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6.9.04

Just Say No To Cars

Will Baude links to this story about cutbacks in Greyhound's schedule, declaring it "a stern reminder to those bloggers who advocate the abandonment of cars." Presumably he means that giving up one's car is a risky decision, as it puts you at the mercy of Greyhound's schedule, and would therefore be an bad choice to make for yourself, or to recommend to others, in certain circumstances (such as people in very rural areas). As a matter of personal prudence, Baude has a point. I'm not certain which anti-car bloggers he's referring to, but my own anti-car feelings prompt me to make a few points. First, people like the now-stranded Elva Link in the article are the people that are the least in need of giving up cars -- she seems like she'd only use it for occasional long-distance trips, which are both more justifiable and less harmful than stop-and-go traffic on a 5-minute drive to the store on roads frequented by pedestrians. Second, the anti-car push can't be looked at as strictly a matter of individual choices. The reason Link wound up stranded was not because she gave up her car, but because she was the only person in Ritzville who gave up her car. If everyone in Ritzville had decided they need to take the bus, Greyhound would never have had to close the stop. Creating a more efficient transportation system requires collective action -- an organized and mutually supportive campaign, rather than individually virtuous decisions (though the latter can spur the former). Ultimately, yes, this should motivate changes in settlement patterns that create a more transportation-friendly geography.

(To put my own situation on the table, I'm not exactly an anti-car purist. I own a Buick Century, though I avoid driving it whenever I can -- including sometimes walking half an hour to take the bus. Unlike Baude, I have lived most of my life in areas where there wasn't Greyhound service (or any bus service in some cases) in the first place. But I didn't get my car until I moved for the first time to a city -- not because I need the car more in the city, but because it happened to coincide with a car-needing phase of my life.)

Also, my first ever use of trackback: success!

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