For many, a car-free lifestyle begins now

While trends indicate that emerging generations preferring a world beyond cars will finally spark massive investment in a pedestrian-oriented infrastructure, many in the current generation aren’t going to wait.

From the NY Times article For some, the car is no longer a must-have, “The fundamental difference in car buying now is that it’s a lot more practical, rather than emotional,” says an industry analyst. Emotional attachment is one of the most significant reasons why people have become so auto dependent, and thus oil dependent, and why this economic downturn may be an emotional cleansing in disguise.

Another veteran auto industry analysts adds, “There’s a cultural change taking place. It’s partly because of the severe economic contraction. But younger consumers are viewing an automobile with a jaundiced eye. They don’t view the car the way their parents did, and they don’t have the money that their parents did.” It’s not just young people, “Across the country, empty nesters are moving back into cities and shedding their cars.”

Here are a few weaning trends leading to people ultimately deciding to go car-free:
– They’re eliminating their second and third cars. They just can’t afford it.
– Vehicles are getting ever smaller, from the Mini Cooper to the Smart car to personal mobility vehicles (PMVs?) like GM/Segway’s P.U.M.A. ((Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) to personal mobility devices like Honda’s U3-X.
– Car sharing, in combination with the aforementioned trend, from compact cars like Zipcar, to only micro Smart cars, to stackable golf-cart-like PMVs.
– Cultural and government commitment to mass transit, such as in Denver, where the mayor proclaimed in 2006, “We passed the most ambitious transit initiative in the history of the United States. It was because all 31 mayors in the seven-county area unanimously supported it.”

Quotes from people who got rid of their cars for good, as we shift from emotional to practical:

“I’d love to say it was environmental, but it was convenience.”

“It just seemed insane to keep it when I used it so little. It’s a huge psychological step. I so loved my car – those old Beemers are fabulous. It feels good, and as long as I live in a city with such easy access to excellent public transportation, it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

“I’m a recent college graduate, and like many who are in the same boat, I’m struggling to earn enough for rent and living expenses. I don’t have health insurance. I’d rather spend money on that than a car.”

Image: Bourbon Street on a typical Wednesday night, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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