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The same situation that makes a car a necessity for most working people condemns most of the elderly to social isolation, once they reach the point that they can no longer drive.


Cars free us up in many ways but the free us up to live lives that are dependent on having a car.

Yes. I think a lot of the reason why Americans equate freedom with car ownership is two-fold. One is that this is a darn big country, and there are many parts of it that will never be accessible without a car, no matter how much we sink into public transit. I rather like that part of things; a train makes an impact that a 4WD truck trail does not.

On the other, though, the reason why many Americans think that they need a car to have freedom of movement is that, honestly, our public transit is crap. In Spain, we traveled around an entire country essentially on foot, because the rail and metro networks are so extensive and fast and cheap. In other parts, we could have rented city bikes and pedaled around on them, like many of the locals were happily doing. We visited small towns, large cities, and areas in between - and in none of them did we have to worry about parking, or traffic, or navigating small awkward streets. Shops were small and close together, so you never had to carry anything more than a handful of blocks, and you didn't have to purchase a week's groceries at one go like you do here.

So, there, freedom looked like just popping out the door with nothing but your wallet and going. Nothing but you and your will to move.

Compare that with the "freedom" to hunt up the car keys, remember to fill the tank, hunt up a parking place, etc.

Ken Muldrew

It's not an addiction to oil, or to freedom, but to conspicuous consumption. Both as a means of signaling social status and as a means of enjoying one's place in the social hierarchy. What George Allan objects to is the notion that conservation is a virtue. How can conservation by virtuous if social status is primarily identified through how much you can afford to waste? And without the more subtle behavioral signs of social stratification of old Europe, how on earth can Americans tell whose boots they should be licking? And besides, all that consumption creates jobs, and prosperity, and it all trickles down through the piles of crap that nobody wants anymore.


Here's the thing Lance.

You aren't the problem. Neither is the farmer who has to get his supplies in his pickup truck or the professional trapper who hunts for food and forest management.

Hell, the kid in the cherry 'Stang isn't the problem either, since he likely only takes that car out to show off and then rarely.

The guy who is the problem is the dude who lives in Mamaroneck, a half mile from the Metro North, who still insists on his "freedom" be locked in his car for a half hour each morning and again each afternoon on the Hutch. Hell, even if he makes half an effort and just drives to the bloody station that's within walking distance, he's doing *some*thing.

There's an awful lot of talk about suburban sprawl. I have a solution.

Shopping malls have these enormous parking lots already that, apart from Christmas, are underutilized.

Why not build office space there? Let people drive to their jobs near the mall? Hell, take is a step further and build apartments of all price ranges right across the street? There's probably already a supermarket nearby.

Then you could connect the malls to the regional transport system by bus or light rail, or even extend a commuter line right up to the mall. Part of the vicious cycle is that suburban mass transit is woefully inadequate. Who wants to wait fifteen minutes for a bus that take you to a hub (if you're lucky) where you can catch another bus home? Or worse, take the first bus you just waited for to a transfer point and wait another half hour for the bus home?


I grew up in Maine and took needing a car to get around for granted. Then, many years later I lived for a year in Boston while going to graduate school and left the car in Maine. And never missed it. Cars are expensive. Maintaining them and gassing them up is expensive, paying for insurance is expensive. I still live in Portland, but just got a job a mile from my house so I now I bike to work, and don't miss the car. Rana is right, with a decent affordable tansit system, all you need is a bike to bridge the gaps of where it doesn't go. And besides a well-built, well designed bicycle can be as covetous an object as any car ever manufactured. What I wouldn't give for a nice titanium frame and graphite spokes!

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