How Do You Drive Every Day?

I have not owned a car since the summer of 1998, when I sold for a pittance a rattly Dodge Omni I had been driving for a decade. In New York City, I have only driven twice: once on the day I moved in, and once coming back from my summer class at Cornell. I hated it both times.

Yesterday, business brought me to San Diego, actually north of it, to Carlsbad. I drove from the airport the thirty miles north early in the morning. Keen observation showed that a holy mass of cars were traveling south, crawling along in a jerky fashion, like lazy bees.

Of course, the drivers of these cars would say that the benefit of living outside the city—a yard, barbecue, endless trips to Home Depot—outweigh the cost of the daily NASCAR event in which they are forced to participate.

I did my business yesterday and returned to my nondescript m/hotel room and realized that I needed toothpaste and razor blades. So I mapped out the location to the nearest stores and popped back into the car. Dodge Omni

The store was only four or five miles from the hotel—four or five miles—but it took me almost fifteen minutes to get there. Chunks of cars would ooze from one traffic light to another. California, at least in this region of it, runs traffic lights on the theory that only one side of the four should be green at a time. Florida (near Lakeland) does this, too, far as I can recall. Hence the pileups at the lights.

But it was this I could not understand. A trip to buy toothpaste took me well over half hour. It didn’t help that the CVS was, to my city eyes, the size of Delaware.

When I was learning to drive, I lived in Northern Michigan where people were sparser than Republicans on the staff of the New York Times. And places where I had to be were separated by vast distances. The blond I was courting lay 56 miles distant. Driving Up North was, if not enjoyable, was at least not unpleasant.

In San Antonio, where the Air Force in its wisdom first placed me, there was this red 1965 Barracuda with bubble window and chrome gas pipe with which I was in love. But I had to sell it in 1986 when I was PCSed to Okinawa.

When I returned to the States, I bought the Omni. I never could do more than tolerate it, though. No radio, no AC, crank windows, bad brakes: cheap transportation.

Since repatriation, I cannot stand driving. It’s becoming worse as cars grow smaller. The rental car I have this time is an Aveo which resembles a circus clown car. I cannot see out more than a tiny portion of the windshield without bending forward and peering up. I have the idea that automotive engineers are unaware the humans taller than six feet exist.

Cars now run the price of small islands. And on top of that there are car washes, gas, oil, gas, insurance, parking permits, gas, tickets, maintenance, gas, and on and on.

So I ask you, dear reader, how do you cope?

40 Comments

  1. If you think the Aveo resembles a clown car, just wait untill you see the new cars which have to meet the increased millage requirements. They will all look like the so called smart car. I always thought getting a smart car was a dumb idea. Have you seen pictures of what happens to them in an accident? You are a prime candidate for the Darwin awards.

  2. > So I ask you, dear reader, how do you cope?

    Right now, by living in a place where driving isn’t so aggravating. My 20 mile commute to work goes through some of the most scenic places I’ve ever seen.

    Before that, I didn’t cope so much as “had no viable alternative.”

  3. The answer is that you have been spoiled living in New York City!

    Real cities, (NYC, London, Copenhagen, Paris – the ones I know best) were built before mass car ownership and function much better without them. My wife lived in Copenhagen for about three years (I was there for much of this, on a temporary basis) and never owned (or needed) a car. Shops were everywhere and so was public transport so it was actually quicker to get things done – avoiding both traffic and parking issues.

    When we moved to up-state NY, we tried so hard but had to finally give in and buy a car after about 5 months. It got embarrassing when out walking and people who we didn’t know would stop and ask if we needed a lift (as our car must obviously have broken down). Shops were getting bigger and were being built further out of town, public transport was sparse and geared to just one option – in to town or out of it – half of the roads didn’t even have footpaths to walk on! And that was to get to the Mall!

    Modern cities (basically, just big towns) are now built with the expectation that everyone owns a personal motor vehicle so you just can’t survive without one. Why was the nearest place to get toothpaste 5 miles away from your m/hotel? Because everyone simply assumes you are driving. Try checking in to one of these m/hotels these days and not giving a car registration number? It is like checking in without a credit card!

  4. I spend time in San Diego and love it.. It is not New York. It is a sprawling city of many different communties separated by parks and canyons. Drive 30 miles out and you will encounter ‘city limits’ signs in the middle of nowhere. Public transportation is mainly via natural gas powered buses; there is no subway. The mandatory light rail system runs mostly empty as they all do, a taxpayer funded affectation. The roads have fallen into disrepair due to lack of money; much tax money is syphoned off to pay for the huge pensions and benefits for city workers that are the California norm. But it is actually easy to get around. Traffic flows on the secondary streets, and it appears that traffic signals have been subjected to intelligent design, unlike eastern cities. The freeways are crowded but generally move well. They are so wide that one needs to plan one’s exit miles in advance.

    Overall compared to LA, San Diego is calm and rustic.

  5. I would bet you a Mocha Cappuccino to a Swan Lager there were at least a dozen toothpaste vendors closer to your hotel than the CVC, so that part of your plaintive rant rings a trifle false. That said, the best answer is “it all depends”. When we holiday in London we avoid automobiles and taxis like the plague. Multifaceted public transportation there is great fun, convenient, cheap and not very expensive, either. Probably would do the same if we lived in your area, too, so that also gives you a pass. But you’re closer to my neck of the woods. Except when I drop onto the freeway I’ve timed my trips to avoid the backed up periods. Usually. That might mean I’m smarter than the average bear, but who knows?

    The crux of your plaint, IMO, was the plastic box you were driving. Why would anyone ever drive one, if even if were a rental? Californians – real ones, not the johnny-come-lately’s that have ruined our state, appreciate and understand fun cars. Real cars, not those pieces of junk Prius et als you see flooding the interstates. Think of Steve McQueen and the Mach I he drove in Bullitt. Now that was what driving is all about.

    Next time you’re at the Hertz counter upgrade to a fun car. You may not get to your destination any faster, but you’ll enjoy the ride much more. Think of it like the difference between a Cuenca and a Montecristi.

  6. You could have chosen a larger rental car. I don’t rent the smallest one available.

    I live in Saint Paul, MN and work in Bloomington near the MSP airport.

    My work commute is 7.5 miles and about 15 minutes by car.

    o walk from my usual parking spot (not the nearest) to the building entrance (~800 feet, ~3 minutes)

    If I were to take the bus/LRT combination required to commute, leaving the house at 8:30 a.m.:

    o walk 2.5 blocks to the bus stop (~1500 feet, ~5 minutes)

    o wait for the bus, because you need to be early (~5 minutes)

    o bus to the LRT stop (because they dropped the direct bus when LRT started, scheduled at 13 minutes)

    o wait for the train (scheduled at 7 minutes)

    o lrt to its stop in front of my building (scheduled at 14 minutes)

    o walk to the building entrance (~200 feet, ~2 minutes)

    The bus/LRT would take 46 minutes and ~1700 feet of walking.

    Driving takes 18 minutes and ~800 feet of walking.

    Driving saves 28 minutes and 900 feet of walking each way.

    Add the flexibility of making stops on the way with the car, which would add a minimum of 10 minutes each for the transit interval with bus/LRT, even if they were directly on the route.

  7. @ Ray:

    Not true. I drive a Lexus CT200h (a hybrid) in which I get (though I drive differently than most – never over 55 m.p.h. for example) 55 m.p.g. The car way 3200 pounds, is quite comfortable, quite nicely equipped and seats four. The car is EPA rated, combined city and highway, at 42 m.p.g. and it’s easy to do significantly better. This is well in excess of the Smart Car.

  8. 49erDweet,

    Maybe so. But I’m in the middle of an industrial park, with road names like Faraday, Priestly, Compton, and so on.

    Bigger cars are more money and I am cheap.

  9. “I have not owned a car since the summer of 1998 . . .”

    Not to worry. Most of us are making up for you, by owning multiple cars. Unlike NYC, out here in Cali, despite the bad traffic, public transportation is *much* less convenient than driving. Public transportation can work for very specific things — let’s say, for example, you work in SF and have a short walk from the train station to work. But for everyday activities, the good ol’ car is a must.

    Besides, we often take weekend trips an hour to the mountains or an hour to the beach or 20 minutes to the baylands. No way that is going to be practical at all without a car. Finally, there is the ability to get up and go whenever you want — no worrying about train schedules, bus schedules, waiting around for the ride. That is a massive plus for me.

    Now what we really need to do is get rid of the carpool lanes. That ingenious idea of limiting supply at precisely the time of greatest demand . . . But that is a topic for another day, and might require some statistics expertise. Care to lend a hand? 🙂

  10. Ray,

    The Smart is an acceptible vehicle if you never leave the city limits nor exceed 30 miles an hour. Think of it as a 2 passenger vespa.

    Rob,

    There are a few US cities which have geographic contraints that pushed the city up, rather than out. This leads and leads to a walker friendly / driver unfriendly environment. Otherwise, the tendency is to sprawl. European cities grew up before the cars arrived.

  11. Houston traffic is horrendous. I have given up driving anywhere on weekdays between 6-10am and 3-7pm (except my 5 minute drive to work). Weekend traffic is more dependent on location… going near the mall is a risky affair.

  12. That sounds like Callaway Golf headquarters country. There’s a 24 hour Target store about 2 miles east from Faraday and Priestly. Would need to jog over to Sycamore, but it should be visible from Faraday before then. I’m with you on cheap, but not dirt cheap. I want a little more mass around me when the other guy blows the red light and t-bones me.

  13. Some random (hopefully post-related thoughts):

    “I have the idea that automotive engineers are unaware the humans taller than six feet exist.”

    Of course. Humans with 6 feet sounds preposterous.

    I once stayed in Palos Verdes but my meeting was close to LAX. I came in on Sunday and it took 15 min. to get to the hotel from LAX. It took an hour and a half to get back to the LAX area Monday morning.

    I also used to drive between Pittsburgh and Chicago. I usually arrived in Chicago about 6AM but once I got there around morning rush-hour. I had seen television picture of people getting out other cars to play cards and have a picnic and always thought it was hyperbole. When I came down the ramp from the Skyway in Chicago was very much like that with the 12-lane Dan Ryan completely jammed. When I go to my hotel the clerk mentioned how good traffic was that morning.

    Not sure, but I don’t think NASCAR sanctions Demolition Derbies.

    “Nobody walks in L.A.”
    http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/p/personsmissing7019/walkinginla261218.html

    Where I live (East Coast in the Balt-DC corridor), if you try walking, you either a) have little distance to travel and/or b) take your life lightly. I live about 12 miles from where I work. It takes 2.5 hours to get there by bus and 15 minutes by car. Obviously, I don’t choose the bus. Traffic is increasing though. One of the roads I take was two lanes wide in 1976 and is now 6 lanes wide with more than a dozen traffic lights in 3 miles. It used to be I could drive to work and encounter only one traffic light.

  14. The Dodge Omni. A classic IMHO – I had a blue one and drove it for over ten years. The closest thing I know of an American Car for the People.

    Initially, I had it in LA, Ca; the extreme north neighborhood in LA county in the Foothills, and drove, daily, to the extreme south of LA. Awesome daily commute right through LA city center to just north of Orange County. I did it for years. No radio. No AC.

    It gets better.

    Got a job in Arizona, but kept the house and la Familia in LA. Commuted from Phoenix, to LA in the Omni. By now, no shift knob, side mirrors unadjustable interior one step away from sitting on coke cases. Commuting across the Sonoran desert every other week. Never once had any kind of remote automotive problems – ever.

    That car never failed me. I sold it for one dollar and a ten-speed bike, and frankly, wish I still had it. When I sold it, it ran like a top.

    I’m not a migrant engineer anymore – I own a couple of shops in Phoenix. Live seven miles from work – never drive on the freeway – it’s Friday today and with the economy the way it is there will be almost no one on the road late Friday afternoon.

    My current vehicle of choice: a 2004 Nissan Sentra – my daughter’s hand-me-down.

    I still miss the Omni.

  15. @ Briggs:

    So, vehicle wise, your complaint is that they didn’t give you a big enough car for the money you were willing to spend. Do I have that right?

  16. Greg,

    My current car is a 2004 Sentra and its mileage isn’t something to brag about but then it IS a SE-R Spec V and I have a heavy foot. My Ford Expedition gets almost the same mileage.

    The Omni always struck me as a faux Rabbit. My first Rabbit got a lifetime average of 30MPG (total miles; total gallons). One of the best cars I’ve ever had. Even got it up to 100mph+ on the DC Beltway one night then let it coast. It did so for well over a mile — very little friction. The other two weren’t as good. I still miss the first three Bugs I had though.

  17. I work out of my home, so I don’t commute at all. It shocks me that so many businesses feel a need to jam 100’s of employees into highrise cubicles miles away from their abodes, given that the computers the employees stare at all day could be anywhere – like at home, for instance. But you all need to look at and smell each other every day, for some crazy reason.

    My main fuel need is diesel for my Massey Ferguson 245. The cardlock station is 3 miles away. Little store with toothpaste etc. is there also. But then, I live in heaven, and it’s not for everybody, evidently.

  18. I lived in the city (apartment) for two years. My wife’s commute was a two block walk. Mine a 15 minute bus ride. Home by 5:05pm. Dinner over by 5:30. No garden. No workshop. No darkroom. No garage. No dog. Just TV and bars. The schools sucked.

    Now we live and work in the suburbs. One has a five mile commute by car, the other walks up the stairs to the den. Great schools.

    People are free to choose.

  19. Understand that people in Southern California did not choose to live 60 miles outside the city so they could barbecue. The houses are/were very expensive and for most people in Southern California the only way they can afford to buy a home is to move far from the big city. They know what they are getting themselves into but see no other option.

  20. Never thought of it as coping, but I guess I used to spend my 15 minute drive to work listening to NPR. Can’t stomach them anymore (have I become more sensitized, or have they been getting more and more Luddite?), so now I listen to audio books (mostly from Audible.com, sometimes LibriVox).

    Also, I have a 1996 Lexus that is very reliable. Where I go in Austin, public transportation would be time consuming, and super inconvenient.

    On a related note, in this video, Randal O’Toole does a nice job of explaining why (in most places) buses make a lot more sense than rail, and why private bus companies are innovating to fill new market needs.

    http://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-video/randal-otoole-discusses-privatizing-transit

  21. I got no problem coping. When I lived in Los Angeles, I got an appartment just north of work, as traffic at that location was heavy going north and sparse going south. I was 4 miles away and that was about 6 minutes drive. I have a sports car that is fun to drive.

    Every place I end up moving to, my residence is close to work, and I check out the traffic situation in advance so I am at the light end each time.

    here in Phoenix, I live about 4 miles from work, takes about 7 minutes to drive, 10 minutes if I miss a specific light and get behind two vehicles or a truck so I cannot turn right on red. In the morning, traffic is heavy going west, I go east. In the evening, traffic is heavy going east, I go west.

  22. I live, quite deliberately, in a zone 12, the most mass-transit unfriendly class of neighborhoods. I drive 12 miles to my office, averaging 18 minutes. Counting both directions, those are the most pleasant 36 minutes of my day. I can set my temperature to perfection, listen to the entertainment of my choice, and since I have no youthful enthusiasm left, do so at a pace set to please only me.

    My home, some 8000 square feet, in a gated community, with 20 foot ceilings and an indoor pool, on two acres with my very own stream, set me back about $50.00 a square foot. Even though it is the smallest and simplest home in the neighborhood, my wife and I are happy to call it home.

    My daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren live in a 3000 square foot penthouse on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Their two parking spaces cost 20% as much as my entire home, and their monthly mortgage payment resembles the average American family’s annual income. They too have their own stream, but it is cars, buses, taxis, trains, and noise.

    As disparate as the two homes seem, each family is living in their own version of paradise. My family enjoying economical elbow room and tranquility, my daughter’s enjoying the convenience of shopping without leaving their building and the contact with all the elbows they can stand. While I remain allergic to the big cities, I have finally learned to at least appreciate my daughter’s appreciation for cosmopolitan life.

    As to cars, I own one of the most massive, lumbering, giganto-SUVs of all time, one of the most rugged and utilitarian rock crushers, and one of the fastest cars ever built. Next time you go to Vegas, rent a Z06 or a 911 instead of an Aveo, and you may re-discover the thrill that Barracuda used to provide.

    At any rate, sounds like you are doing what you love, where you love to do it. Nothing could be finer…

  23. We don’t own cars anymore. Living on a boat and running up and down the east coast in it makes it impractical. Besides, they might have interfered with the education we got at the hands of Irene in kingston, NY where we anchored for the impending blow in what turned out to be the storm drain for 1,100 square miles. I never expected that Rondout CREEK could include a river in its tributaries.

    But enough of the wet work. One of the last two cars that I liked (not last two cars) was a 1979 Saab 5 door, which we named Turquoise Lament. It was a speeding ticket factory and by very wide margin, the least reliable car I ever owned – problems with blower and catalytic perverter. It seemed to find rails in the road and could be driven very fast with astonishing stability. It was also very sticky on the short radius access curves and i used to like to watch the Camaros in the mirror that tried to keep up with me, spin out going into MIA.

    The other was a honda CRX-2. I understand that this car led to the realization that a Porsche was a poor man’s CRX – again confusion between correlation and causation.

    So we’ve been renting cars 6 or 7 times a year for trips to the ancestors who don’t live near the water – and i still love to drive, and yes even the Aveo. We always rent the cheapest thing available, generally from Enterprise because they will pick us up. This time, it’s a Nissan Versus, which is pretty nice and peppy, too.

    I’m 6-2 and just now passing through 220 lbs – hopefully in the right direction. I have relatively short legs. Maybe this gets me closer to the windshield and this is why i can see out and you can’t.

    The reduction in vibration, noise, etc, and improvement in handling and oomph in little cars in the last ten years has been astonishing. We haven’t rented a genuinely bad car in maybe 5 years. Kia used to make one that was able to resonate at a number of speeds all near speed limits such that you either had to run about 10 mph over or under, but not dead on. in the states, Washington near Seattle for example, where everyone seems to drive dead-nuts on the speed limit, this could be inconvenient.

    Briggs, is there any chance that you’ve lived too long in New York City? You’ve become quite the whiner.

  24. I live in Sydney, Australia. Not a great city for cars but it would be very hard to live here without one. Fortunately I live in an inner suburb and am close to a highway so my commute is only 10 minutes to another inner suburb. We have a holiday house 120km (80 miles) away – this takes us 1 hour 30 mins, on highways.

    Our cars are an Audi convertible, a Lexus SUV and my daughter has the older Mercedes I previously drove.

  25. Hi Doug M (2 September 2011 at 3:01 pm)

    “There are a few US cities which have geographic constraints that pushed the city up, rather than out.”

    I think it is less about the geographic constraints than the timing of the growth of the city. Most US cities are young and are more equivalent to overgrown towns (not an insult, just an observation) and this is coupled with the earlier growth in US car ownership compared to Europe. In addition, these cities grew in an era of “town planning’ which took personal vehicles into account (reverence?).

    This effect can be seen in the more modern European towns/cities (Milton Keynes is the classic example in the UK) and those which suffered the greatest damage during WWII and were thus re-built in the 1950’s.

    I think we have gone somewhat off-topic from Matt’s original point on how do people cope with daily commuting by car, but I think that is simply testament to human adaptability: if you have to do it then you learn to cope or change something else in your life.

    An extreme case can be found in the developing country cities I have spent some time in recently – particularly Manila and Dhaka. Traffic there is just WOW so no-one drives themselves anymore. You have a car and driver full-time so that even if you are stuck in traffic then you can still work by ‘phone and you never waste time parking. Of course, you can’t plan more than one meeting in the morning and one in the afternoon, but maybe cutting down meetings makes you more productive …… Another topic entirely!

  26. Cars now run the price of small islands. And on top … So I ask you, dear reader, how do you cope?

    Mr. JH insists that I drive my car until it dies. I know…this is not what you are asking. For me, I simply had to get used to not living in a city.

    For my first car, I wanted a Saab. Mr. JH said no because we needed to save money for a house. So I agreed to buy a Nissan. For my second car, I wanted a Lexus, He said no because we need to save money for kids’ college education. So I again compromised. When my brother bought a Land Rover, I told Mr. JH that I wanted one too. He said no because my current car was not nearly dying. For my third car, I’ll demand a Mercedes and will compromise for a Lexus. ^_^

  27. Hehe, this is a funny one… so I guess my two cents worth is at least worth a couple cents.

    I drove at one time or another one of two different Chevrolet Chevettes, a Dodge Colt, some French thingy that had problems with its fuel delivery system, a Dodge Charger (the small one,) and a Plymouth Horizon, cousin to the Omni. Of those tiny vehicles, the Horizon was my favorite. It has 125,000 miles (when my brother totalled it for me) and still managed 30 miles to the gallon with enough power to really go. I’m 6′ 3″, and I found the Horizon to be quite roomy with the seat all the way back. Throw in a nice stereo system and it was quite the cruiser. Interestingly, even after it was totalled, with the block cracked and dumping fluids on the ground, the engine still purred… well, until it froze up, hehe.

    Since I got a “real job” as an engineer, I have owned mostly rather larger vehicles, including a 72 Monte Carlo, which is about as big as they get. My current vehicle is a Nissan Xterra. How do I cope? I must wonder, how do you not cope? I cannot fathom being trapped at home without my truck. Indeed, I am currently winding up a contract in Centennial (south Denver) that is 57 miles from my home… 17 miles per gallon for 114 miles per day is not optimal, but at least I’m in my truck. My wife’s Hyundai Santa Fe would drive me nuts if I had to spend as much time in it.

    Of course, in Colorado Springs, there are not many options for leaving without a rather lengthy walk if a car is not available – different circumstances I suppose, make people view the world differently. I spend as much time trucking through the mountains as I can, though not nearly enough in my opinion, something that is much harder to do in smaller vehicles than the one I have (while not “large,” the off-road Xterra does weigh in at nearly 5000 lbs, well over that with my fat butt behind the wheel and a bit of gear in the back.) There are no issues with room in such a vehicle, even for those of us with girth to match our height.

    There are other options than those tiny things, that’s all I’m sayin…

    Mark

  28. Mr. Brriggs,

    I am truly shocked that a man of your sensibilities and libertarian leanings would prefer to depend on the government and taxpayers to provide your subsized transportation! Living in the largest (area-wise) state east of the Mississippi, and in the much lower populated southern zone, living without a car is impossible.

    I lived four years in Knoxville, Tennessee and commuted daily to Oneida, Tennessee, sixty miles each way, in a souped-up Turbo Coupe Thunderbird. I loved it. Being THE engineer at a manufacturing facility, it was nice to be awake when I got to work and not blowing-steam-angry when I arrived home. As another poster put it, it was a FUN car…………except in icy conditions. I totalled it the third day after moving to Atlanta with 270,000 miles on the clock AND the original engine. It would still do 0-60 in about five seconds, but that one trip from 60 to 0 in a quarter of a second did it in.

    During the 2004 election, a pundit on FOX said people who owned pickup trucks, SUVs and sports cars tended to be more conservative and vote Republican. I told my wife we had been “outed”, since we had an F-150, an Expedition and an MGB roadster.

    Now, we have TWO Expeditions, a Pontiac Solstice, a 2 wheel drive F-150, a 4-wheel drive F-150, a 1964 F-100, a 1942 Ford Super Deluxe Convertible, a Model A Ford project, a John Deere 5325 tractor, a Polaris utility vehicle, and that same damned MGB. Keeping up with oil changes around here can be problematic. Do you know a good statistician who could help with that?

    Back to “public transportation”. When there was a minor hue and cry concerning Mr. Holdren the Science Czar’s college paper advocating the use of sterilants in drinking water to help control population(s), one of the farmers in my “breakfast club” commented “Anybody who depends on the government to provide something so essential to life as their water OUGHT to be sterilized!”.

    I understand not owning a car if you live in NYNY, London or Paris. However, the next time you rent a car, rent a Mustang. That new 300 horsepower V-6 is a trip, it’s small enough to park easily, and not having that torque reaction thing going on with some stupid front wheel drive setup beating your wrists through the wheel, it will be a nice ride.

    Of course, a CRX has no torque. A Saab is a car built by aeronautical engineers, who don’t (or didn’t) know crap about cars. Although I could be in the market for an old two stroker to park next to the MGB, but I digress.

    The only way to make four car doors look good is to split them between two cars.

  29. ed, another slave to a motor pool I see. Except for the A project, do they all run? you need an M38, or maybe an MB to provide some perspective – and to drive out to get parts for the others?

  30. ed,

    Subsidized transportation? Did I really say that?

    I prefer to walk everywhere, and do. When I am home, I mean.

  31. I live 25 miles from my job in an area of small towns and rural communities in Virginia. Walking is obviously not an option, and while there is public transportation that connects several of the communities here, it would take hours to get where I need to go, even if there is a connection between Staunton (where I live), and Harrisonburg (where my job is), which I’m not sure there is. Not all of us have the option of living in a large yet compact city like New York, and having a job that is walking distance.

    Besides, I like driving. The fact that I own a machine that I can get into and go practically anywhere I want, when I want, without having to wait for someone else (bus driver, train engineer) to act, is one of the things that makes living in this country worth it. And yes, I have often been in a position where I have no car and have to depend on others to get me about, which includes having to take mass transit. This is when I lived in cities (in Florida). It sucked — a fifteen minute drive to work could take up to two hours one way by bus, which was a ridiculous waste of time.

  32. BMW 5 series station wagon, 2.5l diesel engine that has over 200 HP and tops out at 240km/h.

    I work for a company that has close ties to BMW and with whom we have a working arrangement: senior economists get 5 series. Junior economists get 3 series, admin people get 1 series. Department heads get X5s and the bosses drive either 7 series or X6, or really any damn thing they want to…

    Company pays for the car. I pay taxes on 1% of the list price of the car each month. I pay for the operating expenses, but it’s a fixed-price deal with a set price for fuel, inspections and winter tires. I can live with that. 🙂

    Oh, and it’s a 20 minute commute. If a trip to a customer is less than 400 miles, I drive. If so, we fly.

  33. >>”Cars now run the price of small islands”

    Try comparing what a car such as a Chevrolet cost in 1970 to the cost of a “similar” car forty years later.

    Now factor in all of the things that are standard now that were options or not even available back then.

    Now factor in all of the safety and reliability improvements.

    Or for even more humor, compare the cost of college tuition 1970 to 2010. My alma mater’s tuition was $2,000 then and is $41,800 for the coming year.

  34. How do I cope? Honda Accord and a rural address. Work and my favorite trout stream are both 20 minutes (10 miles away from home). “Livin’ in the city ain’t where it’s at.”

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