Car Free

“It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.”

To drive or not to drive, that was the question—what now?

By Victoria Farr

I am having an identity crisis.  Not only am I a displaced East Coaster, but I am struggling to distinguish whether I am “car free” or “car less.”  The difference between these terms may seem insignificant at first.  Indeed, they both refer to a lifestyle characterized by reliance on public transportation rather than a private automobile, but I feel that living “car free” has a different connotation than being “car less” and that my outlook on life—or at least on life in Los Angeles—hinges on which term I choose.

As a graduate student with an annual income of $0.00, I decided to not invest in a car and all its trappings—insurance, parking, gas, repairs.  I made a free choice.  Because of that choice however, my life is no longer free and whimsical.  By surrendering, or forsaking, car keys, I am now at the mercy of public transportation.  I cannot go wherever I want at whatever time I want and by whatever roads I want.  Instead, I am limited to the schedule and route predetermined, but not religiously followed, by the MTA.  In this way, I sympathize with the “car less” perspective because my life is almost less fulfilling without the mobility advantage of a car.

Is my life really less enriching, though, in taking public transportation?  If not for my regular adventures—for at this point I never know what to expect so the MTA “trip planner” has devolved into an “adventure planner”—I would not have had the opportunity to practice my Spanish nor to serve as a baby’s plaything during a bus ride (stay tuned for a later post).  Like that clichéd line, “it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts,” even though my goal is to arrive at my internship Downtown by a certain time, I never know who or what I will encounter along the way. It reminds me of the days when airlines offered complimentary movies during the flight—it’s free entertainment.

When I was a prospective student last March, Professor Giuliano told me that SPPD was a fantastic place to study transportation planning because Los Angeles is a giant laboratory for transportation.  Los Angeles represents every mode of transportation: freight, commercial, and passenger across rail, road, runway, and roadstead.  Los Angeles also represents every issue of transportation: congestion, pollution, equity, and energy.

Los Angeles is my lab and this is my car free experiment.

Editor’s Note: Victoria’s Next Article, “My Love-Hate Relationship with the Metro 37” will publish on November 12, 2010.

Victoria Farr is a MPL Degree Candidate at the University of Southern California.

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