Mooch Off Your Friends and Neighbors - Go Car Free

This morning's Forum was titled "Carless in California" and was full of whining about how terrible cars were and how great it is not to have one.

Well, it is great! For one thing, instead of having to pay gas taxes for the roads you use by walking bicycling, or taking the bus, you can have the car drivers subsidize you! Not to mention that no mass transit system in the country is profitable, so you'll have the added benefit of being subsidized by your neighbors' taxes! Try to ride the bus when the hoodlums are busy doing other things, though. Oh, yeah, and hopefully you don't value your time too much or you can do productive things you would have been doing anyway while you're on the bus/train, or the equation doesn't work out any more.

My roommate takes mass transit on days she can't borrow a car from my wife or our other roommate. She pays about $0.11 and 4 minutes of her time per mile, versus about $0.50 and 1-2 minutes per mile in a car. If she values an hour spent on the bus at most $12.37 less than she values an hour not spent on the bus, that equation works out for her, assuming she'd be driving in traffic. If she wouldn't be driving in traffic it would be more like $8 per hour.

Oh, and if you want to go out somewhere with your friends where the buses don't go at the time you want, don't worry, your friends will drive you! Isn't it great that you have friends who have cars so you can go carless and brag about how much you're saving the environment? Fortunately, two people in a car is worth at least 15 people in a bus when it comes to harm to the environment per passenger mile, and buses are rarely that full except on popular routes during commute hours.

I must warn you, however, do *not* ride a bicycle! Talk about expensive (not to mention dangerous)! Gasoline provides around 7500 kcal/$ after taxes whereas reasonably healthy food runs about 50 kcal/$, making a bicycle cost around $1/mile (not counting the extra time and risk) versus around $0.50 for a car. Plus it's not exactly easy to work while you're riding your bicycle, unless you're a bicycle messenger. If you need the exercise anyway, that's one thing, but you'd be better off cutting your food intake and exercising a minimal amount, then driving a car to work. You'll probably live longer too; you're on average about 10x as likely to die per mile on a bicycle as in a car, and if you're in a city where it actually makes some sense not to drive you're probably *much* more likely to die on a bicycle; probably closer to the "safety" level of a motorcycle. Plus, caloric restriction, *not* eating and exercising more, is the only proven method of life extension.

A better solution might be to move to a more car-friendly city like San Jose or Phoenix, where the public transportation system is a complete joke, the roads are wide, and parking is cheap or free. Oh, and get a job where you don't have to drive in traffic, though the traffic in the South Bay is nothing like it is in San Francisco or LA. I drive (or ride my motorcycle) 10 miles to work and back but I usually come in around 10 and leave around 7 so I get to miss most of the traffic. If it takes me 25 minutes to get to work I complain about the traffic.

But, well, if you live in a city where the management of roads is completely incompetent and space is at a premium, it's probably better not to try driving everywhere. Of course, you probably also have to deal with a corrupt government and stupid laws telling you you can't eat foie gras or have a handgun in your own house or homeschool your kids and forcing you to pay a surcharge for grocery bags. In San Jose I just get to deal with the mayor exchanging contracts for kickbacks, but everyone does that, right?

Car technology is improving at a much faster rate than public transportation, sneakers, or bicycles, so there is no reason to think it's going to get easier for the carless in the future, except that they'll have fewer carless friends who can't drive them around when they need it. So you'd better go carless while you still can without absolutely everyone calling you a moron and complaining about your mooching!

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