The Definition of Automobile Dependence

Working for a failing automaker to make enough money to keep your beat-up, failing mini van rolling through your sprawled-out, failing city. From today’s New York Times story on escalating gasoline prices.

For ordinary Americans like Phyllis Berry, a 31-year-old factory worker for General Motors in Cleveland, gasoline costs are starting to hurt.

used to fill it up pretty regularly, but now I drive it until the tank
is almost empty, looking for the cheapest place to buy gas,” said Ms.
Berry, who drives a beat-up Dodge Caravan.

  • Tim

    as the national campaign to completely overhaul national transportation funding priorities gets underway, those leading the fight (SGA, reconnecting america) and those informing it (Brookings) would do well to devote a lot of resources to nailing the household economics of car use, and explaining how a WPA scale jobs program to build rail, BRT, bike and ped networks would not jsut create millinos of jobs, but help folks like Ms. Berry make ends meet. Americans devote a much bigger share of their household income to transportation, and this is only going to increase.

  • Paul

    “I used to fill it up pretty regularly, but now I drive it until the tank is almost empty…”

    I’m afraid this won’t save you any money as long as you are driving the same amount.

  • Damian

    How reliable and frequent you want to bet the transit service is in a downtrodden city like Detroit? The tragic fact of the matter is that for many Americans transit is so underdeveloped and cash-strapped that it’s just not a reliable option.

    And I’m sure Ms. Berry would thank you for your insight into her fuel-buying habits, Paul, but as a working class woman, she’s probably too busy trying to keep her household together.

  • thank god i don’t own a car and a mortgage and a spouse and children.

  • Jonathan

    Aaron, I feel bad for Ms. Berry, but did I miss a memo somewhere that declared that everyone with a car was rich?

    Late-20th-century auto plants such as the ones that GM operates are giant. The NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA, is about the same size as Park Slope between Flatbush Ave, PPW, 15th St, and 4th Avenue. Who wants to live within walking distance of such a plant, and its accompanying transportation and logistical network?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    The plants are pretty huge in Germany and Japan too. However, they have an efficient mass transit system that workers can take to the job. Thats one big distinction between American autoworkers and their counterparts in Europe and Asia, they take transit to the job.

  • Kurt

    When gas prices are rising it’s most cost effective to fill the tank completely and then drive until the tank is almost empty before refueling. On the other hand, when gas prices are falling it’s better to keep the tank as full as possible. Combining these two strategies will reduce the average cost of the fuel in your tank, and thus your cost per mile traveled.

    When gas prices are steady it doesn’t matter what strategy you use to fill your tank.

  • anon

    Filling up whenever you can take advantage of a cheap gas station is the most economical strategy. Driving around to find a station, and having to accept its price, is not.


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