By Dom Nozzi
September 7, 2017
Train travel is so civilized.
Car travel in a car-dependent society is barbarism. And a symptom of a society without a future.
I’m expressing how I feel when I ride a train in Europe and compare that experience to the extremely common rage and frustration that millions and millions of American motorists feel on a regular basis when they drive on American roads. Many drivers are stuck in rush hour traffic nearly every day and feel anything but fun or peacefulness, as some motorists claim they experience when driving.
The curious claim that driving is “fun” and “peaceful” sounds more like what we see in a TV commercial for a Ford.
Nearly always, when I am on a train, by contrast, I think to myself how civilized the experience seems. Personally, I don’t recall ever thinking that in a car. I guess some people feel that way in their hyper-expensive, plush car interiors with tinted glass and expensive sound systems, but the more luxury one experiences inside a car, the more isolated one tends to be from your fellow citizens.
Hypothetically, car travel CAN be somewhat enjoyable (even though I cannot, in a car, walk around or interact with my fellow citizens). But that experience tends to be rare for most Americans, who regularly drive in lower-cost cars on ugly, treeless, strip commercial roads (and isolated from others in their metal boxes). Roads that tend to be crowded and therefore frustrating and environmentally and regionally damaging due to the fact that so many are obligated to drive for nearly all of their trips. And by the fact that cars consume so much space (which makes for crowding even when the number of travelers is small).
One thing I notice, personally, is that on the rare occasions when I drive, I tend to feel a lot of rage and frustration toward others (feelings that are the opposite of what I tend to feel when biking or walking). That rage and frustration is very rare in my life because driving is rare for me, and is mostly caused by the large size of cars, which crowds roads and therefore tends to induce frustrating slowdowns.
In my 35 years of academic and professional work in transportation planning, I have read countless books and reports describing the road rage and bad mood that driving a car induces in people. I don’t recall ever reading about how driving puts people in a good mood. Or makes them feel peaceful. Or feel like they are having fun.
In my experience, even happy, mild-mannered people become angry demons when behind the wheel of a car.
I also notice that on the rare occasions when I am on a train or biking on roads filled with bicyclists (such as during a “critical mass” bike ride or when bicycling side by side with hundreds of other cyclists in a great many cities in Europe), nearly everyone around me seems to be sharing my joy and happiness.
I see a lot of smiles. And fun-loving, friendly people.