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Old 04-11-06, 01:03 PM   #1
Eggplant Jeff
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Now, I normally wouldn't agree with the car-free crowd, but...

I went on a trip this weekend. Took Amtrak from Philly to DC then a commuter train (VRE) from DC to Manassas.

The Amtrak ride was mostly through inner city / industrial areas and rural areas. Not a lot of suburbs. However the commuter train of course goes out into the suburbs.

The difference in scenery was AMAZING. In the inner city / industrial areas you saw some cars, parked in front of rowhouses, in the parking lot of warehouses, etc. Once we were out close to Manassas, it was like parking lots, car lots, mechanic shops, cars cars cars cars cars. Really made me notice how MANY of the darn things you see in the suburbs. And what a huge chunk of the economy must be devoted to making them, maintaining them, stocking parts, selling them, loaning money for them, etc.

I still won't say we should get rid of 'em, but it really surprised me how noticable the increase in cars-relative-to-other-scenery was as we came out into the suburbs.
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Old 04-11-06, 01:06 PM   #2
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Cars are a status symbol, plain and simple...
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Old 04-11-06, 01:07 PM   #3
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That's the sacrifice we make for the luxuries and demands that the world offers and requires
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Old 04-11-06, 01:07 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jeff-o
Cars are a status symbol, plain and simple...
Rich cars over 40k are.
My car is not a status symbol though i could own a status symbol car if i chose to.
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Old 04-11-06, 01:17 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TexasGuy
Rich cars over 40k are.
My car is not a status symbol though i could own a status symbol car if i chose to.
Heh, the very idea of someone thinking of my 35-year-old rusted-out pickup as a status symbol...

But the gist is quite correct. People in general tend to buy the best/most car(s) they can afford.
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Old 04-11-06, 01:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jeff-o
Cars are a status symbol, plain and simple...
Depends on where you live, what you do and what kind of life you want to lead. For example, I live in Denver. my daughter goes to school in Durango, CO. If we want to visit her or if she wants to visit us, it's a 7 to 8 hour, 400 mile trip. Buses don't go from Denver to Durango and there hasn't been train service to Durango since the Denver and Rio Grande Southern pulled up tracks in the '50s. There is no way to get there in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost, except by car. I suppose I could ride my bike down there but that is a 2 week trip, minimum, through the most rugged of Colorado's mountains...and it would only be possible from June to August, possibly September.

Then there are the quality of life issues. I don't want to lead a life where I can only go, comfortably, 50 miles from home, if I go out on the plains. If I go into the mountains, cut that in about half (25 miles out and 25 miles back would be a hard day, especially around Denver). I like to range further afield than that. I also like to do other things than ride a bike all the time. I like to fish and hike and camp. Taking 2 weeks to accomplish that every few weeks would be difficult considering that I do have a job and a family. So a car is a necessary evil.

Don't get me wrong, I admire people who are willing to give up their cars. I just can't give up mine totally, so I do the next best thing...I use it as little as possible. Since 1988, I have ridden my bike to work and average of 110 workdays per year (that's the years I have records for). Considering that there are 260 workdays per year, that's an average of around 43% of the time riding to work. I don't know many people who have cyclocommuted to work that much for so long.
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Old 04-11-06, 02:15 PM   #7
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Who in God's name would think a 2003 Camry is a status symbol?
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Old 04-11-06, 02:19 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jeff-o
Cars are a status symbol, plain and simple...
and a $7000 litespeed/colnago/bmc isnt?
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Old 04-11-06, 03:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyccommute
Depends on where you live, what you do and what kind of life you want to lead. For example, I live in Denver. my daughter goes to school in Durango, CO. If we want to visit her or if she wants to visit us, it's a 7 to 8 hour, 400 mile trip. Buses don't go from Denver to Durango and there hasn't been train service to Durango since the Denver and Rio Grande Southern pulled up tracks in the '50s. There is no way to get there in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost, except by car. I suppose I could ride my bike down there but that is a 2 week trip, minimum, through the most rugged of Colorado's mountains...and it would only be possible from June to August, possibly September.

Then there are the quality of life issues. I don't want to lead a life where I can only go, comfortably, 50 miles from home, if I go out on the plains. If I go into the mountains, cut that in about half (25 miles out and 25 miles back would be a hard day, especially around Denver). I like to range further afield than that. I also like to do other things than ride a bike all the time. I like to fish and hike and camp. Taking 2 weeks to accomplish that every few weeks would be difficult considering that I do have a job and a family. So a car is a necessary evil.

Don't get me wrong, I admire people who are willing to give up their cars. I just can't give up mine totally, so I do the next best thing...I use it as little as possible. Since 1988, I have ridden my bike to work and average of 110 workdays per year (that's the years I have records for). Considering that there are 260 workdays per year, that's an average of around 43% of the time riding to work. I don't know many people who have cyclocommuted to work that much for so long.
OK so in all of what you said... did you buy your particular vehicle because it was most efficient vehicle available, or because it looked cool?

If we were to stick to the issue of the need of some motor vehicles due to the immediacy of some transportation needs only... Then there would never need to be the umpteen styles of vehicles, and the annual "fashion show" of new cars... vehicles would only be presented new as they were actually improved not simply changed. And vehicles such as the Hummer (with poor milage, poor capacity and suitable for only off road) would never see the paved public streets.
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Old 04-11-06, 03:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasGuy
Rich cars over 40k are.
My car is not a status symbol though i could own a status symbol car if i chose to.
In Thomas Stanley's "The Millionaire Next Door" Stanley did a study of the car buying habits of the very rich vs the not so rich. In one study Stanley focused on people selling their luxury cars and on who bought them. In one case, a 20 something box salesman sold his 3 year old BMW 5 series to a 50 something doctor. Stanley questioned both buyer and seller about why they bought new vs used and what they each thought the others motivation was for their choice. The doctor said he enjoyed driving BMWs but couldn't justify the cost of a new car when so many lightly used cars were available at a substancial discount to new. He saw nothing wrong with buying a three year old well maintained BMW. He believed the young salesman wasn't being smart with his money, but was thankful to him and the thousands like him for taking the beating on the car's massive depreciation. For his part, the box salesman said he wouldn't consider buying a used BMW, as he makes more than enough to buy new. He also said when asked why he thought the doctor was buying his used car, that he believed the doctor couldn't afford a new BMW. The fact was that the box salesman had practically no net worth where as the doctor was worth millions and could easily afford a new BMW. Of course the box salesman is very young and will eventually learn how money works.

People do look at cars as status symbols. As this example shows, it's a mistake to judge a person's financial status from the car they drive. The guy with the new BMW wasn't even worth a fraction of what the used BMW buyer was.

According to Stanley the car most owned by millionaires in this country is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The jeep is a great vehicle, and in it's full up trim tips the scales at about $40,000. That won't turn any heads at the country club, but being easy on the wallet sure makes looking at the brokerage statement a lot more fun.
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Old 04-11-06, 03:10 PM   #11
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OK I totally didn't mean to start a car-vs-no-car debate. I was just rambling about the way things changed as I was riding along in the train.
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Old 04-11-06, 03:25 PM   #12
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Exactly my view on it.

Thing is there are some really huge reasons why so many use cars:

*Roadway infrastructure is designed so only cars can traverse them easily.
*The increasing popularity of shopping malls and the decline of the community shops
*people have grown soft, and think a mile is a huge distance, when in fact they walk at least 5mi a day in a bad day.
*peer pressure (what, you don't have a car...you must be a LOSER!)

Myself, I don't need a car...I can finally say I am fully capable of living without a car. However, I do want to be able to up and go to Georgia to see my friend's band play, go visit my dad in Ohio, and so on...so I will be getting either a car or a motorcycle soon enough....something good on gas, and cheap on insurance. After all, I will probably only use it about 10-12 days out of a year.

People at work have finally recognized I'm not some "DUI", and do this because I find it personally rewarding, mentally and physically. Actually...it benefits me as a geek too...I just got done doing some surgery on my frame with a dremel, to get a 700x25c to clear the welds around the brake bridge on the rear triangle
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Old 04-11-06, 03:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by free_pizza
and a $7000 litespeed/colnago/bmc isnt?
Of course not... that is a necessity.

Actually a $6000 Merlin would do just fine... thanks.
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Old 04-11-06, 03:53 PM   #14
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*peer pressure (what, you don't have a car...you must be a LOSER!)
Of course the best response to that is to point to their beer gut and say, speaking of "losing".
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Old 04-11-06, 04:08 PM   #15
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That only works if they have a beer gut though.

There are some pretty skinny folks that drive as well....most of them are not fit though...just bony.
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Old 04-11-06, 04:18 PM   #16
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I take a slightly different track on my anti car sentiments. You remark about the looks of Inner Philly.
Yes, I think commuting is a miserable experience and buy into the argument that the geopolitical aspects of gas gluttony is ruining our planets' peacefulness and all that stuff.
But, first I had a urban planner course way back in school. Then I read "Asphalt Nation." My bigger belief is the car is pretty instrumental in making inner PHilly look like the way it presently does. Not only ruins our country-side by facilitating suburban sprawl, but has destroyed once proud cities.
that does not mean , I favor banning the car or expect to be totally car free.
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Old 04-11-06, 04:22 PM   #17
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every single block on all streets for hundreds of square miles in the NYC greater area has cars on them. when they are parked it's bumper to bumper as far as you can see. every day for several hours in the morning, afternoon, and night many major roads become gridlocked. it's absolutely out of control imo.
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Old 04-11-06, 04:41 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genec
OK so in all of what you said... did you buy your particular vehicle because it was most efficient vehicle available, or because it looked cool?

If we were to stick to the issue of the need of some motor vehicles due to the immediacy of some transportation needs only... Then there would never need to be the umpteen styles of vehicles, and the annual "fashion show" of new cars... vehicles would only be presented new as they were actually improved not simply changed. And vehicles such as the Hummer (with poor milage, poor capacity and suitable for only off road) would never see the paved public streets.
I bought a vehicle that fits my present needs. My wife has a Subaru which we use for almost all of our trips in town and most of our trips of any distance. We bought my daughter a Ford Ranger 4x4 because of the type of driving that she was going to have to do: winter mountainous travel and for use around Durango if she wanted to get out of town plus it allows her to carry her household goods back of forth when she ends school for the year. And I have a 1999 Tahoe specifically purchased because we needed something for 4 people and camping gear or bicycle gear and because the '99 Tahoe was the last Tahoe model that is worthy for mild off-roading. The 2000 Tahoes have soft suspensions and are glorified station wagons.

In my defense, however, I bought the Tahoe in 2001 with 43,000 miles on it. It currently has 73,000 miles on it. Last summer, I put less than 48 gallons of gas in it from May to September. Not bad for a truck that get horrible gas mileage. Also to show how little I use it, I changed the oil back in May 2005. If I followed the 3 month plan for oil change, it should have been changed in July. I put 5000 miles on it since May of 2005 and had the oil changed last week.

The vehicle that I really use is highly efficient- my bicycle. So I suppose I could answer, yes, I did buy my vehicle because of its efficiency. The fact that I like the looks of all of them (my bikes, I can care less about the automobiles ) is just gravy.
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Old 04-11-06, 04:50 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyccommute
Since 1988, I have ridden my bike to work and average of 110 workdays per year (that's the years I have records for). Considering that there are 260 workdays per year, that's an average of around 43% of the time riding to work. I don't know many people who have cyclocommuted to work that much for so long.
For some reason, I thought you were cyclcommuting more. That makes me feel better about only getting in 108 my first year. I've got in 46 for year 2 so far [Nov-Oct yr], and if just match last year, will have 130 by end of year. But I can understand the lower numbers. This has been a drier season, and it's amazing how life pressures and illness can cut this down.

Actual I think there are less than 240 workdays a year. 52 weeks x 5 days == 260, But subtract 10 days for holidays, that's 240. Subtract another 10 for vacation and it's only 230 days. You'll have to adjust those numbers for your company but you'll have higher than a 43% riding experience vs number of ride days available.
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Old 04-11-06, 05:40 PM   #20
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I read somewhere that in cities, the amount of real estate devoted to The Car is some huge percentage, like bigger than 50%. Roads, parking lots, garages, fuel stations etc.

Boy we are idiots.
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Old 04-11-06, 05:55 PM   #21
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Suburbs aren't full of cars because cars are a status symbol. Suburbs are full of cars because suburbs are designed for cars and you can't easily live there without one or more cars.

So the obvious question becomes....why do people live in suburbs?

The most important answer is because houses are cheaper there than downtown. But they're only cheaper because of hidden subsidies...underpriced property taxes, "free"ways, subsidized infrastructure like mail delivery, and off-loading of other societal costs like the burden on the economy at large from air pollution and environmental degradation.

If suburbanites were charged the full cost of the services they receive and damage they do, many would prefer or be forced to accept modest urban accomodation.
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Old 04-11-06, 05:57 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclezealot
I take a slightly different track on my anti car sentiments. You remark about the looks of Inner Philly.
Yes, I think commuting is a miserable experience and buy into the argument that the geopolitical aspects of gas gluttony is ruining our planets' peacefulness and all that stuff.
But, first I had a urban planner course way back in school. Then I read "Asphalt Nation." My bigger belief is the car is pretty instrumental in making inner PHilly look like the way it presently does. Not only ruins our country-side by facilitating suburban sprawl, but has destroyed once proud cities.
that does not mean , I favor banning the car or expect to be totally car free.
I wasn't speaking about Philly in particular. DC, Baltimore, Wilmington, and Philly were all more-or-less similar.
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Old 04-11-06, 05:59 PM   #23
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I read somewhere that in cities, the amount of real estate devoted to The Car is some huge percentage, like bigger than 50%. Roads, parking lots, garages, fuel stations etc.

Boy we are idiots.
I'm not surprised, especially if that's an average (large and small cities). Look at any shopping center, the parking lot is more square feet than the building. It's only in very dense areas that you actually get parking garages.
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Old 04-11-06, 06:10 PM   #24
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BTW, this may be off topic, but I love travelling by train. For Toronto-Montreal, the plane ride may be under an hour, while the train is 4-5 hours, but it is so much better.

Compare: The air travel is stressful, and broken up (20 min on the highway in the cab, 10 min in security, 50 minutes fidgeting on unwelcoming seats to board, 45 min crammed in the plane, 10 min getting out of the airport, 20 minutes in the cab). So almost 3 hours of alternating boredom and tension, much of it on bad seats.

Compare that to the train: 20 minutes on the subway, 30 minutes waiting in the first class lounge to board, 4 hours of luxury seating with wireless internet and gourmet food, and 10 minutes walking from the station to the hotel. So five hours of mostly comfort and relaxation. And cheaper, too.

Which would you choose?
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Old 04-11-06, 06:23 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
For some reason, I thought you were cyclcommuting more. That makes me feel better about only getting in 108 my first year. I've got in 46 for year 2 so far [Nov-Oct yr], and if just match last year, will have 130 by end of year. But I can understand the lower numbers. This has been a drier season, and it's amazing how life pressures and illness can cut this down.

Actual I think there are less than 240 workdays a year. 52 weeks x 5 days == 260, But subtract 10 days for holidays, that's 240. Subtract another 10 for vacation and it's only 230 days. You'll have to adjust those numbers for your company but you'll have higher than a 43% riding experience vs number of ride days available.

That's average for the last, nearly, 20 years. Some years I've done as little as 71 days, some years I've done as many as 156 but the average is - oops - 113. I don't discount for holidays (too many years to keep track of) or for vacation (ditto). A lot of my vacations have been riding vacations anyway so I just count the number of weekday rides. It's not as accurate but if I wanted accuracy I'd be a chemist! Oh! Wait...
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Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
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