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Rethinking Our Reliance On Cars

Boston's Hubway bike-sharing program is popular, but are people ready to give up their cars completely? (Steven Senne/AP)

Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing program is popular, but are people ready to give up their cars completely? (Steven Senne/AP)

Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing program just topped a million rides. It’s a symbolic milestone for the less than two-year-old system. But it also points to a bigger trend: all over the Boston area, more people are choosing to get around without a car.

There’s been a lot of research recently showing that our relationship with cars is changing in significant ways. Earlier this summer, the US Public Interest Research Group found that Americans — especially those under 30 — have been driving less and less each year since 2004.

So is it time to rethink how we get around, and redesign our cities and towns to reflect a less car-reliant culture?


Micheline Maynard, journalist, educator, and author of the forthcoming e-book Curbing Cars: Rethinking How We Get Around. 

Jacqueline Douglas, executive director of Livable Streets, a Boston area urban transportation advocacy group.


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  • Tjbigmac

    I am an 18 year old living in Boston.  Neither I nor many of my friends have even applied for driving permits.  Driving is not affordable and becoming more and more unnecessary. 

    • Tjbigmac

      I think urbanization also contributes to the figures being described.

      • Tjbigmac

        The expansion of public transit and the Hubway have also increased awareness of alternative transportation. 

        • Tjbigmac

          Boston streets are also mot meant for driving, so it makes more sense to bike. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      who needs to drive when you can tweet right? enjoy walking with a family sized load of groceries and a couple of kids

  • Eric Herot

    I really wish people in the media would stop saying that people complain “because the T is one of the oldest systems in the world.” That is just nonsense. Not a single piece of equipment or infrastructure on the T dates back to the system’s 1897 origin. The reason the T “feels old” is a direct result of budgetary choices. Most of the trains have been in service twice as long as they were designed to be. Many stations have not been renovated or expanded since the 70s (but not the 1870s). The London Underground began service in 1863, 34 years before the T, and yet the system feels newer because it has received better funding.

    Talking about this in terms of the system’s absolute age gives people the misleading impression that its decrepitude is an inevitable result of the system’s history, rather than the budgetary choices our elected leaders make every year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      I heard that many of the cars are some of the oldest still in use

    • Charlie

      Excellent point. Many of our roads are very old as well, having been around for hundreds of years. That doesn’t mean they have to be as bumpy and rough as when they were created (although we certainly seem to have quite a few that sure do feel like it). But again, it’s about maintenance and investing in our infrastructure. People hate to pay taxes but they also hate crappy transit and potholed roads. Unfortunately, things cost money, and you typically get what you pay for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    I hope they all get rid of their cars. this will keep all the aholes confined to the city. then if I have to go to boston there wont be any traffic and plenty of places to park. sound great

  • Charlie

    Thank you for having a thoughtful discussion that actually makes many subtle points. It’s not about car vs no car for many people, it’s about using cars more selectively. It’s about using Zipcar when you really need one instead of owning one that you only use occasionally. It’s about having one car for a family instead of two. For a large part of the population who cannot drive (the young and the old), having other options is really key to their mobility and quality of life. Cars will always be one of many ways to get around, but as we’re seeing with recent trends, they don’t have to be the only or even primary way for many.

  • methos1999

    Haha silly Bostonians. If I lived & worked in a city I would consider not having a car, or only one car. But then again that is one of the reasons I don’t live & work in a city – EVERYTHING is more expensive and there is less freedom.

    While I agree with the premise of taking personal responsibility for the environment, per usual as a program based on Boston, all the discussion is with 20 something rose tinted glasses. Once you get out of the city & have kids, bicycles are not always a great option. Even reducing to one car doesn’t work if your spouse needs to commute as well.

  • donniethebrasco

    We will make gasoline and the roads so expensive the only people who can afford to be on the roads will be CEOs, bikers, and government employees.

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