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Published on March 7th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Berlin Transport Secretary Thinks Cars On Their Way Out — What’s The Eventual Fate Of Personal Car Use In Major Cities?

March 7th, 2017 by  

Recent comments from Berlin’s Transport Secretary, Jens-Holger Kirchner, included his thought that personal car use in the city was on its way out, and that it is probably the slowest way to get around.

To use his words: “Anyone who drives a car in Berlin has too much time.”

As it stands, despite this apparently being the case (do any residents want to chime in?), around 37% of people in the city still use their own cars on a daily basis — as compared to 30% who use public transit daily.

What’s the reason? Are people just too attached to the flexibility of personal auto travel? Do people prefer the personal space and comfort of their own cars? Do they prefer the ability to travel with more stuff (groceries, work supplies, etc.)? Is it just a status thing?

Perhaps a more interesting question, though, is if Kirchner’s comments have much truth to them — is personal auto use in Berlin on the way out? In other cities as well?

That’s a hard question to answer, as it will probably vary considerably based on the city in question. I have a hard time imagining Los Angeles ever letting go of its car addiction willingly (at this point, how could it?), but if London ends up essentially car-free (excluding taxis) in only two or so decades, I wouldn’t be surprised.

What do those reading this think? Are cars on their way out in some cities owing to traffic and pollution problems? Will they stick around but simply all be transitioned to electrics and autonomous taxis (London’s slow move to exclude heavy polluters from the city center being a template)? Will a move away from parking minimums in some cities play a part?

As a final note here, getting back to Kirchner’s comments, it’s worth noting that he acknowledged that he still uses his car some. And, interestingly, that he was disappointed that he only gets around 17 kilometers (~10 miles) of all-electric range with his car despite the model being advertised as possessing a 45 kilometer (~28 miles) range.

Ah, the dreaded NEDC testing cycle yet again. I have to genuinely wonder if one of the ideas behind it was that, if electric models don’t possess anywhere near the range that they are advertised as possessing, people would dismiss the whole technology as a scam — and the same for fuel economy ratings for supposed efficient petrol/diesel cars.

Photos via Boris-B / Shutterstock.com & A. Savin / Wiki Commons

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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