Personal Goals Applied to the City as it Exists

There’s been quite a discussion over on Skyscraper City about mobility in this city; mainly over our dependence on our cars in Indianapolis and if we should continue to head down that path for our development. This issue is of great interest to me. It gets to the root of the actual reason that I started this blog almost two years ago.

I have a goal that I would like to be able to live in this city without a car. I live in a walkable neighborhood, take the bus to work (almost) daily, and have a decent bicycle, yet I still have not relinquished my automobile. If I want to visit a friend, go to my monthly meeting near the IUPUI campus, or visit some new corners to post on this blog, I still drive my car.

I can not deny the benefits that the mobility of the car provides me; however, I still wish to look at the larger picture. Where does the oil that powers my car originate? What guarantees that we will still have enough oil to power our society until we can find a credible alternative? What guarantees we’ll find an alternative at all? Also, my aversion to cars is not only about oil. I find the landscape that car-based planning has created to be inhumane. That applies not only to the suburbs, but for the city as well. Multi-story parking garages and surface lots will not suddenly become more attractive if the cars run on a clean fuel.

It is for this reason that I celebrate any type of movement that this city makes to make the city more friendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. We still have a long way to go.

Comments 8

  • I’ve considered going car-free. It would be sweet if we had a car-share program and a better bus system.. I would probably sell my car if I had those options.

  • The car sharing program is neat, but quite expensive. I looked into the zipcar in Chicago and had some serious sticker shock. However, it would be awesome if the US had a better inter-city transit. The zip car is not designed for, say, a weekend trip to Fort Wayne to visit the parents.

    A better funded bus system is an obvious fix, and it’s an outrage to see more cutbacks.

  • For weekend trips, just rent a car from Avis.

    I don’t think it is practical today, nor it is likely to be true ever (or at least not for a really long time) to live in Indy without a car. Even if the core were totally transit/ped/bike friendly, you’d be cutting yourself off from the suburbs. Some might say this is ok, but I’m troubled by the implications.

    HOWEVER, we can certainly have a vastly improved pedestrian experience and better transit and bike infrastructure that gives people options, and makes routine life in the city pleasant without recourse to driving. That, we very much need to do.

  • I thought about the car rental angle as well. That can also get expensive, but it’s not as bad as the zip car would be for the trip.

  • Rental car was the way I went over the summer when I didn’t have a car and needed to take a trip. Having Avis and Budget in the core downtown helps, as all the buses go near those agencies.

    Interestingly, my new job is further away from my home than my previous job, yet I drive only about once a week now (I used to drive 3-4 days per week). The difference is the People Mover. It’s amazing what a transit option like that — unreliable and difficult to access though it is — has done for my daily commute.

  • I think you've hit on the essence of the debate: it is, and needs to be, a matter of personal choice. We can't, as a matter of policy, say we're going to "force people out of their cars".

    Policies (and infrastructure) that FORCE certain choices is not a good way to go. We got where we are with policies that ENCOURAGED certain choices (GI Bill, VA&FHA mortgages, Interstate Highways were the foundations of the modern suburbs), and other policies that tried to patch the holes (50's-70's "urban renewal"). Even still, those policies allow personal choice, even if some choices are harder.

    Personally, I choose "moderation". I own a car and use it as sparingly as I can. I drive 7-9,000 miles a year…half or less of what most suburbanites drive. Virtually all of that driving is inside 465, and the vast majority of that is on arterials.

    There are so many changes that rolled through cities as a result of fiscal policy of the US government (and city priorities) over the past three generations that addressing only one small part…transportation infrastructure…is somewhere between "negligible" and harmful to the fabric of cities as they exist today. For me, the arterials make life in the city possible and tolerable. I live 15 minutes from everything. (Except the new airport…that's now over 20.)

    Simply because of having to shop for food and clothes and to work in "remote" locations, I believe we all need personal transportation to have a decent quality of life. Artificially altering the means and convenience of transportation (i.e. sudden policy shifts outside our control) has other massive personal effects.

    I believe it will take until the present generation of twenty-somethings are upwards of 45-50 before significant change is embedded in the system.

    IMO, it is necessary to start with better funding for public transit. That's an essential part of reducing car use and rebuilding a healthier and more pedestrian-oriented world. Just as the society once agreed on building bigger and faster roads, I think the rising generation could agree on (and direct massive funding toward) improved transit options and pedestrian infrastructure supporting the same.

    But it will be our grandchildren who first enjoy the benefits.

  • Interesting reply thunder…I agree with much of what you write. I do find the current rate of change to be glacially slow, at a time when I think we need to pick up the pace. But, really, I don’t have all the answers and I’m not sure what will work in the future.

  • The speed of societal change always outstrips physical change in the built environment and the ability of society to fully absorb the change.

    It’s true of things as small as computers, and of cars, houses, and even stadiums.

    I used to think about all the changes my grandparents saw. When they were born, farming and personal transportation relied on horses. When they died, men rode rocketships to the moon guided by computers. I also used to think that my lifetime could not possibly see so much change.

    My life is about half over and I am shocked to admit that I’ve seen far more economic, societal and technological change occur far faster than my grandparents. (I was born in the age of Jim Crow and segregated schools; a bi-racial man the same age as my little sister will become President next week.)

    Trust me, Kevin, change will come when you aren’t looking.

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