These Folks are Surprised that People Like to Drive


These Folks are Surprised that People Like to Drive

Bloomberg labs has published an article by Eric Jaffe on a study done by a bunch of Italian statisticians concerning folks preference to cars over other types of transit, even when it costs more to drive the car than take rapid transit or other types of transportation. Their theory is that drivers are operating irrationally in opposition to their personal best interest. How can that be?

The problem it seems to me is that Eric and Co haven’t asked the right questions. It’s not that drivers pay a tad more to drive than take the subway, its why do they do so. They comment on the fact that sometimes congestion makes travel times longer when one drives, even though most times driving takes less time than other modes.

Is it remotely possible that folks don’t want to be told when to go, when to arrive, and when to leave? The schedule of trains and buses take a lot of freedom of movement out of the process. Is it also possible that drivers actually LIKE driving their own property hither and yon. Malcolm Gladwell put it simply “In spite of everything, and against all logic, I just like to drive.”

I’m sorry to sound cynical, but is it remotely possible that people actually like the freedom private vehicles give them? And they are willing to pay extra for that freedom?

From Barbara Chance:

 But much of the public transit literature about reasons why people don’t ride transit focuses on safety and convenience.  Particularly for women, public transit is fraught with difficult situations around the world.  I quote some of the studies in the book several of us did with David Feehan.  Plus women with children or who must do household tasks consider transit much less viable, let alone convenient.

So “best interest” to me is in the eye of the beholder.

So lets review the bidding –

  • Scheduling — Freedom to come and go as you wish
  • Security – Women don’t feel as secure on Transit
  • Convenience – difficult to deal with kids and shopping
  • It’s simple — I like to drive

If the folks that write the article have an agenda, that’s what the article will say. One person’s “irrational” is another persons “desire.”


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. My reason that can be added to the ones provided by John and Barbara above is the one actually two that I never hear anyone use. The first and most compelling is that there is not a train within 50 miles of where I live and no bus that is empty of people I don’t want to spend the next hour crowded into a tube with. The second, why in the heck do I want to jump on the freeway driving at 20MPH or less for the next hour to and from work? I must be nuts, right. Ok we know the answer to that but this is only concerning driving in traffic. Why, I go over to hwy 290 in Houston and look at bumper to bumper for miles both directions, same with I10 or I 45 or the 405 in Los Angeles. All of these people can’t be nuts. Driving to and from work is the only time in their life they can be alone. No wife or husband, no kids, no boss, nothing but the radio, maybe a call with a friend, and a hot cup of Starbucks. No one is going to get into my world for the next hour.

    This was actually a topic in my Sociology class in 1975 and this is the same answer, with the exception of Starbucks, it was McDonald’s coffee. Almost 50 years and nothing has changed with the morning and evening commute except the cars are nicer and some are electric.

  2. The auto industry spends billions of $’s every year convincing us that the absolute most enjoyable/exciting part of our day is the time we spend driving. For our comfort/pleasure the vehicles come equipped with climate control (including heating and cooling controls for our seats), seats with lumbar support and unlimited ability to adjust, surround sound audio, direct connect/hands free phone/internet connections, a seemingly endless line of “auto” controls so we don’t have to be as focused and are able to relax, and for those times when the road opens up we have adrenaline pumping handling and driving features that make being in the car the most exciting part of our lives.

    When they figure out how to promote mass transit in a manner that competes with all of that then, and only then will we see start to see any major shift away from driving one’s self.

    Number one rule in marketing: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak”

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