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Reader feedback: Stop feeding the habit

Re: Reader feedback: Develop rail system, Volume 11, Number 25, June 27-July 23, 2005

Why countries repeatedly make the same mistakes in dealing with automobile addiction is a question I spend a lot of time trying to answer.

I suspect that the problem lies in whatever is the cause of auto addiction. For some reason, which I cannot understand, addicts feel that autos give them a sense of freedom or power.

Since autos, like cocaine, are wildly expensive, the first people to acquire them in a developing economy are the rich or newly successful, like the lawyers and businessmen. These are also the people who have the most influence on public policy. Rather than having a social conscience, perhaps they feel it is their right to create filthy noise and air pollution that everyone else has to suffer.

As a country continues to develop, the next economic tier of people wants to inflict their noise and stink on the group even lower down, and in turn, the next lower group gets addicted. Money is diverted to highways and auto addicted culture. Rail transportation rapidly degenerates and the nation turns into a country of traffic jams.

This pattern of addiction happens again and again. The United States first became addicted after World War II, over sixty years ago; Slovenia and Sri Lanka became addicted in the last 15 years. Addicts are just beginning to take hold in Slovakia, unfortunately.

What can be done? The pattern shows that as auto-addiction spreads, public policy allows railroads to degenerate and cities and villages burn out, leading to a whole host of social problems.

Personally, my disgust for auto-addiction has made me so cynical that I think that nothing short of much higher oil prices can curb it; addicts will simply no longer be able to feed their habit.

More positively, perhaps educational programmes showing the hazards of auto-addiction could be helpful; like highlighting traffic jams, urban blight and smog, as well as the suffering caused by wars created by the thirst for oil.

Like cigarette smoking, auto-use is simply a filthy habit that without education, is almost impossible for addicts to break.

Michael,
New York, USA

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