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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-19-06, 11:26 AM   #1
HardyWeinberg
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Seattle Times magazine article

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The Seattle Weekly's Knute Berger praised the experiment but charged that the Durnings were "mooching" by accepting rides from friends. Times columnist Danny Westneat noted that Durning was being portrayed by the media as a "carless freak." The environmentalist's blog on his experiment, at www.sightline.org/carless, has drawn a steady stream of comment and debate.

It couldn't happen to a more boring guy.

Which makes Durning, his wife, Amy, and their three children Gary, 19, Kathryn, 13, and Peter, 12 so interesting. They're a typical middle-class Seattle family trying to live the values their dad promotes as founder and director of a downtown environmental think tank called Sightline, but in a way we other boring people could emulate.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...psimple17.html
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Old 12-19-06, 02:42 PM   #2
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The Durnings are doing great work. It's a sad commentary that they have to fend off criticisms that they're crazy mooches, when actually they are the ones living a sane lifestyle. Like the Durnings, we're all demonstrating that carfree is the best way to live, for many reasons and on many levels.

Thanks for the interesting post, Hardy.
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Old 12-19-06, 05:03 PM   #3
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Thanks for posting the article, with the link to their blog It's sounds like they're creating positive publicity of the carfree lifestyle. As a 'normal' family, this will hopefully go a long way towards giving this lifestyle more perceived feasibility/credibility.
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Old 12-19-06, 07:51 PM   #4
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The blogs are interesting. How a typical suburban family survives with no car. One thing about this family is that they seem to live in an older suburb that's close to shopping. Also, seems like pretty good bus service. Not to mention Flex car. Makes it do-able. For those living in the real suburbs, there's probably not much else you can do but move out...

At one point I lived in the country, sporadic bus service, grocery store 2-3 miles away, friends and family many miles away. I spent a year without a vehicle there and it was tough. Nowadays, I am 1/2 mile from groceries, still sporadic bus service, 7 miles from work... but in the city... and I think doing without a car is possible.
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Old 12-19-06, 08:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by gerv
The blogs are interesting. How a typical suburban family survives with no car. One thing about this family is that they seem to live in an older suburb that's close to shopping. Also, seems like pretty good bus service. Not to mention Flex car. Makes it do-able. For those living in the real suburbs, there's probably not much else you can do but move out...

At one point I lived in the country, sporadic bus service, grocery store 2-3 miles away, friends and family many miles away. I spent a year without a vehicle there and it was tough. Nowadays, I am 1/2 mile from groceries, still sporadic bus service, 7 miles from work... but in the city... and I think doing without a car is possible.
Its funny, the more I read about stuff like this I realize the area I grew up in New Jersey could do pretty well as supporting a car free lifestyle, as far as suburban areas are concerned. Yet everyone drives.. there are lots of sidewalks, fairly high density, downtown area, grocery stores close by, etc. I came back and tried to get my brothers to walk .18 miles to a store to get something for our mothers birthday and I couldn't convince them it wasn't worth it to take the car. When I said I didn't want to pay to put gas in it, I was chided as a cheap-skate. I mention that I like tofu in stir-fry and all of the sudden I'm a tree-hugger. Go figure.

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Old 12-20-06, 01:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by gregtheripper
Its funny, the more I read about stuff like this I realize the area I grew up in New Jersey could do pretty well as supporting a car free lifestyle, as far as suburban areas are concerned. Yet everyone drives.. there are lots of sidewalks, fairly high density, downtown area, grocery stores close by, etc. I came back and tried to get my brothers to walk .18 miles to a store to get something for our mothers birthday and I couldn't convince them it wasn't worth it to take the car. When I said I didn't want to pay to put gas in it, I was chided as a cheap-skate. I mention that I like tofu in stir-fry and all of the sudden I'm a tree-hugger. Go figure.
GD communist hippie.

Keep up the good work!
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Old 12-20-06, 02:35 PM   #7
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First of all, great article, but I question wanting to emulate DT Vancouver though. Its everything they say it is in the article (beautiful, walkable) but what it ain't is affordable. Even if you don't own a car, you still need to come from serious money to own there, which is why I know many people who have to live out in the burbs (Richmond, Burnaby, Port Moody) so they can at least get a 30-year mortgage on a condo. They then have to drive to their jobs in DT.

You can make a city as walkable (bikeable) as you want, but unless an average working joe can afford to live within a reasonable distance to his/her job, they won't be walking or riding to work (or taking public transportation for that matter).
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Old 12-21-06, 12:54 PM   #8
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In my city, which is backwards in many ways, they're converting old warehouses and office buildings to upscale condos and co-ops in the downtown area. So far they are co-existing with the low-income housing that's already there. Now all they need is some "real stores" (groceries, hardwares, pharmacies, etc.) to go with the downtown clubs and restaurants. Then, downtown Lansing would be very desirable for carfree and carlite people. The key, in the opinion of many progressive planners, is to have mixed-zone areas so people can live, work, study and shop within walking distance.
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Old 12-21-06, 03:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by GGDub
You can make a city as walkable (bikeable) as you want, but unless an average working joe can afford to live within a reasonable distance to his/her job, they won't be walking or riding to work (or taking public transportation for that matter).
That's a very good point. In Portland OR the downtown is very walkable, and of course the city is exceptionally bike friendly. However, generally isn't affordable - there's a section called the 'Pearl District' that's one of the most expensive Yuppie ghettoes anywhere in the country. That said, the city does have excellent public transit (light rail and busses), and since it's also bike-friendly, it's entirely possible to live on the city outskirts (much less expensive) without a car.
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Old 12-21-06, 09:43 PM   #10
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No one noticed what made them car free in the first place. Their son could have been killed like the young couple not far away from where I live had a similar accident by crashing in the rear of a truck. By becoming car free, they may save the lives of their children. That accident left the female passenger dead and the driver (her boyfriend) who was drunk never spent a day in jail.
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Old 12-21-06, 11:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by GGDub
First of all, great article, but I question wanting to emulate DT Vancouver though. Its everything they say it is in the article (beautiful, walkable) but what it ain't is affordable. Even if you don't own a car, you still need to come from serious money to own there, which is why I know many people who have to live out in the burbs (Richmond, Burnaby, Port Moody) so they can at least get a 30-year mortgage on a condo. They then have to drive to their jobs in DT.

You can make a city as walkable (bikeable) as you want, but unless an average working joe can afford to live within a reasonable distance to his/her job, they won't be walking or riding to work (or taking public transportation for that matter).
Your point is a very good one, and it points to a much larger problem, namely the relentlessly increasing income disparity on our continent, which will probably lead to people getting shot in large numbers some day, but in the meantime, the fact that DT areas are really expensive is actually, in a sick way, kind of encouraging: people no longer WANT to drive. If they can afford it, they arrange things so they don't have to. This is a big change from the days of my childhood, when the suburbs were relatively more expensive, and the inner cities rotting, but cheaper. Maybe the automobile's days really ARE numbered...
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Old 12-22-06, 07:44 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by AlanK
That's a very good point. In Portland OR the downtown is very walkable, and of course the city is exceptionally bike friendly. However, generally isn't affordable - there's a section called the 'Pearl District' that's one of the most expensive Yuppie ghettoes anywhere in the country. That said, the city does have excellent public transit (light rail and busses), and since it's also bike-friendly, it's entirely possible to live on the city outskirts (much less expensive) without a car.
I think this is all relative. In general, the unfortunate reality of the housing market is that you get what you pay for, and sometimes this means having a slightly overpriced studio apartment to support a given (read: urban) lifestyle. In seattle the majority of the people I know don't drive, and they aren't all wealthy professionals. you make due. people just have to consider that unless you make a lot of money, you aren't going to afford the same amount of space as you would in a suburban house, and/or you probabaly wont be able to live in the hip/fashionable parts of town. to paraphrase another saying: "size, affordability, location. pick two".

having said that, I know there's plenty of housing in portland (not the pearl though), maybe not right downtown, but definately within bike distance and definatly within the city limits, that most people in seattle would consider "dirt cheap". this is what I mean by relative. I've frequently considered moving there because of the cheaper cost of living and that its a more-bike friendly city.
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Old 12-23-06, 06:39 PM   #13
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In seattle the majority of the people I know don't drive, and they aren't all wealthy professionals.
Really? The vast majority of people I know drive at least part of the time. Many don't drive for the daily commute (some bus, a few bike), they still use their cars almost every day. If you look at the numbers though, most Seattle-ites commute via car.

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I know there's plenty of housing in portland (not the pearl though), maybe not right downtown, but definately within bike distance and definatly within the city limits, that most people in seattle would consider "dirt cheap". this is what I mean by relative. I've frequently considered moving there because of the cheaper cost of living and that its a more-bike friendly city.
Yeah, I've often thought about moving there as well, but right now it would cause some family problems I won't go into , plus I'm in sort of a transitional phase in terms of work.

I have some friends in Portland who used to live in Seattle. There are +s and -s in both cities: Seattle is a larger cities with more resources and opportunities (education, work, etc); Portland is a smaller, more relaxed city , but there aren't as many resoures and opportunities. If you are in a practical field where there are plenty of openings, this doesn't matter.
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Old 01-11-07, 09:40 AM   #14
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Just for the record: the Durnings live in Ballard, a residential neighborhood in the city of Seattle, not a "suburb". Also I note their home appears to be an 80 year old bungalow, not one of the downtown highrise condos Sightline advocates for. Don
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Old 01-11-07, 09:59 AM   #15
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I think the most telling and interesting thing in the article is that a guy who works for an environmental watchdog organization, a guy whose father is a "famous" (according to the article) environmentalist was still driving a volvo all over the place and it was only after he smashed the car and got nothing from the insurance company that he went carfree. If it's so hard and unlikely for an environmentalist, how the heck do they propose getting others on board?
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Old 01-11-07, 10:34 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by GGDub
First of all, great article, but I question wanting to emulate DT Vancouver though. Its everything they say it is in the article (beautiful, walkable) but what it ain't is affordable. Even if you don't own a car, you still need to come from serious money to own there, which is why I know many people who have to live out in the burbs (Richmond, Burnaby, Port Moody) so they can at least get a 30-year mortgage on a condo. They then have to drive to their jobs in DT.

You can make a city as walkable (bikeable) as you want, but unless an average working joe can afford to live within a reasonable distance to his/her job, they won't be walking or riding to work (or taking public transportation for that matter).
You illustrate the flaws in most people's thinking.

They go pick a house they can afford, in a city they already live in
- then, because it ends up being 25 miles from their job they conclude that they have to drive.

This is someone who planned on driving the whole time.

If you didn't want to drive, you would find a job in an affordable location, or near transit, or in a small town - making sure suitable housing was nearby, or near transit. Then you'd go rent or purchase your residence. If your job had to change, you would look for a job near your house, or near transit, and if that didn't work you'd start the whole process over again.

I mean, someone who lives in Manhattan doesn't go looking for jobs in Jersey.

You don't HAVE to live downtown in one of the ten largest cities in your country to be carfee - though it obviously helps if you have the income to do it.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm just tired of hearing "I have to drive because the only 3000 sq/ft house I could afford was way out in bum****".
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Old 01-11-07, 12:19 PM   #17
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Downtown areas are often more expensive, but more people could afford to live there if they weren't saddled with the unnecessary expense of owning a car.
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Old 01-11-07, 12:20 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by donrhummy
I think the most telling and interesting thing in the article is that a guy who works for an environmental watchdog organization, a guy whose father is a "famous" (according to the article) environmentalist was still driving a volvo all over the place and it was only after he smashed the car and got nothing from the insurance company that he went carfree. If it's so hard and unlikely for an environmentalist, how the heck do they propose getting others on board?
I wouldn't think this was the worst example. What about the Al Gore movie where Al is telling you about all the dangers of dumping pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, then moments later we see him pontificating from the back of a stretch limo.
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Old 01-11-07, 12:22 PM   #19
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I wouldn't think this was the worst example. What about the Al Gore movie where Al is telling you about all the dangers of dumping pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, then moments later we see him pontificating from the back of a stretch limo.
John McPhee's 'Encounters w/ the Archdruid' mini-bio chapter on David Brower is a good read along these lines.
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Old 01-11-07, 12:43 PM   #20
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Just talking to typical people in the last few years, I've detected quite a bit of interest in downtown redevelopment. The motivation is there, but it's not backed up by much practical carfree know-how. Urban living is perceived more in terms of a high zoot hipster lifestyle.

There is little focus on mundane issues such as how you are supposed to get your groceries. My fear is that the current crop of supposedly urban oriented redevelopments will prove to be impractical. You can't put all the condos on one side of the city and all the grocery stores on the other side.
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Old 01-11-07, 05:05 PM   #21
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Just talking to typical people in the last few years, I've detected quite a bit of interest in downtown redevelopment. The motivation is there, but it's not backed up by much practical carfree know-how. Urban living is perceived more in terms of a high zoot hipster lifestyle.

There is little focus on mundane issues such as how you are supposed to get your groceries. My fear is that the current crop of supposedly urban oriented redevelopments will prove to be impractical. You can't put all the condos on one side of the city and all the grocery stores on the other side.
Well in my neighborhood grocies, liquour, pharmacy, restaurants, doctors are all walkable. In the
adjacent neighborhood that I can also walk to, they are redeveloping by putting apartments over businesss space with a huge grocery store, theater, Target, etc. The difference between my neighborhood that has been here since the turn of the 20th century and this new one is the grocery store and the Target are receiving huge multilevel parking garages under or out behin them while the one grocery store in my neighborhood with a parking garage has only a small single level gargage. ( Come to think of it I've only been down there once, maybe it does go deeper.) Another change is to build one set of condos they took a farmer's market space. There are still at least two farmer's markets left within walking distance. So some redevelopment around here is that mixed use model where they have thought of the mundane issues. Its just the size of the parking garages which worries me. If cars are attracted to the neighborhood the car people might pressure a future city council to narrow the sidewalks to add another traffic lane.
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Old 01-11-07, 05:26 PM   #22
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I wouldn't think this was the worst example. What about the Al Gore movie where Al is telling you about all the dangers of dumping pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, then moments later we see him pontificating from the back of a stretch limo.
I think this guy's worse. This guy is an environmentalist for a living. Al Gore's a politician. A politician saying "do as I say not as I do" is NOT a shock.
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Old 01-12-07, 03:10 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by JeffS
You illustrate the flaws in most people's thinking.

They go pick a house they can afford, in a city they already live in
- then, because it ends up being 25 miles from their job they conclude that they have to drive.

This is someone who planned on driving the whole time.

If you didn't want to drive, you would find a job in an affordable location, or near transit, or in a small town - making sure suitable housing was nearby, or near transit. Then you'd go rent or purchase your residence. If your job had to change, you would look for a job near your house, or near transit, and if that didn't work you'd start the whole process over again.

I mean, someone who lives in Manhattan doesn't go looking for jobs in Jersey.

You don't HAVE to live downtown in one of the ten largest cities in your country to be carfee - though it obviously helps if you have the income to do it.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm just tired of hearing "I have to drive because the only 3000 sq/ft house I could afford was way out in bum****".
You completely missed my point. The article was talking up DT vancouver as a model for car free living and their model only works if you have a trust fund or have made your money long ago. It doesn't work for the average working class professional (and definelty doesn't work for the blue collars who are needed to keep big business running). Sure its easy to say, "Don't take a job far from where you live". But what do you do if there are no jobs where you can afford to live, but plenty where you can't? Which is exactly why Vancouver still has really bad traffic problems. My friends who live in the burbs aren't doing so to live in 3000 sq ft houses, they're doing so to live in 900 sq ft condos.
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Old 01-13-07, 02:17 PM   #24
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You completely missed my point. The article was talking up DT vancouver as a model for car free living and their model only works if you have a trust fund or have made your money long ago. It doesn't work for the average working class professional (and definelty doesn't work for the blue collars who are needed to keep big business running). Sure its easy to say, "Don't take a job far from where you live". But what do you do if there are no jobs where you can afford to live, but plenty where you can't? Which is exactly why Vancouver still has really bad traffic problems. My friends who live in the burbs aren't doing so to live in 3000 sq ft houses, they're doing so to live in 900 sq ft condos.
You make some good points about the lousy design of our cities. Here in Lansing, the auto plants within the city limits are all closing down, and new plants are being built in the far suburbs. At the same time, expensive new housing ("lofts" and condo townhouses) are going in close to downtown. Working class people are stuck in the middle--in old housing that is close to neither the new jobs or the downtown area.

Ultimately, we must build multi-use and multi-income cities where homes, jobs, schools, and workplaces are all close together, in easy walking/mass transit distances. Sorta like we did 100 years ago--before cars took over and devoured all the liveable communities.
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