Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Great Car Debate

It's not a question of how or a matter of when; it just is. This has never been an anti-car blog; it has always been one of collected thoughts and pointed reports, so let the thoughts continue - scattered though they may be - in the form of the great car debate.

It's not exactly news (if it is, where you have been?) that I've made a conscious decision to purchase a vehicle. I'll be completely honest, though; CicLAvia totally distracted me a positive way. I have never felt more inspired to keep with my bicycle. It's realizing that public transportation has a fondness for 'indirect routes' that has me moving forward on the issue, this issue I'd dropped for the last couple of weeks.

Most all of us understand why routes are the way they are - they are to service the cities in which they run. And when serving the greater Los Angeles, you're going to take 'everyone's route' in the hopes that you'll get where you need to go out of it. Think about it: short-distance routes depend entirely on the number of stops, the length of time to transfer, and the walk, if any. 'Long-distance' routes - say, those that would fare better by use of the freeway - still get you where you need to go, but since it's a local bus, it's going to stay local and not express your ass where it needs to go (even if it is an express). Public transportation is a public experience, so a detour in the form of getting where you need to go isn't going to happen. Obviously.

In the last few years I've managed to lead a very centralized existence with work and school. This year, central is no longer an option, and it's been great. Granted, the time it takes to get where I need to go is a built-in opportunity to proofread work, edit, read, and return calls. But when it really comes down to it, I would save so much time with a car. Unless there's traffic, but you get the point. Anyone who knows me knows my love of Google Maps for having the best cycling and public transportation routes (and for being more accurate than, but it's its 'driving directions' function in comparison that makes me bite my lip in contemplation.

If anything, the experience has shown me that Los Angeles is super friggin' connected despite its widely spread layout. I'm amazed at times at how many ways there are around this place. In the end, however, accessibility is the key point here - I prefer being an accessible individual and my surroundings being accessible to me. While the latter can also refer to being exposed to the elements - a factor of the bicycle I rather enjoy - it's something that can still be experienced in conjunction with a vehicle.

Did I mention how much I appreciate the hammering out of details in text?

So I'm back on the hunt, hopefully to be with car sooner than I'm projecting (a month, at the least). Look out car dealers... I'll be invading your property with my good credit sometime after I roam the streets of West Hollywood this Halloween.


  1. Before you decide, check out this website (it'll help you calculate how much the car you choose will actually cost you).

  2. First of all, you are definitely a transportation wonk and it's nice to see that someone else gives public transportation as much thought as I do. Whenever we visit another city we use public transit (and bikes and walking) almost exclusively. It give me the feeling of being part of a community, even if for just a short while.

    We have a car, a Honda Element actually. In a town at 7000 ft elevation where it snows (last year quite heavily) your really need something that will get you safely from A to B when the snow plows just can't keep up. Also, there is just no way to get to the Nordic Center by bike for skiing that time of year and still have energy for cross country. Transporting skis is not impossible by bike but if the goal is skiing and I'm riding my bike most of the time when the streets are clear I can't feel guilty.

    Prior to going down to one car, we owned a 2000 VW Beetle. I can't say enough good things about the VW Beetle. It's just enough car for someone who'd rather not be in a car and people are almost always nicer to you in a Beetle. So many people's "firsts" happened in a Beetle. First car, first date, first kiss, first road trip . . . .

    My husband almost purchased a Mini Cooper a few months before he settle on the Element. We weren't married at the time and I would have been fine with the Mini but I knew it was really a emotional pull because he was unhappy at work and wanted to move back out west. The Element is great. If you have to haul skis or bikes or dogs or bags of mulch you just can't beat the Element. I literally mop out when it gets too filthy and you can fill an air matress and take it camping on the North Rim if you just need to get closer to nature.

    Finally, I am obsessively drawn to the Smart Car. I'm attracted to their very tiny size. I first saw them in Vienna (they were everywhere!) parked perpendicular to the curb on very narrow streets. I love the idea of not taking up more space than one needs. I dream of one day moving into 800 - 1000 ft of residential space. Initially, Bob thought this was a crazy idea but as he's realized we only use that much space of our house he agrees that all we need next time around.