What is the function of transportation? What place does locomotion occupy in the whole spectrum of human needs? Perhaps, the first step in developing an adequate transportation policy would be to clear our minds of technocratic cant. Those who believe that transportation is the chief end of life should be put in orbit at a safe lunar distance from the earth. They are probably living in their make believe world by placing so much importance to transportation itself.
Though physical movement of people and goods is an important function of transportation, the prime purpose of passenger ransportation is not to ncrease the amount of physical movement but to increase the possibilities for human association, cooperation, personal intercourse, and choice.
A balanced transportation system, accordingly, calls for a balance of resources and facilities and opportunities in every other part of the economy. Neither speed nor mass demand offers a criterion of social efficiency. Hence such limited technocratic proposals as that for high-speed trains between already overcrowded and overextended urban centers would only add to the present lack of functional balance and purposeful organization viewed in terms of human need. Variety of choices, facilities and destinations, not speed alone, is the mark of an organic transportation system. And, incidentally, this is an important factor of safety when any part of the system breaks down. Even confirmed air travelers appreciate the railroad in foul weather.
If we took human needs seriously in recasting the whole transportation system, we should begin with the human body and make the fullest use of pedestrian movement, not only for health but for efficiency in moving large crowds over short distances. The current introduction of shopping malls, free from wheeled traffic, is both a far simpler and far better technical solution than the many costly proposals for introducing moving sidewalks or other rigidly automated modes of locomotion. At every stage we should provide for the right type of locomotion, at the right speed, within the right radius, to meet human needs. Neither maximum speed nor maximum traffic nor maximum distance has by itself any human significance.
With the over-exploitation of the motor car comes an increased demand for engineering equipment, to roll over wider carpets of concrete over the bulldozed landscape and to endow the petroleum magnates of Texas, Venezuela and Arabia with fabulous capacities for personal luxury and political corruption. Finally, the purpose of this system, abetted by similar concentration on planes and rockets, is to keep an increasing volume of motorists and tourists in motion, at the highest possible speed, in a sufficiently, comatose state not to mind the fact that their distant destination has become the exact counterpart of the very place they have left. The end product everywhere is environmental desolation.
If this is the best our technological civilization can do to satisfy genuine human needs and nurture mans further development, its plainly time to close up shop. If indeed we go farther and faster along this route, there is plenty of evidence to show that the shop will close up without our help. Behind our power blackouts, our polluted environments, our transportation breakdowns, our nuclear threats, is a failure of mind. Technocratic anesthesia has put us to sleep. Results that were predictable and predicted! half a century ago without awakening any response still find us unready to copy with them or even to admit their existence.