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
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
Traffic congestion at Preston and Washington Streets, which students say is the worst intersection on campus.
More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.
Bikes overflow on the few campus racks.
Central Michigan University is redesigning its campus, as millennials rethink their use of cars.
There will be more bike racks installed
CMU will push parking off the central campus to outlying lots.
In our latest student-written story, Curbing Cars intern Matthew Varcak at Central Michigan University looks at plans to redesign the campus for every kind of transportation use.
By Matthew Varcak
If you say Mount Pleasant to anyone in Michigan, the first thing they might name is Central Michigan University – a university that nearly doubles the city’s population from September through May.
CMU is a public school, whose campus covers 871 acres, and has 17,771 undergraduate students. This year, CMU had the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, Eric Fisher.
Mount Pleasant also has a sprawling casino, resort and water park run by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, an ample public transportation system, and a picturesque small town atmosphere.
The city and the university, however, aren’t known for being bicycle or pedestrian friendly. But some people are trying to change this. They are redesigning the campus with an emphasis on how it will be used by people, bicycles and cars.
CMU’s 2013 Campus Master Plan, which sets the direction of the university for the next century, features plans to make the campus more accessible for bikes and pedestrians. (See the master plan at the end of this article.) Continue reading
By Micheline Maynard
For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about something I spotted on The Atlantic Monthly’s website. It’s called, “The Case Against Cars In 1 Utterly Entrancing GIF.” You can take a look at it here.
Basically, the animation shows a street full of cars, flashing to their drivers seated on the road. Then those people are grouped, and loaded onto a streetcar. The point of the GIF is to show how public transit reduces congestion.
Since Curbing Cars launched this summer, I’ve been struck by the polarization in the discussion over transportation use. At one end are people who think cars are evil and to be avoided at all costs. At the other end are those who love automobiles and think the people who despise them are crazy.
There’s very little discussion about the middle ground, which is where I think many Americans are heading, and will be heading in the next few years. That is, cars as part of a mix of personal transportation, but not the only option. It’s what the Livable Streets Coalition calls “driving light,” and which others call “living car light.”
That seems to make perfect sense, and yet, as with many moderate points of view, that thought seems to be getting overlooked. Continue reading
By Micheline Maynard
It’s well established that Americans are driving less, and taking shorter trips when they get behind the wheel. Some people have given up driving completely.
But the vast majority of people who are still driving appear to be driving alone.
The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2012, about 76 percent of workers 16 years and older drove to work alone—just shy of the all-time peak of 77 percent in 2005, according to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Here’s some more data. According to the Census Bureau, carpooling has fallen from about 20 percent of commutes in 1980 to under 10 percent in 2012. Public transportation accounted for just over six percent of daily commutes in 1980 and is now five percent. A category the Census Bureau calls “other means”—which includes biking—stands at two percent, largely unchanged over the past decade.
Those commuting trends seem a little puzzling, since there’s plenty of evidence that public transportation is seeing record demand. However, one development might help explain some of these shifts. Continue reading
In our latest student-written story, a chemistry major at the University of Texas talks about his car-free conversion.
Andrew Hartford with his bike
By Andrew Hartford
Before I came to Austin, Texas for college, I lived in a car-dependent suburb of San Antonio. During my high school years there, I bought a car, submitting to societal pressure and parental advice.
According to my dad, buying the car was an investment. “You can’t get a job without a car,” he told me. At job interviews, one of the recurring questions I was asked was, “Do you have a car?” lending to the notion that a car symbolized personal reliability and competence. I was under the false pretense that cars meant freedom and that somehow without one, I’d be less attractive as an employee.
I worked long hours at a fast food restaurant, only to realize I was putting my paycheck directly back into the very thing that was supposed to help me earn money. I began to grow disdainful about this costly thing that society seemed to be obsessed with. I felt as though my car was a complete drag on my life; not only having to pay for it but having to maintain it as well.
In addition, I felt guilty that it polluted the air and used up precious fossil fuels that take thousands of years to form. This did not feel like “freedom” to me.
The final straw for my car ownership was when I got into an accident the summer of 2010. Continue reading
By Micheline Maynard
We’ve all heard a lot about the difficulties that American auto companies are having in attracting buyers under age 35. It seems the problem is just as acute in Europe.
The electric BMW i3.
According to the New York Times, carmakers there are hoping that technological innovations will be the key to getting younger buyers into automobiles. But it’s an even tougher sell, given Europe’s wide transit network, the popularity of bicycling, the availability of bike sharing and governments’ green policies.
Auto sales in Europe are down 20 percent this year, and have fallen even more in the most troubled economies. Without young buyers, economists are concerned that European carmakers may never achieve their sales peaks again.
“There are products that are hipper for young people than cars,” Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen in northern Germany and an industry analyst, told the Times. “The car companies are still using the old marketing pitch — more horsepower. That doesn’t speak to young people any more.” Continue reading