Sunday, November 08, 2009

When driving is painful...and why cities matter.

It's been awhile since I've posted. Jobs will do that too you, and crazy hectic jobs in the suburbs will do that to you even more. The past few weeks I've been hanging out in New York State and New York City. During one of the presentations on an organization's green efforts they compared the average per persons carbon footprint to the national average and to the New York average. What was interesting is that even though this organization was in NYS, it was doing worse than the NYS average. A person asked about this, since this organization was proud of its efforts he explained. New York City, the per capita carbon footprint was so much less that it reduced the whole New York State average. In effect there were to NY carbon footprints, a country footprint and a city footprint. Sort of the country mouse vs. the city mouse all over again.

Later on that trip, I spent my time in NYC and realized that cars are just not realistic. If everyone had a car in that little space, the place would stop functioning. So they have great mass transit instead. Density changes how we behave with each other, you have to learn to be relatively civil. If you bump into someone, if it's a little bump and excuse me and you move on.

Contrast this to last night when I was driving up to San Francisco in order to see a performance (yes Mass Transit was theoretically an option, but being in the Marina not blanking likely). Traffic on the 101 slammed to a complete stop. Two cars had bumped into each other and had to exchange information. They should have pulled over at the next exit and been safer. When two cars bump into each other, everything gets blocked up and it costs a lot freaking money. A quick search on google didn't come up with anything easy, but I did find this nice blog post on how much Americans spend on transportation.

Part of this is that cars are expensive so when they get damaged we care a lot. Also, the slightest bump outside of bumpers leads to body work. In high density places, your car is going to get bumped a lot so it adds to the pain.

If we are going to change things, I am even more convinced that to go car free, we need to change out models of living. I know people love the suburbs, people love living in rural areas, but it just doesn't work. Cars are often thought of as status symbols, for cities apparently the subway is the new car according to Businessweek.


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