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Thread: Is living car free a realistic option for most people?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Is living car free a realistic option for most people?

    Chicago, New York, Boston, and a hand full of other major metropolitan cities have the amenities that make living car free a viable option. However, what about in places like middle of no where Iowa? Or the suburbs of Indianapolis and Toledo? Can most people in America realistically live without a car?

    Personally based on the existing state of public transportation (or lack there of) and extremely limited commuter lines, I don’t think that living car free is an option. I have noticed that many places are waving fees for bus and rail service because of the “ozone action day” in efforts to reduce the number of people driving. But does the inconveniencies of waiting in 100 degree weather with a shirt and tie after walking 4 blocks to the nearest stop make it a realistic option? And that is if they have bus service.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I would say that in most places it is not realistic regardless of the weather. There is enough dialogue out there as to why the pattern of development in the US has created the monster that is an auto dependant society.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    ...But does the inconveniencies of waiting in 100 degree weather with a shirt and tie after walking 4 blocks to the nearest stop make it a realistic option? And that is if they have bus service.
    Off-topic:
    AH-HAAA! Let's see here - we could:
    1. Have free cars for everyone.
    2. Have free transit for everyone.
    3. Build a big giant tropodome to give the outside some climate control.
    4. Stop the ridiculous expectation of formal clothes in summer.
    I think option 4 might be the simplest. For further upon this, see this thread: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...formal+clothes

    On-topic:
    I think the biggest impediment people face in trying to live car-free is the conceit of a society that equates resource consumption with happiness. Aside from that, you can easily live car free in cities and suburbs. It's just that when you miss out on certain social activities people tend to judge you, rather than judge themselves as profligate energy hogs. The cities you mentioned are just the places where the car-free face minimized social stigma, because the good transit lets them keep pace with the illusion that the autocentric have - that their way of life is anything but a passing phase of human history.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Or the suburbs of Indianapolis and Toledo? Can most people in America realistically live without a car?
    Indianapolis would have very limited car-free options. It is much too decentralized and the bus system is not very good.

    Dallas and Fort Worth would offer a much larger "car free" world with DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and The T (Fort Worth Transportation Authority) offering both buses and trains and there being several destination nodes. You couldn't get around the entire metroplex by bus or train, but you would have several options for living, working, playing, etc. You can get from Big D to Cowtown, to and from the airport, etc.

    Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona have very small car free worlds.
    JOE ILIFF
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Of course, for most people living car-free is a reality. For most Americans it's a problem due to the built environment (plus laziness, etc).
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
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  6. #6
          bluehour's avatar
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    There are many people living car free in Portland Oregon.......

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Can most people in America realistically live without a car?
    I would say that no, for most people it isn't possible at this time. I did live car free in Burlington, VT for 5 years and used my bike and my feet and an occassional borrowing of a friends car when absolutely necessary. I also lived car free in Honolulu for a couple of years. It involved some long walks, bike rides, and rides on the bus, but the fact that I could take a bus anywhere on the island at most times of the day was huge. I was young and mobile, single, and had a relatively flexible schedule so it worked well.

    Now I couldn't live car free. A wife, kids and a my job all require reliable transportation when I need it. I do live close enough to work to walk/bike and I do that when I can, but the grocery store is too far (especially carrying groceries for a family) as are many other services.

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Car free isn't an option for most of us, including myself. However, I'm looking into ways to reduce my ecologic footprint. The latest to pop into my head is to purchase a small motorcycle rather than driving my car every day to save gas and take up less space on the road.

    I'm waiting to see if the commuter rail becomes reality in my area... if so I will look at moving closer to a transit station and taking my bike. We've been teased too many times about light rail, so I'm not looking to relocate until I see cement poured for the foundation of the transit station.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 01 Aug 2006 at 11:51 AM.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I guess I would just say, "why would you want to live car free"?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    I guess I would just say, "why would you want to live car free"?
    Duh? Think about how much money you could save.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    I guess I would just say, "why would you want to live car free"?

    Because you are an enlightened being who really thinks about things like "the ecosystem" and the genocidal horrors of ....wait for it....the necktie. If we could only wear tie die, be fully bearded, and choose careers that do not involve numbers or financing, all hierarchies, all evil, will disappear.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Duh? Think about how much money you could save
    but hill, actually i would go broke because I'd have to quit my job.

    And I do have a tie on right now.

    This thread is just so many of the other threads here. Its a loop. Let's say I agree and really do want to live without a car (though its hard to get to travel soccer tournements without a car, for instance).

    The only place I can do that really is in a large city such as Boston or NY. BUt I do not want to live in NY.

    So I am left to as srman says efforting to "reduce my footprint"

    And living without a car gets more difficult when you have kids.

  13. #13
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I would love to be able to live car-free (which could be done in many places in Chicagoland), but I would still choose not to be actually car-free.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Realistically, our social networks are as hapazardously put together as our land uses, if not more-so. We all live in one place, work in another, shop in a third, and see doctors all over the place. This excludes houses of worship (which are increasingly becoming huge monstrosities (big-boxed) wiping ouot local churches and forcing longer commutes to services.

    This sort of activity is best serviced by the two car family. We would need to restructure a whole lot of our lives to live car-free. We might be able to take a bus to work, but how would you combine that with a trip in the opposite direction to see a doctor, then get to work after the appointment? How does one live car-free and have children? The only way I would is if I lived next door to a hospital, on a bus line, and across the street from my church that offered daycare.

    My point is our choices are not made logically. Therefore americans buy cars and drive them.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I'm always wary of "solutions" to "problems" that involve doing the opposite of what came before. While it is true that a great amount of our country's inefficiencies, pollution, faceless strip malls, etc. is due to the cultural influence of the automobile, I don't see that the solution is to not drive.

    That being said, my family did just move downtown to lead a more compact life - not just because gas is expensive, but because driving around town all day is gigantic pain in the butt. Nonetheless, I live in New Mexico partly because I enjoy going camping, fishing, etc. which I could never do if I didn't have a vehicle.

    So, I think the answer is not to do away with the car, but to be more sensical and reasonable about its use and even the kind you own. The city should also create an improved public transit infrastructure so that, when it makes sense, people can actually use it to meet their needs (and we are doing this with a new Rapid Ride commuter bus, rail service to Santa Fe coming soon and light rail within the city on the horizon). On a tain or bus you can read, zone out, sleep, whatever. But the amenity needs to be well-designed, friendly, accommodating, etc. Most of the regular bus routes here currently lack posted schedules or even structures or benches - its just a sign on a post baking in the sun. Future development (here at least) should emphasize increased density through infill incentives so there is just more stuff per square mile, making it possible and viable to have a series of smaller, local business districts to meet local needs. Without this density, many small to medium sized businesses have failed because they cannot attract enough patrons from the immediate area.

    Of course people will also need or want to drive across town for this or that purpose and that is partly what the car is good for (that and getting the hell outta dodge). But when it is used for every little trip to get laundry soap or cream (which given the pattern of development in much of my town is usually necessary), the collateral damage is palpable.

    Since we moved, I bike to work. Starting in two weeks, my son will be walking or riding with me to school. We walk to the local grocery store (but still drive to the coop to get certain items) and the local park. Of course we still use the car, but it is perhaps a third as often as before we moved.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  16. #16
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    but hill, actually i would go broke because I'd have to quit my job.

    And I do have a tie on right now.

    This thread is just so many of the other threads here. Its a loop. Let's say I agree and really do want to live without a car (though its hard to get to travel soccer tournements without a car, for instance).

    The only place I can do that really is in a large city such as Boston or NY. BUt I do not want to live in NY.

    So I am left to as srman says efforting to "reduce my footprint"

    And living without a car gets more difficult when you have kids.
    I thought your position was that even if you had the ability to live car free- without any lifestyle sacrifices- you would still choose to own a vehicle. This obviously begs a more interesting question of how much people are in love with their cars.

  17. #17
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Can most people in America realistically live without a car?
    I think the simple answer to this simplistic question is: not if they wish to continue living their present lifestyle. It's all about choices.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    It would be completely possible for me to sell my car and rent or borrow a car once or twice a month to get my kids. No car payment, no insurance, no tags & taxes, no maintenance. I could do it, but as it is I don't have a car payment and I fill up the tank infrequently. If there were bus or train service, I probably wouldn't have one and if my current car dies then I might consider not buying one.

    Segway and walk.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Totally possible for me...in Philly with my bike and Philly Car Share.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I essentially lived car free in Santa Barbara for about 3 years.

    I had a car but never used it.

    Living car free is definately the way to go if you can. Now I commute about 2 hours a day (no fun at all ).

  21. #21
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    It's definitely a dream of mine to live car-free, cause I HATE driving. Sitting on the bus and letting the bus driver take me where I need to go is a much better option. . . . but I think I would still always want the security of owning a car and knowing that I can drive somewhere far away or buy a TV or some drywall and not worry about gettng it home, or have it there for emergencies, although I do live two blocks away from a major hospital. When I severely scalded my arm several years ago I considered walking, but the embarrasment of walking down the street with a bloody arm was enough to make me get in the car and spend 5 mins trying to find a parking space at the hospital.

  22. #22
          Downtown's avatar
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    I just wish we could go back to being a one car family. well, we could, but I'd have to sacrifice my flex-schedule that allows us to only have the sitter for the kids for 3 days a week v. five.

    My work IS within a bikeable distance (3.5 miles), but would be a suicide mission - crossing an interstate on ramp, and the majority of the distance is on collector streets that don't have a shoulder.

    I am fortunate in that all three of the kids' schools are within walkable distance, on safe streets, with no major road crossings, and when Jack gets to kindergarten, I totally plan to start a walkable school bus at least once a week from our neighborhood.



    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    However, I'm looking into ways to reduce my ecologic footprint.
    The Compact

  23. #23
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KissAndRide
    It's definitely a dream of mine to live car-free, cause I HATE driving. Sitting on the bus and letting the bus driver take me where I need to go is a much better option. . . . but I think I would still always want the security of owning a car and knowing that I can drive somewhere far away or buy a TV or some drywall and not worry about gettng it home, or have it there for emergencies, although I do live two blocks away from a major hospital. When I severely scalded my arm several years ago I considered walking, but the embarrasment of walking down the street with a bloody arm was enough to make me get in the car and spend 5 mins trying to find a parking space at the hospital.
    Welcome to Cyburbia - KissAndRide. Chicago is one of the better places to be car-free. Sounds like you're not that far psychologically from being willing to take the plunge - if somewhat ambivalent. I'm sure it is much easier if you've never learned to drive in the first place - let alone owned a car, as is true in my case.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    car free living is a religion in montreal, i love it.

    they are now replacing some parking spots on ste catherine st with bike racks, taking back the streets in a huge symbolic gesture.

  25. #25

    Car Free with a oversized, smelly hockey bag?

    I think I would get lynched. Oy. Trying to get on a subway, bus, mass transit type with an oversize bag and hockey sticks might cause a ruckus.
    Forechecking is overrated.

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