World Car-Free Day: Park it & Spend the $$ Locally
World Car-Free Day
Guest Contributor: Bill Palladino
Tomorrow, September 22nd, is World Car-Free Day. What’s that you say? Live without a car? In Michigan? Well yes, that is what I said.
The idea is simple, according the World Car Free Network website:
“Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year.”
I plainly understand that this is asking a lot of our little burbs up here in northern Michigan; frankly, I don’t expect a lot of people to give it a try. I do however believe it’s worth people learning about the notion. I’d like more people in this community imagining how they can impact our reliance on those pieces of steel and plastic that made our state so famous. The point is that we can do this while still serving Michigan’s, and our own local, economy.
A Pile of Automobiles
What we know is that there are about 600 Million cars, SUVs and light trucks in the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau we Americans own 2/5ths (two fifths!) of those. While it’s difficult to say for sure, the numbers work out like this: 78% of Americans own a vehicle, compared to the worldwide average of only 7%. (There’s a lot of room for error in there as some people own more than one car, and many are owned by corporations, etc.) The point is we’re at the top of the heap.
We are Driving Less
There is good news, if only referential, that due to the gas crunch a couple of years back a lot of Americans sold off some of their cars and our purchases slowed considerably. The flip-side is that two other nations stepped into that purchasing gap; China and India are now consuming more automobiles than the U.S. annually as a new zeal to reflect our own middle class takes over those countries.
Many of you know I got rid of my car over a year ago. I won’t mislead you here, there are many days when I think I should buy another car; the convenience factor taunts me. I’m not suggesting any self-righteousness. What I am suggesting is that my neighbors might consider seeing how they could benefit from downsizing their own vehicle fleets. Perhaps, make that move to a one-car family. Resist buying your sixteen year-old a car. Teach her to ride a bus or a bike instead. Consider how much you might save in the long run by spending a bit more on an in-town home so you wouldn’t have the same transportation burdens. More than anything, consider what a difference it could make in our communities if so much of our resources weren’t spent on making room for, providing access to and feeding the voracious appetites of our vehicles.
Show me the Money
One last point in case I haven’t yet convinced you. According the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American spent approximately $2,200 on fuel for their vehicles in 2009. If we take just Grand Traverse County with its population of 86,000, that’s an astounding $189 million spent on gasoline only! In one year.
If we all drove just 10% less, and donated the difference, we could fund the annual budgets of the Michigan Land Use Institute, the State Theatre, the Father Fred Foundation, all of the local United Way’s 2010 giving, pay Ron Jolly’s salary for ten years, and still have enough left over to build another $8 million parking deck, and repave a few roads! All with just 10% less driving! (Editor’s shameless addition: Some of that savings could also help fund the work of this BLOG.)
In simple terms it makes a lot of business sense to start driving a little less and turning the savings into funding our local economy.
World Car-Free Day is only a beginning. Let’s make it count for our own community too.