Monday, April 4, 2011

1.3 Car Family

You may recall that one of the very first posts on this blog was about going down to one car. This, I think, is one of the great challenges for the environmentally conscious Burbanian. Some would even say it is impossible in certain settings. I live in the sort of area that a few residents still like to call "semi-rural". It's not rural at all, really, but there are big-ish lawns, space between houses, trees, and not so much as a bus stop within two miles. So I and my neighbors climb into our cars--one for each licensed driver in the family--and go about our business in splendid isolation from each other.

I am not judging, trust me. Checking out the date on that early post, it appears we have been attempting to get down to one car since November, 2009. That is a long time. We first made some mild attempts to sell our Toyota Sienna. I don't like this car very much. Driving it is like driving one of those Star Trek shuttles...or paddling a raft over a lake of Jell-O. Funny thing, it looks like there are enough mini-vans around town and nobody wanted another one. Altering our strategy, I made calls and sent some emails about selling my car. It was a Saab 9-2x (really a re-badged Subaru Impreza). I didn't want to sell it. It got better mileage. It looked better. It was more fun to drive. Also, I could fit all the kids and the dog in it to run errands if need be, maneuvering through the tighter areas of the family bus-route with little thought or worry.

We had pretty much given up selling that car too when a miracle occurred! I got into an accident and totaled the Saab. This was a couple months ago.  Now we are embarked on the journey toward single-car ownership in a big way. You may ask why we haven't bought another one. Perhaps a "Smart" car, or a two-door hatchback with three seatbelts in the back? The fact is, we cannot afford it. So there may be--to be honest--a bit of putting a smiley-face on a bad situation when I say we are planning to take the plunge. However, this is not entirely the case.

I realize that my personal energy-policy view could be seen as somewhat eccentric. However, I truly believe that we need to start considering potentially inconvenient lifestyle changes if we hope to live on this rock in the future. I think the government should consider making us turn off all non-essential appliances for a hour or two a day, for example. I also am not a fan of hybrid cars, which substitute one form of pollution (batteries) for a portion of another form of pollution (petroleum) so that we can continue to drive larger cars than we need. Really, hybrids are a dead-end. You can, in fact, purchase a regular car that uses less gas...but that would mean compromise in comfort, convenience, and so on.

So, anyway, we only own one car now...the boat-like Sienna. Having only one has in fact reduced the amount of total driving we do. Norm and I walk the two miles to the train station when we need to go into Boston. My wife and I pool our errands at times in order to get everything done. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Does it reduce our carbon footprint? Yes. Will it work over the long term? I don't know.

See, here's the thing. When I had my accident I wasn't planning on a single-car lifestyle. I do most of the after-school driving. However, I rely on my wife to pick up the youngest from daycare after she gets out of work. By that time I am miles away--usually at the YMCA--and beyond helping. I also have meetings in Worcester every month and there are weddings I will officiate this summer in scenic locales. These are sticking points in the schedule.

What we do have, which has helped us immeasurably is my dad's car. It is a Saturn Ion from the time when Saturn really started phoning it in. I mean, it was born broken and it hasn't gotten better over time. However, while we do not use it much, it gets us through the scheduling bottlenecks until we are able to plan for our one-car existence. Our goal is to ease out of it, which I think may be possible...once this "Y" calendar cycle is exhausted, perhaps, or maybe just a little bit longer...

OK, I have my doubts. We are still trying, though. I would like to get us at least from 1.3 cars to 1.1 this summer. At that point one can rent occasionally and bike more frequently. Maybe--with some lifestyle adjustments--it is doable.

Here is the link to that old post about selling our car

Here is a post about the cars of the future.  It looks like I never edited this post for typos, spelling, and grammar...but the cars are nice...

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