Drive, she said

[I started this post shortly after we bought a car but never finished it. We are no longer car-free. Didn't want you to think that we still were!]

Early in March, we bought a car. We got a good deal on a reliable used vehicle. But I found that after five months without a car, I could not go back to status quo ante. My thinking and feelings both had shifted.

I did my first errand by car the week that we bought it. This was a trip that takes about half the time by car as it does on transit, and I did not have that kind of time.

So I was carefully heading north on Canada Way when traffic came to a halt. It took a while to learn that the two lanes had to merge into one. A big townhouse development is being built, and a cement truck was doing its cement-spewing thing from the right lane. It occurred to me that driving would work a lot better if private contractors weren't allowed to partially block a major road to spew cement.

The bus would have been caught in the same mess, but I would have been reading or doing something on my phone and not carefully inching forward to the merge point.

Once past the single lane pinch point, it was smooth sailing to my destination. But then I realized I needed to park the car. I hadn't done any of this for four and a half months. So I checked signs and avoided rush hour lanes and found a spot.

On the way home, I headed east on Highway 1 ostensibly before rush hour but there's really no such time. It was slow going through Burnaby, but not terrible. But I was still getting re-accustomed to watching in all directions and especially avoiding getting crunched by a truck. But I made it to Kensington, and Canada Way was not yet very busy.

On that Thursday afternoon, I was waiting for a bus so I could get to an appointment. But it seems Translink got wise to the fact that we owned a car again, so the bus decided not to come. Or to be very late. I don't know which, because I high-tailed it to the vehicle in our carport, promptly got stuck at another pinch point due to another huge construction project (on Kingsway at Edmonds this time), scrambled a bit for parking near my destination, but made it to my appointment on time. I really wanted to take transit, but that time it failed me.

Then on that Friday night, Sweetie and I were going to a show in Surrey. We could have taken transit, but even short walks in Surrey on major roads are often not very nice. It's very much a vehicle-oriented city. So we drove to what we thought was the venue only to find that the show was at a different venue (our mistake). The car saved our bacon! We would not have made it to the real venue on transit in time for the show.

Having a car is expensive. Having a car is a convenience. Having a car can be an annoyance. Having a car can save your bacon.

I haven't "got religion" about living car-free, but the last several months have definitely changed my attitude. I'm starting to see that individual private vehicles, even if (successfully) driverless, are not an efficient way to get around. For one thing, there will only be more and more of them on the same amount of road. Driverless can allow more efficient road use but it will likely not be fast. And a cement truck blocks all road users.

I think about parking as well and the amount of space we use to accommodate our individual vehicles. And the amount of money it might cost to store them in that space.

Seriously, putting around in little vehicles that constantly threaten to bump into each other if any driver is not paying sufficient attention seems like a primitive method of transportation. It's like a faster, more comfortable horse, rolling along on road networks that have got much bigger and more numerous since their inception but are still fundamentally the same paths they ever were.

For whatever reason, to me it feels so much more civilized and modern to walk to a spot, be picked up by a vehicle, and transfer to a conveyance that runs rapidly along a dedicated right-of-way, with fares paid via an electronic card. Even while we hang onto our car, I plan to continue to take advantage of the public transit network. Nice to have a car as backup, for now. But anymore I prefer to read or use my hand-held device or even just to sit (or stand, which happens) and think rather than to drive.

(Unless they finally invent flying cars, like in The Jetsons. If that happens, all bets are off.)