Car-free in America?


I can’t see us ever going car-free as a society considering we can’t even do away with big, obnoxious looking SUVs for our daily drivers. Comments? Please and thanks.


Son lives in San Francisco.
Doesn’t have a car.
Doesn’t want one.

Stupid article…In order for us to be Car-Free we have to all live in cities…The article gives all these examples of how communities built these homes with schools, and stores within walking distances from where they live…GREAT…But what about from where they work. I know everyone on my street…only ONE person works in this New Hampshire town of 10,000 people…8 of us work in Massachusetts…One works in Maine. The rest work in NH, but different towns…One even has a 40 mile commute to North of Concord. I can walk to stores and a small shopping center…My son can walk to his high-school. But that’s about it.

And some of these communities remind me of the Factory towns of years ago…Where the stores were owned by the factory…Everyone worked together and went to school together…paid very high prices for everything they bought…

I’m NOT against a car-free-America…I just don’t see how it can work. It’s NOT a very realistic view of life. It’s almost like a fantasy view of how SOME people live. Reminds me of this woman in our town who was on this campaign of getting a Rails-To-Trails program going…It was a good idea…and in other towns it worked real well…But in our town the rails run parallel to a MAJOR 4-lane road…and crosses 5 MAJOR intersections. I was totally against it because of the safety to the bike riders…It would be IMPOSSIBLE to do this safely. When I asked her about how we could possibly make this safe for the bike riders…she said…all we have to do is put cross walks in and the cars will stop…when pressed I found out that she doesn’t have a drivers license…and NEVER gets to that section of the town without someone driving her. She lived in this fantasy world without any practical knowledge of the real world in which she lived in.

In order to build a VIABLE infrastructure to rid us of our cars…a very very conservative estimate would be (50-100 years and a cost of well over $50 Trillion).

I have a nephew who lives in NYC…doesn’t have a license…doesn’t have a car…Doesn’t want one…Works GREAT IF AND ONLY IF you live in a city.

Only viable in the city. Many people don’t live in areas where there is bus service or light rail. Additionally it’s very convenient to be able to go somewhere when you want or need to and not be subject to bus or subway schedule. Granted, in large cities like New York it would be doable to be car-free, and many, many people do it. For me, and many other people who live in rural and semi-rural areas, being car free is not an option.

BTW the “big, obnoxious looking SUVs for our daily drivers” comment was very presumptuous.

Ten years from now, only the top 30% of Americans income-wise will be able to AFFORD private automobiles. 45MPH crash “tests” into concrete barriers will no longer be a factor in automotive design or marketing…

You are saying that only 30% of Americans will be able to afford their own car in ten years? How do you figure that?

Rails to trails is a great program. The hard part is a central idea of planning vs localized(tid bits). There is money out there to implement the bits and pieces but never a larger part.

I used to live in Dover NH and when they implemented this program I was finally able to bike from Dover NH - Portsmouth NH(work) safely. They used an abandoned bridge over great bay(rt16) and abandoned highway bridges to pease and built a new bridge off a RT95 bridge. Excellent program!

The idea of a car free America is stupid. How will you get to a tiny town in, lets say Wyoming if you can’t drive yourself there? If you live in New York or San Francisco, great, don’t own a car because you don’t need one. But there is the whole rest of the country to think about…

My guess fuel prices.

Rails to trails is a great program. The hard part is a central idea of planning vs localized(tid bits). There is money out there to implement the bits and pieces but never a larger part.

I think it is too…When I lived in Goffstown…I was all for it…the rail they were converting to a trail was PERFECT…But NOT where I live now…The rail is NOT a good location…Way too much traffic…One road the bikers/pedestrians would have to cross is way way to busy…right next to a mall…You have to apply a little bit of thinking. One part of the town already has done it…and it’s EXCELLENT…But not in the Southern end of town…way way too busy…If they built it…I GUARANTEE someone would get killed or seriously hurt 2-3 times a year.

There was a PBS article just 2 weeks ago about Sprawl in Pennsylvania. How people were moving out of the cities to the country and taking up valuable farm and conservation land. I agree that there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed.

But the IDIOT who was narrating the show did discuss WHY people were moving out of the city…High taxes…high crime…no control of your local government. But he didn’t address these problems. All he said was that there are now areas in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with large sections of the city deserted and people who live in the burbs should move back to the cities because it’s cheaper and better for the environment…Yes…he’s right…those homes are cheaper…and it would be better for the environment…but what about the high crime and extremely high taxes…He made no mention of how to address those problems…SOLVE those problems first and many people will come back. I was born in a city…Parents moved to the burbs for those same reasons…high crime…high taxes…50+ years later…the city I was born in still has high crime and high taxes…Why would anyone want to move back???

Agree that a car-free America is a stupid idea. I had a chance to work in France on a project a few years ago. I stayed at the Holiday Inn in a far out suburb of Paris. I was able to walk to the office, and every 20 minutes there was a fast train to downtown Paris, and I could be in London, England in under 4 hours!

However, even with this marvelous rail system, Frenchmen still own cars, but they drive only 7000 miles per year and their cars use just 50% of the fuel of what US cars consume because of lighter weight and smaller engines. So the French consume 1/4 the gasoline per capita of Americans. This is the best we can hope for; a good rail system with smaller and more fuel efficient cars.

There were several posts last year when gas was $4/gallon in some places as to what the future held for the US. We advanced similar arguments, and added electric cars in the future. If you ask Obama’s energy advisors, you will find that is exactly how they see the future.

The problem is that in most areas at the moment, the difference between the cost of living in closer urban areas where car-free living is feasible and the cost of living in the suburbs FAR exceeds the cost of owning, maintaining and fueling a car (or a small fleet of them). At the moment these areas are in demand because of convenience and because they’re trendy, but if there is a genuine economic upheaval that makes it unaffordable to own a car I’d imagine that these areas are only going to become more desirable and less affordable.

I actually think the semi-car-free model is much more feasible in small-to-medium communities. Right now I live in a town of about 50,000 and can ride my bike all the way across town in 15 or 20 minutes. An average bicycle commute would probably be 5-10 minutes. IMHO, there’s no reason anyone in my town should be driving on a nice day unless they’re hauling something.

I don’t think anyone is at the moment suggesting you give up your car for intra-city travel if no alternative exists.

Although some dense US cities (and a few planned communities)can allow one to be car-free, in most existing suburban or rural areas of the USA this simply won’t work. Several generations ago when neighborhood stores existed this had more of a chance. There are few ‘mom and pop’ stores any more as they’ve made way for larger stores further away offering more selection/better prices. And many people work in other cities. Mass transit and other infrastructure could maybe help people cut down on car usage, but cars are still needed.

Another challenge to existing and even future communities is winter weather in many areas of the country. I don’t mind walking or biking some places in the spring, summer and fall, but when it’s below freezing in a winter snowstorm I’m going to drive my warm and enclosed car, thank you very much. I choose not to walk/bike in thunderstorms or heavy downpours, either.

I choose not to live in a densely populated downtown area and enjoy having a house and yard. I drive 5 minutes to catch a bus to work. I also enjoy being able to drive with my family to visit relatives and friends (who also choose to mostly live in suburbs or rural areas). And I’m glad my wife doesn’t have to walk everywhere with our 4 year old.

I certainly don’t want a mandate telling me to move to a high density city and give up my cars. (This sort of reminds me of the beginning of the movie Dr. Zhivago where the government made the family turn their house into public apartments.) I like living in the USA where I still have a choice. I have enjoyed traveling to other US cities and other areas of the world, some of which supported a car-free lifestyle (and I got around), but am always happy to come home to what I have.

There will always be cars in America. Or maybe personal little aircars if you believe Star Trek.

We have changed as a society before and we will change again. Horses ruled the country once as the main mover of people. Cars have come and they will stay, but perhaps the car will lose some of its clout. A movement from the suburbs back to city living will have to move from a trickle to a torent for the car to disappear entirely.

America is too committed to the suburb to change wholesale back to a nation of city dwellers. What will change is the car itself. It will be more often electric and in 30 to 50 years a gas driven car will be a rarity. I don’t think many Toytoa Prius models will be preserved as classic cars. The modern car will be efficient, roomy, comfortable, reliable, and utilitarian. For those of us who like to drive more cars will function on auto “pilot” and the driver will be expected to only get involved if the car’s systems experience some sort of failure. Everyone will be texting, or talking, or bluetoothing, or whatever while the car takes them to their distination while they do other stuff.

For intercity travel a car may be driven to a “station” where it will be sucked into a stream of traffic being propelled along by magnetic force, or suction, and be wisked to the city at hundreds of miles per hour. It will drop you at another station and you’ll move along to visit friends or grandma.

This is all easily possible, but there is no infrastructure yet to support it. Interstate highways will deteriorate and another mode of long distance travel will supplant it. Trains will play a role perhaps. The fuel hogging airplanes will have to either get much more efficient or they will perish. There will be under sea contraptions moving thru high speed tunnels hunderds of feet below the surface moving large number of people and cargo from continent to continent.

America can either lead the way with these technologies, just as it did with the automobile, or let other countries lead the way.

10 years from now? I have a hard time believeing that. I’m sure that fuel prices will go higher, but I really doubt that only 30% of Americans will be able to afford having a car around.

Weren’t we suspposed to have run out of oil like 30 years ago?

That sounds like the perfect place for a pedestrian bridge.

I actually think the semi-car-free model is much more feasible in small-to-medium communities. Right now I live in a town of about 50,000 and can ride my bike all the way across town in 15 or 20 minutes. An average bicycle commute would probably be 5-10 minutes. IMHO, there’s no reason anyone in my town should be driving on a nice day unless they’re hauling something.

And I take it you live South of the Mason-Dixon line??? Here in NH you can ride your bike 5-6 months of the year…What are we to do the rest of the time???