I grew up in Chicago, urban, eight miles from the famous "Loop." So I will cop to the fact that I know how to live without a car. Older cities in this country, situated to the Midwest and East of California are built on the premise of mass transit. We are "a mass" why not move like one? I had access to more than one train system: the Illinois Central, which connect the suburbs to the city, The Elevated train, also known as the "El" which circled the city, and city and private buses. Within Hyde Park, the University of Chicago ran its own transit system for students and faculty that circled our neighborhood. Taxis, airport buses, and limos were available as well.
If you can live without a car I highly recommend it. The amount of money you spend on a monthly bus pass will never match the cost of the car payment, the car insurance and the upkeep on the car. Truly, a car is not an investment. It's a nice bit of personal freedom, if you live somewhere with free parking. If you are fighting daily for legal on street parking, as I did, for a short duration in Honolulu, add the occasional traffic ticket to your list of expenses associated with a car. I suggest you live near where you work. If you live two miles or less the walk would be nice. You could reduce your carbon footprint at the same time you give up your gym membership. For 13 years in Honolulu I traveled mostly by bicycle and foot and I was in superb shape. There are other bike friendly cities, such as Oakland and San Francisco, California. Invest in a good lock if you have a good bike, no sense being cheap about it when you are saving so much by not having a car.
Cars were invented in the beginning as a rich man's folly. People wondered who would buy this new fangled thing with such an expensive price tag. Mercedes Benz, one of the first makers, remains out of the financial reach of most people. Mr. Ford put the affordable factor into cars, offering them in the colors of black, black and black, his Model A's and Model T's a wonderful example of American marketing and free enterprise at its best. Mr. Ford's cars made possible the gasoline industry, increased the need for rubber for tires, was the impetus for Interstate highways, and may other designs we take for granted now.
Almost immediately thinking people realized there was a limit to how much petroleum could be drilled for our use. Booker T Washington considered using different organic oils for fuel. Nothing came of such experimentation because gasoline was so cheap and easy to get. Even the prices that shocked us in the 1970's, causing gas rationing and long lines at the pump seem quaint by today's standards. We spend more per paycheck than ever before for the luxury of driving ourselves. Incentives to car pool have led to some strange scams: mannequins and blow up dolls in the passenger seats, empty baby seats and few real changes in how America drives.
Like it or hate it, Americans like their personal automobiles. The government tried to create incentive for alternatives. The problem is the lack of profit. There's not much in it for American car companies to produce a smaller (read more fuel efficient) vehicle, if it costs the same amount of man hours to build as a gas guzzler. The profit margin is bigger on the more expensive truck, SUV and minivan. The shareholders like profit. Most government incentives are focused on the stick, not the carrot. By increasing the registration fees dramatically on large expensive vehicles, California saw an exodus as those vehicles were sold on line to out of state buyers. Unfortunately, the dealerships in California, which provide jobs to taxpaying individuals, languished and went out of business. Its always something. Raising the taxes at the same time that unemployment is so high has put the crunch on California residents.
As usual, the poor are hit the hardest. Without resources to move, they slim and trim their lifestyle until forced to go on public assistance, which is already stressed from the record number of people applying for unemployment, food stamps and welfare. Where will it end? Is the electric hybrid going to save us? When I went to buy a car some time ago I noticed the price tag on the hybrid was not one thousand or five thousand more than a traditional. It was TEN THOUSAND more dollars. Any amount of money I would have saved on gas, was thus rolled into the purchase price. If I had ten grand more I might have been ok with it being a wash. I like the idea of being green. I didn't have ten thousand more though, I'm still driving the CR-V.