Saturday, March 16, 2013

Many networks

Cars connect (almost) every place to (almost) every place and are a universally popular expression of personal freedom.  Private autos are also scorned by many who are uncomfortable with all that freedom -- but who dress up their displeasure with externalities concerns.  Never mind that externalities are a necessary but not a sufficient conditions for tough policies.  And never mind that policy makers who claim to be right-thinking on these matters have been leery of tolling even as it has been getting easier and cheaper.

But the phone also connects every place to every place.  This brings back the question of whether electronic connection is a substitute or a complement to face-to-face interactions.  But most of these discussions have centered on workplace vs telecommuting.  But most of our trips are not worktrips. Today's LA Times includes "Who needs a car? Smartphones are driving teens' social lives ... Fewer 16-year-olds are rushing to get their driver's licenses today than 30 years ago as smartphones and computers keep adolescents connected to one another."

Policy makers have long placed their hopes of "getting people out of their cars" on old-tech public transit.  That has not worked.  But new-tech seemingly has a shot.

As always, people manage many networks.  They constantly adjust the uses of the many networks at their disposal.  It is always bigger than a question of substitutes or complements.