The Automobile and the Environment: An International Perspective Prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1978
AuthorsGakenheimer R
Series TitleMIT Press Series in Transportation Studies
Number of Pages544
PublisherMIT Press
CityCambridge, MA
Full Text

The numbers and standard sizes of automobiles may vary widely from one country to another, and so may traffic patterns and driving habits, but the basic environmental problems that are inevitably caused by the automotive explosion—the unrestrained growth of the density and extent of the use of private cars—are found to be much the same worldwide. The papers in this valuable book deal with alternative responses to this common problem, and solutions are proposed for a variety of cases in North America, Western Europe, and the Far East. The prospects for coping with the automobile problem by means of public transit and other auto-free modes are realistically weighed, and innovations for dealing with car use head-on by imposing limits on traffic are put forward.

The book points out that even if automobiles were noiseless and emissionless, "their sheer numbers would still generate a tremendous impact on the environment and on the quality of our lives." To many the massive presence of automobiles is a form of visual congestion, and their fitful motion one more psychological distraction to harass modern man. But even given the international scale of the problem, the papers in this book do not forecast ecological doom. Quite the contrary, as their editor writes, "their flavor is one of hope: they implicitly share the view that the problems are solvable if governments address them firmly. The approaches examined are highly practical, most of them being relatively undemanding of institutional adjustments or changes in social values. Showing their independence from the hardware-oriented approaches prominent in the 1950s and 1960s, the authors share limited faith in technological innovation for the solution of transportation's environmental problems....

"By giving equal weight to the environmental problems of transportation with data from several nations, these papers help to remove the nationalist myopia from transportation studies. While the institutions and values particular to a country set some limits on the options that can be taken, the worldwide awakening of environmental concern has laid the way for exchanging experiences.... Therefore this book serves several important purposes by providing both structured data on the problems and access to foreign experiences."

The first paper is "Environmental Implications of Options in Urban Mobility. Observations of the Environmental Committee of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)." This is followed by "Urban Public Transport: Service Innovations in Operations, Planning, and Technology," by Robert A. Burco; "Methods of Traffic Limitation in Urban Areas," by J. Michael Thomson; "The Automobile and the Environment: Implications for the Planning Process," by Marvin L. Manheim and John H. Suhrbier; "Automobiles and Cities: Strategies for Developing Countries," by Wilfred Owen; and "Automobile Air Pollution and Noise: Implications for Public Policy," by an Ad Hoc Group to the Environment Committee of OECD.