Can you help me make this analogy more useful?
A household owning a car is like a tiny business hiring a jack-of-all-trades (but master of none ...). Your mobility needs during the course of a whole year can be likened to the skills and labour needs of a new business contemplating its first employee.
Having a car gives you a tool that handles most of your mobility needs. It is like hiring a full-time staffer who is a 'jack-of-all trades'. He or she is versatile but not especially skilled or quick at any particular task. There are significant fixed costs too. You have to pay him or her about the same in both busy times and slow periods.
In both cases there is an alternative.
A family can refrain from getting a car and rely instead on the various alternatives. That's like the small business putting off that first full-time employee and deciding instead to engage a series of contractors to do tasks that the owner-founder can no longer handle, as and when they are needed.
So mobility services for hire, like public transport, taxis, carsharing, car rentals, shared bicycles, are like contract staff or consultants. We pay for them when we need them and only then. No single one of them can beat a jack-of-all-trades or generalist employee. But each can do their specific task better (when all costs are considered).
And when their work is skillfully coordinated (in a project say), they can amount to a team which can give better value than the generalist. The alternative package of services can potentially give more bang for the buck. Some cities try to create mobility packages like that.
Unfortunately, many cities today don't have a full range of high-quality mobility alternatives. That's like a small business in a tiny town, where it might be impossible to find contractors with all the skills the business might need. In such situations we are stuck with our generalists. Or we make do with inferior service.
Even if there are skilled people around, there may be too much hassle and inconvenience involved in finding contractors, paying them and coordinating their schedules. If so, you may give up and buy (I mean hire) that generalist, Mr or Ms Automobile.
Once a small business hires a jack-of-all-trades it will put them to work on a very wide range of tasks, even if they are not the best person for any of them. After all, the jack-of-all-trades is sitting right there in the driveway (oops I mean office). Now you rarely, if ever, even consider those contractors (unless you have a really special task that is beyond even your generalist).
|By Milkmandan on Wikimedia Commons.|