It is almost impossible for some to live without a car

It is almost impossible for some to live without a car

The first car my family ever bought was a 1961 blue and white Ford Fairlane 500. I was about 6 years old at the time, and before that purchase, we would either take a bus, call a cab or walk into town. We lived in Steubenville, where there was a dairy, a grocery store and a hardware store within a few blocks of our home.

Today I have to drive to get anywhere I need to go. It is at least 15 minutes by car to the nearest grocery store and a half-hour drive to the store where I make the majority of my other purchases. Living in rural Ohio or rural anywhere makes it a necessity to have a car or truck.

I often envy the access city dwellers have to alternative transportation. Many cities have constructed bike trails allowing citizens to walk, run or bike through the cities. The city where I went to school for my doctorate degree, Keene, New Hampshire, was home to two colleges and had numerous bike trails from campus to campus and all around the town. For students who didn’t have access to cars, this was a great option. Bike trails are popular in many major cities that host colleges.

At a time when people really need alternate means of traveling, many cities have done away with busing, trains, street cars and cable cars. You can call for a taxi or Uber ride, but these options have their own drawbacks. You need to have an available driver in your area, and taxi and Uber rides cost much more than a bus ride.

Unfortunately many people feel the need to drive the biggest, fastest car or truck available, which also are usually gas hogs. This trend has become so prevalent that Ford recently announced it will only make the Mustang and the Focus sedan models. This is due to the decline in sales of passenger cars. Ford now will sell mainly SUVs and trucks. Ford’s officials believe even a climb in oil prices will not create a “migration back to passenger cars.”

However, even given the popularity of SUVs, the best mileage nonhybrid models can achieve around 29 city and 33 highway. The Niro hybrid SUV from Kia can get an impressive 50 mpg, and a plug-in model can get 26 miles on a charge.

Many of us can remember the gas shortages of the 1970s when OPEC disrupted oil supplies to the U.S. and waiting in line to get a tank of gas became a routine event. It was during that time car-pooling became popular and car manufacturers began to contemplate better gas mileage vehicles.

At the same time, California also was trying to solve its air-pollution problem. Jimmy Buffet spoke of this pollution in his 1974 song, “Come Monday,” with the line, “I spent four lonely days in the brown LA haze.” That pollution, often referred to as smog, was created as nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds are hit by sunlight.

California, especially the city of Los Angeles, is notorious for smog. The majority of this smog is a result of the millions of cars and trucks emitting noxious fumes, which form the brown haze that blankets the city.

The city is bordered on three sides by mountains and an ocean on the fourth. This creates a type of bowl that holds in toxic air pollutants. Even during the days of Spanish explorers in the 1500s, smoke from tribal fires created a blanket of smoke over the city.

Congress granted California the ability to set emissions standards that were stricter than federal standards in 1967. Those standards were upheld in the 1970 Clean Air Act. Because California had such a large share of the automobile market, auto makers manufactured cars to meet California standards.

In addition to emitting pollutants that can cause “photochemical smog,” car and truck emissions are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. California, along with 13 other states, has stricter emissions rules. However, the Trump administration wants to roll back those rules in another attack on the fight to stave off climate change.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has vowed to sue the administration, saying, “California’s clean car standards are achievable, science-based and a boon for the hard-working American family and public health.”

The majority of Americans agree, as 66 percent oppose Trump’s plan to freeze fuel-efficiency standards. A majority want to purchase more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

Can Americans with their current lifestyles give up their love affair with the automobile? Probably not, but living without a car is possible in many places around the world and the U.S. New Yorkers even do it.

I recently talked to a resident of Newfoundland, Canada who has never owned or driven a car. In this day and age, that seems impossible. But as he said, most of the 15 countries where he has lived during his life provided mass transit.

There are, as he said, many advantages to never owning a car. The costs to buy and maintain one, the insurance, and the fact that they pollute the air are all good reasons to be car-free. But unlike many European countries that have trains and other forms of mass transit readily available, it is almost impossible to live without a car, especially in rural regions.

Until then the best we can do is try to use mass transit when we can, car-pool and consider purchasing a smaller vehicle with better gas mileage. This will ultimately cut down on your carbon footprint and keep more cash in your wallet.

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