Deadline Does Detroit: Carless -- Driving Still Sucks
I parked my car Friday morning and I haven't been behind the wheel until this morning when I picked up my rental for the trek to Lansing.
Driving again, even after such a short lay-off, was a little weird. I began this series by saying I don't really like driving, or more specifically, I don't like commuting. Since I hadn't done it for a week, every annoyance and inconvenience seemed more acute and therefore more aggravating.
Driving takes quite a bit of mental effort. We've become so used to it that, I think, it's become hard to recognize that the act of piloting a two-ton motor vehicle down a highway at 60-80 MPH while not killing ourselves or the people around us in the process.
Or maybe I've so enjoyed sitting in the back of a bus, face buried in a book, that I'm less patient with the hassle.
Man was not put on this earth to spend the beginning and end of his work day trying to (at the same time) avoid that obviously over-compensating tailgater in an F-150 with a Calvin peeing decal and the little old lady afraid to push her 2004 silver Buick Park Avenue above 55.
Driving is fun on a long road trip, leaving early on a Saturday morning to avoid traffic and make good time, but otherwise it's terrible.
The ride to Lansing, in particular, left me again wishing there was a better option. I-96 was surprisingly busy for an early Thursday afternoon. It was mostly truck traffic, always a source of driver complaints. When you think about it, though, trucks are what should be filling the interstates.
Compared to an individual driving 80 miles all by his lonesome in a two-ton vehicle, those massive trucks bringing millions of dollars of goods to market makes sense.
However, since there's no viable Detroit-Lansing commuter transit, those trucks were impeding the progress of my 3500-pound rented Jeep Liberty (yay free upgrade!) trying to make good time to Lansing. Bastards.
This raises an interesting question that I'll seek to answer in the next couple days: What is the road maintenance cost savings for every commuter car taken off the road?
Forget rail for a second, just start with buses. DDOT's Gillig buses weigh just under 40,000 pounds and can hold 40 passengers. The math works about to about 1000 pounds/passenger on a full bus.
To be conservative, let's assume the average bus is only half full. That's 2000 pounds/passenger. The average car currently weighs 4000 pounds, so even a half-full bus removes from the road about one ton of vehicle weight per rider. That's got to add up over time.
Now, I'm not suggesting people shouldn't drive if they want. However, if local transit options were more practical for daily commuting (be it the suburb-to-downtown or Detroit-to-Lansing/Flint/Ann Arbor kind) I'm thinking our roads might not turn into moonscape so quickly.
At any rate, it's a hypothesis worth investigating.