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  • #31
    Originally posted by mfreeck
    This is why folks are so up in arms over gas prices in the US. There simply is not an alternate to using gas. Even if you live in one of the cities with good public transit, you may still be required to own a car. You may choose to get a car with good gas mileage or risk running around on a two wheeled vehicle (but is it cheaper when someone doesn't see you and you get sent to the hospital?), but that's only choosing LESS gas. For that matter, taking the bus or using flexcar is still using gas.
    Having lived in cities with both really good and utterly pitiful public transport systems, I can attest to the fact that even if you use public transport regularly, you still own a car and for good reasons: trips beyond the range of public transport are effectively impossible, and if you have to carry too many or bulky items you may be denied use of public transport by drivers / guards / conductors, etc.

    There's also another issue here: driving is effectively non-negotiable for anyone not living in a major city. You simply can't survive without a car outside of major metropolitan areas.

    Originally posted by mfreeck
    What annoys me is our city had a system with streetcars, but at some point they were ripped out in favour of gas powered vehicles.
    I'm consistently reminded of the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where a kid asks Bob Hoskins why he doesn't own a car as he jumps onto the back of a Red Car. He replies, "This is Los Angeles! We've got the public transport system in the world; what do I need a car for?" Of course, this was likely true in the time that the film was set in; twenty years later it was completely gone.

    Originally posted by xwred1
    It can't have been going up 67% say for the last 5 years, or else 5 years ago gas would have been <$1/gal.
    I remember buying gas in the midwest for around $0.95/gallon in 1999. Hell, even when I moved to LA in 1998, it was only around $1.27/gallon. Even taking inflation into account, I'd be very surprised if it were responsible for more than 8%-10% of the overall price increase. However, the 67% increase I was referring to was specifically confined to the period between December, 2004 and May, 2006.

    Of course, remembering the oil glut in early 2002, I paid $0.89/gallon for regular gas in Bakersfield, CA - a price that hadn't been seen in this state since probably about 1986. Shows what the actual value of this stuff truly is.

    Originally posted by xwred1
    I don't know, I'm not an economist. I'm still a little unclear on how we can run the country off piles of borrowed money. I can't run my personal life that way.
    We desperately need to go back on the gold standard IMHO, but that's completely beyond the scope of this thread.
    Last edited by skroo; May 10, 2006, 17:04.

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    • #32
      I don't think that'll work, there's not supposed to be enough gold in the world to back all the money we need.

      Even that bothers me... we should just harvest resources and do work instead of worrying about gold. But then, I guess thats what money lets us keep track of.

      Comment


      • #33
        Originally posted by Deviant Ollam
        it's an accurate assessment of living in the united states to say that one needs access to a vehicle in most instances, and to change this phenomenon would be a massive undertaking that is simply not possible. however, using gasoline is not something that's set in stone and it would be far less difficult for that to change at the hands of government encouragement.
        I thought about alternative fuels, but they aren't really an option for your average car user. But you are absolutely right, it could very much be an option for a government. Think about how far we could get if we spent the same amount (or even half) to develop alternatives to gasoline that we're spending/have spent in attacking/liberating/invading other countries.

        do you know the history there? some time back (i think in the 20s, mostly) public transit systems were bought out in cities all over by private consortiums (mostly financed and controlled by General Motors and Firestone). Men like Alfred P. Sloan engineered these takeovers so that the private transit firm, once in power, could immediately switch the city to buses as opposed to rail
        I was aware of that, but don't know the specific history of my city... I wish I did. Maybe I'll see what Google can dig up. I do know that not all the tracks (if any) were ripped out, just paved over.

        future (as many have) they would be forced to rely on
        GM for vehicle fleets and Firestone rubber at routine intervals. a really shitty, shady thing to do, in my opinion.
        Indeed, I believe this stuff still happens, but is just kept a little quieter.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by skroo
          Having lived in cities with both really good and utterly pitiful public transport systems, I can attest to the fact that even if you use public transport regularly, you still own a car and for good reasons: trips beyond the range of public transport are effectively impossible, and if you have to carry too many or bulky items you may be denied use of public transport by drivers / guards / conductors, etc.
          Fortunately, Portland has gotten around this by having flexcar (for those who have a license but not a car). Also, I have not yet seen someone kicked off the bus for bringing too much of something on. I've dragged a 11x8' sheet of foam (rolled into a big cylinder) and seen people transport (small) christmas trees, all without incident. I guess our bus drivers are just good like that. Or too stoned to object.

          There's also another issue here: driving is effectively non-negotiable for anyone not living in a major city. You simply can't survive without a car outside of major metropolitan areas.
          Indeed. OTOH, driving out in the country is a bit easier (I believe, never having done it). I think less folks may object to driving if they never had to do it in a city. That strays a bit from the gasoline topic though.

          He replies, "This is Los Angeles! We've got the public transport system in the world; what do I need a car for?"
          Heh, yeah, that always struck me too. And the country people got around on horses. At least hay is a renewable resource. :)

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by mfreeck
            Think about how far we could get if we spent the same amount (or even half) to develop alternatives to gasoline that we're spending/have spent in attacking/liberating/invading other countries.
            Politics aside, no matter how you look at it we'll still need oil. Everything from foodstuffs to clothing to fuel depends on it - and even if it's not being used for fuel, it's still needed for lubricants. Besides, what about applications such as aviation that are entirely dependent on it? Jet engines burn the fuel that they do because it's what works for their applications.

            Originally posted by mfreeck
            Fortunately, Portland has gotten around this by having flexcar (for those who have a license but not a car).
            Right... And you can technically do that in Los Angeles as well; I've seen the cars parked at Union Station. Thing is, the US is unique in one very key way compared to everywhere else I've ever lived in or visited in my life: even the poorest people have cars. I know I'm by no means the first person to make that observation, but it holds true. And in this city, you need a car to get around. Taking those two points together, Flexcar doesn't make sense unless you have the rather rare ability to live at the absolute sweet spot between where you buy your food and where you earn the money that pays for it.

            Also, I have not yet seen someone kicked off the bus for bringing too much of something on. I've dragged a 11x8' sheet of foam (rolled into a big cylinder) and seen people transport (small) christmas trees, all without incident. I guess our bus drivers are just good like that. Or too stoned to object.
            Quite possibly; no reason why I'd doubt you on that. But by the same token, I've seen people barred from busses for carrying too many bags of shopping and disallowed from boarding trains because they were bringing items on that were larger than were considered appropriate. LA has kind of a unique set of stupidities that prevent it from building a workable light rail system (about the best way to go here), and buses are just downright idiotic in a city famed for its traffic congestion. Thing is, LA isn't the only place I've seen this type of attitude towards people using public transit. If anything, it's been worse in Europe in general.

            One other thing: Americans like the independence that cars afford them, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having grown up in a country that puts a lot of barriers to car ownership in front of the average person, I can fully understand why people are as attached to their vehicles as they are. If you rely solely on public transport, you rely solely on the government dictating your movements to you. It isn't possible to board a bus and drive it to Ensenada, at least not without heavy weaponry and a death wish.
            Last edited by skroo; May 10, 2006, 23:47.

            Comment


            • #36
              Originally posted by skroo
              Thing is, the US is unique in one very key way compared to everywhere else I've ever lived in or visited in my life: even the poorest people have cars.
              an interesting trend to comment on in this area... you notice (or do i hold this opinion on my own) how many auto manufacturers are no longer producing cheap, utilitarian automobiles for people who barely have any money but need to get from point A to point B?

              i had this idea a little while back and i wish i could be at a cocktail party with an executive from GM (or Ford, etc) to pitch it...

              remember the K5 series Blazer? the full-size sport utility that was more utility than sport? (it ushered in the period in Chevy/GMC's history when they came out with the Tahoe/Yukon for full size and shrunk the Blazer/Jimmy down to something in between a Ford Exlorer and a Jeep) that was a terrific vehicle... not because of it's power and size (which were nice) but because of its simplicity.

              all across the country there are people who own (either as their primary car or, perhaps more often, as a secondary vehicle that they keep for fishing, hunting, going up to the mountains, hauling stuff, etc etc) a 1980s or even 1970s series utility truck like a K5 Blazer, a Bronco, etc. you can take care of an engine and drivetrain like it's your baby, but eventually little things on a truck wear out. a seatback fails to stay upright, the fan blower motor konks out, some wiring somewhere faults... bit by bit the vehicle (while still running well) ceases to be a nice thing to drive except on rare occasions.

              i think that the big auto makers could make an assload of sales if they came out with a very utilitarian truck and priced it in a range that people looking to replace their old or spare vehicle could afford. think of it... a ~$5000 truck that would replace one's aged Blazer or Bronco. a fresh tranny, clean interior, cold A/C, maybe a radio with all the speakers working. that would be a real pleasure to obtain, i think. all across this country people could retire the weekend warrior vehicles that have been slowly dying on them and obtain a no-frills 4x4 to do what they need to do. GMC could call it the K6, and i'd be first in line to buy one.

              heh, then Daimler Chrysler could see the market trend and come out with a new Jeep under the "CJ" designation (what would that be? a CJ10? CJ11?) costing under $5000 and having absolutely no bells, whistles, or any other shit. just a bare-ass interior, an engine, a tranny, and a transfer case.

              ah well, a guy can dream. anyone else think this could be a good idea? i can't be alone in thinking that the trend of making car interiors look like cockpits, adding electronically-controlled hydraulic doors everywhere, and putting wood-colored plastic all over everything is stupid.
              "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
              - Trent Reznor

              Comment


              • #37
                Originally posted by skroo
                Politics aside, no matter how you look at it we'll still need oil. Everything from foodstuffs to clothing to fuel depends on it - and even if it's not being used for fuel, it's still needed for lubricants. Besides, what about applications such as aviation that are entirely dependent on it? Jet engines burn the fuel that they do because it's what works for their applications.
                Indeed. Plastics are invaluable and good for everything, just about. I have no illusions that we will or should reduce oil usage to zero. By the same token, if we used a different fuel in our cars, we'd be a bit less dependent on other nations, maybe generate some jobs at refinery plants and reduce costs at the consumer level.


                And in this city, you need a car to get around. Taking those two points together, Flexcar doesn't make sense unless you have the rather rare ability to live at the absolute sweet spot between where you buy your food and where you earn the money that pays for it.
                Yes and no. In this city, it's very possible to live in that sweet spot. We enacted urban growth boundaries back in the 70s and have grown more dense rather than sprawled outward. While not everyone can give up their car and rent flexcar once a month/week, flexcar can still be useful when a different vehicle other than the one you own is needed (minivan, truck, etc). That particular use is neither here nor there for this discussion, but another thought regarding flexcar is when taking a road trip, it could be potentially useful to get a flexcar rather than paying for gas the whole way yourself (since flexcar pays for gas currently).

                Quite possibly; no reason why I'd doubt you on that. But by the same token, I've seen people barred from busses for carrying too many bags of shopping and disallowed from boarding trains because they were bringing items on that were larger than were considered appropriate.
                That's a shame. I wonder if Portland's liberal leanings shape attitudes in this regard. I've also heard stories of LA's transit system in regards to disabled folks trying to catch the bus. I remember hearing stories a few years back of a guy in a wheelchair getting pissed off and going as far as parking himself in front of the bus because they would routinely pass him up saying their lifts were broken. While some buses may have broken lifts, he said it would usually take him 2-4 buses before he got one that would pick him up.

                LA has kind of a unique set of stupidities that prevent it from building a workable light rail system (about the best way to go here), and buses are just downright idiotic in a city famed for its traffic congestion.
                We have lightrail here and it is picking up quite a following against it. Car users really resent putting more lightrail in. I have mixed feelings about it as I only really use it to go to the airport. I *really* would've appreciated lightrail going to vancouver, but although portland passed the the bill approving funds, the car people in vancouver voted it down and also cut funding to their transit system (which was already substandard). Now the funds for the vancouver lightrail is putting lightrail in somewhere else completely that I will probably never use. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but there's been a fair amount of crime on the lightrail in the evening, since the drivers are isolated from the passengers and can only call for help if you manage to use the intercom system.

                One other thing: Americans like the independence that cars afford them, and there is nothing wrong with that.
                I agree, it can be nice. Even if you do flexcar, that's still using a car for independence. When I took the bus only, I often lamented that it was easier for me to get to europe than to the middle of the woods in Oregon. It is in fact limiting to have onl public transit at your disposal, and that's in a city that *has* decent transit. You can't work odd shifts or at a job that requires a car or at a location that is remotely remote (hah).

                If you rely solely on public transport, you rely solely on the government dictating your movements to you. It isn't possible to board a bus and drive it to Ensenada, at least not without heavy weaponry and a death wish.
                A very interesting point I think I'll bring up to my car hating friends.

                I also note that the public transit system here is slowly gearing itself towards getting commuters out of their cars and to their place of work. This spawns a route which goes out to a fairly useless place (unless you work there) at only morning and evening times. This is significant in showing that the bus company is not interested in the customers it already has -- if you don't have a car, you're considered a captive audience and they figure you're not going anywhere, no matter how they gut the service. Unfortunately, they're largely correct. I just don't want to drive in the city.

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Deviant Ollam
                  an interesting trend to comment on in this area... you notice (or do i hold this opinion on my own) how many auto manufacturers are no longer producing cheap, utilitarian automobiles for people who barely have any money but need to get from point A to point B?
                  Oh, man, this is a pet frickin' peeve of mine. Pretty much all of them except the Chinese (coming to an automall near you in 2007) have moved their vehicles' images so completely upmarket that there is no basic transport left anymore. Some of the best cars I've ever owned were the most basic: Citroen 2CV, Fiat Panda 4x4, Renault 5, Subaru Brat. They may have been slow and simple, but they all ran forver with virtually no trouble and returned fantastic fuel economy.

                  Part of the problem is consumer demand, part of it's safety legislation, part of it's emissions demands. Both conspire to make cars heavier, more complex, and less efficient overall. Safety's a good thing, but I'd be interested to know how much safer or cleaner a 2007 Civic really is compared to, say, a 1977 VW Golf/Rabbit - which was more than capable of returning 40mpg, even with its cobbled-together mid-'70s emissions equipment. If the same vehicle could be constructed using modern techniques, I really wonder how much more efficient it could be made.

                  remember the K5 series Blazer? the full-size sport utility that was more utility than sport? (it ushered in the period in Chevy/GMC's history when they came out with the Tahoe/Yukon for full size and shrunk the Blazer/Jimmy down to something in between a Ford Exlorer and a Jeep) that was a terrific vehicle... not because of it's power and size (which were nice) but because of its simplicity.
                  Yep, agreed. But very few people buy SUVs or pickup trucks anymore because they have a need for them - they're a fashion statement. I'd say that the ratio of 'working' pickup trucks to commuter vehicles I see on a daily basis is probably about 3:7. And it pisses me off no end when people ask me why my Jeep's dirty - because I fucking use it, asshole. That 4WD lever down there next to my right knee serves a purpose; if I all needed was a station wagon I would've bought an old Subaru.

                  i think that the big auto makers could make an assload of sales if they came out with a very utilitarian truck and priced it in a range that people looking to replace their old or spare vehicle could afford. think of it... a ~$5000 truck that would replace one's aged Blazer or Bronco. a fresh tranny, clean interior, cold A/C, maybe a radio with all the speakers working. that would be a real pleasure to obtain, i think. all across this country people could retire the weekend warrior vehicles that have been slowly dying on them and obtain a no-frills 4x4 to do what they need to do. GMC could call it the K6, and i'd be first in line to buy one.
                  And stick a diesel in it. Hell, I'd really like to get an old Lada Niva (another fantastic-yet-simple vehicle) again for that purpose - think of it as a Russian Suzuki Samurai and you won't be far off. But they'll never make another vehicle like it again.

                  heh, then Daimler Chrysler could see the market trend and come out with a new Jeep under the "CJ" designation (what would that be? a CJ10? CJ11?) costing under $5000 and having absolutely no bells, whistles, or any other shit. just a bare-ass interior, an engine, a tranny, and a transfer case.
                  Likely a CK if anything - the CJ-10 was pretty much an export-only model with a pickup bed and (IMHO) ugly squared-off fenders with rectangular headlights set into them. Jeep's current nomenclature has moved away from suffixing vehicle deignations with 'J'; the current Grand Cherokee is the WK, Commander the XK, and upcoming new Wrangler the JK (which I hope means 'Just Kidding', because I'm not too impressed with the specs). The Liberty continues on as the KJ for another year or so, I believe.

                  What I'd like is a 'new' XJ Cherokee (the ones currently built in China as the (heh) BJ don't count) - solid axles front & rear, a little more interior room, diesel option again, and maybe a removeable top, but still as basic as you could order one if you wanted to in 1984.

                  ah well, a guy can dream. anyone else think this could be a good idea? i can't be alone in thinking that the trend of making car interiors look like cockpits, adding electronically-controlled hydraulic doors everywhere, and putting wood-colored plastic all over everything is stupid.
                  Ya know, as much as I agree, I really like stuff like the Loremo for taking a back-to-basics approach while maintaining modern standards of vehicle construction. Way more realistic than a lot of the wacky shit that's supposed to be the 'next generation' of vehicles.
                  Last edited by skroo; May 11, 2006, 10:33.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by mfreeck
                    In this city, it's very possible to live in that sweet spot.
                    Good point. My view tends to be focused on the almost 500 square miles that L.A. occupies - and that number goes up considerably if you look at its catchment area.

                    flexcar can still be useful when a different vehicle other than the one you own is needed (minivan, truck, etc). That particular use is neither here nor there for this discussion, but another thought regarding flexcar is when taking a road trip, it could be potentially useful to get a flexcar rather than paying for gas the whole way yourself (since flexcar pays for gas currently).
                    Agreed on occasional use for specific purposes; I do the same with U-Haul, etc. if I need a pickup or van, but that's largely because there's one three blocks from my house. I wasn't aware that Flexcar covered fuel costs, though. I'll look into it a bit more (been awhile since I did) for my next out-of-town trip vs. renting one.

                    I remember hearing stories a few years back of a guy in a wheelchair getting pissed off and going as far as parking himself in front of the bus because they would routinely pass him up saying their lifts were broken. While some buses may have broken lifts, he said it would usually take him 2-4 buses before he got one that would pick him up.
                    Heh, I remember standing at a bus stop with a few other people and watching the driver pass by giving us the bird. Chances are he was behind on his route and was trying to make up time. Charming.

                    We have lightrail here and it is picking up quite a following against it. Car users really resent putting more lightrail in.
                    Strange, because that's pretty much the opposite of what's going on here. Everyone's so sick to death of traffic and gas prices that there's a strong demand for it. Two problems with how it's being done here, though: all lines currently run through Union Station; there are no ring routes, and all passengers are basically forced to filter through downtown. What may be a mildly-annoying 30-minute drive becomes a 90-minute train journey. The other problem I'll outline momentarily:

                    I have mixed feelings about it as I only really use it to go to the airport. I *really* would've appreciated lightrail going to vancouver, but although portland passed the the bill approving funds, the car people in vancouver voted it down and also cut funding to their transit system (which was already substandard). Now the funds for the vancouver lightrail is putting lightrail in somewhere else completely that I will probably never use.
                    In Los Angeles' case, you can thank the fine people at the Bus Riders' Union (yes, we actually have a union of bus riders) for doing everything they can to block any proposal by the MTA to extend or expand existing light rail services or provide new ones. Their reasoning? Because trains don't or won't go where the poor people live. Which, of course, is horseshit. But, hey, as long as they've got something to bitch about and can continue to keep traffic fucked-up for everyone else (due, in no small part, to the massive goddamn lumbering buses that block two lanes of traffic every time they turn a corner - this is always a fun one to watch in downtown) it's all good.

                    I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but there's been a fair amount of crime on the lightrail in the evening, since the drivers are isolated from the passengers and can only call for help if you manage to use the intercom system.
                    Three letters: CCW. You live in a shall-issue state, yes? ;)

                    That problem was mostly solved here by placing sheriffs' deputies on the cars during all normal operating hours. Some are plainclothes, some are uniformed. There's still crime, but a lot less than you might think for L.A.

                    I also note that the public transit system here is slowly gearing itself towards getting commuters out of their cars and to their place of work. This spawns a route which goes out to a fairly useless place (unless you work there) at only morning and evening times. This is significant in showing that the bus company is not interested in the customers it already has -- if you don't have a car, you're considered a captive audience and they figure you're not going anywhere, no matter how they gut the service. Unfortunately, they're largely correct. I just don't want to drive in the city.
                    This is largely how L.A. is patterning its efforts, and I think it's a pretty reasonable way to do it - now if they could just make the damn system work.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      I'm currently planning on picking up a Honda Elite 250 for commuting and local trips;
                      I looked into this route, and sorry to say, I was kicked in the nutts by friends and co-workers. They did this to make sure they were there.

                      So instead of turning this into a man vs. 'ma'ma's boy' flame, I went and picked up the Honda Rebel. At 238cc (they call it the CBX250C though) you get smaller displacement then Elite, safer then scooter, and you still have your balls in tact.

                      NOTE: this is a true story, I picked up the Rebel for a mere $2,880 brand new (yes you CAN haggle even at these prices) to get my 60-70MPG refuge. Now I'm kicking big oil in the balls
                      "Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups"

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by hackajar
                        I looked into this route, and sorry to say, I was kicked in the nutts by friends and co-workers. They did this to make sure they were there.
                        Nah, I got the same thing. What it really boils down to, though, is that I don't care enough about motorcycles anymore to want to get back into the game. Cheap, self-serviceable, and able to be parked across the back of my parking space are the keys here; looking like a 'real' biker is way down on the list of priorities.

                        In any event, I've been thrown a line on an $800 Fiat X/19 in good shape that someone put a 5-speed into at some point, so we'll see. I may end up juggling parking again no matter what.

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