a large chunk of the population to continue working from home.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    The impact will be very city-specific, so much depends on road capacity, economic impacts and longer term changes to commuting patterns.

    In Australia, so far as I am aware, the specific problem is that they subsidised public transport to encourage people to leave their cars at home, but did not actively reduce road/parking space. This builds in the potential for much greater and rapid increase in car commuting. This is not the same situation in many European and Asian cities where either road space has been systematically reduced, or there is just no more room anyway for more vehicles. In other words, the same supply constraints still exist for car usage, and it can only increase more if people move away from the big, dense cities.

    In Europe many cities have acted to very significantly reduce car space in anticipation of this. Like many cities, here in Dublin they’ve put in many emergency bike lanes and expanded sidewalks to reduce road space. The main intention is to encourage more people to cycle to work. In denser cities, there is absolutely no reason why cycling cannot take up the slack for reduced public transport use. Its cheap, simple to provide, and in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands its not unusual to have 20% or more commuting done by bike. The revolution in electric bikes have made longer distance commuting perfectly viable for the non-sporting. There has been a huge boom in bike sales in the last 6 months in reflection of this. I’m doing one of my favourite things later this week – going out with a friend bike shopping to help her choose a bike for her new, longer commute when her home working stops. The bike shops are starting to stock up again after being cleared out of all stock during lockdown.

    In my cities, car use is down 20%, but it is anticipated it will surge back to ‘normal’ or above levels once the schools are back (school runs are the real killer in terms of traffic congestion in most cities). This creates an additional complication in that many schools are enforcing drop offs away from the school to reduce contact – nobody really knows what the implications of this will be.

    From what I’m aware from Asian cities, nobody thinks that reducing transit capacity is sensible – subways have been working as normal in South Korea, China and Japan, etc. People wear masks and they are deep cleaned regularly. I’m not aware of any evidence that this isn’t working.

    I talked to a few friends over the weekend who work in banks and with the big IT companies. Most will be working from home until January at least. Some have had to go back – one said that his company is paying for taxis for staff who have to go to work so that they don’t have to use public transport. I’ve heard that many staff in Dublin have returned to their home countries to work from home, but will have to, at least temporarily, move back to Dublin for tax reasons.

    I’ve heard plenty of casual stories of people moving to rural areas, and are hoping to make this permanent. But I suspect that this will be very difficult for most, for all sorts of reasons, not least a property market that is in chaos as everyone tries to work out what the future holds. I doubt that this will have a significant impact, except in the longer term.

    As for cars, the prices haven’t gone down yet, but there may be an impact as unemployment means a surge of cars on the market. A few weeks ago I hired a car for the weekend – the woman at the service desk casually remarked that they company had ‘handed back’ its entire 2020 fleet to the dealerships, they were still running last years cars. One can only wonder what will happen to all these unsold cars. I suspect they will scrap them rather than dump them on the market, the impact on the new car market would be catastrophic.

    1. rusti

      From what I’m aware from Asian cities, nobody thinks that reducing transit capacity is sensible – subways have been working as normal in South Korea, China and Japan, etc. People wear masks and they are deep cleaned regularly. I’m not aware of any evidence that this isn’t working.

      I’ve wondered about this too for East Asian cities. My experience in South Korea and Japan was that people on public transit were mostly silent and looking down, so it seems likely that if people wear masks and aren’t talking there is probably a lot less infectious virus being spread about in those scenarios. It’s a big contrast to here in Sweden where people have obnoxiously loud phone conversations on public transit and only a small minority wear masks.

      In denser cities, there is absolutely no reason why cycling cannot take up the slack for reduced public transport use. Its cheap, simple to provide, and in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands its not unusual to have 20% or more commuting done by bike.

      I guess Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark don’t have too many days of ice and snow, but I anticipate there’s going to be a shortage of studded bike tires this winter. They work great for anything but deep snow.

      1. Maritimer

        “My experience in South Korea and Japan was that people on public transit were mostly silent and looking down….”

        In cities I have lived in Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, I also found that people were in the main silent and little eye contact. Exceptions were when people already knew each other. Is urban life so tedious, gruesome, predatory, threatening that people do not interact?

        I often wonder why this was so when this was actually a wonderful opportunity to meet other people. I also thought: why don’t the Transit folks put on some buskers or jesters or standup folks and have them wander the facilities, cheer things up, make my day!

        It surely says a lot that where there are great concentrations of humans, they don’t interact or speak to each other. I think masking will exacerbate this problem. SInce so many things have been studied, I would imagine the socio-psycho researchers probably have the answer why.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I would guess a lot of this is to do with the layout of transit cars. People seem less comfortable dealing with strangers when standing still or sitting facing each other than sitting side by side, as in buses. Certainly I’ve found buses in general to be more sociable.

          But its important of course to point out that for many people, their commute is the one time in the day they can lose themselves in thought, or just listen to a podcast or whatever it is they want to do when alone. Mental downtime is just as important as social time for many people, especially introverts.

          1. Dan

            Mental downtime is just as important as social time for many people, especially introverts.

            This cannot be emphasized enough. Thank you PK.

          2. MichaelSF

            I had 40 minutes to read twice a day when I was commuting and taking street cars downtown. Not interacting with some stranger was fine with me.

          3. ChrisPacific

            It also has a good deal to do with capacity planning. Where I live right now, ‘full’ on the trains apparently equates to ‘everybody has a seat.’ Other places I’ve lived, ‘full’ has meant ‘we physically cannot squash people any closer together to make more room.’ That would be taken as a sign of a capacity crisis here, but plenty of cities just accept that as the norm.

            I would be quite happy riding the trains with a mask where I am now, even with some Covid in the community. There is no way you would get me on public transport for cities in the latter category during Covid, mask or no mask.

        2. Zamfir

          For me, it’s simple. I am usually not looking for social interaction during my commute. I don’t think that has much to do with tedious, gruesome, or whatever. I am just not on the train to meet people, or to listen to stand up comedians for that matter. Another time, another place.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Yeah, I guess you have to be tough to bike commute in Sweden, although on my last visit (February a few years back) I was surprised to see how many people were confidently riding around. But the weather can be pretty vicious in winter in the Netherlands and Denmark, and it doesn’t seem to put people off.

        Incidentally, its not difficult to make home-made ice tyres. You just put the shallowest wood screws you can find into the ‘knobbly’ bits of a mountain bike tyre. It works very well apparently. But ice is rare in Ireland along the coasts, so I’ve never had to put it to the test.

    2. vlade

      Yes, car industry is in a lot of trouble, which is why we’re hearing more and more about “car as service” (aka short-term lease). Not sure how they want to do it unless they synchronise en masse though.

      Prague will have to cut down on public transport, but for different reason – the funding is unsustainable, because the previous mayor came with very cheap annual tickets, which meant that majority of the funding was from rates/state contributions and tickets sold to tourists (revenue from short-term tickets, like daily/weekend/week were three times the amount raised from the monthly/annual fares IIRC). Both of which crashed, so the city has two options – dramatically (like 100%) increase in the fares, or cuts to the transport. Most likely scenario is a combination, although IMO the cuts should be prioritised as some times/areas are overserved now.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Lots of car hire companies are doing informal ‘car as service’, I had a car for 2 months on a cheap basis from my regular company – they were actually desperate to get rid of cars as they had no storage space left.

        The situation with public transit in Prague is unfortunate – a very obvious short term economic boost would be to just make public transport free for the remainder of the year (you could argue that with buses, this would speed things up with no need for fares).

        1. vlade

          In absolute terms, it’s 3650 Czk per annum, i.e. 10 CZK (37 euro cents, 45 US cents) per day. For comparison, the cheapest, 30 min no-transfer (that is, valid only for the first vehicle you board, be it a particular bus, tram or tube) ticket costs 24 CZK.

          In relative terms, the annual cost is approximately 8.5% of monthly average pre-tax income in Prague and I’d guess about 10% of the median (monthly) income. It’s about quarter of min wage monthly earnings. So for most people it’s pretty close to “free” already.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            That is pretty cheap (not as cheap as a bike, but cheap).

            What I was thinking was that making public transport free now would have a double benefit – act as a tax cut in putting money in peoples pockets, while increasing capacity as reducing fares would reduce stopping time (for buses) and congestion (at ticket barriers for trains). Plus it would allow staff to be reallocated from far collection to security and cleaning.

            1. vlade

              Well, yes, you can get a bike for the price of it (not a very good one, but sufficient). But you have to store your bike on both ends, which may be problematic too, especially for low-budget people who won’t have large flats and likely shared with more people, and may not have secure storage at the work either.

              Re the second point – wouldn’t save anything in the Prage’s public transport system.

              No turnstilles (buses and trams are boarded by all doors, no barriers at tube platform entries), and tickets are pre-bought, you just mark them on the transport/before entering tube platform.

              The ticket check is a random check by some public transport employees (statistically, being black passenger doesn’t pay though, as the fine is quite high compared to the annual ticket and the likelyhood of being checked). Reallocating them for cleaning would be pretty expensive, and only tube stations are really staffed and even that thinly already (and no-one complains). Tickets ex monthly/annual (for which you need an id) are sold by machines, or you can just swipe a card when you get on the bus/tram.

              Oh, and I forgot that kids up to 15 years and pensioners >65 years (and over 70 anyone, including tourists who can just show a passport/EU id to prove their age) travel free, plus the usual stuff for students. So you have 25-33% of population that travels free or even cheaper than the rest.

            2. vlade

              Have a long response in moderation, short response – your assumptions about how Prague transport works are wrong, it’s barrier-free boarding everywhere and tickets are checked randomly on the transport.

    3. Ignacio

      I can attest that the boom in electric bikes is real in some places in Spain. I didn’t see any carmaggedon in Madrid though I still have to see return to activity that resembles normal. There has been a sharp fall in commuting driven mostly by the rise in work at home. Until schools start in September it is too soon to say and there is the menace of Covid spiralling again.

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      I am sure you are correct re Asia. Due to the state of search, I can’t locate a link quickly, but I recall reading that Japan had not traced any cases of transmission to its subways. So if people are masked up, public transportation is fine….but very few in America and it appears Oz believe that.

      As for cars, a buddy who owns a supplier to Mercedes and Toyota is getting big orders from Mercedes, and they say every car they can make through January (I assume for the US but I am not sure) is already sold.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’m really surprised to hear that about car sales. I’ve heard all sorts of stories of a crisis in the European car market as sales collapse (although there is a particular issue that the likes of VW have been caught in an awkward moment as they try to transition to EV’s, so they are stuck with bulging order books for EV’s, but big surplus capacity with conventional supply chains).

        There is a particular bomb awaiting in the UK market due to the popularity of 3 year lease deals for cars. The BoE has been warning for years that this could be massively pro-cyclical if a wave of people worried about their cars hand them back. This has a knock-on influence in Ireland as UK dealers frequently dump surplus second hand stock on the Irish market, essentially wiping out new car sales.

        1. Altandmain

          Anecdotally, here in Canada, used car sales are going up.

          Same in the US.

          A buddy of mine who works at a dealer reports that people who used to take the subway or bus are the biggest drivers of this growth. Long story short, they are giving up on mass transit for good and many are planning to leave for the suburbs.

          At least in the short term aftermath of this outbreak here in Canada, it is looking like those with the money to do so are far more likely to buy a car and many are stretching their budgets. Future mass transit may be for those who are too poor to purchase a car, those who became poor from recent job loss, and those who are physically not capable of driving.

      2. Rod

        Anecdote on Mercedes: just last week wife(a commuter) asked me “what was up with everybody driving a Mercedes nowadays–had i noticed?” which i had and we chatted a bit about. Noticeable at stop lights and turn lanes in our town (just outside of a major SE banking hub city) in a state producing BMWs and where about 1 out of 3 drive PU’s. No expert on that brand but most I’ve seen(200/300 series) appear 3-5 years used
        Thought availability due to lease expirations but could not fathom the affordability unless 2-4% Interest Auto Loan rates are driving purchases

        1. polar donkey

          Even in Memphis, I see a lot of new Mercedes. A and C class. A lot of Audi’s too. I see as many A class Mercedes as Toyota Corollas. Are they loose with lending standards?

          1. Rtah100

            I remarked at the weekend on just how many new or nearly Audi’s are tooling around my city in SW England. Audi charge a nosebleed premium for their fine engineering….

            1. Copeland

              >Audi charge a nosebleed premium for their fine engineering

              Not according to my brother, who just bought a new Audi in Arizona. He priced all of the luxury German/Euro brands and found that Audi was much more affordable than the others, for equivalent levels of technology.

              I live in a wealthy town and recently Audi has become by far the most popular brand among my immediate neighbors. I don’t think any of my neighbors need to bother with auto loans though.

              1. ocop

                I’m wondering if the annual $$ for expensive vacations is getting repurposed in a world with vastly curtailed international tourist travel?

        2. Synoia

          My wife indulged in German cars. I had the pleasure of taking them relatively frequently for “work” at the Dealerships, at 6 am in the morning.

          Audi, MB, Porsche and BMW.

          Eventually I told my wife that she could have any car she liked, but I was going to forgo the early morning trips to the dealers for “service.” Those trips she could become blessed with.

          She asked what I recommended. My response was “Toyota.” And there we are, she has her car of choice, and I no longer have to become best friends with the dealer’s staff. And the cars run well.

    5. EarlyGray

      As someone who commuted by bike daily from D7 to Belfield back in the 1990’s, it’s great to hear of increased cycling in Dublin, as it was very much a minority pursuit back then. I had friends who lived closer who wouldn’t cycle for what ever reason. Though that said I did depend on the backup of the number 10 bus on those not unheard-of days when it would lash rain.
      As a current resident of Tokyo, I can tell you the trains here are running with less passenger traffic than say a year ago, but it’s still standing room only at peak times. Mask usage is almost universal, you get hard stares these days if you get on a train without one and there is very little talking, at least at peak commute times.

  2. Foy

    Yay, Melbourne is mentioned on Naked Capitalism! Oh wait…

    Getting across town just before the pandemic was a nightmare. I used to travel to clients from town to around Melbourne for 2-4 hours visit back in the 90s and it wasn’t too bad, but even then I thought ‘sheez this is bad’ often enough. I did I bit of it last year and many places are just shocking to try to get to/access. One crash somewhere and everything is toast.

    And the trains to town last year were packed in peak hour. If people are discouraged from taking public transport due to COVID I don’t see how the economy recovers especially businesses based in/near city central.

    The massive immigration intake over the last 15 years to increase and support property values was a really stupid idea by the govt. It was a one trick one pony and now we are stuffed from a quality of life perspective, unless of course you view sitting gridlocked viewing other cars as a great quality of life.

    I pity the truck drivers. I guess this will mean people cutting in front of them more often and more road rage, just what society needs right now, not.

  3. The Rev Kev

    People may be driving more but the bottleneck remains of finding parking in the city when you get there. And it ain’t free. I really don’t know how this will all shake out. Car-pooling sounds good until you remember that you are in the middle of a pandemic and some of the trains that went into Brisbane before the pandemic could be pretty full which will put off a lot of people. Of course not only did a lot of people lose their jobs but a lot of people are working from home still so demand is done. And having workers back at work in the city may sound good to a manager right up to the point that they have to step into a crowded elevator. I read that Adelaide has a plan to have a “driver’s month” to get cars into the city again to get the economy going again-

    For a 20,000 foot view, here is a Mckinsey report from last month that talks about the “recovery” internationally which has to cope with the headwinds of more stuff being done online which may became the new norm in a lot of places-

  4. skippy

    I can attest here in Brisbane that traffic is much lighter peak and off peak and as noted above that electric bikes and scooters are increasing in use.

    Currant customer is a lawyer at a predominate law firm and just purchased a scooter to travel to and from work. Where as my eldest son is still taking public transport to his CBD job.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Yah, I wouldn’t call Sydney “a world of hurt”, the roads have less traffic than before which is great and people are definitely getting on with their lives. Many/all complaining about the state border closures, which are as dumb a thing as I’ve seen since living here (then again I’m for the Swedish approach, just because Melbourne’s first wave arrived late doesn’t mean home jail sentences for everyone there, good grief. Wake me up when we hit half the excess deaths from last year’s flu season, we didn’t report those one by one did we. And please don’t start talking to me about Covid-20).

      1. skippy

        Queensland is where it is due to early actions and not buckling under pressure from NSW gov, suggest ScoMo is watching the Trump fiasco and doing his best Elmer Fudd only to have the gas thing sound like a balloon released – know what he’s going to find in his X-mass stocking.

        You should be preparing mentally for the next two years at least, not counting the effects that will flow on globally, otherwise its going to be a bit of a hangover.

  5. Alex

    Having both driven and taken subway and overground trains in Moscow this month I don’t see much difference compared to regular summers, other than maybe 30% of riders wearing masks. We’ll see what happens when the school starts and people come back from vacations.

    Though the car use still can only increase marginally as there is simply not enough parking space in the centre even for a fraction of people who commute by subway.

  6. Ezequiel

    Here in Islington, London (zone-2, north, near downtown, gentryfying quickly), car traffic is noticeably up. There is lot of talk of cycle lanes and “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods”. My greener and biker friends gloat and seem to think they are winning. Black cabbies are staging protests by… wait for it… walking down Islington High Street blocking traffic, prompting comments about how nice it is now. But even though noone wears a mask around here, everyone talks of the tube as if it was a death sentence.

    I have been commuting by bike since I got here 10 years ago. Growth has been exponential. Now there is a feeling of critical mass and phase change. But it is all in the air: back to school, back to office, the end of government support for furloughed workers, Brexit…

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its good to hear that things are taking off for cycling in London – when I lived in Kentish Town in the 1990’s I was a bit of an anomoly in my office for cycling the relatively short distance to Tottenham Court Road. But it was fairly stressful at times due to those uniquely horrible London junctions with their pedestrian barriers precisely located to kill cyclists every time a driver turned left without checking their mirrors.

      1. vlade

        Yes, cycling in London is an adrenaline sport if you take busy (which is most) roads. But TBH, in lot of cases it’s also cyclist’s fault, trying to overtake a lorry from the left, while riding with their headphones on (which IMO is self-nominating for a Darwin award).

  7. Another Scott

    I started working from my office in Boston at the beginning of July. Even at rush hour when people would often have to wait for the next train during normal times, there is plenty of seating without having to sit next to anyone. I estimate approximately 90-95% of people are wearing masks, although about 10% don’t cover their noses, and this is without the MBTA enforcing the requirement and some statements saying that they wouldn’t. The stations are cleaned more than previously, and steps have been taken to increase airflow and reduce the need to touch surfaces.
    I have not looked at the MBTA’s budget (and largely don’t want to), but receipts are down significantly. I haven’t tracked the impact of state funding (a percentage of the sales tax), but it’s likely down as well. But the MBTA’s budget problems have always stemmed from the expense side rather than the revenue, and I doubt that any decreases on that side will match the almost certain revenue shortfall.

  8. Felix47

    Here in Germany the electric bikes are all over. They could be a game changer except from what I see the middle and upper classes are locked into the SUV habit. The reason has nothing to do with practicality or gas prices or anything. Based on what I hear from my wife the women feel safer in the SUV which is code for trying to avoid the newly arrived migrants from the global south. Even prior to -Covid native women had abandoned public transit, as good as it was, for cars and now SUVs. Germany is copying the US development model…..leaving the cities for the global southerners and moving to the Burbs where everyone speaks German and looks like everyone else and even share relatives near and distant. That is the development model in our town in Bavaria at any rate. Downtown in the city is starting to remind me of the cities in the US. Unless I have to take a family member somewhere I, a male, stick with my bike.

    1. vlade

      re SUVs feel safer – my experience with that was that basically if you’re in a normal car and get rammed by an SUV, it’s a tough luck for you and paint job (not really, but way less problems) for the SUV. So it’s like Gresham’s law – you get (if you can) a car you can survive in.

      And the problem is the school run as PK says above. For some reason today, even when living within easy walking distance (<15 mins), most parents want to drop off their kids.

      1. Rtah100

        We live fifteen minutes from our children’s school. We try to walk / scoot but:
        – some days the children have lots of stuff (violin each, games kit each, possibly a lunchbox, probably a coat they are not wearing because scooting is hot work, some days also swimming kit). The school has no lockers so it all has to go in and out.
        – they are too young to go in by themselves so we have to juggle getting in and pick up. Pick up is worse in this respect, they have external places to be after and/or we have work commitments to get back for and they are often too tired (all those games lessons) to cheerfully walk.
        – cycling is out, even when old enough, because most of the flat route is on a busy A road without cycle lane. The cycle path route down by the river involves a 200ft climb up to the cathedral from the quay in a few hundred yards. Maybe as teenagers but not in primary school. Plus I think the school has no bike racks!

        1. vlade

          I understand it with young kids, but I see often a SUV dropping a 10+ year or older who could happily cycle/walk from anywhere in our town (as a few of their year do).

          I don’t get school having no lockers (well, I do, but it’s really lazy on the side of the school, passing the buck to parents/kids).

      2. eg

        My rather short wife prefers the higher seating of the SUV to my sedan because she claims to be able to see better from that perch, and I’m not long for the latter form myself given the increasing difficulty I’m having getting down into and up out of as I age …

        1. Ian Ollmann

          SUVs do not have to be the nemesis of humanity. Our Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is rated to something around 84 MPGe when the battery is charged. It’s not as good as my Model 3 at 130+ MPGe, but is is a huge improvement over the non-hybrid Pacifica, and the minivan is freakin enormous, so we can’t expect perfection.

          The problem is that the core advantage of the SUV is high levels of profitability, and if we make them EVs or even put in a decent sized battery for hybrid operation, it would cut into the profitability. Then they wouldn’t be SUVs anymore! They would be Sport Unprofitable Vehicles. Nobody wants to make an unprofitable SUV when they could make a profitable one. So they don’t make them.

          This is why sales of new ICEs actually has to be banned before we can move forward beyond tokenism for EV production.

  9. Ian Ollmann

    > The only solution is for a large chunk of the population to continue working from home.

    Actually, there are a few solutions:

    The Achilles heel of cars is parking. Remove downtown parking and the cars will go away.

    The other thing we can do is make it much harder and much more expensive to get gas. This works as long as the vast majority of cars aren’t EVs. We want the vast majority of cars to be EVs. So, It’s a good short term solution.

    We can do both.

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