Motor manufacturers, oil companies, road builders, and car clubs like the AAA in the US and the RAC in the UK and Australia are powerful transport lobby groups. They have successfully lobbied for years for more road building and greater government spending on infrastructure for cars. They have steered policy away from public transport and towards the private sector.
Governments claim to have encouraged private car ownership as an aspect of choice and for economic reasons. Rather than providing choice, however, government policy has created a situation where individual car ownership is the only convenient means of transportation available and public transport has become marginalised. The only competition which motor transport had, the railway system, was largely dismantled over the years and sold off piecemeal to private owners. To facilitate the expansion of the motorcar, governments continue to build more roads, freeways and motorways. Privatisation and bus deregulation has meant deterioration in public transport and use because of a decrease in availability.
The poor are the losers of private transport policy because they cannot afford the high cost of running a car. Car ownership is a financial burden and a form of economic discrimination. Children are also the losers because it has become unsafe for them to leave their homes and play in the streets. Cyclists are losers because of the dangers of traffic on the roads. People are losers because so many die in accidents every year and because of air and noise pollution and the diseases which pollution causes. With more cars and roads there is less space for living.
The environment is the biggest loser. As more roads are built to keep up with the ever increasing car numbers urban and rural land is chewed up. Wildlife is driven to extinction as their habitat is destroyed.
Transport policy is part of two vicious cycles.
What you can do
Public transport can be improved if there is the will. Write to your government ministers and ask them to spend more on buses, trams, trains and cycle paths.
Use public transport, walk, or use a bicycle. Encourage your friends and peers also. If you must use the car, try car-sharing or pooling. Combine errands into one trip. Keep your engine tuned and tyres at the correct pressure for optimum efficiency of your car. Avoid overfilling your petrol tank and spilling petrol, evaporated fuel releases hydrocarbons. Join local environmental groups and direct action groups such as 'Earth First' and 'Reclaim the Streets'.