Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Day four: Independence, at whose benefit?

I’ve been without a car only a few days and already have begun to question the usefulness of this project.

The New York Times Magazine ran a piece Sunday about the proliferation of driving in China. Ted Conover reported there were about 20 million cars on China’s roads, more than three fold the number just six years ago. Not only that, there are less than seven people for every 1,000 cars on the road, a number that’s staggering if you consider there are more cars than drivers in the United States and China is about 90 years behind us, automotively speaking, and seemingly eager to catch up.

What difference does it make if I drive to the grocery store or not if other countries follow our high-emissions lead, making the same damaging mistakes we’re making.

Well, Seattle thinks it’s worth trying.

They’ve issued a One Less Car Challenge, which is just what it sounds like — a project to get households to give up a car for a month or longer.

The city is sending its message through a pocketbook incentive, in that it’s expensive to own a car and not owning one is less expensive. I see their point, and maybe it holds true in urban Seattle, but it would be hard to convince Plain Jane mom in Nowhere, Midwest, of the cost savings.

If she’s spending $100 a week at Wal-Mart, how much can she expect to spend shopping at the corner convenience store.

Ask any poor person, the corner store is not a place you go to get good deals. It’s convenient, hence its name.

On a more personal note, my family's holiday was a total dud.

The local buses don’t run, the train to a nearby small town put us there for seven hours (about six hours too long) and a train to Chicago was too expensive. Our only option, really, was to stay home.

So, that’s how we celebrated our independence.


At 2:20 PM, Blogger Brenda said...

Maybe it's for the good, but Seattle cheats. We have a very good 5-county bus service that can get you from Mt. Vernon to Olympia (eventually). We also have a system of bike trails based on the old inter-city interurban rail system. In other words, its a bit more practical here than in other parts of the Country.

It also helps that car drivers aren't hostile to bike riders. Like they are in Tucson.



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