Your Voices is an opportunity for readers of the Principal Voices site to explain their views on one of the key subjects at greater length.
The first of these is by 25-year-old Patrick McCormick, who was born in the U.S. city of Chicago and now works as an aerospace engineer in St. Louis
Here, McCormick explains how he would love to live without a car -- but cannot:
"I grew up in the city of Chicago, which has a wide variety of public transport options. Light rail, heavy rail, buses, subways and the famous elevated trains offer people from both the city and suburbs many choices when deciding to go to or from downtown.
I lived within three blocks of the trains, and I would frequently go to look at them, squash pennies under the wheels or fall asleep to the sound of the "ba-dum, ba-dum" of the steel on steel. My dad would go to work on the train. I went to high school on the bus, not caring for the "coming of age" of turning 16 and thus getting my first car (as is the American way).
During college I was surrounded by a superb public bus system that allowed free rides to college students. Even without a car I could go to class, travel to a lover's place, go to the mall, or go back home in a bus. The only times I really needed a car was to transport my belongings out of the dormitories at the end of each semester.
Once I entered the workforce and moved to St. Louis, I was totally shocked to learn that a city once mightier than my home town, and once the manufacturing and cultural center of the Midwest, the "Gateway to the West," had virtually no public transport system.
There is a creaking bus system that, I instantly saw, did not attempt to cover the vast roadways of the suburbs. There is a single light rail system, as if to simply serve the movements from Cardinals baseball games downtown.
The car reigns supreme in St. Louis. Once I tried walking to the future site of an extension to the light-rail system. I nearly got killed crossing an on-ramp to I-64 (one of the five major highways in St. Louis county), and still had to walk a mile to cross another busy intersection to get to it. How dare I attempt to walk!
Even though I have never lived more than a 15-to 25-minute commute from work, I would gladly trade in my gas-guzzling car for a decent public transportation system that did not force me to walk a mile to a (future) light-rail extension, which only serves at best a 2-block radius from it.
I think that an environment that cultivates a more community-based way of thinking about transportation would mean we could rid the city of cars, and also improve the environment.
What would be even better is if everything was in walking or biking distance. It would help knit together communities and quite possibly might reverse a perceived trend away from getting involved in the community."
What do you think?
I managed to go for many years without a car, first in DC and then in Boston. Eventually we got to the point where life was really limited by sticking to public transportation all the time, so we broke down and got a car.
Thankfully, we still try to focus on public transportation -- I take the subway to work every day -- but the car is there for emergencies (read: baby errands).
Otherwise, I think we've managed to strike the right balance between public transportation and car ownership -- but you need to be in a city with excellent public transportation to do that....
My comment on Patrick's view goes like a prayer: that one day in our own time God will give us a transport minister who will think like this young man, who lays emphases on community-based ways of organizing transportation.
But most importantly, we need a kind of fresh orientation on the essence of cars.You are better imagining what we see on Nigeria's roads than experiencing it.
Ulrich, I would be happy to spread the word on car free cities! I took a quick look and enjoy reading as much as I can about car-free cities. I've started doing my part.
In other news, I've moved to Seattle and love being able to take the decent bus system around the city. However, it should do more as I still have to commute to work in a car. Vanpools are one option I'm looking into.
Move to Boston, Berkeley or Paris! That's how I learned to live car-less.
After two years learning to use mass transit in Paris, I lived successfully without a car in Berkeley and now in Boston.
When gas prices started resembling those in Europe (coinciding with losing my job AGAIN) I decided to live in Boston because of the superior mass transit system here.
The benefits to mental and physical wellbeing are impossible to quantify. It feels good to "go with the crowd." There's a free newspaper to read everyday. There are hundreds of cafes to explore along the way. Plus -- there's a certain level of respect amongst fellow commuters that negates the abuse I have suffered from the road rage prevalent in my previous environ of Southern California.
I haven't used my car in three years. Morning glories are growing through the bumpers.
Patrick, it is a sign of hope for me to read what you've written here.
I just saw a report on CNN on German television in which this Web site was mentioned and I'm surprised to see the issue of car dependance addressed this way.
There is a great web site run by Joel H. Crawford (www.carfree.com/cft) that I have translated into German since 2003. Joel has been working in the field of car free cities for more than 10 years now. Maybe you'd like to share his ideas and help to spread them?