Monthly Archives: December 2013

Can Anne Get Along Without A Car? A View From San Diego

Frederick says Anne can get alone even without one of these.

Frederick says Anne can get alone even without one of these.

By Micheline Maynard

Our reader Anne in Ann Arbor has asked for advice on whether to keep her 1998 Honda Civic or go car free. Frederick Ollinger in San Diego says she can pull the plug, and tells her how.

Dear Anne,

You access to a car will impact your life decisions and make you more or less car dependent.

For example, you say that your suburb is car dependent. How did this happen? This could only occur if the developers and residents all decided that they were going to have access to a car.

If, on the other hand, at the beginning of this decision making process, you did not have a car, you would have made different decisions.

For example, when my wife and I moved from pedestrian Philly to “car dependent” San Diego, every one “knew” that we needed a car. Five years later we live not only without a car, but without a Zipcar.

How? Continue reading

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Filed under advice, car sharing, cars, cities, Driving

Dream Warmly, Anne Is Advised From Houston

It isn't likely Anne will see cows on her commute, as David Lippert does in Houston.

It isn’t likely Anne will see cows on her commute, as David Lippert does in Houston.

By Micheline Maynard

Curbing Cars readers are offering Advice for Anne on whether she should keep her 1998 Honda Civic or go car free. David Lippert and his family went car free in Houston, and here he weighs in with some suggestions.

Hi Anne,

It sounds like you have some of the key ingredients to go car-free. Our regular activities are school, work, groceries.

Even when we had a car, we made choices to minimize the loss should that happen.

I took the bus to work downtown.  My daughter has always used the school bus and groceries had to be walking distance or take a bus there and a cab back.   My wife is a stay a home Mom.  These life choices were less about ideology and more about fear of being stranded.

These are some tips for helping you to make your decision. Continue reading

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Filed under advice, walking

From Austin, Some Ideas For Anne On Transportation Choices

By Micheline Maynard

Andrew Hartford wrote for us recently about the ways he gets around Austin without a car. We asked him to provide our reader Anne in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with ideas for deciding whether to keep her 1998 Honda Civic, or go car free.

Hi Anne,

I have been in your situation before.  I’ve had car troubles in the past, and wondered if it was really even worth owning one (the cost and stress of maintaining it) considering I had other options of getting around.  Ultimately, I realized that not owning a car doesn’t mean you have to cut cars out of your life completely.

As much as I am an advocate for alternative forms of transportation (biking, walking, and mass transit), I understand that there are situations in which a car might be needed (much of the U.S. is still very car-dependent). Continue reading

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Filed under advice, bicycling, car sharing

Should She Keep Her Car Or Go Car Free? Your Advice For Anne

By Micheline Maynard

Ask, and ye shall receive! Our reader Anne in Ann Arbor, Michigan, asked Curbing Cars last week to help her decide whether she should keep her 1998 Honda Civic, or take the plunge and go car free.

Anne's 1998 Honda Civic

Anne’s 1998 Honda Civic

Your advice has come flooding in. Here’s the first response, from John Lloyd. (We’ll be featuring more Advice for Anne this week.)

Dear Anne,

Great question!  The fact that you’re asking whether to keep your car is a wonderful indication that you have freed your mind from the tyranny of the automobile.  I have been living “car light” for the past 3 years, and driving my car less and less every year.
Like you, I have an older car (a 2000 Toyota Corolla), and I only fill the tank a couple of times a year.  I’d love to go completely car-free, but I live in a car-dependent suburb and like knowing I have the option in an emergency.  If we had a Zipcar available nearby I’d feel better able to let the car go completely, but since we don’t, I’ve hung on to it. Continue reading

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Filed under advice, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

Help Anne Decide Whether To Keep Or Give Up Her Car

Anne's 1998 Honda Civic

Anne’s 1998 Honda Civic

By Micheline Maynard

People are cutting back on driving, and many are giving up their cars all together. We’ve told some of those stories here on Curbing Cars, like Andrew Hartford in Austin, Texas, and Lauren Steele, in Columbia, Mo. Now, one of our Curbing Cars readers wants some help in deciding whether she should keep her car, or cut the cord.

Her name is Anne (she asked us not to use her last name) and she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor has an extensive public transportation system, and it’s also a very walkable city. But it gets its share of snow and ice, and some parts of the city aren’t as accessible by transit and foot.

Here is Anne’s story (and that’s her 1998 Honda Civic above). Once you’ve read it, please send Advice For Anne to our email address: curbingcars@gmail.com. We’ll publish your responses and Anne will tell us what she’s decided. Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

From Paris, Getting Around With — And Without — A Car

Paris traffic.

Paris traffic.

Bertrand Rakoto is a marketing intelligence manager for R.L. Polk. For the past decade, he’s been focused on the electric car industry and electric car services. In the first of a series of guest posts for Curbing Cars, he writes about the way people get around Paris.

By Bertrand Rakoto

Paris has a very extensive public transportation system. This might look presumptuous to begin with, but honestly, it’s quite realistic. Prior to any explanation, I must describe how the French capital city is trying to change back from cars to mass public transportation. Paris is not huge when compared to other Megacities in the world, but it’s European-big.

It’s distributed into three concentric areas. The smallest one is the inner city of Paris. A little over 2.2 million people live in the 20 administrative subdivisions (or “arrondissements”), which are shaped like a snail. When it comes to France, clichés are never very far off. The city is an expensive place to live in and numerous Parisian workers commute to downtown Paris.

However, living in the inner city is a great choice for urban lovers, with lots of cultural events, bars and clubs. And most of all, you don’t need a car when living downtown.

The second concentric area is called “Petite Couronne”. It represents 4.4 million inhabitants, divided in three departments (Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne). In this area, you can live without a car, but it’s more convenient to have one for weekend activities outside Paris and grocery shopping. You can avoid the daily drive for cost efficient public transportation. But in some case, it can become necessary to commute to work despite the traffic jams.

The last, largest, and third concentric area is the “Grande Couronne”. Over 5 million people live in the four remaining departments of the Ile-de-France region (being Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, and Val-d’Oise). In this area, a car is mandatory, or else freedom of movement is quite reduced.

 Now that you have the big picture, let’s have a look at the public transportation network. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, Driving, public transportation

Driverless Cars And Mass Transit: An Economist’s View

ixBvtoGUnbhcEarlier this week, we wrote about the impact that Uber could have on the future of transportation. That prompted Donald Grimes, a noted economist at the University of Michigan, to reach out to us. In this guest column, Grimes lays out the role that autonomous vehicles might play in the future of transportation.

By Donald Grimes

What are the main problems with mass transit?

1) Cost.  You have to pay the wages and benefits of the person driving the bus or the train or even the taxicab in addition to the operating and capital cost of the vehicle.  When you are driving your own vehicle your labor as a driver is free.

2) Convenience.  People have to get to the location to catch a bus or a train, and the mass transit will probably drop you off some distance from where you want to be.

So what is the big technology coming in motor vehicles?  Driverless cars (what some call autonomous vehicles).  Now, if you are using your own vehicle, who cares if the car can drive itself, other than on those long-trips when you want to take a nap.

But think about the potential for a driverless car as a mass transit vehicle. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, Driving, public transportation, urban planning

Transforming The Way We Get Around, From Your Phone

By Micheline Maynard

When it comes to the way we get around, we’ve gone from owning to renting to summoning. And the way we think about transportation will never be the same. new_uber_logo

Let me explain what I mean. For the past century, until about 2007, there was a pretty simple way that we used automobiles. We went out and bought them, or some of us leased them. If you wanted a car at your beck and call, you plunked down your money, and parked one on the street or in a garage.

There were rental car companies, but the fee structure was such that it eventually was cheaper just to buy a car than to rent one. You could pay in a week for a rental what a car cost to own for a month.

The door cracked open in 2007, when ZipCar came along. Now, you didn’t have to rent for a week, or a weekend, or even a day. You could use a ZipCar for a few hours, then take it back.

Now, you don’t even have to take some car sharing cars back. Nor do you have to go anywhere to find transportation. You simply summon it, use it as long as you like, and go wherever you like.

The app that is leading the way in this change is Uber, and it promises to transform the way we get around in the way that the automobile did a century ago. There’s a fascinating look at how this is happening by Kevin Roose in New York Magazine. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, Driving, Technology

The Best Way To See A New City? Try Public Transit

 

Never be afraid to try public transportation when you visit a new city.

Never be afraid to try public transportation when you visit a new city.

By Micheline Maynard

Curbing Cars hasn’t spent much time bringing you stories about travel. But this weekend, our research director Rick Meier and I decided it’s a subject we should be writing about, for this reason.

When you visit a new city, the best way to see it is often the same way its residents get around: by public transit. In fact, that’s the advice I gave Christopher Elliott, the veteran traveler advocate, for his new series called The World’s Smartest Traveler.

It was flattering to be invited to take part — and I also welcome the idea of helping people feel comfortable when they’re away from home. I don’t think visitors should confine themselves just to rental cars and taxi cabs. Travelers ought to be able to get out and about, in an affordable and environmentally friendly fashion.

But, what’s the best way to feel secure getting on an unfamiliar transit system? Ah, I thought you might ask that. So, here are four tips so that you can get the most out of public transit when you’re on the road. Continue reading

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Filed under Curbing Cars, public transportation, Travel