One of my favorite shows on television is BBC's Top Gear; just because I've given up my car doesn't mean that I have to give up my appreciation for the engineering and design of automobiles. Something that the show features from time to time are races between varying forms of transportation. Last nights episode had the British trio race from one side of the Japanese island to the East side of Tokyo Bay with one of the host driving a new Nissan GT-R and the other two taking mass transit. The cars route was far easier and more direct with 130 miles less distance to cover and no speeding restrictions on his part. The mass transit duo took Japan's high speed train, followed by a bus, bike, ferry, and finally a tram ride (talk about a multi-modal journey). With all the extra time that switching transportation modes entails, the GT-R won the race by only three minutes.
While the car may have won (a sports car at that, if it had been a regular vehicle that most people can afford the mass transit guys would have won) this just shows that mass transit is competitive with vehicle travel and beats it by far if one is to consider the cost, both private and public) of the two transportation options.
I recall another such challenge the show put on between transportation options, this time through the heart of London during rush hour. The modes chosen were more numerous, including car, bicycle, bus, and by boat. Of course the car came in last. And finally to illustrate my point, another such race was between a car and a marathon runner over the course of the London marathon; the runner beat the car by more than twenty minutes.
Whats great about all this is the irony of a car being beaten consistently while featured on a show dedicated to cars. If three British car fanatics can honestly admit that in many situations mass transit is an easier and more efficient way to travel, why is it so hard for us Americans to accept?
21 minutes ago