Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Americans' Car Ownership and Driving In Steep Decline -

Americans' Car Ownership and Driving In Steep Decline - 

The '57 Chevy was still a year away when the launch of the interstate highway system kicked U.S. car culture into high gear. But six decades later, changing habits and attitudes suggest America's romance with the road may be fading.

After rising almost continuously since World War II, driving by U.S. households has declined nearly 10 percent since 2004, with a start before the Great Recession suggesting economics is not the only cause. "There's something more fundamental going on," says Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The average American household now owns fewer than two cars, returning to the levels of the early 1990s.

More teens and 20-somethings are waiting to get a license. Less than 70 percent of 19-year-olds now have one, down from 87 percent two decades ago.

"I wonder if they've decided that there's another, better way to be free and to be mobile," says Cotten Seiler, author of "Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America."

Those changes — whether its car trips replaced by shopping online or traffic jams that have turned drives into a chore — pose complicated questions and choices.

TRYING ALTERNATIVES: Each day, about 3,500 people bike the Midtown Greenway, a freight rail bed converted to cycle highway in Minneapolis, where two-wheel commuting has doubled since 2000. It's still a small percentage, but more residents are testing the idea of leaving cars behind.

A second light rail line opens in June. Street corners sprout racks of blue-and-green shared bikes. About 45 percent of those who work downtown commute by means other than a car, mostly by express bus. That syncs with figures showing Americans took a record 10.7 billion trips on mass transit last year, up 37 percent since 1995.

"There's a lot of people who want the less-driving lifestyle, definitely," says Sam Newberg, an urban planning consultant and transportation blogger.

They include Kimani Beard, 40, who used to drive for a package express company. Now he's a graphic and apparel designer who walks or bikes to a coffee shop a few days a week, with its Wi-Fi providing an instant office.

"I don't want to drive anywhere," he says. "I've spent my time behind the wheel, but I think I've done enough."

Meanwhile, some are rethinking the paradigm of vehicle ownership.

In the suburbs just north of Chicago, Eugene Dunn and Justin Sakofs live four miles apart, but met only because Dunn's 2005 Pontiac broke down.

Dunn, 43 and a math tutor, takes a train to work. But getting to his second job, refereeing youth basketball on weekends, required a car he didn't have.

Luckily, Sakofs, the director of a Jewish day school, had a Nissan he didn't need from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, when his Sabbath observance precludes driving. They found each other through RelayRides, whose app pairs individual car owners with neighbors looking to rent.

"Right now, I just need (a car) to get back and forth and make money," Dunn said.


Britain’s banks quietly moving millions of banknotes to cope with any surge in demand in the event of a Yes vote -

Britain’s banks quietly moving millions of banknotes to cope with any surge in demand in the event of a Yes vote - 

Britain’s banks have been quietly moving millions of banknotes north of the border to cope with any surge in demand by Scots to withdraw cash in the event of a Yes vote in Thursday’s independence referendum, it has emerged.
Sources told The Independent the moves have been taking place over the past week or so in order to make sure ATMs do not run out on Friday in the event of a panic reaction to a “yes” vote. There have been some suggestions that people will want to move their money to English banks in the event of an independence vote.

Bankers stressed there has been no sign yet of any increase in the amount of withdrawals from deposit accounts or ATMs, stressing that there was no need because the Bank of England has pledged to stand behind all accounts for at least 18 months in the event of a “yes” vote.

However, concerns about how safe is their cash still linger. It was this that led to RBS and Lloyds last week to reassure customers that they would be moving their registration addresses south of the border.

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