Our Mobile Money Pits: The True Cost of Cars

Rowena learned about the true cost of cars the hard way. Raised by her mom, a Filipina immigrant, in a happy if carless home in northern California, Rowena marveled upon graduating from college and getting a steady job that she could afford to lease her very own car.  For a small down payment and $199 a month, she was in a beautiful new Honda.

Three years later, lease up, the dealer convinced her to buy a somewhat nicer car, one with “just $299” in monthly payments.  When the car was repossessed a year later because she couldn’t make the payments, she figured she had handed her dealer and loan company over $15,000.  Sitting down to do the math, she estimated that insurance, gas, parking, tickets, tolls, taxes, and fees had vacuumed an additional $12,000 out of her accounts.

So four years and $27,000 later, Rowena had no vehicle, no savings, and a credit rating in ruins.

Photo:
The full burden of car ownership far exceeds the purchase price. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/slambo_42/2936060891/in/photostream/##slambo_42/Flickr##

Like most Americans, Rowena had no idea of the true total and ongoing financial cost of car ownership, and, like most Americans, she found her dealer in no rush to warn her about them.  While rent or mortgage remains the largest budget item for the average household, transportation now comes in a close second, and in some zip codes it even exceeds housing.

Transportation swallows one out of every five dollars earned by the average American family, double the bite it took in 1960. This increase alone could account for much of the plummet, over that fifty-year period, in the household savings rate, which by the aughts had skidded close to zero.

We know how things got this bad. Back in 1960, developers had not yet fully sprawled out our housing stock; government had not yet spent billions on road building, letting transit atrophy; automakers had not yet piled on horsepower, luxury, and cargo space; lenders had not yet become so likely to set unsustainable and predatory car credit terms; and drivers had yet to consider short trips unwalkable and bus trips social suicide.

By 2009, the average purchase price of a new vehicle was over $27,000. But the true cost to families can easily total $45,000 for a midsize SUV like the Toyota Highlander, over just five years of ownership. The Department of Energy reports that the typical American household drove its average two cars a total of 20,000 miles last year. Assuming each vehicle is a mid-size sedan, that’s $14,600 a year, using AAA’s 2010 driving cost estimate of 73 cents per mile.  Some families with two older, smaller cars or who drive fewer miles, say, will pay less; some families, with late model cars or trucks or an extra car, will pay a lot more.  In a lifetime of car ownership, an American family will likely “invest” almost $1 million in its vehicles.

And these numbers don’t even count yet more hidden costs like the mortgage on our garages or the property taxes levied on them.  More significantly, they exclude the goodly portion of our other tax bills that go to road-building, oil and car company subsidies and bailouts, local police and rescue services for dealing with traffic and crashes, the costs of road congestion passed on in the price of goods and services, or the oil-protection services of the U.S. military in the Middle East and elsewhere.

If the costs of cars for middle-class families have become largely unsustainable, those costs are immediately and profoundly crushing for working and poor families.  That a car-dependent society makes such families poorer is well established, but this reality rubs against the conventional wisdom that owning a car creates opportunity. This mistaken belief is not without logical basis: the poor and carless can face extreme difficulty in getting and keeping employment because it is challenging simply to get to available jobs.  A variety of governmental agencies and NGOs across the country work to help get the poor into cars for just this reason and with this assistance, some have achieved needed mobility.

Sadly, this well-intentioned approach is both scattershot and short-sighted.  Cars chomp a disproportionate bite out of the smaller budgets of struggling families, who can be one fender bender or unpaid parking ticket away from losing their wheels. But this isn’t the only way those who are poor or working class lose out when they enter the car system. The car system redistributes wealth upward, playing a significant role in the creation of inequality in America.

How exactly?  Cars are an expensive and depreciating asset for which there remains pervasive discrimination in new and used vehicle pricing, financing, and insurance.  In other words, someone with low income or living in a poor or minority neighborhood will likely pay more to own and operate the same car than someone holding a higher-paying job or living in the next town over.

A used car lot in a poor Providence, RI neighborhood, for instance, advertised a 6-year-old Hyundai for $9,000 while the actual Blue Book value, more likely to be paid by middle class car buyers, was $2,880. Car insurance also comes with a higher price tag: Car owners living in some low income areas of Los Angeles can be charged as much as $3,500 per year for insurance, and a survey of three large insurers in 2005 found that drivers with clean driving records in some African American communities paid nearly $1,000 more per year than did drivers with similar records living in predominantly white zip codes.

At the same time, some of the richest Americans continue to get richer off the nation’s automobile dependence. Oil and car companies have long made up the majority of the top 10 firms in the Fortune 500, and for years, windfall oil and banking profits have been reaped from the gasoline-buying and loan-taking public. Even as they have been laying off workers and taking federal handouts, car companies have rewarded top executives and major shareholders: GM’s just-resigned Ed Whitacre made $9 million last year while Ford’s Alan Mulally pulled in just under $18 million. The CEO of one dealer chain, Auto Nation, took home almost $7 million in 2009.

While a fortunate handful make a fine living off of the current system, Americans residing on the bottom half of the national income distribution graph can’t live with the car and they can’t live without it.  We’ll return to what car dependence looks like day-to-day from the working and poor neighborhoods of America in a future post.  The bottom line here, though, is that we all need to understand the true cost of car ownership if the public and our elected officials are to be convinced to support initiatives that provide equitable mobility and freedom from the ever-weightier shackles of car dependence.

Anne Lutz Fernandez, a former marketer and banker, and Catherine Lutz, an anthropologist at the Watson Institute at Brown University, are the authors of Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on our Lives (Palgrave Macmillan).

  • Larry Littlefield

    Note that some of the increase in transportation spending since 1960 is the result of multi-worker households. The suburban “family car” of the 1960s became the family fleet.

    It might be argued that women entered the labor force in larger numbers — in order to pay for the second car and child care. If at least one worker had been able to get around without a car, people would have been much better off.

  • jsd

    I received a “free” car from a deceased relative in February 2010.

    The costs thus far?

    Registration fees= $230
    Gas= $80/month for the past seven months
    Insurance= $80/month for the past seven months
    Oil Change= $35
    Fixing a broken A/C=$140 (A/C broke 3 days later. Another repair would have cost $400. Mechanic would not refund the money)
    Repairing front suspension= $200

    Total Cost=$1725

    Total Gain= A pile of crap 1995 Mercury Sable

    The car has been an absolute emotional and physical drain. Sitting in traffic on Hylan Boulevard in 99 degree temperatures will do that to a man.

    There are downsides to every form of transportation. But ever since moving to a more transit oriented region of Staten Island, taking the leap isn’t nearly as daunting. I’ve already mapped out a new route to work on my bike.

    It’s just not worth the constant worry and attention anymore. Not to mention the cost. My free car has cost me nearly $2000 since February. I could have gone on a kick ass vacation instead. My car, after a lot of thought on the matter, is clearly the most obviously constraining form of transportation. You must drive at x speed. You must travel on x roads. You must never slow down because there is someone behind you that needs to get somewhere. You must sit in traffic. You must never merge late. You must be more aggressive. You must never fully stop at a stop sign. You must pay to park. You must get pissed off when you park for too long without paying.

    Why bother?

    The car offers the illusion of freedom, but for me, has been far more constraining and frustrating than any number of late trains or crowded buses.

  • Buyers Remorse

    jsd was it a surprise to you that owning and maintaining a 15 year old car would cost money? You could have sold the car or donated it to charity.

  • jsd

    Buyer’s Remorse,

    Actually, yes. I was blinded by “Wow, free car.” It was a silly, stupid and costly mistake on my part. I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I wasn’t prepared for the maintenance at all.

  • jsd

    Also, I’m looking to sell this month.

  • Buyers Remorse

    “So four years and $27,000 later, Rowena had no vehicle, no savings, and a credit rating in ruins.”
    Are we blaming this on car ownership? Sounds like someone who plans poorly and makes irresponsible decisions. The dealer “convinced” her to upgrade to a car she could not afford after one year? What ever happened to personal responsibility?

  • Mark Walker

    I’ve been car-free all my adult life. Never owned one, never wanted to, haven’t driven since 1979. Living car-free (and keeping housing expenditures low) helped me to launch my freelance writing career in the ’80s. Today, continuing to live without a car allows me to fund my tax-deferred retirement accounts (both 401K and IRA) to the legal limit while traveling to Europe once a year. My staff writing position doesn’t pay much, but because I’m car-free, and prudently limit my other expenses, I enjoy a high standard of living.

  • gecko

    #6 Buyers Remorse, “What ever happened to personal responsibility?”

    Yes! Tell that the to Tea Party!

  • Jeff

    Personal responsibility is all fine and well, but there has to be a limit. Accepting responsibility for the maintenance, payment, insurance, storage, and operation of a ten-thousand dollar machine as a prerequisite for participation in modern life is where I draw the line.

  • gecko

    The virtual monopoly of transportation systems based on cars is even more corrupt than the financial system that created the recent meltdown. And, it includes that financial system with over three quarters of a trillion dollars in non-regulated credit ($850 billion) currently extended for automobile ownership.

    It is long overdue that someone like Joseph Stiglitz produces a full accounting of transportation with its vast web of externalities just like he did for “The Three Trillion Dollar War”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stiglitz

  • Gecko: Someone as smart and rigorous as Stiglitz did that (full-cost accounting of motor vehicle use in the US) a long time ago: Mark Delucchi of U-C Davis. You can access his analyses here: http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/delucchi/index.php .

  • gecko

    #11 Charles Komanoff, “Someone as smart and rigorous as Stiglitz did that (full-cost accounting of motor vehicle use in the US) a long time ago: Mark Delucchi of U-C Davis.”

    http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/delucchi/index.php

    Excellent! Thanks.

    It would be of considerable benefit if this very valuable information was to be repackaged for mass consumption; best-selling non-fiction, theatrical and PBS documentaries, government e-books, etc.

    Technological options would also be most important.

  • zach

    A free car that cost you a bundle? While you’re at it I’ve got a free vacation to Hawaii that’ll wind up costing you thousands, a free weekend away that involves brainwashing you into buying overpriced property, free buffalo wings if you buy overpriced beer, and free cookies if you give blood.

    There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, free parking, or freeways.

  • gecko

    #13 zach, “A free car that cost you a bundle?”

    Yep. More corrupt than the mortgage scandal and financial meltdown.

  • gecko

    #13 Zach,

    Yep. Transportation systems based on cars as Bernie Madoff redux amplified many times over.

  • gecko

    And the necessity for “Cover Operations”.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

  • gecko

    (correction)
    And the necessity for “Covert Operations”.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

  • Peter from Stuy Town

    @Mark Walker: I’m happy for you and all, but you do realize your tone sets off a Smug Alert? Most Americans don’t have the “luxury” of living car-free, and many don’t even want to.

  • gecko

    #18 Peter from Stuy Town,

    Yes. The option of the world being “shoe leather” communities or easily traversed by low cost conventional mass transit is likely not in the near future.

    Distributed and on-demand low-cost miniscule environmental footprint transport and transit most likely is.

  • gecko

    Check out the German twikes at http://www.twike.com (I believe) a production vehicle which was a recent contender in the automotive X-Prize using electric with a human power option.

    It seated two people side-by-side and weighed about 400 pounds.

    Making it more modular it might seat only one person with a connectivity option along with many other options as well.

    Single or inline tandem vehicles have greatly reduced air resistance which is the major energy sink making side-by-side seating a questionable practice.

  • Mark Walker

    Peter, people often say I get to live without a car because I live in NYC. I always tell them the reverse is true: I live in NYC so I won’t have to own a car.

  • gecko

    #21 Mark Walker,

    Agreed! An excellent reason. Cities have been designed to fix the transportation problem! They bring everything close together.

    And communities must be designed and retrofitted to solve this same problem.

    And, it’s pretty easy to design and broadly implement technology to assist solutions providing much better mobility than transportation systems based on cars and other extremely inconvenient and expensive methods.

    . . . Something that big oil doesn’t want you to know and deeply entrenched in the very fabric of human civilization.

  • Exile

    For most of the United States, car-free living is a dream. Unfortunately, zoning laws, traffic planners and property developers have heavily subsidized the destruction of active transportation. It’s going to require considerable effort to undo the auto-entitlement mentality, and redesign our places for multi-modal transportation. The efforts we put in, are worth it, for many reasons.

    One of the issues that car companies are facing, is that it’s very difficult to illicit a positive emotional reaction about new cars. People are beginning to realize that cars are more of a burden than a benefit. People simply don’t enjoy driving anymore. With unpleasant traffic, high fuel, and insurance costs mounting up, an urban flight has been created. Until planners, and developers are on-board, and create more car-free/car-less places, we will continue to have many people that are forced to drive a car to survive.

  • ZA

    Moneypit or property depreciation tax write-off?

    We might just fix this whole transporation & land-use problem if the tax structure was corrected.

  • Jason A

    Awesome, awesome post…

    Social justice concerns are what first introduced me to car-free and car-light thinking. Imagine the poverty-fighting power of putting $7,000 a year back into people’s pockets? Transforming our communities into places where car ownership is the needless luxury it should be, would have a far bigger influence on a family’s wages than boilerplate progressive concerns like nickel increases in the minimum wage.

  • gecko

    #25 Jason A, “Awesome, awesome post . . .

    Both the direct and indirect passive structural violence of transportation systems based on cars is also a major part of the social injustice.

  • john

    What BigAuto, BigOil and BigGovernmnet doesn’t want you to understand in designing one’s financial life style and future:
    1. Conservatively spend $190,000 plus to maintain automobility, or
    2. Get a bike, live carfree, invest prudently and retire to be an independent millionaire.

    Social justice? As long as subsidies for carbon lovers remain public preference #1, we must suffer from the noise, pollution, deaths, injuries, obesity, higher health costs, etc. for the foreseeable future.

  • JuliaK

    Let me give you an example of how owning a car has improved my quality of life…and my kids.

    I do not make a lot of money so I can not afford a home in a good neighborhood of Los Angeles. I thus moved to Santa Clarita where I was able to buy a 4 bedroom house with a pool. I have two kids that I have to take to school and after school activities. If I did not have a car I would not be able to get to my job in West Hills and get my kids where they need to be. A car has allowed me to live in a great house in a safe neighborhood, and has allowed my children to have fun activities. The money I spend on the car is easily covered by my reduced housing expenses.

    While I applaud the choice to live car free I would really appreciate it if those that do live car free stop acting so superior and imply that drivers are somehow evil, immoral, or unethical.

  • gecko

    #28 JuliaK,

    Yes, you have made an excellent point and while the complicated response might in part be to do a full accounting of all your costs; even then, you can still come out significantly ahead despite having to depend on cars.

    Perhaps the best response is that technology exists to provide you with the same or better transportation (distributed on-demand practical, convenient, comfortable, safe, fast, etc.) that can be provided by cars at a much lower cost and with a much smaller environmental footprint so that you come out ahead even further; as does civilization in greatly reducing the natural services — the services provided by nature — that it requires.

    Where your car might cost $6,000 to $8,000 per year it is possible to have the equivalent and better transportation at say (hypothetically for this discussion), $600 to $800 per year where you save a huge amount of money with a minimal impact on the environment and get, obviously, a very good deal.

  • gecko

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/03/california%e2%80%99s-prop-23-is-bad-news-for-latino-families/

    This is an example of the indirect structural violence and costs of transportation systems based on cars:

    “California’s Prop 23 is bad news for Latino families”

    This is largely in terms of health disparities.

  • “Like most Americans, Rowena had no idea of the true total and ongoing financial cost of car ownership, and, like most Americans, she found her dealer in no rush to warn her about them.”

    Really? Americans don’t know about gas, the cost of credit, auto repair, etc.? Yeah, there’s a cost to getting something you can’t afford. I hope she doesn’t make the same mistake with housing or credit.

    gecko –

    I think you too easily dismissed JuliaK’s point – the reason for the mess we’re in is that, from an individual perspective, living in a far away suburb or exerb and working in the city is the cheapest way to provide the best quality of life for the cheapest price. All those people who came to that conclusion aren’t failing to take into account the total costs of the car. Most cars do not get repossessed.

    I think the article is right in saying that the poor get preyed on, but this isn’t an auto-specific issue. The poor and especially immigrants are often taken advantages of for their lack of savvy (which is generally the root of their poverty). The solution to me seems to be to donate to non-profits that provide free financial advise to the poor.

  • whoops. Advice, not advise and I accidentally said “cheapest way” twice in that one sentence.

  • gecko

    #31 Thomas J. Webb, re: “I think you too easily dismissed JuliaK’s point”

    I think you too easily dismissed my point as this is what was written:

    “#28 JuliaK,

    Yes, you have made an excellent point and while the complicated response might in part be to do a full accounting of all your costs; even then, you can still come out significantly ahead despite having to depend on cars.”

  • gecko

    #31 Thomas J. Webb, re: “Most cars do not get repossessed.”

    Does not mean an awful lot and is like “most people do not declare bankruptcy.”

    The money and resources that support cars and transportation systems based on cars which are arguably extremely wasteful, might be better appropriated to human needs like education, science, health care, poverty reduction, cost of living reduction, peace initiatives, much better personal transport and transit, etc.

  • gecko

    #31 Thomas J. Webb, re: “provide free financial advice to the poor”

    Yes you are right!

    And, NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg has been on top of that with

    http://home2.nyc.gov/html/ofe/html/home/home.shtml

    NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
    Office of Financial Empowerment

    City’s Financial Empowerment Centers Named Finalist for National Award
    New York City is one of the 44 finalists for the National League of Cities (NLC) 2010 Awards for Municipal Excellence. NLC selected New York for DCS’s Financial Empowerment Centers which provide free one-on-one professional counseling to City residents. Winners will be announced at NLC’s Congress of Cities & Exposition, to be held November 30 – December 4, 2010 in Denver.

  • gecko

    #31 Thomas J. Webb,

    If you want to get a feel for the resources wasted on cars do refer to #11 Charles Komanoff’s excellent link at:

    http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/delucchi/index.php

    starting off with the “Social Cost of Transportation”.

    While the $45 billion U.S. annual subsidy of the cash-rich and mature oil industry is too small to be considered macro economics the $850 billion annual credit for the purchase of cars is; and, would be much better applied to other less wasteful stuff critical to the future of the United States and global civilization such as massive energy efficiency improvements, likely to dramatically lower the cost of living, along with extremely-large-scale green house gas reduction advancements including marine and atmospheric sequestering initiatives.

    It should be emphasized that the costs of ongoing delays addressing rapidly accelerating environmental devastation forced by climate change are astronomical scaled at 1000s of trillions of U.S. dollars.

  • gecko

    #31 Thomas J. Webb,

    . . . so, while it is easy to say that the poor and immigrants are not savvy, when you look close at the economic sense of American governance, it is many times worse while it assists in financing industries and policies leading to an extremely questionable future.

  • la rider

    Great read. I’ve always heard the numbers from AAA, but after reading this, it all makes sense.

  • JuliaK

    Perhaps the best response is that technology exists to provide you with the same or better transportation (distributed on-demand practical, convenient, comfortable, safe, fast, etc.) that can be provided by cars at a much lower cost and with a much smaller environmental footprint so that you come out ahead even further

    I think you are right but I think the ultimate form of this new technology will most likely be cheaper, more enviornmentally responcible CARS (like the smart car types). Do you really see cars as becoming a thing of the past? I think the enviornment and our needs are best served by putting our energy (no pun intended) into completely overhauling the auto industry…not getting rid of it. Your thoughts?

  • gecko

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/04/koch-industries-valero-tesoro-proposition-23/

    More from the “Toxic Triplets” on the structural violence of transportation systems based on cars.

    “The dirty oil coalition behind Proposition 23 effort to stop clean energy just got a lot dirtier

    “Koch Industries joins Valero and Tesoro to stop climate action”

  • la rider

    I’d also like to add, for those who choose to live far away and commute because you cannot afford a house with a pool in Los Angeles, we (all taxpayers) subsidize your lifestyle and so does the planet that you plan on leaving for your ‘children’.

    Most 1st world countries realize the toll the automobile takes on the environment except for Americans. In Korea, for example people believe that their actions, however small it may be can contribute to reducing the global footprint. For people like Santa Clarita valley JuliaK, such soapbox propositions are incomprehensible.

    I’m glad you live in a ‘safe’ neighborhood and your children can swim in a swimming pool. But your actions are inherently selfish and ignorant American like.

  • garyg

    Gecko: Someone as smart and rigorous as Stiglitz did that (full-cost accounting of motor vehicle use in the US) a long time ago: Mark Delucchi of U-C Davis. You can access his analyses here: http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/delucchi/index.php .

    Delucchi found that subsidies per passenger-mile to motor vehicle users are small, much smaller than subsidies per passenger-mile to transit users. If subsidies were eliminated, the cost of driving would increase modestly, but the cost of using mass transit would skyrocket.

  • garyg

    Perhaps the best response is that technology exists to provide you with the same or better transportation (distributed on-demand practical, convenient, comfortable, safe, fast, etc.) that can be provided by cars at a much lower cost and with a much smaller environmental footprint so that you come out ahead even further

    What technology is that? If it were possible to provide a different mode of transportation that was competitive with cars on convenience, speed, comfort, flexibility, practicality, safety, etc. we’d already have it, and cars wouldn’t be the overwhlemingly dominant mode.

  • gecko

    #39 JuliaK, Right again!

    It seems that GM is thinking along these lines in Asia with small two-person vehicles using Segway technology and presented at China’s World Expo this year.

    My thinking is that the industry is not going far enough and should be developing “open-system” solutions around two key principles.

    The environmental footprint of transportation systems based on cars can be very simply reduced to 1% by reducing the size of vehicles compatible with human power:

    1. Any vehicle that can be easily human-powered sets the upper limit of the scale (size and weight) of vehicles used on-and-off public transit.

    2. Electric power and modularity gives vehicles the broadest range of accessibility and functionality both on-and-off systems.

    The first statement sets the scale and gives an idea of the maximum practical size and weight of vehicles. Of course, they can be much smaller and lighter and practicality is assumed. Existing mechanical systems can reduce emissions from simple walking by two-thirds.

    If a vehicle is easily human-powered then, in many instances that may be the most practical way to power it. There are many instances where being limited solely to human power is not practical and where the second statement applies.

    The elderly, disabled, and women with young children may not be able to easily move, or move at all, with human power alone. Going up steep hills and long distances are other issues and electric assists improve on the practicality of vehicles. And, electric powering can extend the speed and range to that of any land-based vehicle in particular, with the use of simple mechanical collision avoidance and control such as monorails and guide ways.

    Obviously, complete collision avoidance and control extends the speed and range beyond transportation systems based on cars.

    Modularity makes it easier to adapt these vehicles to various requirements as-needed including electric powering, traveling on systems, increasing the ability to carry additional loads, and traveling with people just to name four.

    Systems can provide many advantages including advanced safety, speed, range, automated control, low-cost, and elimination of the need for high energy density such as fossil fuels.

  • gecko

    #42 Delucchi, “Delucchi found that subsidies per passenger-mile to motor vehicle users are small”

    If this is true then Delucchi is incorrect and won’t bother referring to it until I have time to study it.

    Does Delucchi have subsidies per passenger mile of someone walking? If it did it would be kind of absurd: sidewalks, boardwalks, country paths, the path to one’s bathroom . . . ?

    Hopefully, Charles Komanoff can shed further light on this since he recommended it as complete.

    Regarding: “If subsidies were eliminated, the cost of driving would increase modestly, but the cost of using mass transit would skyrocket.”

    I do believe this is true. Conventional massive-vehicle transit is awful.

    There are things to consider.

    1. The oil industry gets $45 billion annual subsidies.

    2. More than three-quarter trillion dollars ($850 billion) per of under regulated credit is issued for the purchase of cars per year

    3. Most likely no mention is made of the value of environmental services provided for free (for now).

    4. Massive-vehicle transit is probably not very efficient and cost effective. Small highly-modular lighter-than-human-weight vehicle transit is.

  • garyg

    Human-powered vehicles are obviously not going to be competitive with cars on speed, comfort, or practicality. They will always be a niche market, like bicycles.

    It seems likely that electric propulsion will gradually supplant internal combustion engines and mechanical drivetrains in cars over the next few decades. But an electric car is still a car, not an alternative to cars.

  • gecko

    #43 garyg, “What technology is that? If it were possible to provide a different mode of transportation that was competitive with cars on convenience, speed, comfort, flexibility, practicality, safety, etc. we’d already have it, and cars wouldn’t be the overwhlemingly dominant mode.”

    Maybe that’s why the mature cash-rich oil industry requires $45 billion per year subsidies and is relatively immune to anti-trust action?

    Maybe there is no such thing as industries declared too big to fail?

    If the streets were safe for unarmored vehicles a lot more people would be using them with much more practical and convenient methods.

    There are 430 million cyclists and 120 million people using electric bicycles in China. Are you saying it is impossible to improve on this very simple technology?

    Again, point blank:

    Are you saying that you think it is impossible to improve on bicycle technology?

    A simple yes or no will suffice.

  • gecko

    #43 garyg, “Human-powered vehicles are obviously not going to be competitive with cars on speed, comfort, or practicality.”

    You are the one providing the human-power-only restriction.

  • gecko

    #46 gary, re:“Human-powered vehicles are obviously not going to be competitive with cars on speed, comfort, or practicality.”

    Actually when I think about it, my old beat-up bike is a big improvement on cars in terms of speed, comfort, and practicality in many instances.

    Pretty good for something that costs me next to nothing.

    But ultimately, this is not what can be designed to directly meet developed-world and global transportation needs and expectations.

  • gecko

    #46 garyg,

    Again:

    Are you saying that you think it is impossible to improve on bicycle technology?

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