!Converted with LaTeX2HTML 95.1 (Fri Jan 20 1995) by Nikos Drakos (email@example.com), CBLU, University of Leeds >
Past a certain threshold of energy consumption, the transportation industry dictates the configuration of social space. Motorways expand, driving wedges between neighbors and removing fields beyond the distance a farmer can walk. Ambulances take clinics beyond the few miles a sick child can be carried. The doctor will no longer come to the house, because vehicles have made the hospital into the right place to be sick. Once heavy trucks reach a village high in the Andes, part of the local market disappears. Later, when the high school arrives at the plaza along with the paved highway, more and more of the young people move to the city, until not one family is left which does not long for a reunion with someone hundreds of miles away, down on the coast.
Equal speeds have equally distorting effects on the perception of space, time, and personal potency in rich and in poor countries, however different the surface appearances might be. Everywhere, the transportation industry shapes a new kind of man to fit the new geography and the new schedules of its making. The major difference between Guatemala and Kansas is that in Central America some provinces are still exempt from all contact with vehicles and are, therefore, still not degraded by their dependence on them.
The product of the transportation industry is the habitual passenger. He has been boosted out of the world in which people still move on their own, and he has lost the sense that he stands at the center of his world. The habitual passenger is conscious of the exasperating time scarcity that results from daily recourse to the cars, trains, buses, subways,and elevators that force him to cover an average of twenty miles each day, frequently criss-crossing his path within a radius of less than five miles. He has been lifted off his feet. No matter if he goes by subway or jet plane, he feels slower and poorer than someone else and resents the shortcuts taken by the privileged few who can escape the frustrations of traffic. If he is cramped by the timetable of his commuter train, he dreams of a car. If he drives, exhausted by the rush hour, he envies the speed capitalist who drives against the traffic. If he must pay for his car out of his own pocket, he knows full well that the commanders of corporate fleets send the fuel bill to the company and write off the rented car as a business expense. The habitual passenger is caught at the wrong end of growing inequality, time scarcity, and personal impotence, but he can see no way out of this bind except to demand more of the same: more traffic by transport. He stands in wait for technical changes in the design of vehicles, roads, and schedules; or else he expects a revolution to produce mass rapid transport under public control. In neither case does he calculate the price of being hauled into a better future. He forgets that he is the one who will pay the bill, either in fares or in taxes. He overlooks the hidden costs of replacing private cars with equally rapid public transport.
The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man's feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself. Left on his own, he feels immobile.
The habitual passenger must adopt a new set of beliefs and expectations if he is to feel secure in the strange world where both liaisons and loneliness are products of conveyance. To ``gather'' for him means to be brought together by vehicles. He comes to believe that political power grows out of the capacity of a transportation system, and in its absence is the result of access to the television screen. He takes freedom of movement to be the same as one's claim on propulsion. He believes that the level of democratic process correlates to the power of transportation and communications systems. He has lost faith in the political power of the feet and of the tongue. As a result, what he wants is not more liberty as a citizen but better service as a client. He does not insist on his freedom to move and to speak to people but on his claim to be shipped and to be informed by media. He wants a better product rather than freedom from servitude to it. It is vital that he come to see that the acceleration he demands is self-defeating, and that it must result in a further decline of equity, leisure, and autonomy.