For the past year, Curbing Cars has been delighted to showcase the talents of young journalists, like Matt Varcak and Adam Rubenfire. Now, we welcome our first summer intern, Mark Remillard.
Mark isn’t your typical intern. He’s already a familiar voice in Phoenix, where he’s a full-time reporter at KTAR, the premier news radio station. Mark just graduated from Arizona State University, where he was a student in one of my business journalism classes.
Look for regular posts from Mark over the summer. But first, let’s hear from him.
“Hello everyone! My name is Mark Remillard and I’ll be this summer’s intern here at Curbing Cars and since I’ll be writing a lot of this website, I wanted to make a quick post to introduce myself. Continue reading →
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We’re kicking off the week with some splendid news from Amazon.com. Over the weekend, Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry ranked as the number one ebook in the Automotive category.
We appreciate your support, and look forward to discussing all our findings with you. We’re fascinated by the drop in driving, and why Americans are turning to a broad spectrum of transportation rather than just rely on cars.
Meanwhile, here’s the column that Robert Trigaux wrote about the book in Friday’s edition of the Tampa Bay Times. The debate over roads versus light rail is a vivid one in Tampa, the biggest American city without a significant public transportation system.
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Millions of people are driving less, and some are even giving up their cars all together. In our new eBook, Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry, published Tuesday by Forbes, I make some suggestions on how the auto companies can play a role in the new transportation reality.
One idea: create a new Model T, a car that that can appeal broadly to the public, and yet be affordable and efficient. That’s critical, given that the average new vehicle now costs around $33,000. Parking, repairs, insurance and maintenance all add up to the expense of owning an automobile.
“There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.
From 1910 through 1930, the automobile industry attracted new customers and auto sales boomed. But then there came a 15-year period in which auto sales stalled, first because of the Great Depression, and then because cars weren’t available during World War II.
What happened to revive the American car market? Prosperity returned, of course, but there was also a successor to the Model T that put millions of people into cars they could afford: the Volkswagen Beetle. It was a global, not just American, phenomenon and caught buyers’ attention for a number of reasons. Continue reading →
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Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry is the result of our Kickstarter-funded project looking at why people are driving less. You can buy it now from Amazon.com, on iTunes and other sites where eBooks are sold.
Check back regularly as we post our analysis and predictions about the historic shift in attitudes among Americans about their transportation needs.
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Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotton) demonstrating one of his automobile prototypes, from Orson Welles’s film The Magnificent Ambersons (RKO Pictures, 1942)
Here’s the first installment of Curbing Cars @ The Movies, in which our Research Director Rick Meier explores four cinematic visions of the future of cars and driving. In Part 1, we look back to turn of the 20th century, and the invention of the automobile. We see how the horseless carriage transformed the idyllic, pre-industrial city of Indianapolis, in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
By Rick Meier
In 1942, immediately following his spectacular debut in Citizen Kane, Orson Welles delivered his second feature release to RKO Pictures: an elegant adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novelThe Magnificent Ambersons (originally published in 1918).
It is the story of the once grand and prosperous Ambersons: rich and influential property owners in a small but thriving “Midland town” (based on Tarkington’s native Indianapolis, during the opening years of the 20th century).
Welles opens his film with a series of vignettes portraying the way it used to be in sleepy, pre-industrial Indianapolis. In the first vignette we learn that, “back in those days” the only public convenience was the streetcar, and one on which the rules of chivalry were not yet dead.
The film follows the great Amberson family and its ever-watchful neighbors as succeeding generations of Amberson heirs fail to maintain the great wealth and position won by their patriarch, Major Amberson. Faithful to Tarkington’s novel, Welles’s adaptation is set against the backdrop of America’s second industrial revolution (also known as the technological revolution). Behind each personal tragedy of the Ambersons we perceive the changing world of their bustling community as their quaint Midland town progressively spreads and darkens into a modern city.
Ultimately, the greatest threat to the eminence of the Ambersons comes from the newly invented automobile. The family’s prospects begin to dwindle as the Amberson-owned houses on National Avenue (a district based on the real-life neighborhood of Woodruff Place, in Indianapolis) start to depreciate in favour of newer upscale suburban neighborhoods, now more accessible by car, and located further and further away from the increasingly smoky and bustling industry of the downtown core.
In a crucial scene, George—the current Amberson heir—disparagingly characterizes the automobile as a useless nuisance, giving rise to an insightful speech from the automobile manufacturer and family friend, Eugene Morgan (played by Joseph Cotton), about the ways automobiles could potentially impact human life.
The subtext that drives the Magnificent Ambersons is the story of how the rise of driving gave birth to the suburb. Here at Curbing Cars we look at the still-unfolding story of how the now increasing burdens of car ownership is coinciding with an historic period of re-urbanization.
Tune in next week for the second installment in this four-part series on cars in cinema, featuring Minority Report (2002)
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More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.
By Micheline Maynard
Back on New Year’s Day (a mere month and three days ago), we asked our Curbing Cars audience to tell us how you planned to get around in 2014. We got a terrific response and now we’re sharing the results with you.
We’re ambulatory. Most of us still use cars, but not as much as we use other types of transportation in the mix of the ways we get places. The number one way Curbing Cars readers get around is on two feet. Almost 80 percent of respondents say they get around most frequently by walking. That was followed by public transportation, used by 69.7 percent; cars, used by 58.1 percent and other modes of transportation, which included running, Zipcars or car sharing programs, and taxis.
Several people told us that they use of a mix of transportation in a single day. “I walk to work every day, bus in bad weather, bike for some errands in spring/summer/fall. use my car mainly for weekend shopping and for getting out of town,” replied one survey participant.
In fact, I’m doing more walking this winter in Phoenix, where I’m a Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. I walk to school every day from my home downtown, and I’ve walked to the farmer’s market, the movies, to drinks and dinner, and to the Phoenix Opera in the month since I’ve been here. Even though I walked frequently in Ann Arbor, I am doing even more daily walking here. (And of course, the weather is much better…)
We’re pleased with our choices. People seem to be pretty satisfied with the mix of the ways they get places. About 60 percent of you said you were happy with your transportation mix. About 24 percent said they’d like to change it, and the rest said they would like to change it, but couldn’t for various reasons. Continue reading →
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We’re hard at work on the first Curbing Cars eBook, which is scheduled to be published this spring. We’d like to include stories about millennials and the way you use transportation.
Did you put off getting a driver’s license, or did you get in line as soon as you could? Do you see a car as something that’s too expensive, or are you a car buff? Are you cycling or skateboarding or using public transportation? Or, do you have to drive to get where you need to go?
Millennials: share your stories.
How important is technology to you? Is your mobile device more important to you than your car?
If you are 30 or under, and would like to share your thoughts, please email us at email@example.com. Put Millennials in the subject line. Share a few transportation thoughts so we’ll know how to categorize you. Include your name, city, telephone number, Skype ID if you have one, and the best time to get in touch.
We only want people whose names can be used in the book, and we will verify your info to make sure you are who you say you are. Please respond by Feb. 14.
Thanks, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.
P.S. for our non-millennial readers, we’ll be looking for your stories as well. Stay tuned for our request.
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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
Your advice has come flooding in. Here’s the first response, from John Lloyd. (We’ll be featuring more Advice for Anne this week.)
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 →