23 votes

Americans shouldn’t have to drive, but the law insists on it

9 comments

  1. [3]
    DrStone
    Link
    I moved from US east-coast suburbs, where I always had a car, to an overseas city with world-renowned (frequently praised and held up an ideal) public transportation and high walkability. It's...

    I moved from US east-coast suburbs, where I always had a car, to an overseas city with world-renowned (frequently praised and held up an ideal) public transportation and high walkability. It's livable and there's some nice perks, but I really miss having a car. My experience hasn't been the same as @DogyoteWhile when it comes to speed and community.

    Pros:

    • Lower Cost: None of the many costs of car ownership, public transport + taxis is still lower I think
    • No maintenance
    • No parking
    • No city driving (personally stressful)

    Cons:

    • Bound by external schedules: Running a few minutes late may add a decent overall delay if a departure interval is missed (more if that leads to a chain of connection misses). Certain hours at night are no, or very limited, service and sometimes more expensive
    • Dealing with crowds: Getting on, getting off, through the station can be like a salmon against stream. On the transport might not get a seat, might stand packed in, hope everyone remembered deodorant. No privacy at all. Nobody interacts (and people usually aren't happy if you try), heads down on phones, barely paying any attention at all to others
    • Much longer transportation time: Departure schedule, less direct routes, more intermediate stops, sometimes transfers, sometimes additional walking. I've seen 2x or 3x one-way times off-peak. The times do get closer on peak, but then the comfort of public transportation drops significantly; i'll take an hour of traffic in my own car with radio, temp controls, and private conversation over standing like a sardine for the same hour any day.
    • Pain of transporting goods: Significantly limited carry capacity (possibly a small trolley if walking), difficult on a crowded train/bus with that, more planning to keep cold goods cold all the way, same with delicate goods, anything bigger/bulkier is basically a no-go. Some goods are legal, but prohibited to carry on public transport.
    • Weather matters a lot more: Point A and B are usually not aligned with a stop, so there's almost always a walk. Having covered shelter for the length of that leg is hit or miss. Rain is the biggest problem, but extreme temperatures, direct sun, strong winds can all make getting somewhere without a car miserable. Cars don't fully relieve this, but it's usually a much shorter dash door to door.
    • No trip storage: When a trip involves multiple tasks/stops, you have to carry and secure everything for the whole journey. Carrying can get cumbersome, securing can be impossible.
    • On-demand private transport is highly variable: Availability and pricing can vary wildly based on time of day, pickup location, drop off location, "surge", etc.
    • No food: A more minor annoyance, but no food or drink consumption can be a pain on a longer trip.
    12 votes
    1. Greg
      Link Parent
      I've gone my entire life so far without owning a car, so it's interesting to hear the cons from your perspective. Broadly, I actually agree with you. Those are things that cause minor...

      I've gone my entire life so far without owning a car, so it's interesting to hear the cons from your perspective.

      Broadly, I actually agree with you. Those are things that cause minor inconveniences in my day to day life, and it'd be nice to have them fixed. I didn't even know that mobile storage was something I needed until this conversation.

      The only one I personally disagree with is speed, and that's a location-specific one anyway - here, the public transport would normally be the fast option, car would be the slower but more comfortable one.

      All that said, I'll add one more item to the "pros" column, and it's a big one: you actually get to have a walkable, high density city. That's the one that swings it for me - I don't know of any city designs that allow everyone a car and keep the pedestrian character. I'd be interested to hear if anyone does, actually.

      The inconveniences you mentioned are the price to pay for living in this type of city, and to remove them would be to also turn it into a car necessitating city.

      7 votes
    2. Dogyote
      Link Parent
      Yes, those are valid points. We were using taxis when we encountered a problem like you described. They were everywhere in Korea, and fairly cheap too.

      Yes, those are valid points. We were using taxis when we encountered a problem like you described. They were everywhere in Korea, and fairly cheap too.

      2 votes
  2. [6]
    Dogyote
    Link
    I recently had the opportunity to stay in Korea for a month. I really enjoyed the fact that I didn't need a car. In the cities, public transit could get you to your destination as fast as a car,...

    I recently had the opportunity to stay in Korea for a month. I really enjoyed the fact that I didn't need a car. In the cities, public transit could get you to your destination as fast as a car, and sometimes faster depending on the time of day. It was also so easy to use and cheap, probably a lot cheaper than paying for parking. Moving across the peninsula was also so easy, inexpensive, and fast without a car. I really wish that system was widespread in the US. Some cities are better than others, but most embrace the car. Driving and parking can really become a chore after making the same trip a few times.

    One other thing. I think cars make us isolated. We're enclosed in little private bubbles that prevent us from closely observing/interacting with people from different walks of life. The public may be less divided if more people used public transit. What do you think?

    19 votes
    1. [5]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      I live in an area where almost everyone says you need a car (San Francisco Bay), but haven't had one since I moved here. Obviously I can't easily go outside of the metropolitan area, but there's...

      I live in an area where almost everyone says you need a car (San Francisco Bay), but haven't had one since I moved here. Obviously I can't easily go outside of the metropolitan area, but there's no everyday activity/errand I haven't been able to do.

      Is it just the rural US where it's so necessary?

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        Loire
        Link Parent
        Any city that grew up post invention of the car is going to be fairly un-traversable. Living sans automobile in Dallas/Houston for example is virtually impossible. The older cities on the coasts...

        Any city that grew up post invention of the car is going to be fairly un-traversable. Living sans automobile in Dallas/Houston for example is virtually impossible.

        The older cities on the coasts like NY/SF are going to have dense interior at the very least due to their history making them more walkable/designed for transit.

        10 votes
        1. Dogyote
          Link Parent
          Oh yeah. That's the problem with my city. Hardly anyone walks anywhere, even when the weather is nice. It's just unpleasant with 6 lanes of cars roaring next to you and you feel like you're taking...

          Oh yeah. That's the problem with my city. Hardly anyone walks anywhere, even when the weather is nice. It's just unpleasant with 6 lanes of cars roaring next to you and you feel like you're taking a chance every time you cross an intersection.

          4 votes
      2. [2]
        Dogyote
        Link Parent
        I would say it's the rural areas and some cities, like the smallish cities

        I would say it's the rural areas and some cities, like the smallish cities

        1. Luna
          Link Parent
          No, there are plenty of large cities that are not walkable and have patchy public transit (Houston, LA, Cleveland, Detroit, etc). Like Loire said, the age of a city plays a large part: cities...

          smallish cities

          No, there are plenty of large cities that are not walkable and have patchy public transit (Houston, LA, Cleveland, Detroit, etc). Like Loire said, the age of a city plays a large part: cities which became metro areas before the rise of the car (e.g. Boston, Philadelphia, NYC) tend to be walkable and have better public transit.

          2 votes