The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Greenpeace Opposes the $2500 Car

Protests greet introduction of India's new Tata Nano.

Having been to most countries in Asia, I can't count the number of times I've seen an entire family of five people riding somewhere on a scooter. Yes, one scooter. Rain or shine. When your average salary is a $250/month, you don't buy a car. You ride a scooter, a vehicle which for much of Asia's population is the de facto mode of transportation.

Of course, putting four or five people on a seat meant for one and a half isn't comfortable or even safe. The children have to be constantly held. Occasionally they'll sit on the rear tire shield or stand on the front, skipping the seat entirely. Accidents are common-- and without any sort of protection, even the most trivial often cause serious injury. Exposure to the elements has its health effects, especially for small children who in bad weather typically arrive rain-soaked and covered in mud from foul city streets.

The Indian company Tata is trying to change all that. Its new vehicle, the Nano, has a starting cost of only $2,500. Cheap enough for tens of millions of Asia's carless, it promises to revolutionize life for many in the region. It's also sending environmentalists into bladder-quivering, teeth-chattering rage.

Built by the Indian giant Tata Motors (rumored to be buying the Jaguar brand from Ford), the Nano was formally unveiled today at the New Delhi Motor Show. It has a 33 horsepower engine and a top speed of 65 mph. A radio is optional...but the vehicle meets all emission and safety standards for both the Indian and European market. It gets 50 miles to the gallon, but that's not enough for Greenpeace, whose activists held up banners outside the show to protest the car's introduction. Sunita Narain, head of an Indian environmental organization, called on the government to "tax cars like crazy" to slow their adoption.

The Nano potentially means tens of millions of new cars on world roads. Environmentalists would rather see that not happen. But what about the human cost? Should the burgeoning middle class of India, China, and Southeast Asia be denied a safe, comfortable means of personal transportation?

Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, says, "We live in a country of one billion people, most of whom are denied connectivity. [We] hope to change that". As Tata listed the cars specifications (and price) to an excited crowd, many clapped and even cheered. Clearly the car is popular; possibly even revolutionary.

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