By on November 14, 2009

I keep on having this one strange dream. I open my front door. The driveway is completely gone. The street is gone. In fact, there isn’t a single piece of asphalt anywhere. What was once the road is now just grass with a few basketball and tennis courts on the far side. There’s a softball field hidden in seclusion along with a volleyball court, a small library, and an arts and crafts center. While wandering even further, past several other asphalt-free houses, I finally come onto a single road. I see about a half dozen vehicles nearby available for everyone. All of them old, but in good running order. Is this a good thing?

As much as I love cars, I can see a time where driveways and garages will simply be considered wastes of space. This obviously won’t be a turn in history that is brought to you by government intervention or politics du jour. Simply put, priorities are changing. For most folks the cost of car ownership has become a burden and the lack of walkable space has been troubling.

As an enthusiast, I obviously see the value in owning what we love. Frugality and fun are pretty much what I write about when it comes to cars. But after twenty years of enthusiasm I am also getting burned out on the idea. So here’s my thought. Would you be willing trade in the garage and driveway for a variety of amenities you could walk to?

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44 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Misguided Dream?...”

  • avatar

    You’re dreaming about living in Cuba?

  • avatar
    Mark out West

    Okay, Al, we know it’s you.  Now back to your Tennessee eco-mansion.

  • avatar

    I can walk to work, restaurants, bars, shops, museums, the golf course.  Can’t walk to the grocery store but that’s about it.  I have a garage and two Miatas.  Life is good.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Steve, we haven’t quite torn up our streets here in Eugene, although we have a contingent advocating for just that. But to a large extent, we’re living your dream. Stephanie and I walk everywhere: last night to the movies; to concerts, bar,or to go out to eat, just for exercise, and to look for the old dinosaurs that make up Curbside Classics. I haven’t driven my poor neglected car in over a week or more. I use it almost exclusively to go to the coast and mountains for hiking, which means very enjoyable driving. Driving is mostly a recreational activity for me. That’s probably why I still like it.

    • 0 avatar

      Paul: my Mother lives in Newport. Any drive on those roads is a recreational activity.
      Don’t know if I could hack Eugene, I lived in San Francisco light [W. Hollywood and still work there] for years and the whole “urban” lifestyle thing is highly overrated.

      The social engineers love to wring their hands about “not interacting with our neighbors”, but after dealing with people all day long at work: excuse me, I just want to be left the H alone in my own world. The suburbs work just great.

      There was a great protest in West Hollywood because people were putting up tall hedges around their property as a privacy measusre and the city council jumped to put a stop to that. They claimed it ruined the “walkable village” environment for evil property owners to want to shut out the city and the prying eyes of strangers with vegetation. It gave the city planner jack boots fits. Not what they planned for people to do.

      I hate that type of small town city council nanny -ism.

      But then, I would rather live in a yurt by the Salton Sea, I think. With 3 or 4 cars.

  • avatar
    George B

    No!  I enjoy driving and part of the value of a home in the suburbs is not being within walking distance for the riff-raff at the other side of town.  However, I do like the compromise of being able to drive to new mixed use developments with shops, restaurants, and bars mixed with apartments or condos.  Nice to be able to find parking once and then walk around.  The residential tends to fill the adjacent bars and restaurants with a consistent number of people, making the development more exciting to visit.

  • avatar

    I’ll echo everything Paul just said.

    I’ve always found suburban life to be painfully boring and filled with unnecessary travel. All of the hassles of country life without any of the benefits. I think in many cases, the garage and driveway are already a waste of space (how many people can even fit a car in their garage with it so loaded up with stuff they don’t even want or use to begin with?)

    I live in the city, can and do walk to almost everything I need. My commuting and occasional off-roading are done by a dual sport motorcycle that gets 70mpg, and the Volvo V90 is there for hauling and enjoyable longer-distance trips. I know you tend to knock the inline 6 as being the engine to avoid… but having a large, reasonably powerful, rear wheel drive, gas-sucking monster straddling the line between old-fashioned American iron and European GT (really, the 960/V90 is a hell of a car) is a lot more enjoyable – and less detrimental to the machine itself – when you don’t have to use it for the mundane day to day stop and go missions.

    Having moved to the Northwest recently, I’m beginning to get used to the thought police spouting their nonsense, sometimes at me for having a big car. But doing it this way is probably greener than running a PC-friendly efficient car all over creation day in and day out, and is surely way more enjoyable.

  • avatar

    You guys are basically describing Zipcar:

    If you need a truck to move something, then find one and zip-rent it for a while.  And since this is run by a private company (unlike the Public Bike Program in France ) it’s actually well executed and only impacts those who wish to participate. For individuals you can ride a bicycle for most things, and even simple groceries can be handled on a bicycle.

    The tough part is for families with many kids and kid-obligations.  You can’t take a kid to soccer and another to karate on a bicycle… and many parents don’t even trust their kids to ride to school anymore due to the fear of kidnappers and pedophiles.

  • avatar

    Hey! I only have 1 miata.

  • avatar

    I walk to work and can walk pretty much everywhere I need to otherwise.  The car I have is a gas guzzling death machine that gets used once (maybe twice) a week and is awfully entertaining.
    I don’t think driveways ever existed in this city, I would love to have a garage though.  It would be reserved more for motorcycle and tool storage though, the car can stay outside on the street.
    Vancouver BC has a company called Translink that looks after all of the road maintenance, construction and public transit.  They have a conflicting mandate where the bulk of their funding is from a vehicle  gas tax and transit tickets yet their priority is supposed to be pedestrians and cyclists.  Snow doesn’t get cleared from most streets when it does fall in the winter so riding a bicycle isn’t a reliable option to get to work for much of the year.
    Reguardless of what mode of transport you choose, getting around this town is miserable.  People try to live as close as possible to where they work (a good thing) but the lack of housing for people to buy forces people into the outskirts and causes housing costs to sky rocket.   No one wants to raise a family on the 25th floor of a leaky 3/4 million dollar condo.
    The people I know who have gotten involved in the time share car thingies haven’t had a lot of luck with them.  Apparently getting vehicles that are unsafe and have unreported damage is common place.    There are plenty of cheap and reliable cars around and insurance isn’t an issue in BC until you are at fault in an accident.  Keeping a car around isn’t really expensive, pretty much everyone has a beater stuffed somewhere (if not a leased 3 series or a work car).

  • avatar

    The biggest problems I see with cars are when people throw other parts of life out of balance in their favor.

    Having a car to drive, a driveway to park it in and a garage to where I can work on it are all, in and of themselves, useful to me.  But how much is too much?

    My garage is modest, and so are my cars.  My driveway is exceedingly small.  Sometimes I’d like more shop space, and sometimes I lust for a nice, new ride of some kind.  But when I take a breath and think clearly, I am fine with what I have.  A man has to know his limitations… if I had to make payments on some stylish new whip, that would throw other things out of balance, like having a decent savings account, no debt and money available for the other pleasures of life.  If I built a bigger garage, I’d lose my vegetable garden.  If I wanted a larger driveway, I’d probably have to move, as my inner city lot just isn’t very big.   And if I moved out of my city, I’d have to drive more… a lot more.  Instead of driving being a treat, it’d be a chore and something I’d learn to hate… and when gas gets more expensive (a certainty), I’d hate it even more.

    I like my cars, I love to go for a drive to work on them.  I also like to walk and ride my bicycle to run errands or see friends without feeling like I’m some kind of alien, constantly in danger of being run down.  I like living in a place that has a little of everything within a reasonable distance instead of all the houses over here, all the shops way over there, all the industry and jobs someplace else and drive, drive, drive to get to any of them.

    I’d hate to be forced to look at having a car as an either/or equation.  I think it is still possible to have one without having it define or take over your life, but you have to make choices and compromises. 

    Neither living in a cul-de-sac hell and commuting hours a day or living without a car entirely sound like much fun to me, but unfortunately, those seem to be the options that are available with the current trends I see in development.

  • avatar

    Been there, done that. But the other factors involved in city life outweighed the convenience. Those factors were: high taxes, a seemingly endless stream of corrupt elected officials, crime and poor schools. It wasn’t even convenient to my job. I now live in outer suburbia and commute half the distance I did previously, to the same location in inner suburbia. Taxes similar level, no crime (except mailbox baseball), decent schools and we throw the elected bums out regularly pour encourager les autres.

    The number one way to get me back in the city I left would be honest government. In other words, its impossible.

  • avatar
    Darwin Hatheway

    Paul Niedermeyer is right… if it’s not a chore, you’re free to enjoy it.

    I live very close to work; we chose that deliberately.  It’s a barely walkable commute  (3 miles, 45 minutes), somewhat more readily bikeable (12 minutes but there’s a very nasty intersection).  I do drive fairly often but at least it’s  a brief trip that costs little and takes little time.  If there was a public transit option, I’d use it.

    We could live further out but why spend an hour or more per day in traffic?  Think of the things you could do with that hour.  Why do people want an extra hour away from their famillies?  If I was forced to commute for an hour, I’d greatly prefer to ride mass transit and read.  Even here, the commuter express busses are becoming more popular.

    Beyond Steve Lang’s car sharing, which is a great idea…  Why own a big yard and spend the weekend mowing it?  Why not share more and accumulate less?  Group houses with very small yards (large enough for a deck, the grill and a few flowers) around and along shared space that’s big enough to be versatile.  It seems to me that many of us are into avoiding our neighbors and communities.   We want to own large, private machines to get ourselves around town in isolation and then own large, private buffers to keep perfectly decent people at bay.

    I’d be happy to live closer to the neighbors and live in a more readily walkable/bikeable town.

  • avatar

    I’d trade the driveway (I have no garage) if I still had a street to park the car. I love my car, and I love the daily driving I do, even though by enthusiast standards, it’s fairly boring. A day I don’t drive is a day of going without. That said, Paul makes Eugene sound awfully tempting, and when I visit Manhattan, I often think I’d enjoy living there. Or Paris, where I lived at age 12, long before I knew what to do with a city.

    • 0 avatar

      +1: even a trip to the grocery store is still a treat. However, not driving or having to go anywhere for anything one day a week, or two, even, is also nice.

      Taking public transport to my job would add an hour to my work day each way.  On the rare occasion when I want amenities, I’ll drive there.

      I use 6-7 gallons of gas a week. I think I’d rather keep my cars.

      Given the choice of more “amenities” or a 3 car garage: I’ll take the garage anyday.

  • avatar

    I’d make the trade, but simply giving up my garage and driveway wouldn’t transform my world in to one where I could walk to amenities.     It’s taken us about a century to make life w/o car unworkable for most people.    It may take another century to make it workable to live w/o car.

  • avatar

    No.  My friends are all over the country, and I enjoy road trips.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Where I am right now, 100 years ago you walked if you were poor, rode a horse if you had some money, and rode in a carriage if you had some more money. You went 10 miles to town once a month, and allotted a week via train and/or boat to go to the city and back. You also raised your own hogs and chickens, grew your own vegetables, and got together with your neighbors to raise a pittance in order to fund a sixth month of school for your kids.

    I’d just as soon keep the roads and cars.

  • avatar

    A community where you can walk to everything is a logistical impossibility. Make a list of everything you need such as a job, stores, schools, entertainment, doctors and hospitals. Draw a border at the limit of your willingness to walk. Now, try to cram everything inside the border. Unless you are satisfied with a very small life, it won’t all fit.

    Suppose you live within walking distance of work. What will you do if you lose or quit that job? Are you willing to make do with whatever job you can find that is still within walking distance or will you move and start a new life close to the new job? What if more than one person in your household works? That compounds the problem.

    Suppose you don’t like the food at the neighborhood bar and grill. Will there be an alternative within walking distance? Can one neighborhood support several restaurants with different menus and price levels?

    Not everyone likes the same set of amenities. Personally, I don’t care about tennis and basketball courts or ball fields of any kind. However, I do want a boarding stable and two or three hundred acres on which to ride. For a place to ride, I could make do with a park. (If you go for a walk in the same park, watch where you step.) The park would also be a nice place to set up our astronomical telescope. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to see much unless the city imposed draconian restrictions on outdoor lighting.

    Our city, with a population of half a million, has a library system with twelve branches. We are fortunate in living only three miles from one of them. Still, a trip to the library on foot would take two hours. The city can barely afford the present system. Locating a branch in every neighborhood would be unaffordable.

    • 0 avatar

      >A community where you can walk to everything is a logistical impossibility.
      I’m pretty confident that there are a number of Manhattanites who would disagree. I concur that it’s not a good choice (or even possibility) for many, but “impossibility” is too strong a word IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Manhattan would be miserable without the availability of the subways and/or taxi cabs. Also, the majority of people who work in Manhattan have to commute in there from some distance as there isn’t nearly enough housing to hold all the workers.

        • 0 avatar
          Daniel J. Stern

          If absolutely nothing else, the possession and use of car horns and alarms needs to be heavily, heavily criminalized in NYC. Stiff fines, revocation of licence, forfeiture and on-the-spot crushing of vehicle so equipped. Traffic in NYC is completely ridiculous; nobody moves anywhere, they just crawl along at about a block every four to six minutes. You can easily walk the length of the block both directions in that time. My grandfather can walk the length of the block both directions in that time, and he’s dead. Y’know what? Screw criminalizing horns and alarms, cars need to be banned outright in NYC. Every last one of them. Every single one, out of the city by 10 days from today, never to return on threat of immediate confiscation and crushing. Then the emergency vehicles won’t need sirens!

          Taxicabs: Maybe, but please, let’s not have any more of this idiocy of idling 4.6-litre V8 engines all day long at 15 mph. Withdraw all the Clown Victorias and silly SUVs and replace them with slow, quiet London taxicabs with efficient clean-diesel engines not capable of jackrabbit acceleration, with unboosted brakes, nonpower steering, and manual transmissions. Cars, in other words, that would force their drivers to plan ahead and drive conservatively using both hands. And they’d be equipped with no NSFWing horns!

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I put about 1000 miles a week on  an  E 150.  For vacations, I  go to old BMW events.  I fix ’em myself.  I figure I’m  good for another 25-30 yrs.  I  hope  my  life style  is.

  • avatar

    Living in the Pacific Northwest… Not until we get covered walkways everywhere.
    As for the rest of Canada? Make that covered, temperature controlled walkways.

  • avatar

    The dream described is not practical in more northern climates. I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a large Canadian city on the prairies (small by American or international cities) of 700,000 inhabitants. I reside in a city where I am no more than a 40 minute drive from one end of the city to the other. I am a suburb denizen, by choice, and am a 10 minute walk from any neccessities, and no more than a 20 minute bicycle ride from almost anything I would ever need in  life. I have the typical 1500 square foot ranch style bungalow, with a 60 foot driveway and a picket fence. My truck gets less than 6,000 kilometers use each year because during clement weather I ride my bike or walk whenever possible. If I lived in a more temperate climate I would not want a car at all, but I believe that puts me firmly in the minority. I have a vehicle more as a matter of choice than neccessity.

  • avatar

    I (actually, we) live in the country, deliberately.  Three miles from the wide spot in the road that is my home town and post office.  Fifteen miles from the outskirts of Richmond.  Twenty one miles from work.  Thirty five miles from the center of Richmond.
    I like privacy – my “yard” is 400 square feet of grass and ten acres of woods.  I’ve got a half mile of mountain biking trails in the woods, would have more but the maintenance and upkeep levels self-limits me.  I’ve also got a nice pistol/rifle/blackpowder range off the back yard.
    I bicycle into town, split the commute to work between a 150cc scooter (primary), three motorcycles, a Porsche 924S, and an S-10.  When I work Saturday during the warm weather, I bicycle to work.  Hour and a half each way, and I feel great at the end of the ride.
    No, I don’t want to live in an urban environment.  The colorful, gritty denizens of the urban byways became much less tolerable, nay, absolute pain-in-the-asses once I grew out of my glam rock later punk rock lifestyle.  I don’t need the restrictions necessary when you live cheek-to-jowl.
    I like not having to lock my doors when I leave the house, and have enough privacy to erotically play with my wife on the back porch or in the yard at high noon should the desire strike us.  I don’t want to have to listen to the neighbors shouting, police sirens at any hour of the night, or worry about having my car broken into, or once of my two-wheelers stolen because someone figured out how to defeat my lock and chain.

    And if worse comes to worse, I want to be assured that the local sheriff’s deputy is going to listen to ME while I explain why the guy who just tried breaking into my house is sporting a couple of 9mm sized holes in him.  My experiences with urban life in the past convinced me long ago that “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t necessarily apply to defending one’s home.
    To live in the country, ICE powered vehicles are a necessity, and will probably continue to be for the remaining 20+ years I can reasonably count on.  So be it.  May all my vehicles put the same kind of smile on my face that my Porsche and pair of Triumphs currently do.

  • avatar

    I could probably downsize to a Honda Beat, but I couldn’t give up a car entirely.

  • avatar

    That’s a great way to live. About all I would change for myself is to add a couple of horses and delete the motorcycles and bicycles.

  • avatar

    I not only am one of those people who will be without a car when my arthritic feeble fingers and Alzheimerish head are pried from the driver’s seat – hopefully a long time in the future – but I’ve found that I enjoy suburban living as well. Admittedly we have a good group here in the culdesac, three couples of different ages but similar philosophies of life and only one nutbag, and we’re close enough but not too close. I like to be able to buy things at good prices at Costco when they’re something we can store, as well as having the room to store them. I couldn’t feature having to stop at a little high-priced grocery store every day because that was the only store within walking/biking distance. I like the detached shop/garage that has room for three cars and my license plate collection.
    When I still worked, I tried the worker bus at a previous residence and for a while did part of my commute by foot ferry. But for the last twenty years or so I carpooled with another employee; we probably drove together an average of 3-4 days a week. It was less hassle that way, and easy to change if one of us needed to do something else on the way to or from work.
    The only real disadvantage of living out here among the fir trees is that we have several power outages each winter.

  • avatar

    Did the urban thing, did the country thing, now back to the burbs. I’m fortunate to live near a mid sized midwestern city that has many of the amenities of larger cities (i.e. public transportation, a decent downtown) and the near suburbs are still quite liveable. My wife and I share three cars, in addition to my kid’s cars but we only have a one car garage. It makes for some very interesting parking situations.
    A CVS drugstore, a local grocery chain store, a Dollar Tree and General Dollar stores, two Speedway gas stations, a dry cleaner, a Pizza place, a nice little Chinese restaurant, a video store and our local import car mechanic are all within a one mile walking/biking radius of my location. Newly completed connector trails to existing county sponsored rail trails are within a quarter mile of the house, which can take me all over the area with minimal interaction with the road system. I’m within a block of the neighborhood elementary school and middle school and less than a mile from the nearest auxiliary police/fire station.
    Do I love my neighborhood? You bet. Would I sell my cars? Hell no. I don’t care that my winter beater has 240,000 miles on it and a cracked exhaust manifold. I LOVE mobility, that’s what the winter beater (and the other cars) afford me. I willingly pay the insurance, taxes and etc., for this capability. I like my bike, I like the fact that I can take my dogs for a walk on nicely maintained sidewalks, but I love my cars more. 

  • avatar

    Your dream becomes a nightmare in Lake Erie’s snowbelt in January, with three kids (under six) and the week’s groceries in tow. Or maybe the wife could just go to the store everyday so less needed to be carried home on each trip. Don’t think so.
    For the most part, a lot of the things around us exist because they are great solutions to problems that have plagued mankind for a long time. Take energy- most renewable energy “solutions” are riduculous. You only get energy if and when the wind blows, when the sun shines, or when it rains enough to give you a good cop yield? How about a coal fired plant that gives you energy whenever you need it, regardless of factors (ie the weather) that are completely out of man’s control.
    Also, personal transportation is one of the most tangible expressions of personal freedom ever. I can get in my car, right now, loaded with whatever I want, and drive across the country, stopping wherever and whenever I want. No standing in lines, or malodorous seatmates, or annoying conversations with strangers. To gauge how visceral are connection is with this physical expression of freedom, look how much we despise traffic congestion and speed cameras!

  • avatar

    the only place where cars aren’t needed are where densities are high and the govt. has public transport sorted out.
    and hopefully taxis are cheap.
    otherwise like many parts of the western world you have hopeless public transport and everywhere is a 5-10 min drive to any store… and even worse if you have kids…
    It is exactly a mile and a half to the station where I am. Buses are maybe once and hour.
    Every member of the family has a car. No car means you can’t get anywhere.

  • avatar

    I lived without a car for 5 years. I used taxis, buses, boats and trains in Asia without driving a car. It was manageable but I missed the freedom a personal vehicle affords. I bicycle a lot so I took long rides on my bike to replicate driving a car. At least I was in control of where it went.
    To do a car free existence you need tight living areas, reasonable mass transit (most public transit is neither reasonable nor comfortable although there are exceptions) and nearly everyone has to get on board. Simply having a percentage ride public while others jet around with their A/C on, tunes playing, and isolated from everyone in their steel chariot won’t do.
    None of this works in a rural setting. Don’t even try it. Even in Japan, rural living required a car but at least they had a place to park.  Personally I would hang onto the motorbikes. No matter how expensive gas gets, they are still worth every drop.

  • avatar

    Honestly, I have no problem giving up a car for my daily commute. Living in the NYC area, the commute is brutal and takes any and all fun out of driving. In fact, I did live without my car in Brooklyn. It would free up cash for something fun like a miata for the weekends. Unfortunately, cuts in NYC mass transit have left stranded for hours recently and it has become necessary for me to drive more in the city. Given the roads and weather out here, I find two cars necessary for my sanity. Thus, I have no problem letting go of the daily driver and the stress of a commute. Now, if you try to steal my weekend toy…we have a big problem.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    A walking / bicycling lifestyle is fine in just about every European city I know of that has at least 500,000, but not much more than two million inhabitants. Smaller cities don’t offer enough amenities and larger ones are too much of a hassle.
    I myself live in the center of a 600k town and only drive my car for the weekly trip to my mother, who lives 15 miles away. I’m thinking of getting a pedelec bike for that purpose. Otherwise, I’m with Paul N: outings and trips are a prefectly enjoyable use for a car.

  • avatar

    now i feel guilty… i drive almost 3o miles a day… in a 300hp+ rwd car that does 0-60 in 5 secs and not very good fuel economy… i know this can’t last… in my lifetime i know the car is dead… or the cars my kid will drive won’t be the same as what we drive… maybe they will be driving quasi electro Tata Nano types?
    right now i know those of us in the west are now still enjoying cars as long as we can…

  • avatar

    Several years ago I spent 6 weeks in Singapore on business. I had no car, so I had to rely on taxis, walking, the MRT (subway) and a client who would give me a ride to the subway station in his Daihatsu Charade after work. All things I’m not used to in the states. I’ll tell you after about 2 weeks, I was longing for a private car. Singapore’s small, the MRT pretty efficient, taxis everywhere, etc. so the lack of a car should not be a burden. However, the chore of having to locate a taxi (impossible when it’s raining) and the discomfort of being crammed in a subway car with lots of coughing, sneezing people with various musical ringtones for entertainment got old really fast. 

    • 0 avatar

      I hear ya. In the past my work has required extended stays in Manhattan and D.C.

      At first the prospect of not having a car seems both liberating and romantic. After all, there’s no hassle of parking, fueling and such.

      It wasn’t until I returned home and had to run some errands…and realized, “Hey! I don’t have to call down for a cab or walk to the nearest subway station. I can just WALK INTO MY GARAGE, HOP IN THE CAR AND GO!!!”

      And that, boys and girls, is why we Americans love our automobiles.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Here we stand
    Like an Adam and an Eve
    The Garden of Eden
    Two fools in love
    So beautiful and strong
    The birds in the trees
    Are smiling upon them
    From the age of the dinosaurs
    Cars have run on gasoline
    Where, where have they gone?
    Now, it’s nothing but flowers

    There was a factory
    Now there are mountains and rivers
    you got it, you got it

    We caught a rattlesnake
    Now we got something for dinner
    we got it, we got it

    There was a shopping mall
    Now it’s all covered with flowers
    you’ve got it, you’ve got it

    If this is paradise
    I wish I had a lawnmower
    you’ve got it, you’ve got it

    Years ago
    I was an angry young man
    I’d pretend
    That I was a billboard
    Standing tall
    By the side of the road
    I fell in love
    With a beautiful highway
    This used to be real estate
    Now it’s only fields and trees
    Where, where is the town
    Now, it’s nothing but flowers
    The highways and cars
    Were sacrificed for agriculture
    I thought that we’d start over
    But I guess I was wrong

    Once there were parking lots
    Now it’s a peaceful oasis
    you got it, you got it

    This was a Pizza Hut
    Now it’s all covered with daisies
    you got it, you got it

    I miss the honky tonks,
    Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
    you got it, you got it

    And as things fell apart
    Nobody paid much attention
    you got it, you got it

    I dream of cherry pies,
    Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
    you got it, you got it

    We used to microwave
    Now we just eat nuts and berries
    you got it, you got it

    This was a discount store,
    Now it’s turned into a cornfield
    you got it, you got it

    Don’t leave me stranded here
    I can’t get used to this lifestyle!

  • avatar

    I would love to see less trips, less length on trips, and less pavement.  I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point of no road in front of your house, but I think it could (and should) be smaller.  I think we don’t even need paved sidewalks, but could either share the road or use some sort of stabilized pervious surface.

    There are things I think could help move toward that.  Even more people working from home.  If you’re not doing that, then people living near work, and working near home.  Perhaps more things like delivery of groceries would help – one of the main arguments I keep seeing against people giving up cars is that they don’t want to have to go to the food market every day (which is smart, because that’s when you spend the most).

    I don’t think people should be forced into any of this, tho.  I think that there will be plenty of people who find this sort of life very attractive, and would like to live it.  Unfortunately, they’re hosed up by all sorts of government crap.  Government zoning keeps us from having narrower roads, smaller communities.  Government site development requirements require those huuuuuge parking lots that only fill up one day a year (if that).

    It should be something that’s possible, and available if people want it.  We don’t need any Rush Red Barcheta-like pogroms against cars.  But if people want to live like that, why force them to have a car because of laws?

  • avatar

    I live in Montreal, a city of about 3.5 million if you count the suburbs, and don’t own a car. I live in the city and work out by the airport (which is obviously outside of the downtown area), and as much as I’d like to have one, I’ve concluded that a car just isn’t worth the hassle and money for my current situation. Street parking is a huge hassle in the winter, I’d get to watch whatever I buy rust away because of all the salt the city spreads on the roads, and I’d be spending at least $600/month in payments, insurance, plates, maintenance, and gas just in order to save maybe an hour a day on my commute in the winter time. Instead I pay $65/month on a bus/metro pass that lets me easily get to anywhere I need to be downtown,  and listen to music or language tapes on my MP3 player.

    In the summer I’ve got the choice of an hour long bicycle ride along a beautiful bike path by the canal, or a 20 minute motorcycle ride, which I can park for free almost anywhere and store over the winter. It also cost as much to buy as a beater car would have, but will do 30+ MPG and run 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. It is a blast for runs into the country, too, and will likely be seeing a bit of track duty in the future as well.

    All that doesn’t keep me from wanting a Miata or Prelude as a “practical” “winter” car, though.

  • avatar

    I wish I could work from home.  My job consists of the phone and the internet, both of which I happen to have at home along with a decent office space.  Every time the subject is brought up at work they won’t hear of it.  They claim it is more expensive than providing us an office, a computer, an internet connection, heat, electricity, etc.  Hogwash. All of which I would gladly provide for myself in exchange for the luxury of not having to spend $200 a month on gas alone, miles and wear and tear on my car, driving for 45 mins both ways, dealing with the traffic jams and idiots on the road.
    For those of you about to tell me to live closer to work, I cannot afford the real estate.  If you plopped my house within a 10 min drive from my work place you would add at least $100k to the price tag. So until my income goes up or I can convince someone that work from home is a good idea, I am stuck in commuter hell.

  • avatar

    I’ve lived in Chicago for about 90% of my life and I now live 35 miles outside of the city.  Under current circumstances, I’d never go back.  Too much population density, slow public transportation, high property prices, high taxes & a high criminal/sq mile ratio is why I left.
    Now that I live in suburbia (about 1/2 way between Chicago & Milwaukee), you simply need a car.  There are very few, infrequent busses and only one train line nearby (goes to Chicago).  Taking public transport, assuming there was no wait for anything would add 30 minutes+ each way to my commute.  A more realistic scenario would be 45-1hour (more than doubling my commute).
    With that being said, I’m 1 stop sign & 1 stoplight from a major expressway (1.2 miles).  1.1 miles from a gas station that is typically $0.30+ cheaper per gallon than Chicago.  I’m about 3-4 miles from the parking lot of one of the largest (if not the largest) shopping centers in the state.   To live “near work” in a smaller house than I have now would cost me 3x as much, I wouldn’t have as big a garage and my building would be 10′ from my neighbors.  I am 15-20 min driving from Wisconsin if I want to do my shopping there.  I have both nature preserves & public parks w/in 5 minutes walking.  Everything else someone would need would be within about 15 minutes driving.  I’m in a subdivision with no HA fees and I pay ~ 2% less tax on everything than chicago.  Every single place I want to shop at has free parking.  I can car pool with my wife 3 days per week in the city & can work from home two days per week (which I rarely do as I usually like the drive….)
    Why would I ever go back?

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