"the end of the day they are profit run organisations"
As if that were a bad thing. I get the distinct feeling that many designers look down on business and profit rather than recognizing them as essential tools toward manifesting your values without the ethically messy compulsion/force baggage.
A perfect example is Whole Foods. Do they make a handsome profit? Absolutely, and good for them. Do they charge a premium for recognizing and accommodating the values of their consumers? Absolutely. Is it a viable business plan? Again, absolutely. Smart companies will learn from this an leverage environmental values to attract savvy consumers. Another example: Patagonia. These businesses are doing quite well and prove that cumbersome, ill-conceived and often costly legislation is really unnecessary.
(don't even get me started on CAFE or Kyoto!)
Robert, you ask,
"This does make sense in theory in terms of economics but do you think this is what would truthfully happen?"
Without a doubt. It's the price differential.It's functioned for every other 'scarce' resource throughout history. As a resource becomes more scarce, the price will naturally rise (sans any meddling). Eventually it will rise to a point where the consumer no longer thinks it's worth it. This combined with the market incentive to innovate, case tested by the likes of Whole Foods, Toyota or Patagonia, spells environmental responsibility and big profits.
You also said:
"most manufacturers want to be seen to be helping or looking for a solution. The company that makes this brave move first will hope that it will bring them more custom due to them appearing to be 'the only one that cares' whereas in truth the main reason maybe for financial gain."
That nails it! That's exactly the way it will go. And if they do that, they deserve financial gain! I look at that as a feature, not a bug, of the system. Everyone wins. I think designers should embrace this instead of fighting it. It's all part of the larger design problem. Design a product that:
2)expresses your values, environmental, social, political, whatever
3)appeals to, and educates the consumers
4)rewards the investors for caring about people and values so they do it more
Nobody wants to be punished or reprimanded into submission and when that's the case, they'll do the bare minimum. (CAFE standards)
Anyway, I'm way off track. (no pun intended) Great posts, and great info on mass transit. It would be great if there were an active dialogue about mass transit. Here's my question, is there a way to make it financially viable? The Boston T is a terrible example.