Spurred on by the discussion about Driving and Environmental Stewardship, I thought I’d imagine what would happen if everyone just stopped driving. They’d need some sort of compelling reason, so to make this semi realistic, let’s say that during the Super Bowl when millions of people are watching TV, there is a commercial that shows conclusive evidence that driving cars kills babies (It’s got to be drastic right?). What would happen?
Millions call in sick to work, simply because they don’t know how to get there without their vehicle. Those with the 1+ hour commute start looking for other jobs closer to home. Lot’s of other people would take public transportation for the first time. They’d probably get up earlier, walk a few blocks with cash in their pocket to pay the fare and get a transfer slip. The only problem is the bus would probably be late since their ridership has increased 1000% overnight! Lot’s of people would be late to work and to school, but the bosses and teachers would be accommodating as they are making big transportation changes as well. Some in decent climates pull out their bikes and try their commute for the first time on two wheels. Every once in a while you see a car driving down the street, but the looks and scowls they get are frequent. When they arrive to work their bosses call them in and reprimand them for being unethical and not putting forth a positive image of their business, and they threaten to fire them if they don’t find an appropriate way to get to work. To initially accommodate, most businesses shorten their work week by one hour in the morning and night to allow employees time to adjust to their new commutes (which might not be necessary since nobodies really dealing with rush hour traffic anymore).
In One Week:
Cities would respond immediately. Bus routes, buses and bus driver jobs would double or triple, the only delay being how quickly they could get new buses in service. Businesses would make showers available, maybe even create locker rooms for people to use after biking in to their jobs. Tons of entrepreneurs would start-up private buses to fill the gap between public bus services. And in the meanwhile, restaurants and other nightlife experience a serious decline as their only costumers are those within walking distance. The same is true for grocery stores and other shopping centers. The mass of shoppers that filled those stores weeknights and weekends is no longer there, and won’t be; a change needs to be made.
A Few Months:
We are a resilient people and we are still a capitalist society, so the response to this change is fascinating. Large Shopping areas off the highway are like ghost towns. The people that used to work there have changed jobs to similar positions in local business in their own neighborhood. Those of an entrepreneurial spirit have started up coffee shops, grocery stores, hardware shops, barbers, and convenience stores within walking distance of every neighborhood in the country. The stock market declines dramatically as businesses like Walmart, Exxon and GM experience a decline or even absence of sales, but the economy is still booming. Money is circulating on a much more local level now. Instead of a person driving into a shopping center to profit a company from a different state and pay a minimum wage to a person from a different community, the money stays in the neighborhood. A person gets a haircut at the barber who buys his groceries from his neighbors local store who gets a toolset from the local hardware store who tithes to the local church who pays for a homeless women to get an apartment from a local landlord who visits the local barber who just employed the formerly homeless women who just got a job there, and the cycle continues.
And a lot of people move.
It would take less then a year for our entire country to dramatically change. My thoughts are just guesses at some of the changes that might happen if this happened. A mass exodus from the use of personal transportation, because, maybe somewhat indirectly, our gas-guzzling, air-polluting, crash-prone cars really do kill babies.