A car lane is a car lane, whether it be for normal cars, electric cars, or driverless cars. The average car lane is 12 feet wide. The most number of cars that can pass on a given lane of traffic in an hour is 1800 cars, or one car every two seconds. The average number of people traveling per car is 1.5, so at most, 2700 people per hour per lane of traffic.
A bus lane is also 12 feet wide. A BRT system like Bogota, Colombia has more than one bus per minute during peak hours. With a bi-articulated bus every minute carrying 300 people, one bus lane can carry 18,000 people per hour. One bus lane, the same width as a car lane, can carry six times more people than cars do. Or to put it in simple terms, 12 feet of bus lane moves the same number of people as 72 feet of car lanes, or six lanes. In other words, if we designed a society where freedom of movement is based on public transit instead of the car, we could transport everybody using 1/6th the space.
A rail car is at most 11 feet wide (rail cars are wider than the tracks). Say with 14 feet between each train for the wiring support structure, one pair of light rail tracks would use 36 feet of space. Generally speaking, the highest frequency for trains in a metro system is 90 seconds, so 40 trains an hour. With 800 capacity, that’s 36,000 people per hour each direction. Both directions that’s 72,000 per hour, moving in 36 feet of space, or the width of three car lanes. To move that many people by car would require 13 lanes each direction, or 312 feet of space. So basically, light rail can carry the same amount of people as 26 lanes of cars, using 1/8th the amount of space.
High speed rail is similar to light rail in terms of the space it uses up. 36 feet of space for a pair of tracks. The highest frequency they can run at is one every four minutes, or 15 trains per hour. Using the France TGV double decker trains which can hold 800 people, you’d move 15,000 people each direction per hour. 30,000 people both directions per hour. If two cities are 220 miles apart, and the high speed rail train runs at 220mph, it takes the train one hour. A freeway going through rural areas is four lanes, or 48 feet of space, usually with a speed limit of 70mph. If, in an hour, you have peak traffic leave one city for the other, with 1.5 people per car, 1800 cars per lane, then each direction, in that first hour, you have 5400 people on the move. From the time the first cars leave one city until the time the last cars arrive at the other city, four hours go by. In that time, there will have been 60,000 moved by train. In other words, the time it takes 5400 people by car to travel 220 miles, high speed rail can move 60,000 people. Both directions, by car, it’d take four hours to move 10800 people 220 miles, whereas by train 120,000 people will have moved both directions between the two cities. Or basically, the train can move 30,000 people both directions in an hour. So the train can move nearly three times as many people in an hour as it takes by cars to move in four hours. So really, high speed rail can move nearly 12 times as many people as the car using ¾ the space.
For the car to match the capacity of the train, you’d need six lanes each direction, or 12 lanes total. You’d have 16200 people moving each direction, or 32400 people total. It’d still take four hours from the first car leaving to the last car arriving. In that same four hour period, 120,000 people go by train. Which means that in a four hour period, for a distance of 220 miles, high speed rail would be moving nearly four times as many people as by car, using ¼ the space. In other words, high speed rail moves more people than the car in a shorter time span using less public space, or as some call it, the commons.
In a society where freedom of movement is designed around and based on public transit, at worst we would only need 1/6th the space to move everyone within the cities, and at worst ¾ the space in rural areas between cities. Imagine what we could do with all of that now unused space. Five of every six roads wouldn’t be needed. We could grow community food gardens where there currently are roads. We could build more affordable housing. We could build more schools. We could build parks and playgrounds. We could turn the roads into green spaces with trees to reduce the urban heat island effect. With 1/6th the roads, it means we’d get rid of 5/6th’s of the streetlights, which would greatly reduce light pollution and re-darken the night sky, allowing us to see the stars again. With 83% fewer roads, communities would become more connected and safer. People would be happier. A society where freedom of movement is based on public transit and not the car would improve everyone’s mental health. It’d bring people together, reducing the cancer of individualism, reducing loneliness and alienation.
All in all, as a way of moving people from Point A to Point B, the car, whether it be a normal gas car, an electric car or a driverless car, it’s a waste of space. That’s not even taking into account the amount of space dedicated to cars for parking, which is insane! So yea, the car is a big fucking waste of space. The car is the most inefficient and wasteful way of moving people around. It is a plague on this planet, both in terms of its impact on the environment, and on its impact to human society.