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A desirable ceiling on the velocity of movement cannot be usefully discussed without returning to the distinction between self-powered transit and motorized transport, and comparing the contribution each component makes relative to the total locomotion of people, which I have called traffic.
Transport stands for the capital-intensive mode of traffic, and transit indicates the labor-intensive mode. Transport is the product of an industry whose clients are passengers. It is an industrial commodity and therefore scarce by definition. Improvement of transport always takes place under conditions of scarcity that become more severe as the speed---and with it the cost---of the service increases. Conflict about insufficient transport tends to take the form of a zero-sum game where one wins only if another loses. At best, such a conflict allows for the optimum in the Prisoner's Dilemma: by cooperating with their jailer, both prisoners get off with less time in the cell.
Transit is not the product of an industry but the independent enterprise of transients. It has use-value by definition but need not have any exchange-value. The ability to engage in transit is native to man and more or less equally distributed among healthy people of the same age. The exercise of this ability can be restricted by depriving some class of people of the right to take a straight route, or because a population lacks shoes or pavements. Conflict about unsatisfactory transit conditions tends to take, therefore, the form of a non-zero-sum game in which everyone comes out ahead-not only the people who get the right to walk through a formerly walled property, but also those who live along the road.
Total traffic is the result of two profoundly distinct modes of production. These can reinforce each other harmoniously only as long as the autonomous outputs are protected against the encroachment of the industrial product.
The harm done by contemporary traffic is due to the monopoly of transport. The allure of speed has deceived the passenger into accepting the promises made by an industry that produces capital-intensive traffic. He is convinced that high-speed vehicles have allowed him to progress beyond the limited autonomy he enjoyed when moving under his own power. He has allowed planned transport to predominate over the alternative of labor intensive transit. Destruction of the physical environment is the least noxious effect of this concession. The far more bitter results are the multiplication of psychic frustration, the growing disutilities of continued production, and subjection to an inequitable transfer of power-all of which are manifestations of a distorted relationship between life-time and life-space. The passenger who agrees to live in a world monopolized by transport becomes a harassed, overburdened consumer of distances whose shape and length he can no longer control.
Every society that imposes compulsory speed submerges transit to the profit of transport. Wherever not only privilege but also elementary necessities are denied to those who do not use high-speed conveyances, an involuntary acceleration of personal rhythms is imposed. Industry dominates traffic as soon as daily life comes to depend on motorized trips.
This profound control of the transportation industry over natural mobility constitutes a monopoly much more pervasive than either the commercial monopoly Ford might win over the automobile market, or the political monopoly car manufacturers might wield against the development of trains and buses. Because of its hidden, entrenched, and structuring nature, I call this a radical monopoly. Any industry exercises this kind of deep-seated monopoly when it becomes the dominant means of satisfying needs that formerly occasioned a personal response. The compulsory consumption of a high-powered commodity (motorized transport) restricts the conditions for enjoying an abundant use-value (the innate capacity for transit). Traffic serves here as the paradigm of a general economic law: Any industrial product that comes in per capita quanta beyond a given intensity exercises a radical monopoly over the satisfaction of a need. Beyond some point, compulsory schooling destroys the environment for learning, medical delivery systems dry up the nontherapeutic sources of health, and transportation smothers traffic.
Radical monopoly is first established by a rearrangement of society for the benefit of those who have access to the larger quanta; then it is enforced by compelling all to consume the minimum quantum in which the output is currently produced. Compulsory consumption will take on a different appearance in industrial branches where information dominates, such as education or medicine, than it will in those branches where quanta can be measured in British thermal units, such as housing, clothing, or transport. The industrial packaging of values will reach critical intensity at different points with different products, but for each major class of outputs, the threshold occurs within an order of magnitude that is theoretically identifiable. The fact that it is possible theoretically to determine the range of speed within which transportation develops a radical monopoly over traffic does not mean that it is possible theoretically to determine just how much of such a monopoly any given society will tolerate. The fact that it is possible to identify a level of compulsory instruction at which learning by seeing and doing declines does not enable the theorist to identify the specific pedagogical limits to the division of labor that a culture will tolerate. Only recourse to juridical and, above all, to political process can lead to the specific, though provisional, measures by which speed or compulsory education will actually be limited in a given society. The magnitude of voluntary limits is a matter of politics; the encroachment of radical monopoly can be pinpointed by social analysis.
A branch of industry does not impose a radical monopoly on a whole society by the simple fact that it produces scarce products, or by driving competing industries off the market, but rather by virtue of its acquired ability to create and shape the need which it alone can satisfy.
Shoes are scarce all over Latin America, and many people never wear them. They walk on the bare soles of their feet, or wear the world's widest variety of excellent sandals, supplied by a range of artisans. Their transit is in no way restricted by their lack of shoes. But in some countries of South America people are compelled to be shod ever since access to schools, jobs, and public services was denied to the barefoot. Teachers or party officials define the lack of shoes as a sign of indifference toward ``progress.'' Without any intentional conspiracy between the promoters of national development and the shoe industry, the barefoot in these countries are now barred from any office.
Schools, like shoes, have been scarce at all times. But it was never the small number of privileged pupils that turned the school into an obstacle for learning. Only when laws were enacted to make schools both compulsory and free did the educator assume the power to deny learning opportunities on the job to the underconsumer of educational therapies. Only when school attendance had become obligatory did it become feasible to impose on all a progressively more complex artificial environment into which the unschooled and unprogrammed do not fit.
The potential of a radical monopoly is unmistakable in the case of traffic. Imagine what would happen if the transportation industry could somehow distribute its output more adequately: a traffic utopia of free rapid transportation for all would inevitably lead to a further expansion of traffic's domain over human life. What would such a utopia look like? Traffic would be organized exclusively around public transportation systems. It would be financed by a progressive tax calculated on income and on the proximity of one's residence to the next terminal and to the job. It would be designed so that everybody could occupy any seat on a first-come, first-served basis: the doctor, the vacationer, and the president would not be assigned any priority of person. In this fool's paradise, all passengers would be equal, but they would be just as equally captive consumers of transport. Each citizen of a motorized utopia would be equally deprived of the use of his feet and equally drafted into the servitude of proliferating networks of transportation.
Certain would-be miracle makers disguised as architects offer a specious escape from the paradox of speed. By their standards, acceleration imposes inequities, time loss, and controlled schedules only because people do not yet live in those patterns and orbits into which vehicles can best place them. These futuristic architects would house and occupy people in self-sufficient units of towers interconnected by tracks for high-speed capsules. Soleri, Doxiadis, or Fuller would solve the problem created by high-speed transport by identifying the entire human habitat with the problem. Rather than asking how the earth's surface can be preserved for people, they ask how reservations necessary for the survival of people can be established on an earth that has been reshaped for the sake of industrial outputs.