A typical European car is parked 92% of the time. It spends 1/5th of its driving time looking for parking. Its 5 seats only move 1.5 people. 86% of its fuel never reaches the wheels, & most of the energy that does, moves the car, not people.
Sound efficient?Twitter: @BrentToderian
Brent Toderian is a top national and global thought-leader on cities, and an acclaimed, award-winning practitioner with over 26 years of experience in advanced urbanism, city planning and urban design. Brent assists cities, agencies & progressive developers in creative and responsible city-building around the world. He has advised many global cities, from Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen & Rotterdam, to Sydney, Auckland, Medellin and many Canadian cities.
I have never owned a car. I might never own a car. And yet that fact has not prevented me from travelling all over the world and having many, many great truly fulfilling adventures on four or five continents.
Actually, that’s a lie. I tell people all the time that I have many, many, many cars. I have a car on every continent. I have cars in every single damn city in the world. Lots and lots and lots of them. I have all sorts of cars — from compacts to mini-vans.
I call my cars “taxis”. Anywhere I am, with one phone call or a simple wave of a hand — like David Copperfield himself — a functioning auto can suddenly appear, fully tanked up with gas (my car-share app not sends the preferred electric or hybrid). I get in this car, belt up, and can arrive most anywhere possible — with no effort! Some backed-up email might get done, or a few pesky DMs. When I arrive, I descend from the machine, and never ever need to care about this machine ever again. I do not worry about its next fuel-up. I do not worry about its accident insurance or injury insurance. I do not think an iota about taxation or registration fees. I never need worry about the costs of replacing some auto part. I never pay for parking. During heavy snowstorms, I do not worry about putting chains on it in the morning before I use it. In the summer, if the air conditioner is not functioning for some reason — eh, just roll down the window. When my car speeds off after the destination is reached, I don’t need to give a damn about fixing that or dealing with any future passenger’s complaint about that when they’re using my car after me. We’re all good, my car and me!
In the meantime, in my car, it is often possible to have an interesting conversation with the driver that teaches me things about the local city I am in, invaluable insights of local lore and tricks for doing things. I learn an “on-the-street” view of the current politics of the day. Lots of really helpful tips on restaurants and must-do events from the person driving my car, who I lend it to on an open-ended basis. Friends with serious benefits.
Stepping out of my car — usually always very clean, and in Germany, a Mercedes-Benz! — I never have to think anything again about my car. Proceeding on in the journey with empty hands, having parted with a few euros in exchange for freedom from bills and taxes and levies and fears of depreciation or scraping or accident, and having tipped generously a working-person for their helpful local knowledge, usually parting with a laugh together about something, why would one want to live any other way?
My whole life, I have relied on public mass transportation first, and then sometimes employed taxis to fill in the gaps where public mass transportation cannot reach. It is still sometimes extremely hard to understand why someone would drive their own car for hours and hours to visit their relatives in some far off city — focused at the wheel, and tensed by the hours of focused mental effort — when some tacking through public transportation and then taxis or “friendly” transportation could accomplish the same goal, perhaps cheaper, with less environmental selfishness, and with the leisure to read a book or write some emails or even have a snooze, all thrown into the experience. None of which can be done by a driver. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people do not rely more on public transportation.
People sometimes chide me that I always live in or near cities. Yeah, it seems so. I guess because living out in the countryside hasn’t manifested yet as an option, but probably because it would entail needing to get one of these dang cars. Living in cities is actually an efficiency, and makes environmental sense.
I have an older brother who is something of a sage. His name is Patrick, and he always has fascinating, original, and often truly hysterical insights into human nature. It is probably due to his influence that I came to believe in and love the freedom of public mass transportation at a very early age, before the addiction of private ownership of a vehicle could grip and twist my view of the world.
One day, parting furtively the curtain on the front window of our parents’ suburban New Jersey home, hyping the paranoid look, he said, “You can’t live out here in suburbia without a car. So it has atomised people. Everyone has their own car in its own slot at their own home. They get in it and go alone off to their own job — no one would think to bring a neighbour along for part of the ride. And did you ever notice, when you see someone walking around on a sidewalk, out here in the ‘burbs, you instinctively check them out. You’re suspicious of them, walking on the sidewalk. People don’t do that here! ‘What are they up to?’ ‘If they don’t have a car, where are they going to?’ ‘Where are they from? Are they just casing out some house for a break-in?’ Anyone who is using their own legs to get somewhere MUST be ‘up to no good’ — they’re not using a car. Better be on the safe side: just call the cops!”