I blogged about a world without cars when I put up the post about Critical Mass, the monthly anarchic bicycle takeover of San Francisco streets. There, I noted that one promoter of the critical mass idea wrote really longingly of a world without cars. I suggested that it would be a ridiculous idea. I can speak today, with personal experience, about the fact that it would be not only a ridiculous idea, but an impossible one to implement without tearing down most American communities and rebuilding them as compact, high rise cities — something that would, in the doing, create a wee bit more pollution than just cars.
Here’s my day: My car badly needed to be fixed. Because of spring break, my children did not have a school bus. And because I needed to be at a client’s office, my children needed to get to a camp. The only way to arrange this was to have Mr. Bookworm work from home (which also required the kids’ absence at camp).
To this end, I drove the car to the shop; Mr. Bookworm and the kids picked me up; Mr. Bookworm then dropped me off at a street corner so I could walk to my client; and Mr. Bookworm wrapped up his journey by dropping the kids off at camp. Mr. Bookworm then drove home, where he became tied to a telephone for a series of meetings he wasn’t able to attend in person. Total miles covered: about 15. At day’s end, a friend picked the kids up from camp, while I remained marooned at the client’s office long after my usefulness ended because Mr. Bookworm couldn’t get me.
So why didn’t I take public transportation? Because there isn’t any where I live. And there isn’t any, not just because we all have cars, but because the distances involved, not to mention the low-ish population density in my particular neck of the woods, makes public transportation (which I believe is always heavily subsidized at the best of times) entirely cost prohibitive. Sure, there are some buses that take commuters into the main urban area — always assuming they have a car to get them to the bus stop in the first place — but there is no real public transportation here, nor could there be. Ban our cars, and the only way to prevent us from lapsing back into a Laura Ingalls Wilder world of self-sufficient prairie farms would be to raze our interconnected community of small towns entirely, and build a tall, cramped City, on 1/4 of the land. In that way, one could sustain the type of public transportation you find in European cities (or San Francisco). Unless I’m much mistaken, of course, that’s not feasible.
So, a toast to my car. I missed you today.