Thursday, August 31, 2006

well aren't you a party pooper....

Today I was reading (The San Francisco Chronicle's website) and there was a story about the future traffic congestion here in the Bay Area. Verdict from the liberterian group in the article. It's getting worse and we should abandon mass transit and build toll lanes. Very economic in thought. Monetize time and money in the equation and you can justify anything. My favorite quote is:

"Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease," he said. "We could get a bigger bang for our buck if we just threw in the towel and said everyone's going to drive, so let's build more freeways."

If there is anything that has come out of this experiment is that living car free is not as bad as we think it is, when we are not given a choice. Psychologists and Economists talk about getting use to something and it becomes ordinary, even when it started off special, for instance a high end car. They call that hedonic adapation. The same can be said the reverse, they find that people after an accident that leaves them crippled also return to the same happiness level. Everyone assumes that people will drive because they do now, in Zurich they changed the landscape by giving trolleys priority at lights and it made trolley's faster since they were frequent, it made cars slower. it's a matter of staging the alternatives. Some thoughts on what makes a car free existence easier:

1) First and foremost live close to your work, unfortunately an obsession with real estate and owning has led many people to live far away. The looming real estate bubble if there is one may change this equation.
2) Have lots of nice friends, one of the most interesting things is that acquaintances and friends have been very generous in driving when the circumstances require it. I have used the drive time to get to know many people better, and that has been a rich experience.
3) Be casual, unfortunately if you have to exert effort, you probably want to have a group dynamic that permits casualness. If you have to be on stage, realtor, manager, you probably cannot go from place to place a little sweaty.
4) Relish transit time, it's one of the few times where I get to think.
5) Plan to become more physically fit. When I lived without a car in Taiwan, I stopped going to the gym and started eating more heavy food (oily) but I lost 10 pounds during my three month stay just by walking. My advice, deal with it, you'll have to get new clothes.

Now, this weekend I'm shopping for cars because that's the world we live in here, but there are alternatives. Just imagine.


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