Tag Archives: automobiles

(487) Ridin’ poor no more

U Work U RideOld cars, everybody’s got one …or wishes they did.  Even a beater can take the edge off long trips to work or shop in the sprawl.  But mandatory car ownership places stress on the working poor.  Gasoline, insurance, parking, fines, unpredictable repairs and outright replacement divert wages readily used elsewhere.

This interesting item from the US mentions Ways to Work, an alternative, community-based source for auto loans for working people. In time, this type of non-profit may appear in Canada.  If we gotta work in the sprawl then we gotta drive in the sprawl, right?  Until awesome transit and walkable communities are everywhere this model might help people adapt and prosper in a realistic way while avoiding predatory lenders.

On the other hand, it might just be delaying an inevitable reckoning with what North Americans have built all over their human landscape: an unsustainable, fossil fuel intense arrangement of living that needs to be rescaled to new, more restrictive realities?

Not mentioned in the piece are a couple of moderate environmental benefits accompanied by improving the rides of the working poor in suburbia.  Beaters drip fluids and produce more air pollution.  Get some of those shitboxes off the road and you cut their impact on the air and our waterways.  Reasonable loans for cars might cut accidents, too, by reducing the population of older, poorly maintained, under-inspected cars on which repair work is often deferred.  Those same cars presumably are less gas efficient models because of their older technology and worn condition.


image: used car dealership in Tennessee by Thomas R Machnitzki via Wikimedia Commons

(470) Supercommuter employability

Ford concept carFrom suburban-poverty.com’s rooftop garden we often see the super commuters of the Greater Toronto Area: weaving in and out of lanes, cruising well above the speed limits in their sharp cars by the thousands.  Gotta make time, gotta make money!  They connect workplace and homeplace via more time and gas on our ever crowded multi-lane arteries.  These motorists are a component of sprawl and part of a continental trend.  Much has been written and said about what this means personally and socially.  So it was with great interest we came across word of a human resources finding at Xerox.  Those fast movers covering greater and greater distances between points in the sprawl are in a lifestyle that doesn’t seem to fully lend itself to reliability and a sense of engagement in the workplace.  Two things that corporate employers like Xerox are said to cherish.  It seems the extra hassle, time and expense involved in super commuting can reduce what a given employee has to offer when she arrives in her boardroom or cubicle morning after morning.

Drive till you disqualify: will businesses continue hiring super-commuters?

(384) Wiring up the future

EV charging station symbolPalo Alto, California will require all new homes constructed there to be pre-wired for electric vehicle chargers from now on.  The affluent, brainy suburb-city is home to Tesla Motors and has come to see the electric vehicle as something to be supported in municipal codes.  A buyer can be expected to encounter about two hundred dollars in costs to meet the requirement: not much against the price tag of a new home in Palo Alto or the Model S to go with it.  To rejig the suburbs into something sustainable requires bold and highly visible changes to technology and economics and in our ways of thinking which are in turn expressed by such unremarkable things as a civil servant typing a couple of lines into your town’s building code.

Palo Alto looks to require electric vehicle circuitry in new homes
San Jose Mercury News

image: US DOT via Wikimedia Commons

(305) Served fresh daily: Boston city hall on wheels!

city-hall-to-go_tcm3-34670Okay, so, you see how the physical and psychological distances in Sprawl Land make employment and human connection problematic at times and you want to do something about that.  Well, you can try what Boston is up to.  They took one of those big old, slab-sided, aluminium-bodied vans the SWAT cops didn’t want any more.  They gave it a bright, snazzy, red paint job and a Twitter account so everybody can know where it’s going to on a given day.  Inside, they set it up to be a mobile city services office.  You can get pretty much any kind of service on board in your own ‘hood.  Wedding licence, permits, referrals and info.  Kinda like a bookmobile for those civil services.  What a cool idea!  This is bound to spread.

Boston City Hall To Go Truck Follows Food Truck Trend
govtech.com – see video as well

454 followers on Twitter

image: City of Boston

(262) Living in a van in Van

Well, this is certainly interesting …in a depressing-yet-designey kind of way.  A young man living in a Dodge van in Vancouver.  Turns out, he’s not alone.  Rents are too high, wages are too low.  See the link to Mathew Archer’s Tumblr for more on this reality.

Mobile Living: Vancouver Van Dwellers’ Nomadic Lives huffingtonpost.ca

See also: (103) A man’s home is his castle …and frequently also his shitbox

(240) EU report on the costs of automobility

About £600 pounds or nearly $1000 Canadian dollars per year is the direct external cost to everyone in the EU for the car population they live with.  This is the estimated impact of the noise, pollution, accidents and other liabilities described in a new report.  Obviously automobiles confer advantages on those who use them but of equal importance is the associated cost and who bears that cost.  North Americans may be a little more familiar with the controversial assertion that motorization is enormously subsidized, at amounts greater than what is collected in parking fees, fines, road tolls, licensing, gasoline taxes and other excises directed at the car.  This 52-page report is from Technisches Universitat Dresden’s Friedrich List Faculty of Tansport and Traffic Science and appears to weigh against the general sustainability of large fleets of privately owned vehicles which must, in turn, make us think closely about building car-dependent communities.

The true costs of automobility: external costs of cars, overview of existing estimates in the EU-27 

Car pollution, noise and accidents ‘cost every EU citizen £600 a year’: researchers challenge view that drivers are overtaxed, saying they are subsidised by other taxpayers Guardian UK

image: Horch 920 by Matej Bat’ha via Wikimedia Commons

(208) Moscow

This piece from NewGeography.com describes Moscow’s evolving suburbanization.  It seems that where the space and other resources exist the suburbs will be built.  There is no automatic participation in a particularly European model of urbanization taking place for Moscow, one based on high densities and reliance on public transit.  Moscow stands in contrast to many western cities seeking to move beyond suburbanization or prepare for a world in which it may become unsustainable.  Muscovites in a position to choose are aspiring to a manner of living first propagated in North America, one based on private houses and automobility.  To some extent this evolution is seen as positive, nobody wants a return to the old Soviet Moscow or the rough, uncertain decade after the fall of Communism.  Spending on roads and other infrastructure and a positive picture for consumers are now assumed to be quite normal in Moscow.  The city has gained population and economic power at a time when much of Russia remains mired in difficulty and decline.  It seems a new Moscow is continuing to be built, a sprawling, suburbanized one.  We’ll see how it all works out.

The Evolving Urban Form: Moscow’s Auto-Oriented Expansion

(179) Automobituary

Where's the gas gone?If an alternative means of powering private motor cars is distributed widely and quickly it might stave off the disappearance of mass fleets of them and the communities designed around them.  For many, it seems, the arrival of such a means is nothing more than the continued unfolding of the story of industrial humanity.  Electric cars and hydrogen cars and cars powered by ethanol or some totally new discovery are widely assumed to be just around the corner.  Others beg to differ.  The cost and sustainability arguments demonstrating the end of vast automobility are tough to contradict when laid out in detail, …as is done in the item below.  This posting also introduces suburban-poverty.com readers to PeakProsperity: a blog, by one Chris Martenson, designed to examine social and financial assumptions about a changing world.

Demise of the car: doomed by escalating oil and infrastrucure costs