Car Ownership Made Obsolete?

For many of us car ownership is onerous. Some people relish having their own “wheels,” but most folks I know consider their car a very, very expensive “necessity.” They’re not buying a cherished good; they’re buying convenient transportation that depreciates rapidly and will be replaced in a few years. Car ownership ends up being one of the biggest expenses in a household budget.

And while it brings freedom and convenience, the non-monetary price is steep, too: pollution, congestion and traffic injuries and fatalities, to name the most salient problems.

A recent article in The Guardian explains the Finnish government’s innovative program to deal with the car ownership conundrum in Helsinki. The city government “plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point ‘mobility on demand’ system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

“Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

“Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility.”

I don’t know if this system will pan out, and I’m sure there will be kinks to work out along the way. But this kind of ingenious tinkering with our resource intensive transportation system is needed. Reducing money spent by citizens on transportation is an important public good. And if this thing works it will reduce air pollution and traffic as well.

I hope it does!

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