Posts Tagged ‘public transportation’

I’m Car-Lite and I’m All Right

October 14, 2010

I’m in my second week of taking the rail to work, and I feel pretty good about how it’s going. It’s cold early in the morning, and today the sky looked like it wanted to start pouring down at any moment and I don’t have an umbrella or rain coat, and it sucks having to sometimes wait up to twenty minutes for the next train if I missed the one I meant to take – but I still feel that it’s worth doing.

I save 30 miles every day that I take the rail instead of driving. I knit, read, or nap on the train, things I definitely can’t do in my car. I no longer have the ability to just jump in the car and drive to the closest McDonald’s if the cafeteria here at work is closed, so that means that I don’t work through my lunch time anymore; I take the time to stop and eat in the middle of my workday, which is something that I rarely did before.

Not everyone can give up their cars full-time or even part-time like me. I’m fortunate to have a public transport system that’s fairly convenient, a job that does not have rigid hours (so it doesn’t matter if I oversleep, I can still afford to take the train and be an hour and a half late…like I did today), and no disabilities that require private travel in a vehicle. The fact that going car-lite is an option available to me because of my various privileges is something that I’m sorry to say that I failed to acknowledge in my last post about killing my car.

The public discourse regarding driving and its effect on the environment for the most part does not seem to take into account all of the people who, for a myriad of reasons, really CAN’T ride a bike or take the train or walk to work or the grocery store. There are definitely people for whom cars are a luxury (I would count myself among them), but there are plenty for whom cars are a necessity. There are people who literally NEED their cars to either support themselves, their livelihoods, or their families. Public transportation can only go so far, and there are definitely limits in accessibility (wheelchair ramps are really not the end-all, be-all of accessibility, ya’ll) on trains and busses.

We need to expand the dialogue to include those who have been left out if we really intend to find solutions. Some people will always need private vehicles, but there are others who are currently locked out of non-vehicular travel options and they need not be.

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Kill Your Car: Thoughts on Autocide

September 6, 2010

To say that I’m not a fan of driving would be an understatement.

I fucking hate owning a car. I got my license on my 16th birthday, and like most privileged teenagers I was ecstatic over the sudden “freedom” I had. That feeling dissolved pretty quickly, as my parents  quickly made me my brother’s chauffeur. For some reason they didn’t want him to stay after school any later than humanly possible, so I was forced to quit every one of my beloved extra-curricular activities for my last two years of high school so that I could pick him up at the earliest possible moment. He, on the other hand, was free to join after-school clubs and sports, and then promptly sucked at telling me when he had practice or not, so that I spent entirely too much time waiting in the parking lot for him to finish (time that could have been spent on my own after-school passions). I rarely went into the school to find him because I was almost always sexually harassed by the students (it was an all-boy Catholic school).

Not that I’m still bitter or anything (okay, maybe I am, a little), but that experience ruined the fun of driving for me pretty quickly. It never came back. Since then I’ve always seen driving as a chore, something that has to be done or else nothing else in my life would go right: I wouldn’t get to work, I wouldn’t get food, I wouldn’t have fun, blah blah blah.

My brother and I were not allowed to take public transportation when we were younger, so I am embarrassingly ignorant and afraid of it. Even as recently as two years ago, when I took the train to work for a week or two while my car was in the shop, my mother practically begged me not to do it, bringing up tales of commuters being assaulted or murdered while on the trains. (She does the same thing every time we make the six-hour drive to visit Marcus’ family, even though we drive; in the months leading up to a trip, she tries to talk us out of it, talks to us as if we are doomed to die on the road, and frets aloud that she’ll never see any of us again.)

I put down a deposit on a road bike, which I will be picking up this Friday (Squeee! Can’t wait!). I started doing some reading about riding safely in the road (which I’ve also never done; you can imagine my mom’s reaction to the very thought of it), and started thinking about commuting to work. It’s something I’d have to work myself up to, of course; I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life (I blame that on the baby), but I’m no stranger to physical challenge either. If I can ride a unicycle 15 miles (which I have done and would like to do again someday), then I can ride a bike just 10 miles. It would take about an hour one way (according to Google; that seems too long to me), but I could always take public transportation back at the end of the day, if I felt like it. I could even alternate riding and driving (drive one day with the bike on the car, bike back home, bike to work the next day, drive back home, repeat) until I build myself up to making a round trip commute.

I just…really hate my car. I really hate the obligation I have to my car. A quick list of the pros:

  • Having a method of transportation in bad weather
  • Being able to go somewhere on the spur of the moment
  • Transporting the baby
  • Transporting stuff

And the cons:

  • Gas ($)
  • Insurance ($)
  • Car note ($)
  • Repairs ($)
  • Maintenance ($)
  • Traffic jams
  • Registration ($)
  • Inspection ($)
  • Time spent in the car is sedentary (unlike walking or biking)
  • Can’t study/read/write while driving (unlike on public transport)
  • Parking meters and garages ($)
  • Parking tickets ($)
  • Tolls ($)
  • Destroys the environment
  • Makes it easier to make large impulse purchases
  • Makes it easier to get fast food
  • I hate the actual act of driving

As you can see, my list of cons is much longer than my list of pros. And we could save a truly significant amount of money. But the times that we need a car, we really need a car. Fortunately, there are other ways of obtaining a car other than owning one: renting one, sharing one through service such as Zipcar, borrowing one. And the public transportation around here is not the most reliable; if I really want to get somewhere that’s not in biking distance, I’d have to be very prepared for possible delays. But I’m just not convinced that a life without car ownership is doomed to be miserable, tedious, or worrisome. So many people manage it out of necessity; I don’t think that it would be impossible for us to figure it out.

If we didn’t have to worry about getting Eve to daycare, I would have a serious talk with Marcus about just getting rid of the car altogether. But since we do have her, the best we can do is to try to go car-lite instead of car-free. I’m going to track my mileage this week (a normal non-daycare week) and then see how low we can bring that number. At least we only have one car to worry about instead of two.

And in the meantime I’ll dream about the day that I can kill my car and (most importantly) my dependence on it.

Shitty little Chevy, I wish I could quit you.