Restructure communities to be less dependent upon transportation.
ObstaclesThis goal may be mostly applicable to North America which has a large land area and a decentralized population. As a consequence people and supplies are transported over large distances. Up to 40% of the energy usage in the US is devoted to transportation. Altering this behavior requires rebuilding communities so that domicile, work and shopping are more compact.
The love of a private home on a plot of land pushes people into the suburbs and exurbs. They then become dependent on automobiles for access to everything outside the home. Building new compact communities can be expected to provoke strong resistance. People also like the feeling of independence that a private vehicle provides. Changing to mass transit for such persons will require a difficult attitude adjustment.
ImplementationThe government must redirect a steadily increasing amount of research and development money to efficient transport. Innovation in transport, in the recent past, has been underwritten by government subsidy. For air transport this takes the form of paying for military air development which keeps the industry viable and also allows the research results to be transferred to civilian purposes. The same scenario holds for space development. The satellite industry would not have arisen if it could not have built on the developments of NASA and the military.
For domestic, land-based, transport the picture has been less successful. There have been no dramatic changes in either the automobile or railroad industries in decades. The small steps with hybrid- and hydrogen-powered cars have had no impact on the overall industries. Road building pressure continues as always, and the decline of the railroads is continual. What is needed is sponsorship of research in radical new transport schemes. The existing firms with high degrees of technological expertise can go after these new contracts and develop into new areas with long-range potential. The existing automobile manufactures can bid as well or can partner with others to do the R & D and reserve the manufacturing to themselves.
Coupled with this must be changes in living and land use patterns. While "urban sprawl" has been criticized for decades, nothing has been done to alter the pattern. New or dying communities must be given incentives to develop mixed use arrangements where housing, retail and commercial uses are blended in such a way that the need for long distance travel for daily living is reduced. Building use zones which are arranged in parallel, rather than in the hub and spoke pattern as now, can change travel patterns so that most travel is along the short dimension when going from home to shopping or work.
Transportation must be taken as part of a general redesign of land use policies. Currently sprawl is driven by developers who then pressure local governments to supply the needed transportation infrastructure. The profits to be made are large enough that several cases of insider land deals have been given to legislators to influence their support for road projects. This can be reduced by requiring road and mass transit projects to be evaluated by independent, transparent public bodies and eliminating the ability for legislators to insert special purpose funding into bills.