My father was of “the modern generation.” His first car was a well-used Model A Ford, and he went on to own an assortment of Fords, Plymouths, DeSotos, and Dodges over the years. Oh yes, one year when he worked a lot of overtime in the local factory, he bought a Cadillac. He drove most everywhere he wanted to go. He drove 50 or 60 miles an hour most everywhere. I don’t remember him ever taking a train.
Of course, I am of a still more “modern age,” and I love sports cars. I have owned a number of them, and I have owned several that are very fast. Very fast. Some of my cars would go as fast as 160 miles per hour. Of course, I cannot vouch for that from experience.
I used to commute to the city every day. I would drive my very powerful and very fast sports car to work, traveling down the local superhighway during the height of the rush hour. Many times I averaged 3 or 4 miles an hour for extended periods of time. The traffic into and out of the city often crawls at that speed for hours.
Driving a 6-speed manual transmission isn't much fun in stop-and-go traffic. I gave up driving the car to work. The Corvette sits in my garage most of the time. I switched to the train. The local commuter rail averages 35 mph on my daily commute, the same as it did for Grand-dad back in the 1890s.
I am more like my grandfather than I want to be. The only improvements I see are air conditioning and the wi-fi service on the local commuter trains.
Recently a researcher compared the travel times in the city of London through the years. He noticed that the amount of time it took to go from point A to point B in horse-and-buggy days was the same as it was after automobiles became common. Then he noticed that the time required today to travel the same routes is actually worse during rush hour than it was in horse-and-buggy days.
Newer and more efficient mechanisms attract throngs of people who then clog the system. The results nullify the improvements. The large amount of horse manure in the streets has been replaced by airborne hydrocarbons; both are unwanted byproducts of our transportation systems of the day.
Are we really better off?