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I'd like to first thank diarist mark louis for his strong stance on driving as it relates to our BP problem.

People can't think outside the box when it comes to cars. Somehow cars have become necessary, even when there are obvious alternatives. Or, Americans find cars romantic and/or nostalgic. But our fascination with these absurdly inefficient devices has got to stop.

I'm going to make a strong statement: In almost every instance where we rely on a car, we could be using an alternative mode of transportation.

I'm going to make another strong statement: There is no such thing as a green car, and there never will be.

And a third: There is no such thing as a safe car, and there never will be.

Finally: Cars may be the biggest drag on our budget, and the one we could most easily do away with.

Cars are unnecessary:

The simple reason people can't imagine doing without their car is that there are currently no viable alternatives (for many). But consider for a moment just how expensive your car is. A fraction of that cost, paid by car-owners and non-car owners alike could easily pay for a robust public transit system. It could also pay for a delivery service, freeing people of the need to own cars to haul groceries and heavy purchases.

A fraction of the money it costs to buy and maintain cars (and roads and police and, the big one, health costs associated with car accidents) wouldn't just by public transit, it would by NICE public transit. And not just in urban areas -- suburban and semi-rural areas as well.

Where public transit is simply too impractical, car share systems like Zipcar or rental car agencies could pick up the slack. In rural areas people would of course still need cars, but cars in rural areas aren't nearly the nuisance they are in densely populated areas.

It's obvious enough that cars are unnecessary in urban areas. People choose to drive them anyway because the decrepit state of public transportation, or for vanity. Perhaps something heavy, such as a piece of furniture, needs to be moved, but there a government-run delivery service could easily serve an entire city, and save a lot of headache. Same goes for groceries -- people could easily purchase their groceries in-store or online and have them delivered by a publicly-run service.

People in suburban areas have a harder time imagining life without cars, and understandably so. But it could be done -- it's not even hard to imagine how. In short, the costs of a few cars could pay for a bus and driver. Even a bus only carrying a handful of people at the same time is infinitely more efficient than a fleet of cars carrying the same number of passengers (especially if it's a smaller bus). We simply don't want to imagine that public transit could become a substitute for the car. But we should.

Cars aren't especially pleasant. Traffic and traffic control (stoplights, etc.) mean cars don't have nearly the speed potential of public transit -- every traffic light creates the delay of one car starting, then another, and then another... Driving is stressful. And, driving occupies your full attention (or it should), meaning you can't use your time in transit to do something productive or relax.

There's no such thing as a green car:

Hybrid cars are not green products, by any stretch. Producing their immense batteries basically off-sets any greenhouse gas reduction they produce. But forget the batteries.

Cars weigh a lot -- each has its own set of tires, its own engine, seats, chassis, etc. Most cars on the road have a single passenger -- the driver. No matter how efficient you make a car, there's no getting around the core inefficiency of one car per person. An old, heavy bus carrying 30-60 passengers is infinitely more efficient than the latest hybrid. Also, cities don't buy new buses all the time, meaning the construction of the vehicle itself creates a small carbon footprint.

Roads increase local temperatures significantly (vs. an unpaved area). In cities, they force people to live closer together than they would have to otherwise. Together with parking spaces and garages, roads consume space that could otherwise be used for parks, housing, or other recreational purposes. If we relied primarily on buses, rail, and bicycle, we could drastically reduce the amount of space used to facilitate transportation. In turn, this would make the majority of the world's population (who live in cities) much healthier.

OH, and cars are really, really noisy.  

There is no such thing as a safe car:

The statics on car fatalities and injuries are staggering. Are you anti-gun? You shouldn't be -- it's a waste of time, as guns hardly kill a fraction of the people killed by cars. There are roughly 40-50,00 deaths each year from car accidents. Soon, car deaths will make even World War deaths look like peanuts. Worse? Youths are just as often the victims of car accidents.

The number of injuries is even more upsetting -- there are around 3,000,000 per year. Many of these are permanent.

There is simply no avoiding these injuries. It is impossible to deny a vehicle that is safe when someone doesn't where a seatbelt, or that doesn't kill pedestrians, or that will survive a crash at 65mph.

And, of course, we will never have a population of safe drivers. If people aren't drinking while driving, they're on their cell phones (talking and texting while driving actually kills more people than drunk driving does).

And who pays for all those hospital visits?

Cars are really f'n expensive:

It's in vogue to deride the excess of Wall Street execs, but the extravagance of cars puts even the greedy banker to shame. Let's begin with the medical costs associated with your car. There are 6,000,000 accidents each year. Even though those accidents cause a mere 3,000,000 injuries, most accidents require a paramedic to at least examine the victims. It's standard practice to hospitalize victims of car accidents even if they are fine because of the risk of spinal injury.

And then there's all of the non-accident-related medical costs. Asthma affects an increasingly vast number of children, especially in areas with high local air pollution like Mexico City and Los Angeles. Cars are a major contributer. People who drive generally get less exercise and suffer from higher levels of stress. Heart attack anyone?

Moving on, to allow cars to get from place to place, large roads, bridges, and parking facilities must be built and maintained. By comparison, buses and trains could get by with a fraction of the roads used for cars. All roads could effectively be single-lane. And of course, parking would be almost entirely unnecessary.

Then there's the police situation. People are unreliable drivers. When you see sirens, chances are someone's been pulled over. So, people are not only paying taxes to fund the police when they drive, they are paying tickets to fund them as well. What a waste of money and our limited police resources.

And last, but not least, the cars themselves. How is it that a family, barely making ends meet, can drop 20k or so to buy a vehicle? And then pay insurance on that vehicle? And pay tickets? And for parking? The fact is, they can't. Americans are in debt, and cars aren't helping.

Conclusion:

We're losing everything to oil. But the worst part is that we're burning it for an almost entirely unnecessary reason -- to power personal automobiles.

Even if we used an entirely electric or hydrogen fleet, we would still have to contend with the myriad other problems outlined in my article, and the manufacturing and environmental costs associated with the new cars.

I know that even readers of this site, who are open-minded about environmental solutions, scoff at the idea that we can do away with cars. Many of you feel it would be unpleasant, or even impossible (even though it's obviously possible). But please, consider that you're stuck in an existing paradigm. That riding public transit could actually be MORE pleasant than driving even a luxury car. That cars are, in truth, as antiquated as the horse-drawn carriage.

Above all, consider just how unpleasant cars make life for the majority of people on this planet.

Originally posted to superflat on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:17 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Americans love cars (0+ / 0-)

      Cars are freedom.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:25:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A lot more people are getting cars (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        spyguy999

        In India and China now too.

        They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

        by yet another liberal on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:26:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And the oil used for making plastic is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yet another liberal, Chinton, Snud

          still a substantial amount and would not be effected by not driving.

        •  China is now the largest car market (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yet another liberal, drewfromct

          Ask someone in China who just purchased their first car and they will tell you it gives you the freedom to travel on your own schedule.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:18:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is a very small minority (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            yet another liberal, Opakapaka

            And an increasingly disgruntled minority now that they are spending an increasing amout of time is urban traffic jamns.

            Founturately our government is more far-sighted then these people given the fact it has scaled back builiding of urban and intercity highways and putting a unpreceidented abount of funding into urban metros and inter-city high speed rail systems.

            Ad as usual, these car drivers are oftem quite mistaken about the "freedom" card offer; where I live, one can travle across town much faster and cheaper by Metro then by auto and I'd call the time saved actual freedom then the imaginary freedom fools sitting in traffic jams enjoy.

            I think the point is, we have freedom of choice to use public mass transit while those living in countries/regions where cars are the only practical option have no real choice.

            I know of no place in the world where the existance of mass transit obligates anyone to use it although opponnents of mass-transit of use such rediculous and illogical argements to oppose the freedom of choice mass transit offers.

            But then, people who define freedom as sitting alone in a CO2 belching car in traffic jams while we train riders jet past may feel compelled to justify their choices in philosopical terms, the practical facts not being a particularly convincing arguement.

            "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

            by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:38:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  But even more are getting into mass transit (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yet another liberal, Opakapaka

          Chinese cities are building mass-transit at an precedented rate ans China is building the largest high speed rail system in the world which will connect major and secondary cities.

          Notably, it is a national imperative to bring clean, modern mass transit to the masses.

          Shanghai, where I live now has the second largest urban Metro system in the world and by 2012 it will be the largest; by 2020 it will be extended to the full reach of outlying suburban regions and will enable one to go end-to-end is a region the approximate size of LA-Orange county in 75 minutes.

          All of our Metros connect to local bus or trolly lines, many of which are electrified. Users can transfer between all using stored value electronic tickts that automatically apply fare discounts on transfer.

          Moreover, we now have rental bicycles at many major stations and allow foldable bicycles on the Metro for those wo wish to bike verses wating for busses or using taxis, and the share bikes have become so popular in some locations there is actually a shortage in the daytime.

          India, likewise, is begining to build Metros and renew it's rail lines which are some of the most heavally traveled lines in the world.

          If you would like to use China and India as exemplars of modern transportation, then realize we are the argument for mass transit.

          Most certiasnly our governments have realized the American model of universal car ownership is abslutely unworkable for our counties and is addopted wholesale, would be a impediment to economic developments since it is fundamenally expensive, inefficient and unsystainable transportation.

          "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

          by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:25:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  To me, (0+ / 0-)

            China, though overpopulated, is rather exemplary in terms of the ecological footprint of the typical Chinese consumer. To me, the three biggest destructive factors on the environment are single family homes, automobiles, and large families. China has a vast majority of its urban populations living in multi family homes, most of them don't drive cars, and most are limited in family size. To me, America could learn from China.

            Obviously China produces massive pollution from manufacturing and resource production. However, these are not produced at the individual consumer level. These are a different kind of environmental threat than exists here in the US. In this area, perhaps, China could learn from the US.

            You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

            by Opakapaka on Sun May 23, 2010 at 08:13:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  This is first year that car ownership... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, Caelian, Chinton, Opakapaka

        ...has actually declined in the US.

        http://www.fastcompany.com/...

        Lots of reasons for it, obviously. But it's not an unending growth curve.

        "Philosophy is useless; theology is worse"--Dire Straits

        by Bush Bites on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:32:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Cars are tools. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wsexson, irishwitch, alba

        They get you from point A to point B. Freedom, not so much.

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:43:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've heard them connected with crime also. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          I was eating at a Korean place while the fast food across the street was robbed (and sadly people killed). The owner of the Korean place said he thought it was connected to cars. Robberies like this need get-a-way cars. Not something you can do and then wait at the corner for the bus.

          I thought that was an interesting viewpoint.

          Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

          by ZenTrainer on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:54:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So? I need a knife to prepare dinner (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            drewfromct, Bronx59, chicago minx

            Someone else will use a knife to kill somebody. But you can't say that knives suck and are completely unnecessary.

            Economics: The science of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn't come true today

            by yg17 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:57:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Umm...I didn't say that cars suck or that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko

              they are unnecessary.

              I also didn't say that knives could be used as quick get-a-ways from a crime scene.

              Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

              by ZenTrainer on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:11:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  But cars kill by their mere use (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Opakapaka

              In tha case of knives, they must be mis-used; cars, on the other hand, pollute the environment by mere use and to a much greater degreee than mass transit.

              I don't own a car but I do breathe the air polluted by car owners and I object to this, however futile that may be given the inability to reason many car owners demnstrate.

              "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

              by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:41:50 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Odd, I find not using a car to be... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, wsexson, Opakapaka, koNko

        ... even more freedom.  Different views of freedom, I guess.  YMMV

        Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
        Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

        by Caelian on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:27:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  me too - I disposed of the car a couple of years (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Garrett, Caelian, ybruti, koNko

          ago. I live in a walkable metro area with semi-decent public transportation (DC) and use the zipcar for major shopping expeditions and Amtrak for longer trips. I haven't missed the car at all . .

        •  True freedom (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Garrett, Caelian

          is not having to worry that your car might break down, and you'll have to pay $1000 to fix it. Not having to worry about making the car payment, or the insurance payment, or the ever-increasing gas payment. It's letting someone else drive.

          True freedom is not living according to the agenda of the automobile companies who sold you the car, or the oil companies who fueled the car, or the Wall Street banks who offered you the loan.

          You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

          by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:50:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not true, but yours (0+ / 0-)

            True freedom is not the absence of a car. That is your freedom, and that's great. You have a choice, and have made a choice to live without a car. I respect your choice and glad it provides you with an economic freedom you embrace. If I lived in a different environmen,t it might make sense for me as well. However, in the suburbs, where I live and work, it is not practical to live without a car. And I do prefer  the freedom to set my own schedule and activities, not  constrained by transportation limitations.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 11:07:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  "American Dream" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        IMO, no one has captured America's "love affair with the automobile" as well as the late, great American sculptor Luis Jimenez:

        Warning: Rated R

        Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
        Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

        by Caelian on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:31:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  cars are the illusion of freedom . . (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yet another liberal, Opakapaka, koNko
    •  You heart is in the right place. (0+ / 0-)

      But you fail badly with this diary.

      Lots of assertion - no support.

      Lots of contrary to fact statements.

      It is a religious, not logical screed.  You left out all the good reasons and concentrated on the bad, unimportant or false one.  This works against your case.

      Best Wishes, Demena Left/Right: -8.38; Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.36

      by Demena on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:18:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Except, cars do suck. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Opakapaka

        And I think the Diarist explains why.

        I'll grant you it does not lay out a persuasive case for the alternatives to car-centric transportation, but as a rant against cars, it works for me.

        You my refer to my own remarks on this thread for some positive arguments and refution that cars = freedom.

        "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

        by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:46:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the mention. nt. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33, kirbybruno

    "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum."

    by mark louis on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:23:28 PM PDT

  •  So the diary you linked to (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, HiBob, JeffW, LookingUp, rfall

    You say was a strong stance against cars?  That's a strange interpretation.

    I might think "thinking out of the box" might be solar powered cars or something.  But, you think we will be getting rid of cars?

    btw: I ride the bus but that's mostly because it's an option where I live.  And not only that, driving is a bad option because of the amount of cars on the road.

    Basically, if your goal is to end people using cars I think you must be out of your mind.

    They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

    by yet another liberal on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:24:59 PM PDT

  •  Agree with you to the extent... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, spyguy999, LookingUp

    ..that cars are often thought as a first option for commuters, businesses and infrastructure planners, when they should really be thought of as the last option.

    "Philosophy is useless; theology is worse"--Dire Straits

    by Bush Bites on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:28:03 PM PDT

  •  They are not unnecessary and let's not (13+ / 0-)

    be Evangelical about it.

    Don't give a damn a/t each & every politician currently alive in the US. Last time i voted for the top part of the ballot was 1972. Never missed SB election

    by Mutual Assured Destruction on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:29:11 PM PDT

    •  Cars (5+ / 0-)

      There are many people living in cities who buy their groceries at the local convenience store because there is no grocery store at all nearby. A car lets them get to that grocery store where they can buy better, healthier food at much lower prices.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:42:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •   I think you're making the case against (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, Opakapaka, koNko

        a car dependent society as it leaves a fair chunk of the population without reasonable access to the basics because they cannot afford the extraordinary expense of a car and public transit does not go where it needs to go . .

        •  Perhaps (0+ / 0-)

          But that's beside the point. The situation we have now is the situation we must deal with. The diarist contends that no one living in a city now needs a car. It might well be the case that if we were less dependent on cars, grocery stores would be more decentralized, but that's a different issue.

          The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

          by A Citizen on Sat May 22, 2010 at 10:24:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mot people have alternatives (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Opakapaka

            But chose not to take them

            The diarist actually indentifies some and I'll simply suggest that any place inconvennient to walk to can be reached by bicycle fairly quickly.

            Unless you proverbial citizen is drive 50 miles to the super market to buy organic vegetable vs convenience store junk.

            Do you own a bike?

            "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

            by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:53:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  So can bicycles, trains, trollies and busses (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Opakapaka

        If they are available and chosen.

        You are making a classical logical error common to many car owners/advocates; that because they are one choice they are the only choice.

        In environmental therms, they are certianly the worst choice and so where they are apperently the only choice it's a problem to be solved.

        But you make an excellent, if indirect argument for mass-transit and transit oriented development, so thanks for your support on that.

        "Life immitates art, but takes license." - ko

        by koNko on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:50:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I never claimed that they were the only choice (0+ / 0-)

          You are making a classical logical error common to many car owners/advocates; that because they are one choice they are the only choice.

          I'm not claiming that cars are the only choice, only that they are a choice. I favor transit, I take it when I can. I was responding to the diarists claim that cars are NOT an option.

          The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

          by A Citizen on Mon May 24, 2010 at 10:33:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  My Dinner Conversation! (0+ / 0-)

    It's time we stopped complaining and did something!

    First, anyone who cares should be cutting their use of oil by half. Second, BP should be totally boycotted. Yeah, all the oil companies are bad. But BP's international record of ignoring safety around the world deserves attention.

    And third, we need to be working harder on the Congress and administration than we have ever done before.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:29:35 PM PDT

  •  I think the fundamental problem (10+ / 0-)

    Is the lack of urban planning. No one has the guts to say "No more sprawl." Few cities actually plan their growth to facilitate public transportation or walking, they just rubber stamp strip malls and inefficient curving subdivision. And then of course you have the opponents to any sort of density that might affect their way of life.

  •  Interesting diary. Love the irony(?) of title-- (0+ / 0-)

    and your user name....

  •  Sprawl (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett

    A lot of the sprawl is taking place outside of the city itself. There is sometimes a regional authority which may or may not have any real authority. But the city can say to allowing itself to be ripped apart to subsidize sprawl. When Interstate 35W was run through Minneapolis, it really disrupted neighborhoods. A journey had previously been a short walk then became a long trip.

    If people want to live farther and farther out, the city may not be able to do anything about it, but should assist them in this. The city is better off if people live and work there, if people work there, but live farther and farther out, that's of no benefit to the city.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:39:59 PM PDT

  •  Meanwhile in the real world people need cars (5+ / 0-)

    I'd agree that there are many folks using cars when public transit would make sense but there are many more instances where TPTB make it far harder to go carless.  

    A case in point.  For years the epicenter of Department of Defense activities were in southern Arlington county, VA (aka Crystal City).  But in comes the Bush administration and Rumsfield -- a cluster of DOD employees and contractors in Crystal City was dangerous so they must be spread out in islands far away from mass transit and existing infrastructure.

    Me? I had a nice job downtown but the office downsized during the Bush admin and the new job is now per Rumsfield in southern Fairfax in a complex that almost looks like a prison and is miles and miles away from mass transit, the highway to it wasn't built for the influx of people already here and those to come and there's no retail nearby.  There's simply no other way than car too get to work and the job isn't carpool friendly either.

    Changing jobs isn't an option, yah know they aren't exactly growing on trees so I drive.  My 19 year old car though is reaching the end of it's lifetime.  You becha I'm looking at another small thrifty car.  At least that's something.

  •  A few points off the top (5+ / 0-)

    There's no public transportation where I live and I suspect that's true for lots and lots of Americans. Yes, that's a shame but a reality. If it were available I'd use it.

    You're obviously typing on a computer, right? Most of America's energy still comes from coal so it's not like your post is exactly helping green things up, any more than my driving to the store is.

    Even things we think are "green" may not always be as they appear. (PDF)

    Many of the solar panels used today, for example, are made with cadmium, a highly toxic substance that can build up in plant, animal and human tissues.

    In China, they're having big problems with the companies manufacturing solar panels because - not unlike the US - China doesn't always enforce their environmental laws. As a result, many are dumping silicon tetracholride (a byproduct of polysilicon production) directly into surrounding farmlands. 4 tons of this toxic byproduct is produced for every ton of polysilicon and because it's expensive and time-consuming to dispose of properly, well many times it isn't and those living nearby are experiencing health problems and crop failures. (Link)

    Should we boycott solar? Of course not. My point is it's an imperfect world and "just saying no" to cars isn't realistic for most people.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:40:23 PM PDT

    •  To live is to pollute (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boran2, drewfromct, Snud

      We can make attempts at mitigating our usage, improving efficiency, and reducing unnecessary trips.  But to go cold-turkey is beyond madness, and goes contrary to every aspect of human nature and personal expression.

      We all want possessions, freedom, and self-determination.  Cars are part of that equation for many people.

    •  Public transit is very limited where I live too (0+ / 0-)

      and its very urban: Central NJ.

      The closest it could get me to work would be about two miles. Walking from there would put me on a highway with no shoulder. Not happening, no matter how much I hate a driving commute.

      Waffles Are Delicious!

      by nosleep4u on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:37:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But without cars (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian

    how will the middle management John Galts show off their innate superiority?

  •  I ran a bunch of errands today (6+ / 0-)

    And doing those without a car simply would not be possible. Public transportation where I live is a complete joke. Maybe in a perfect world, with a perfect public transit system, I could give up my car, but in the real world, I need it.

    Economics: The science of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn't come true today

    by yg17 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:46:25 PM PDT

  •  Unnecessary? (5+ / 0-)

    Well, sure. If I never wanted to go anywhere since there is no public transportation where I live.

  •  This is great news for John McCain .... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW
    and Plum Purple 1970 Hime 'Cudas.

    " It's shocking what Republicans will do to avoid being the 2012 presidential nominee."

    by jwinIL14 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:48:55 PM PDT

  •  Reality Check: (5+ / 0-)

    In almost every instance  where we rely on a car, we could be using an alternative mode of transportation.  

    Nice idea. But in MANY places there ISN'T an alternative mode of transportation. The grocery store where I live is 6 miles away.  Walking there would likely take me 90 minutes. Bicycling wouldn't be that much faster.

    The reality is that for most of us,t here isn't alternate transportation.  A lot of places didn't build any. Or if there is any, the buses run so infrequently as tomake it impractical for realworld use or don't go where people want and need to go.

    I've lived in cities and always used public transport.  Didn't own a car until 1986 when I was 36. I had to rely on other people to get where I needed to go from 84-6 because I didn't own a car.  It was incredibly inconveneient for me and otehrs.  SO I gave in and became  The Evil Driver.  Unless you live in a city with good transportation--and I cna only think of a handful of those: Chciago, BOston, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland-- you need a car.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:54:15 PM PDT

  •  I'm all for less cars but we'll need (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Opakapaka, alba

    kick butt, easily accessible, public transportation that actually goes where you need it to go.

    And they'll have to allow pets as passengers the way other countries do.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:58:00 PM PDT

  •  Anyone with kids who doesn't live in a city (4+ / 0-)

    needs a car.  I hate the drain on our family budget, but there it is.

    I am 57 years old and I have learned that my patience is finite.

    by chicago minx on Sat May 22, 2010 at 05:59:04 PM PDT

  •  I want to go birdwatching tomorrow morning (6+ / 0-)

    About 45 miles away, I want to be there just after sunrise.  It's just south-west of the Bear Mountain bridge, in cartoon-sounding Doodletown (near Iona Island.)

    How on earth are you going to get me there, without a car?

    Since it will be virtually impossible, I must dismiss your claims as ludicrous.  Sure it can be done, it'll just take 4 or 5 hours instead of less than 1.  Bear in mind it is a Sunday.

    •  So let me get this straight. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alba

      You're going to burn maybe four gallons of gasoline. 25 lbs of gasoline. And you'll put 80 lbs of CO2 in the air. All so you can go birdwatching?

      Please don't think yourself an environmentalist.

      You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

      by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:09:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Got a problem with it? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drewfromct

        Have you had a meal lately?  That required tons of oil and water.  You call yourself an environmentalist?

        •  I don't drive 45 miles (0+ / 0-)

          in a polluting car to buy a meal, let alone to birdwatch.

          You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

          by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:12:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A difference of degrees (4+ / 0-)

            Your meal requires oil, water, fertilizers, packaging, and the labor doesn't get there on its own.  How does your grocer get to work, or the people who grew the grain/meat/veg?  

            How about, you don't tell me or others how to live our lives?

            Being progressive also means, not being an authoritarian.  And being holier than thou, potentially makes you something more irrelevant than the tea partiers.

          •  Do you ever fly to see a loved one or friend? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            drewfromct, Dcoronata

            Do you ever drive for any kind of recreational activity?  

            I am 57 years old and I have learned that my patience is finite.

            by chicago minx on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:18:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I drive about twice that every weekday... (0+ / 0-)

            with enough long trips on weekends and vacations to make it add up to 365 days a year.  
            I'm glad that you're saving fuel so I can keep doing so.

            In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

            by Bronx59 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:01:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And the point is, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alba

              this is why the polar ice caps are melting. Because we can't go birdwatching without putting half our body weight worth of CO2 into the atmosphere.

              The answer is to reorganize our society around public transportation.

              You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

              by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:06:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Those 50 passenger boxes racing almost empty (0+ / 0-)

                ...a couple of times an hour up and down the main drag about a mile from my house?  The passenger miles per gallon make a Corvette or a Hummer more efficient.  ...and there's that mile to the bus stop.  Not everybody can hike a hilly mile in all weather conditions.

                Sorry, there is only enough housing in walkable and transit-friendly neighborhoods for perhaps 15% of the U.S. population.  It's so bad that large chunks of New York City aren't suitable for life without a car.

                It would take 50 to 75 years to change that, especially with our huge sunk cost in new housing stock.  

                Our only real possibility is more efficient personal transportation.  Factor of three efficiency improvements in 20 years are not out of the question.

                In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

                by Bronx59 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:23:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It'll happen whether you like it or not. (0+ / 0-)

                  Cheap gas is a thing of the past. Oil is non-renewable, and fast depleting. If we don't change our ways, societies who do will fast surpass us.

                  You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

                  by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:37:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Dcoronate - live life (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chicago minx

      Go see your beautiful morning and the wonderful birds. Feel no guilt. Enjoy life.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:23:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I must confess I am torn about this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Caelian, drewfromct, Dcoronata

      My wife and I are going to visit a state park over 2 hours drive from here.  Maybe the last time I get to the gulf before the oil arrives.  The irony of this does not escape me.

      For people who love nature cars represent the freedom to experience a range and variety of places that would be otherwise impossible.  In my grandparent's childhoods over a century ago more people lived in relatively close association with the natural world.  They had woods and river and lakes close by.  But to experience true wilderness was impossible except for those who had the funds or time.

      Nowadays the natural world exists as scattered fragments or in remote areas.  Without a car or a lot of time and perseverance you aren't going to see much of it.  And so we pump a bit more carbon into the air each time.

      "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

      by matching mole on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:28:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We only save what we value. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59, JeffW, matching mole

        If we didn't love the last remaining wild places, we would let them be paved over.  If we didn't put in the time and effort to learn and study the environment, natural habitats, wildlife and places of historical worth we wouldn't preserve them, teach others about their value, work hard to keep them for future generations.

        Education and entertainment are necessary for preservation.

      •  Of course, the ideal solution to this (0+ / 0-)

        would be to reorganize our society. To ditch both cars and single family homes. To live in dense development surrounded by greenspace. This most efficiently uses land and building resources. And nature is just a short bus ride away.

        Of course, the powerful building and manufacturing industries would move less product, so it'll only happen when the commodities they use become unavailable. But if it ever does come about, we'll all be better off

        You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

        by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 09:27:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  rent a car for the longer trips like (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Opakapaka

      weekend excursions . .

      •  But it still means using a car. (0+ / 0-)

        I agree that for many casual users, Zipcar is a very good option.

        But the diarist and many others here suggest a total elimination of private passenger car usage.

        •  If you don't have a car and use rentals (0+ / 0-)

          and public transit, you become a whole lot more disciplined about your car use. I got rid of my car and switched to walking, public transit, and zipcars a couple of years ago (of course I had that choice because of where I live (DC) so this option only works for some). I found that I quickly became much more efficient and careful about my car usage. The diarist is painting a very idealistic picture of a car-free world but there probably is an in-between more pragmatic solution where cars continue to exist but play a smaller role in our daily existence rather than the central role that they now play. . .

  •  I agree almost completely, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Perry the Imp

    and very strongly. But you forgot one argument that I think it key. You spend half of a median person's income on a car, and then you use it--what? An hour a day?

    23 hours a day, 95% of the time, it sits idle. It is a wasted resource 95% of the time. Talk about an inefficient way to use precious resources.

    You build a bus, and it is used most of the day. Continuously.

    You can't call yourself green and use a car for most of your transportation--even if it's a hybrid.

    You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

    by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:06:05 PM PDT

    •  Error (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drewfromct, VClib, Bronx59

      You spend half a person's median annual income, not 1/2 their income.

      Huge difference.  The average car in the US is just about 9 years old.  So that works out to about 6% of median income amortized.  Double that for repairs, fuel, and insurance and it's pretty cheap when you realize you can go virtually anywhere in the nation (and outside of it) anytime you want.

    •  I actually feel the reverse (0+ / 0-)

      We bought our car used and have generally tried to use it fairly minimally.  This way we have it when we need it, we don't burn as much carbon, and it will last longer.

      "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

      by matching mole on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:36:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point is just that (0+ / 0-)

        the steel, rubber, and manufacturing effort--even the dollars--that went into your car--are underemployed. If you put the same resources into a bus, they will be more more fully employed. They will be used much more efficiently.

        You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

        by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:39:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  having built them for 35 years (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, alba, JeffW

    I heartily agree. I dislike them intensely.  They were, though, responsible for my pension so I thank them for that.

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:09:36 PM PDT

  •  Ever lived on a dirt road in rural America? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, drewfromct, VClib, chicago minx, JeffW

    In almost every instance where we rely on a car, we could be using an alternative mode of transportation.

    (Um, that's just not true.)

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:21:58 PM PDT

    •  Or even a paved road... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      itzik shpitzik

      ...we will be moving in a couple of years to our retirement property: 40 acres outside of a small (pop. 800) town named Orangeville. There are no public transportation systems in rural America.

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:04:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ahahahaah (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rimjob, A Citizen

    a government-run delivery service could easily serve an entire city, and save a lot of headache.

    Government-run delivery service. Could easily serve.

    Thanks, I needed the laugh

    •  We already have one, called the US Postal Service (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drewfromct

      If it plans to be around 10 years from mow, it just needs to figure out how to take on the role.  

      In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

      by Bronx59 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:55:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yea well (0+ / 0-)

        If it plans to be around 10 years from mow

        I've seen no signs of understanding what it means to be now, never mind 10 years from now. Why does it have so few kiosks to send mail and packages without using a clerk, and they are inside the office which is closed after hours and on weekends? Simple things like that are quite silly.

    •  UH - Are you that oblivious to the existence (0+ / 0-)

      of the US Postal Service . .

      •  Yep apparently he is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alba, CherryTheTart

        Hundreds of millions of mail pieces are handled every day by the U.S.P.S. At the post office, each piece of mail is placed on an assembly line. It's automatically oriented, a small id printed on it. A snapshot is taken and, as the letter moves along at 60 mile per hour, transmitted to the main processing center in PA. Once across the network, the snapshot is run through optical recognition software that figures out people's crappy handwriting and identifies the address. The address is spit back across the network to the post office where it's encoded on the letter ... remember the letter? It's still moving at 60 MPH. All this happened in a tiny fraction of a second. On 584 million pieces of mail per day, spread across every town in the nation.

        I create and work with highly scalable software. The level of reliability and response time, and for pennies per piece, is freaking amazing. That is a service. That is the USPS, that is your government, and they fraggin rock.

        "Gummint caint do nuttin" attitude can kiss my arse.

        Waffles Are Delicious!

        by nosleep4u on Sat May 22, 2010 at 09:03:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am not (0+ / 0-)

        I am also not oblivious to the fact that it's not quite living in 2010 exactly.

  •  Umm, no. (5+ / 0-)
    There is no alternative where I live, about 50 miles north of NYC.  I'll keep my car, a 4 cylinder hatchback.  Ever try to run a child from school to  soccer or other activity?  Apparently not.

    Oh, there you are, Perry. -Phineas -SLB-

    by boran2 on Sat May 22, 2010 at 06:40:34 PM PDT

  •  Hmmmm..... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, Dcoronata, Bronx59, JeffW

    From The Straight Dope:

    Let's compare the average energy efficiency of different methods of transportation, expressed in British thermal units (BTUs) per passenger mile. These numbers were compiled or computed from government sources by my assistant Una, a professional engineer:

    • Motorcycle — 2,200 with single rider.
    • Heavy rail (includes subway and commuter rail but excludes light rail/streetcar) — 2,600.
    • Commercial aircraft — 3,100.
    • Bus — 4,300.
    • Auto — 5,500 with single occupant, 3,500 with average passenger load.

    A few observations:

    1. Energy-efficiency-wise, motorcycles rule. However, I'm not seeing them as a practical commuting option for the average cube-farm denizen.
    1. Trains are efficient, but not that efficient. If you've ever been packed into a subway car at rush hour, you might think it'd beat auto efficiency by 10 to 1. Uh-uh — rail travel is a modest 30 percent more efficient than autos on average.
    1. If the proposed 35 MPG fuel efficiency standard becomes reality, auto energy consumption with an average load will drop to an impressively low 2,300 BTUs per passenger mile. On the other hand, increasing ridership due to rising gas prices will make transit more efficient too — New York MTA rail is already down to 2,000 BTUs. No disrespect to the Randal O'Tooles of the world, but let's not speculate about what might happen down the road. Better to stick with what we know now.
    1. Buses are more efficient than a passengerless car, but that's about it. Lest you think the number is skewed by lightly traveled suburban transit systems, Chicago CTA buses (one million riders per workday) consume 4,300 BTUs per passenger mile, same as the national average.

    On the face of it, then, transit currently offers no energy advantage over cars except in the handful of cities with heavy rail — and not all of those. (Chicago's an outlier.) Estimates of auto efficiency vary depending on how many passengers you assume they're carrying, so I won't say transit is an energy loser. Instead I'll agree with O'Toole: from an energy perspective, transit vs. cars is pretty much a wash.

    And before someone says that trains run on electricity & the car is running on gasoline, with it's pollution, well that is true. But how are those trains getting their electricity? From a coal fire plant perhaps?

    •  Are we talking total amortized BTUs? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob

      What I mean by this is, do we consider the energy needed to get the guy who built the car to work, or same for the other forms of transportation?  I'm sure that if they are all factored in, it would end up making the total difference between all modes even less.

      For the most part, all forms of transportation other than walking or biking are extremely inefficient, with perhaps a percent or two being used to actually move the payload (us) from point A to point B, the rest is used moving the container or the service personnel.

    •  Well, per Wiki: (0+ / 0-)

      A diesel bus commuter service in Santa Barbara, CA, USA found average diesel bus efficiency of 6.0 mpg-US (39 L/100 km; 7.2 mpg-imp) (using MCI 102DL3 buses). With all 55 seats filled this equates to 330 passenger-mpg, with 70% filled the efficiency would be 231 passenger-mpg.

      You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

      by Opakapaka on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:19:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  BTUs per passenger-mile (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Opakapaka

      is not a good measure.

      It completely ignores the amount of fuel consumed to produce each BTU. Cars are the worst at this, with modern models generally capturing 30% of the available energy. Diesel-electric rail was already hitting 26% back in 1897, and IIRC was hitting 70%+ a couple decades ago.

      Passenger-MPG is a much better measure of overall efficiency. It bypasses all the unnecessary intermediate calculations needed by BTU/P-M, and compares fuel use directly to passenger movement.

      (BTW, the numbers quoted in your linked article were collated by CATO Institute: "Promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets,...". I'm not surprised they would choose to emphasize a misleading statistic.)

      Waffles Are Delicious!

      by nosleep4u on Sat May 22, 2010 at 09:41:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just bought a car (0+ / 0-)

    Used, 3.5L V6.  Don't plan on using it every day, or even for most of my transportation, but it's nice to have when I need it.

    For me, it's about balance.  I don't think cars suck, I just think our use of them is out of balance.

    Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

    by Linnaeus on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:10:43 PM PDT

  •  In a word.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peglyn, drewfromct, JeffW

    bullshit...

    I know you're going to "hate me" for saying so, but you obviously don't live in an area where it would take 45 minutes by bike or 2 hours walking to get to the grocery store (not to mention getting back).

    Buses? HAH! Where? When? How many?

    Try getting outside your bubble for a little bit.

    Yes, pollution is a problem. Yes, our reliance on foreign oil is a problem. Yes, we need better "systems".

    But cars aren't necessary? Heh. Baloney.

    I invite you to live with me for 30 days, getting to work and going to the grocery and doing all the other things you would like to do without a car. You wouldn't last a week.

    And I don't even live that "far out".

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it -- GB Shaw

    by kmiddle on Sat May 22, 2010 at 07:13:51 PM PDT

  •  I use public transportation to get to and from (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct

    work. I also use it when I am going to sporting events. But, when I am going for groceries and clothes shopping, I drive.

    Public transportation is most attractive for commuters; those going out to see movies, drink, or go clubbing; and those who are going to sporting events. For those trips it works best because people are just going there and coming back.

    It doesn't work as well for people who are going to the mall, doing errands, or carrying lots of stuff. For those trips people will still use their cars.

  •  What a can of worms you opened here.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct

    In some ways I agree with the diarist.  But society as it is currently structured was built around cheap gasoline which makes for easy mobility with a car.

    But gasoline isn't going to be cheap forever.  In fact some believe that total world oil production is peaking sometime about now.  If true, a decade from now it is likely that there would be less oil available for us to burn than what we have today.  And whether we like it or not, we will have to use less.

  •  Living in the age of oil is great. I think... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yet another liberal, Opakapaka

    The age of oil will be a tiny blip in the arc of human history.  

    Does that make me lucky?

  •  cars suck - but, bikes rule! :-) nt. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CherryTheTart

    "Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle." -Helen Keller

    by ridemybike on Sat May 22, 2010 at 08:56:09 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

    But I love my car.

  •  Put jobs back where people live. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yet another liberal

    My husband commutes a hundred miles a day, fifty miles there, and fifty miles back, for $12.50 an hour and no insurance.

    At this point in his life, my father held a union job ten minutes' drive from the house he bought out in the country so he could have a large garden and shop. He had a really nice Blue Cross plan, the union protected his job if he got sick or injured, and it paid him about the equivalent of $20 an hour.

    If my husband had a job where we live, we'd be essentially doubling our income at this point, and able to use a lot less gas. But we don't make things in the US any more.

  •  Car Centric America (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yet another liberal

    In this country everything is organized upon the assumption that everyone has a car.  I've had many exciting, life enriching experiences into the wilderness that would have been very difficult if not impossible without one.  However, it's obvious that this is not how car's are used 99% of the time.  

    It's all about convenience.  As Jello Biafra famously said- "Give me Convenience or Give me Death!"  This could be America's official national motto.  I'm thinking Americans should step away from the convenience thing and take a long hard look at it at least once in their lives.  Among the downsides to convenience is morbid obesity at a level never before seen in history.  It's a tough issue to face.  This one's been building and gathering momentum since the early '80s, but now this mother of all chickens has done come home to Roost!!  

    The number of miles driven per capita has declined somewhat in recent years, but it wasn't voluntary I assure you.  It is born of unemployment and high gas prices.  All defensive self confirmation aside, it's the addiction talking when I hear those crying about how badly they need to bring home 400 pounds of stuff on every routine trip to Walmart.  I feel your pain!!

    "Seek above all for a game worth playing- such is the advice of the oracle to modern man." - Robert S. de Ropp

    by FuddGate on Sun May 23, 2010 at 07:08:23 AM PDT

  •  This is Right On (0+ / 0-)

    And I'm glad somebody said it.

    I was getting along fine without a car for two years.  I only live 3 miles from my work and was able to use public transpo to get around.  True, it was not convenient, took longer, and I could not lug big cases of bottled water back from the supermarket (which I should not have been buying anyway), or bookcases from Ikea.

    My friend had an old car he was trying to sell, so eventually I broke down and bought it from him.  He let me pay him over time with no interest.  Even so, I now have NO MONEY to do anything else!  Can't go to a movie, can't eat out, can't buy a book or a CD.  All extra income is going to the car payments and buying gasoline.

    True, the car will be paid for in five more months, then I will be able to do those things again.  But what happens if I get a huge auto repair bill if the engine blows up?  Then I'm stuck again.  

    You are right.  Cars suck big time.

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