New York Times Declares the End of Car Culture

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The idea, and the fact, that fewer people are driving has now made it into The New York Times. A recent article has declared "the end of car culture."

America's love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling. When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Adviser Perspectives, an investment research company. As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9% below the peak and equal to wear the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation surely lies in the recession because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars and the unemployed weren't going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that the recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.

The article goes on to note that the trend is not just affecting car ownership. Fewer teens are showing an interest in getting a license at all.

And it seems that even the automobile industry has made a decision to adjust to a reality where single-driver cars are no longer the norm.

At the Mobile World Congress last year in Barcelona, Spain, Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, laid out a business plan for a world in which personal vehicle ownership is impractical or undesirable. He proposed partnering with the telecommunications industry to create cities in which "pedestrian, bicycle, private cars, commercial and public transportation traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety.

Any serious push in this direction by the car industry would certainly be more than welcome. If we could get lawmakers to embrace the 21st century reality as gracefully as Ford has then we might just be able to bid farewell to car culture--and all of the problems that come with it.

Tips for Beating the Heat on Your Bike Commute

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

If you've taken the plunge and started commuting to work by bike then you're doing something awesome for your health, for the environment, and for your community. But there is no denying that bicycle commutes come with some challenges, especially during the summer.

Portland, a bike-friendly city, featured some ways to beat those summer heat challenges on Oregon Live.

The article suggests "treating your body like a finely tuned machine." It stresses the importance of drinking water (twice as much as normal) and finding a shady, cool route for your commute.

The article also suggested slowing down, which went hand-in-hand with tips to go in to work earlier and leave later in order to take advantage of cooler temperatures in the early morning and early evening.

One of the most useful tips involved the clothing that you wear during your ride, however.

You may have an almost spiritual connection with that "Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge 2009" T-Shirt, but it's probably not the best option for riding in high heat...You see, cotton tends to soak up your sweat and will eventually make you feel even hotter...[try] synthetic fibers specifically designed for exercise in hot conditions such as polyesters, micro-fibers, and even ultra-thin wool.

CTAI wants you to be safe this summer, so be sure to follow all of these tips. Heat stroke is a serious condition, and one that might send you right back to your car. Instead of giving up in defeat, you can simply anticipate heat problems and prevent them now by doing a little bit of extra planning.

Transit Keeps Home Values High

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Urban Land recently featured a study by the American Transportation Association (APTA) indicating that homes near frequent-service public transit lines retained their value better than most during the recession. The study was co-sponsored by the National Association of Realtors.

"When homes are located near public transportation, it is the equivalent of creating housing as desirable as beachfront property," says Michael Melaniphy, APTA's president and CEO. Neighborhoods with high-frequency public transportation, Melaniphy says, provide access to three to five times as many jobs per square mile as other areas in a region. Other benefits of living near good public transit: lower transportation costs, walkable neighborhoods, and a variety of transportation choices.

...The most dramatic example was in Boston, where residential property in the rapid transit area outperformed other properties in the region by 129 percent."

This is in part because of the rising annual ownership costs of a car, which are growing more and more untenable for most families. 

The need is not just for transit, but for high-frequency transit that allows people to wait just a few minutes before jumping on board to get where they need to go. People can't tolerate hour-long waits in today's typically hectic life. If they have to, they'll get right back in their cars in spite of the costs, and much of the value of a transit system is leeched away.

Still, it's worth paying attention to this information if you are planning on buying a home in the near future. It's also another transit "plus" that lawmakers and planners should stay aware of as they look towards the future. 

Transit Oriented Development a Boon to Seniors

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The AARP Blog recently ran a feature about the benefits of transit oriented development (TOD). Building walkable communities with a solid transportation infrastructure is a demonstrably important way to keep seniors active and involved in their communities, even after driving is no longer safe for them.

The article featured the excellent walkable neighborhoods in Arlington, Virginia, which are well-designed, attractive, functional, and safe. 

"[The neighborhoods are] nestled around subway stations, which double as hubs for local bus transfers. Not only can residents walk or roll to public transit options, a shopping mall, banks, restaurants, tennis courts, and a swimming pool are all within five blocks of the station. The benefits of these live, work, and play neighborhoods are well known among young professionals, and there is increasing recognition of their benefits for retirees."

The blog post also featured a video that made a particularly salient point. "When planning for older adults you're planning for your future." All of us age, and none of us can guarantee that driving will be a safe bet after a certain age.

Of course, seniors aren't the only ones who benefit from the presence of such communities. As the video mentioned, Arlington's smart communities are great places to raise a family.

Cars are often touted as a sign of independence and freedom. However, more and more people are learning that they can find a much richer, deeper, and longer-lasting independence by embracing this kind of intelligent development. We look forward to the day when adults of all ages can enjoy these kinds of benefits across all of Idaho.

Car-Free Summer Fun

Thursday, June 06, 2013

There are plenty of vacation sites out there that we would freely admit would require you to use a car. However, there are also plenty of alternatives, places where you'll never need to deal with a vehicle at all. In fact, some of these vacation spots even go so far as to ban automobiles altogether.

Fox News recently compiled a list of four of these destinations. They included Virginia's Tangier Island, Michigan's Mackinac Island, Fire Island, New York and Monhegan Island, Maine.

You don't have to stick to islands for car-free summer fun, however. Many urban destinations provide plenty of car-free options because they've each got an excellent public transportation infrastructure.

Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles are all good examples. Some of these cities also offer bike ours as one of their primary attractions, making a car-free vacation even more feasible.

If you want to do some car-free camping you might check in with the Adventure Cycling Association, which provides a wealth of information for anyone considering such a vacation. You can take a guided tour or take advantage of their maps, which offer information on US Bike Routes and Adventure Trails spanning the entire country.

There's plenty of information about planning a bicycle adventure, too. You can find help for trips of any length, ranging from a few days to a few months.

With all of these resources, however, it's safe to say that the "price of gas" might not ever need to factor into your summer travel plans at all. Considering this summer's gas prices are expected to be the highest they've ever been this is very good news.