11.11.2010

Oh the Places You'll Go (Without a Car) - The "Three Cities,Three Days" Version


Last month a Facebook friend of mine commented on a post of mine, about making it a bit of a game to avoid using a car, by asking, "Do electric vehicles count?" Here is my response:

From the standpoint of my "game," yes they count.

I would also note that they certainly count if you are thinking about this in terms of negative externalities. Two points:

1) I'm still not convinced that electric vehicles are that much less impactful on the environment than your traditional combustion engine. When you factor in manufacturing, electricity generation, and disposal, the gap narrows considerably, and in some cases you could argue it ends up being worse for the environment. I don't know the numbers precisely, but by no means is it a slam dunk that electric cars have minimal environmental impact.

2) Not all of the bad of driving is due to gas guzzling. There's tons of other things that have nothing to do with what goes into the car or comes out of it that are societal bads that are not properly accounted for in drivers' calculation of how costly it is to use their car - congestion, land use impacts (roads and parking lots), risk of accidents, and the list goes on. (Check out my post from March 5, 2009, which links to a study that listed and estimated all of these categories.)


Yes, gas guzzling is bad on a number of levels: environmental, geopolitical, climate change. But the driving part is bad, too, and worthy of personal, regional, and governmental "nudges" to reduce and in some cases eliminate.

I end by again commending Philadelphia to you, if you are thinking of ways to reduce or eliminate car use. To offer a personal example, the first three days of this work week have been rich on a professional level, and yet have not required the use of a car:

* Monday - Three meetings in three different parts of downtown Philadelphia

* Tuesday - A full-day conference plus four meetings in four separate places in Harrisburg

* Wednesday - An internship fair in Camden, sandwiched by two meetings in downtown Philadelphia

If you're keeping score, that's 11 off-site meetings in 11 distinct locations in three cities in two states, one of the cities being one of the ten most populous cities in the country (#6) and one of the cities being the capital of one of the ten most populous states in the country (#6). And, none too inconvenient either: I had breakfast and dinner with the family all three days, did my usual school drop-offs and pick-ups, and got a little exercise along the way without wearing myself out too too much.

In other words, if you live and work in Philadelphia, you won't lack for an exciting professional lifestyle and an abundant quality of life. You just won't necessarily need a car.

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