For too long, too much of the discussion about urban mobility and its relationship to sustainability has been locked into an increasingly sterile debate between proponents of public transit and advocates of the automobile. Both sides ignore some inconvenient truths.
Transit enthusiasts point out the inherent efficiencies of high-capacity public-transportation networks, but often neglect to mention that, under most practical circumstances, they offer no solution to the “last-mile” problem. They can get you to approximately where you want to go approximately when you want to get there, but rarely exactly. You still have to get from the nearest transit stop to your actual destination. It is nice to imagine that this problem could be handled by clustering high-density development within convenient walking distance of transit nodes, and sometimes it can—at least partially. But this is far from a general solution. Often, circumstances conspire against it: The distances are too great; it’s impractical for the aged, small children, and the physically impaired; it can expose you to a variety of dangers; it’s unattractive in rainy, snowy, very cold, or very hot weather; and it just doesn’t work if you have a lot of stuff to carry.