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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 02-05-08, 08:08 PM   #1
slagjumper
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Next Car Debate: Total Miles Driven

I came across this Wall Street Journal article pointing out that the number of miles driven every year by Americans are more of a problem than poor fuel economy. We should try to reduce the "vehicle miles traveled" or VMT. A transpiration policy driven by reduction in VMT, would emphasize rail, buses, urban development and of course cycling as elements in a successful plan. Car makers , oil companies, non-urban roads and suburban / exurban development would suffer. Maybe this is why Bush capitulated so readily over fuel efficiency standards.

From:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120190455899936509.html Selected quotes-
"From 1977 to 2001, the number of miles driven every year by Americans rose by 151% -- about five times faster than the growth in population"

"Car makers and consumers will bear considerable costs to switch to a fleet of cars that meets the 35 mgp CAFE goal. But that might not result in a significant reduction in U.S. petroleum consumption or cut the CO2 we add to the atmosphere if we keep driving more and more miles."

"U.S. Department of Energy projects that miles driven will keep increasing in coming years, and by 2030 could grow by 59% compared with 2005 levels -- still outpacing population growth, though not by as much in the last three decades of the past century. That means even though we'll be driving vehicles that slurp less petroleum per mile, carbon dioxide emissions could grow by as much as 41%, according to a report titled "Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change," published by the Urban Land Institute."
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Old 02-06-08, 05:05 AM   #2
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A. I'd be surprised to find that mileage does go up considering rising fuel costs. Surprised, but not that surprised.

B. Even though we may be driving more a CAFE goal of 35mpg will go a long way to reduce CO2 emissions over what it could be if they didn't enforce it.
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Old 02-06-08, 08:18 AM   #3
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I wonder if the study included commercial miles? It didn't really say in the article. I suspect that's where a lot of the additional miles comes from. There was a huge transition from rails to trucks for transportation of goods starting in the 1970's. I've seen a couple articles where at least 70% of our goods are transported by truck, 30% by train. 30 years ago it was almost the exact opposite.

Most truck drivers will drive more miles in one year than the average commuter will drive in five. While reducing commuting miles by increasing public transportation is a fine idea, I just wonder if it will really have that much of an impact on the overall numbers? Especially now that Mexican drivers have free access to our roads, which will just drive down the cost of transporting goods via truck vs. rail.
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Old 02-06-08, 10:31 AM   #4
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Freight transportation is starting to revert back to the use of trains in at least a partial sense. You will see more and more the back half of an 18-wheeler stacked onto the flat bed of a train. Once the train gets to its destination then the rest of the distance is hauled using an 18-wheeler. This is mainly because trains are about 4 times as efficient freight wise as 18-wheeler freight. With the change in energy costs there will be an even larger shift over the next 5 years. I just wish we would switch over to an electric system like Europe has rather than our diesel system here.
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Old 02-06-08, 11:47 AM   #5
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A. I'd be surprised to find that mileage does go up considering rising fuel costs. Surprised, but not that surprised.
Rest assured, it will go up further still. Fuel prices are way up around here compared to what I hear they are in the US, and have been so for a long time. Yet the yearly kilometreage increases. I just saw a study indicating 100% increase over the period of 35 years. Every year tabloids poll people, asking how much is too much in gas prices. Whatever the answer is, that limit will be broken in short time, and it doesn't seem to effect driving habits at all. Fuel price is only now starting to effect buying new cars here, and that's due to a change in tax system that takes fuel consumption into account.

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B. Even though we may be driving more a CAFE goal of 35mpg will go a long way to reduce CO2 emissions over what it could be if they didn't enforce it.
True. But not driving would have even greater impact.

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Old 02-06-08, 02:25 PM   #6
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I suppose that there are three main ways to to decrease VMT.

1) Increased non car travel efficiencies,
living closer to work, school ,and stores
Better mass transit--bus and train
car pooling
bikes instead of cars
2) ideological changes.
this would have to do with changing peoples perceptions of the other modes of transport.
Can you imagine PSAs that actually portray the many downsides to driving.
3) Rising costs associated with VMT.
Longer commutes than other alternatives
Less time to do other things. Imagine trains and busses with internet connections
slow commutes—stress and lack of physical activities.
car taxes -- what about a tax for your 3rd car?
Things that raise the VMT-
Cheaper fuel, related to this is better gas mileage
Population growth
lack of transportation alternatives
nice long distance roads to places that people travel
low gas taxes
Media portrayal of cars as desirable, fun and exciting.
Selling pro-car ideology to children at the toystore and playground
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Old 02-06-08, 03:28 PM   #7
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I just wish we would switch over to an electric system like Europe has rather than our diesel system here.
How would that be an advantage considering that the U.S. continues to generate such a large percentage of its electricity by burning coal?
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Old 02-06-08, 03:51 PM   #8
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How would that be an advantage considering that the U.S. continues to generate such a large percentage of its electricity by burning coal?
Agreed. Given the massive size of United States, electricity for trains is an expensive option. For example, the total area of Benelux combined is less than Maine. 78% of France's electricity is generated by nuclear power. For US, nuclear power produces 20% of the nation's electricity.
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Old 02-06-08, 05:03 PM   #9
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True. But not driving would have even greater impact.

--J
Even truer.
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Old 02-08-08, 10:42 PM   #10
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I read someplace that when people have cars that get better gas mileage, they often respond by driving more.

My own experience verifies this. In 1985 I traded my 1977 Saab for a brand new Honda CRX. It got almost 40 mpg compared Saab's 25 mpg. In two years, I put 40,000 miles on the Honda. Considering that I was in the military and lived on the base where I was stationed the whole time - I didn't even need a car - it's quite telling.

Moreover, it had taken me four years to put not quite as many miles on the Saab. And for a large part of that time, I was living off base and had a 50 mile commute!

The fact is that the increased gas mileage of the Honda cause me to not have to think about how much I was driving, so I drove everywhere.
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Old 02-08-08, 10:50 PM   #11
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This is a good topic, and maybe how people should judge how "enviromentally concious" they are.
Driving a Prius 18,000 miles a year is of greater impact than someone driving a V8 Tundra 5,000 miles a year.

It's not just gas. It's rubber tires, oil, grease, wear & tear, batteries, etc.

Mileage has a big impact on the pollution any owner generates.
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Old 02-09-08, 01:51 PM   #12
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I suspect this increase is wholly due to lifestyle changes. More folks are moving to more remote suburbs. Their houses are far from the nearest school, grocery store, library, coffee shop... so if they need anything, they need a car to get to it.

If those remote suburbs were zoned a little differently to allow nearby services and if the population density was a little higher, you would probably see a reduction in annual auto mileage.

Of course, there is a phenomenon I describe as the "constantly-in-motion" individual. They live in their vehicles and -- particularly -- spend their time off going from one event to another... by car! However, I think the rising price of gas, plus the general efficiency of evolution, should cause this behavior to die off.
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Old 02-09-08, 02:25 PM   #13
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I thought crank was the rural dwellers' crack. Just to be clear, In my previous post, I meant that rural folks loved crack, because crack users and dealers fill up the privatised prisons of rural america, thereby providing jobs in areas where the only other alternative would be shift work at the local Wallys.
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Old 02-10-08, 02:50 PM   #14
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I drove about 100 miles in the last 12 months. Not to brag....
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Old 02-10-08, 05:37 PM   #15
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Another paper another study
How the government brainwashes the public into driving by isolating one choice. After they made money on that 150 percent of course.

In streetsblog they talk about how Bush wants to take money from mass T and put into highways, Only problem is the law requiring he can't touch that lol.
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Old 02-18-08, 01:08 PM   #16
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I suspect this increase is wholly due to lifestyle changes. More folks are moving to more remote suburbs. Their houses are far from the nearest school, grocery store, library, coffee shop... so if they need anything, they need a car to get to it.
Exactly... I know many people who live in such remote suburbs either by choice (want the big house with the big yard in a quiet neighborhood) or because the burbs are the only place they can find affordable housing. My wife and I lived in Washington, DC for about ten years where we lived car free in a metro area that has some of the worst automobile traffic in the country. We rented an apartment in the city... 1 mile from my work and 2.5 miles from my wife's work. We could bus, walk, or bike to work. It was great (except for biking in the exhaust of all those cars). Most of our friends had to buy their first homes in the suburbs in order to find something they could afford... and in the DC area that often means suburbs that are way out there. My wife and I had three choices when we decided to buy: Move to the burbs, buy a DC condo in the city that wouldn't be much larger than our apartment, or move out of the area. We chose to move out of the area... all the way across the country to Bellingham, Washington. We are just about to buy a house that fits our requirements: Must be walking distance to grocery store, restaurants, shops, parks, etc. Must be able to bike or bus to work (it's only three miles). We did buy a car when we moved (first one in many years) but we try to use it mainly for recreational travel to places like the mountains... and large grocery runs. While the convenience is nice to have, I kind of miss being totally car free.

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If those remote suburbs were zoned a little differently to allow nearby services and if the population density was a little higher, you would probably see a reduction in annual auto mileage.
Some suburbs are trying to create "urban villages" that attempt to replicate city and/or small town living; but the examples I've seen feel a bit Disney World-ish, and they only offer dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Plus they are destinations themselves just like a mall... so most people drive to get to them. Yes some do build some condo housing and townhouses into the mix, but the majority of the patrons still live far away. Personally I think the biggest problem comes from long work commutes since these are the trips people make five times a week. Even where these urban village suburbs have sprouted up, people still commute long distances to work. Hopefully that will change as urban villages (okay... let's call them suburban villages) grow and add more businesses. After awhile maybe there will be more jobs close to where suburbanites live.

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Of course, there is a phenomenon I describe as the "constantly-in-motion" individual. They live in their vehicles and -- particularly -- spend their time off going from one event to another... by car! However, I think the rising price of gas, plus the general efficiency of evolution, should cause this behavior to die off.
You'd think so, but I guess it depends on the individual. The first ones who really feel the pain of higher gas prices are those with lower incomes who live in areas where they really don't have any public transportation options or good biking options to get them to their jobs... or farmers who depend on gas powered vehicles to do their jobs. Meanwhile the wealthier suburban dwellers will continue to complain about the price of gas, but they won't change their ways other than maybe buying more fuel efficient cars. The "constantly-in-motion" individual you describe reminds me of the stereotypical suburban dweller in the DC area who commutes by car to and from work for a round-trip of 1.5 to 2 hours per day. Then they spend many more hours a week driving to movies, restaurants, kids soccer games, play dates for their kids, grocery stores, various big-box stores, etc. Even just going over to a friend's house for dinner can be a 45 minute drive. I had coworkers who lived like this... I was amazed at how scheduled their kids were, and how much time they spent driving their kids around to various activities. My parents rarely drove me anywhere! I discovered bicycling in the first place because it was the only way I could, as a child, expand the world I lived in! If I wanted to get somewhere I had to bicycle. My parents probably would have driven me more often if I had asked, but I liked the freedom... even at age 14 or 15 I liked the freedom of just being able to go anywhere in town on my own. My mom sure hated worrying about me when I'd ride to a friend's house who lived 10 miles away, but at least she didn't have to drive me

The kids who lived inside of DC (or in nearby Bethesda, Alexandria, etc.) often rode bus, metro, or bicycles to get where they needed to be. One thing I will say about the DC metro area is that many parts of the city, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, are well connected by paved bicycle paths... even if a couple of those paths do parallel a busy freeway. In Bellingham the bicycle is a pretty popular mode of transportation, but many of the kids seem to prefer riding long skateboards that allow them to cruise as some pretty insane speeds down the steep hills.

I now work for the City of Bellingham, and I can say that municipalities are very concerned with the cost of fuel since that affects the city's ability to provide public transportation. Bellingham is growing and fortunately there is a strong movement towards infill rather than the annexation of more land. The city also encourages staff to bike to work (or at least bus or carpool) through the Smart Trips program that many other cities offer. I record my daily smart-trips on the website, and in exchange I have a card that gets me discounts... actually really good discounts... at local bookstores, movie theaters, restaurants, bike shops, etc. They also give out prizes when you reach certain milestones for number of smart trips or number of miles not driven by yourself. It seems Bellingham is headed in the right direction in terms of smart growth, but there are still some blossoming suburbs outside of town. I guess outward expansion is inevitable <sigh>. It also remains to be seen just how the infill will happen. Too many luxury condos are going up with fewer options for lower and middle income folks.

Sean
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Old 02-18-08, 01:29 PM   #17
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I kind of realized the whole "number of miles" versus the "fuel economy" thing. I bought a mazda car so that I got great gas mileage. And I do, 35+. But I never drive it. So I am selling it, and buying a 1971 Chevy Nova. May as well have something I like sitting in the parking lot.

I am probably a bad person.
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Old 02-19-08, 02:06 PM   #18
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Well you probably are
most new cars are LEV, ULEV or PZEV

your Nova probably gives off the emissions of 50 new cars every time you start it up (assuming the Nova is in proper tune)
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Old 02-22-08, 11:46 PM   #19
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I drove about 100 miles in the last 12 months. Not to brag....
Same here but that's only because I lost my license (I'll get it back next week).
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Old 02-25-08, 09:37 AM   #20
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I kind of realized the whole "number of miles" versus the "fuel economy" thing. I bought a mazda car so that I got great gas mileage. And I do, 35+. But I never drive it. So I am selling it, and buying a 1971 Chevy Nova. May as well have something I like sitting in the parking lot.

I am probably a bad person.
You gotta enjoy life some. I bet the 71 Nova is a heck of a lot prettier than the mazda (an i am a mazda fan...)

We can try to safe the world, yadda yadda, by cycling around, but if life isn't worth it, what's the point?

Personally i commute & handle most small errands by bike. But i just got back from a 700 mile roadtrip as well. I justify car use (and other vices) in this manner: i can, I like it, I have but one life, so I will take the opportunity.

Selfish, but I'm okay with that.

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Old 02-25-08, 11:22 AM   #21
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You gotta enjoy life some. I bet the 71 Nova is a heck of a lot prettier than the mazda (an i am a mazda fan...)

We can try to safe the world, yadda yadda, by cycling around, but if life isn't worth it, what's the point?
So driving a polluting, gas guzzling 1970 vintage muscle car is the big whoop in your life, the thing that makes life "worth it"? Sorry, dude. If only you had been born 50 years earlier!

Those things were great cars, but their time is over. IMO the muscle cars belong in museums and parades, not making donut runs or whatever.
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Old 02-26-08, 02:32 PM   #22
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So driving a polluting, gas guzzling 1970 vintage muscle car is the big whoop in your life, the thing that makes life "worth it"? Sorry, dude. If only you had been born 50 years earlier!

Those things were great cars, but their time is over. IMO the muscle cars belong in museums and parades, not making donut runs or whatever.
C'mon, everyone has their hobbies, and yep, hobbies are a large part of what makes life "worth it". Some throw themselves out perfectly good airplanes. other people "scrapbook", for God's sake. some folks build ships in bottles. Whatever. Your opinion of a hobby doesn't invalidate the joy it brings to a fellow human being. You probably have hobbies some folks think are laughable or pitiful.

In fact, all of us so active on this board are kinda pitiful... We should get a real hobby

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Old 02-26-08, 02:52 PM   #23
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C'mon, everyone has their hobbies, and yep, hobbies are a large part of what makes life "worth it". Some throw themselves out perfectly good airplanes. other people "scrapbook", for God's sake. some folks build ships in bottles. Whatever. Your opinion of a hobby doesn't invalidate the joy it brings to a fellow human being. You probably have hobbies some folks think are laughable or pitiful.

In fact, all of us so active on this board are kinda pitiful... We should get a real hobby

Cheers
You think I have stupid hobbies, I think clog dancing, body piercing and Albanian cookery are pretty mainstream. TEHO!

Restoring a classic car, showing it, driving it in parades--that's a hobby. Driving that same car for basic transportation--that's a stupid waste. It's going to pollute like 10 newer cars, and it probably gets about 10 mpg of leaded gas.
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Old 02-27-08, 09:49 AM   #24
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So driving a polluting, gas guzzling 1970 vintage muscle car is the big whoop in your life, the thing that makes life "worth it"? Sorry, dude. If only you had been born 50 years earlier!

Those things were great cars, but their time is over. IMO the muscle cars belong in museums and parades, not making donut runs or whatever.
That is the great thing about it. The are completely outdated, non-luxury, non-efficient piles of steel. They are there for nothing more than experiencing the true act of driving an automobile, not as a necessity, but the same reason we ride bikes. Because of the pleasure and experience. Back when people would drive across country just to see what was out there. Not to get to where they were going at the fastest they could, while entertaining the kids in back with three dvd players, and the AC cranked on. I honestly drive my car once every two, three, maybe four months a couple hundred miles to goto my parents house or something like that. My donut runs usually involve me walking or riding my bike

Not to mention, extensive work will be done on it to make it a LITTLE more economic. Not like I will be driving it with a supercharged 454 with 4.10 gearing. It will ideally be pushing 20mpg (about the same as my girlfriends ford focus)
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Old 02-27-08, 10:01 AM   #25
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They are there for nothing more than experiencing the true act of driving an automobile, not as a necessity, but the same reason we ride bikes. Because of the pleasure and experience.
Most of us on this forum ride bikes for necessity AND pleasure. I guess that's hard for hobbyists to understand.
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