Turning the Corner on Driving?

Nate Silver, a Freakonomics favorite, wonders if the American car culture is finally coming to an end. Silver points out that Americans drove much less this January than last January, even less than expected in a bad economy with high unemployment. Part of the decrease may be explained by a delayed response to last summer’s high gas prices, but Silver also cites evidence of a potential sea change in Americans’ attitudes toward driving. [%comments]


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  1. charles says:

    “..Silver also cites evidence of a potential sea change in Americans’ attitudes toward driving.”

    I don’t think so – it’s the cars people fall in love with, and as far as I can tell it’s still going on.

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  2. Erin says:

    Perhaps it is changing. But I love my car. I love taking road trips. I’d drive to work every day if it weren’t for the prohibitive cost of all-day parking in a downtown area.

    Just this week there I saw an article saying I could potentially save $10K a year by going without a car. But that study (like many others before it) blatantly ignored the lost value of my time wasted sitting on public transit. Taking the bus to and from work every day, including driving to the park-n-ride, takes about an hour and a half each leg of the trip, from door to door. I can make the drive to work in half that time. Plus there’s the cost of extra time associated with the logistics of having my car located nowhere near me should I need it.

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  3. noah says:

    I don’t drive to work and I don’t ever plan to. I ride my bike and take the bus. It’s a 45 minutes ride, but I never need to go to the gym. If I take the bus, I can read, watch videos, or even work the whole time. Yes it takes about 20-30 minutes longer each way than if I drove, but I get home much less stressed. I live in Austin though.

    If you live in a suburb somewhere, everything Erin says is true because the place you’re living was built on the assumption that everyone can and will drive anywhere they need to go. The suburbs are killing us.

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  4. Kyle says:

    Erin, I get to use the time I spend on public transit to read. Other passengers play video games and write or study. Can’t do those in your car without being a safety hazard, neh? The time –and for my commute, it’s no longer than driving and finding parking — is only wasted if you make it that way.

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  5. Arlene says:

    I see Erin’s point, however one could counter that by saying an individual can equalize the “lost time” spent on the bus by being productive with the time spent sitting there. You can’t read or write while driving a car. The Washington Post once profiled a guy who worked on his book on the metro. If you have an iPhone, it’s a great time to catch up the internet reading you would otherwise use as a time-waster at work or home.

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  6. Jackie says:

    I think it’s less about choice and more about economics. A lot of people have lost their jobs, can’t afford gas/insurance or have had their vehicle reposessed or sold it for rent $$. Americans still love our cars, we just can’t afford them right now. Now where is my snuggie and library card? The cable goes next…

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  7. aaron says:

    Owning a vehicle just for commuting seems silly. I think I’m buying a truck next time. I’m tired of being dependent on others when I need to move something.

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  8. Mike says:

    I could probably save quite a big by going completely without a car, but it’s paid off and so my only fixed costs are registration, insurance, and depreciation. That’s worth it to me to be able to up and go on a road trip, or make a run to Costco, even though I only put about 3,000mi a year on my car and bike the rest.

    I’m young and healthy and would exercise anyway so I can’t really call fitness a benefit of it, though it gives me leisure time (if I ride 20 miles for commuting purposes, I won’t mind missing a 6 mile run in the evening), counts as leisure in and of itself, and I save a couple bucks a day in gas and assorted wear and tear on the bike. Of course, the new commuting bike I’m about to buy will more than eat up the rest of my gas savings for the coming year.

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