Florida Republican: Vote Down Transit Because Driverless Cars Are Coming

If Tampa voters approve a new spending package today, bus service will be increased 65 percent and the region will move toward developing light rail. Image: Greenlight Pinellas
If St. Petersburg voters approve a new spending package today, bus service will be increased 65 percent and the region will move toward developing light rail. Image: Greenlight Pinellas

St. Petersburg doesn’t need better transit, according to local Republican state legislator Jeff Brandes, because self driving cars are going to make transit irrelevant. That’s why Brandes is fighting a ballot issue to be decided today in Pinellas County that would expand bus service 65 percent, he told Fortune.

It’s a tactic that transit opponents have been using for decades — very similar to how light rail foes used to invoke “personal rapid transit” as the one true transportation technology of the future.

Shane Phillips at Better Institutions says Brandes should take his argument a lot further. If we’re going to start shaping our transportation systems around a technology that doesn’t exist yet, he writes, Pinellas County should begin making a number of big changes immediately. Here are his suggestions:

First, driverless cars can drive much closer together than human-operated vehicles. This will significantly increase roadway capacity and throughput, so we should start eliminating roads and replacing them with bike lanes, sidewalks, parks, and housing. Since self-driving cars are so efficient, we can repurpose all that road space for more productive uses. At the very least we should impose an immediate moratorium on all new road construction, because fiscal conservatism.

Second, driverless cars don’t need to be stored near our destinations because they can just operate as inexpensive taxis all day long, so we should immediately eliminate all parking minimums, requirements for garage construction, and probably disallow curb cuts as well. All that parking we build today is going to be wasted in just a few short years! (What isn’t already being wasted, that is.)

With driverless cars available at our beck and call there will no longer be a need to own your own car, so we should prepare our citizens for this new transportation regime by aggressively promoting car-share services like Zipcar and Car2Go. To make sure they catch on, we may want to ban the use of curbside parking for everyone except car-share users, and give them priority on our highway carpool/toll lanes.

If someone buys a car a decade from now it might have to be junked five years later, once driverless cars take over and become mandatory. We don’t want people to waste their money on such a poor investment, so we should probably just ban cars entirely until scientists get the autonomous vehicle technology locked down. Everyone will have saved so much money that they’ll be able to buy new cars as fast as the factories can churn them out.

If St. Petersburg going to be proactive about this whole self-driving car thing, might as well attack it on all fronts.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Exit 133 reports on a success story from a park in Tacoma, Washington, where people are pleased with the results of new car-free hours. Longbeachize is encouraging all residents to walk to the the polls, which should all be within a 10-minute stroll. And Santa Monica Next reports that the city has added almost as much parking as housing since 2003.

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