In four previous pieces here on Ithaca Blog, we've looked at TCAT, Tompkins County's bus system, and analyzed its operations, and seen that TCAT has much to offer Ithacans looking for alternatives to polluting, expensive, wasteful automobile ownership.
A couple of drawbacks to being without a car: car ownership is convenient, and a car is helpful to one's social standing, or at least social life. These drawbacks have already been acknowledged and accepted.
But of course, they can't be dismissed.
As a healthy fellow, living downtown, single, I can take care of a lot of my needs without a car. But it's a lot harder for someone with a family, or poor health, or living in a remote area.
The status issue, I do feel. Earlier in this series we mentioned the "loser" aspect of being without a car. A good self-image can help that. But what is hard to help, is becoming a ride mooch on your friends.
You don't want to. You try not to. But say you're making plans with someone, and they're driving, and you're not. You will end up riding with them. Once, twice, a few times. It's no big deal . Yet.
You will try to make it up to them. You'll buy gas. You'll pay for the movie. But guess what? They will still end up getting annoyed. At least a little. Maybe not soon. But eventually.
Let's give them full credit. No friend wants to be valued for their resources, or their convenience. That's how it can feel.
So it is really a matter of autonomy. Pardon the pun. Your driving friend is autonomous, and wants you to be, too.
It's a large issue. Because, ironically, autonomy is a big part of getting away from cars in the first place. How autonomous do you feel at the gas pump, paying three dollars a gallon to burn into the sky, because you have somewhere to go, and you don't have a choice? Paying what they tell you, when they tell you? I'm from Brooklyn and I know that relationship. That's the relationship between addict and dealer.
The oil companies, of course, make profits drug dealers only dream of.
The solution, maybe, in fighting one dependence without adopting another, is to replace car owning with car sharing. And to use shared cars along with public transportation, biking, and walking.
The movement for car sharing is flourishing in Europe and now, with the awareness of global warming and the rise in gas prices here, finally in the U.S. Recently, in Ithaca, there have been meetings among some groups interested in bringing the idea here. The next turn in this Ithaca Blog series on carlessness will be to chart this movement, see what it's about, what the options are, and see how the effort can be hastened.
for Ithaca Blog