America has received a great deal of criticism for its use of individual transportation and dependence on oil because of a lack of mass transit. While in Europe, it was noticeable that most people did not rely on their cars for in city traveling or even city to city travel.
However, also very clear was that Europe’s layout geographically is quite different that the United States. In the United States cities are primarily zoned for business. This area is a surrounded by “suburbs” and then after getting past the suburbs, homes in rural areas can be found between urban locations. In order to get to work, shopping, and other necessities, Americans often do not have the luxury of simply walking to where they need. In all but very urban areas, there is no mass transit system to get individuals from the rural areas into urban areas. Thus, even if an American wanted to use the train to get into town, it is unlikely that one will be available.
In Europe, by contrast, individuals live near urban areas – even in the urban area itself. In the areas visited, individuals could walk to work and shopping. Shopping areas were built in such a manner that they did not even accommodate vehicles. When we traveled from city to city, the urban areas quickly turned rural. However, trains made it easy to travel from one city to another (or even one country to another) without the need for a personal vehicle.
Americans are facing oil prices higher than prices have ever been. Mass transportation and inner city transportation leave much to be desired in the United States. However, without progress in mass transportations, Americans may find themselves unable to afford to put gas in their cars. Remedies that have worked in Europe may not work in the United States because of the difference in geographic layout (and Americans’ love of all things combustion engine powered); however, at some point Americans may need to look to European transportation for ideas of how to reduce the dependence on non-renewable energy.