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Car Free Baltimore 2.0: Car Free Harder-ish

Yes, the new Car Free Baltimore will still feature the same snarky comments aimed at the suburbs.

Part of becoming an adult is realizing the world doesn’t revolve around you. It also means you stop eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner, but that’s something I’m still working on.

When an article in the Baltimore Brew mentioned this site a few months ago, people left some interesting comments. One by “Claudlaw” stood out:

But I truly believe that when you have a forum to discuss a huge quality of life issue for Baltimore residents, such as all modes city transportation (mass transit, biking and pedestrian issues), meaningful effort should be made to make the discussion as inclusive as possible.  And your discussion seems to focus on a fraction of Baltimore’s population.

This struck me as true. I’m not the kind of guy to talk about myself a lot, and after a year of writing about my experience, it’s time for something to change.   I’d like to open this site up and take it beyond me telling you about the overpriced latte I spilled on my way to some bullshit sports bar in Canton.

And the quality of life comment is right on.  Why do people chose to relocate to a city? Why do people choose to remain in a city? 1. Jobs. 2. Quality of life.  Quality of life includes options, safety, convenience, and all the other little things which make a city an attractive place to live.  In my opinion, the number one advantage cities have are options.  Options for jobs, neighborhoods, events, the people you hang with, and how you get to the grocery store. Recent research shows that too many options can decrease your sense of freedom, but I think this applies more to lettuce brands than bike lanes.

30% of Baltimore’s population doesn’t own a car. While a small segment of this population chooses to be car free, most of these people just can’t afford one. If you’re spending 2 hours on transit to get to a job that pays minimum wage, the choice is to sacrifice a lot of time with your family, or spend money you may not have on a vehicle.  With steady high unemployment and stagnant incomes in the U.S., and with new household expense data showing transportation costs weighing nearly as much as housing, this is not only a transportation issue, but an applied economics issue.

And that’s the opportunity.  By making life outside of cars safer and easier, we get quality of life and cost of living gains for this entire 30%;  people who spend 2 hours on a bus because that’s there only alternative, and the new transplants who are looking for something different than Howard County. We also give the other 70% a viable option, if they so choose.

So, for the 5 readers I have left after my hiatus, I want to open this up to interviews, pictures, and other interesting but yet-to-be-determined things.   If you got a story to tell, interesting picture or article to share, or want to do an interview, drop me a line at carfreebaltimore(at)gmail(.)com.  If you got a lot to say and want to be a regular contributor, maybe we could work something out.

Stay tuned for an interview with Chris Marriam next week. Peace out.

  • Dave

    Quality of life is also a reason people choose to live in the suburbs, where schools are statistically more successful and safer, taxes are much lower and you aren’t nickel and dimed for other services, like water. 

    Being car free in the suburbs is difficult but not impossible.  In a conversation with my realtor last night, I opted for one neighborhood over another due to its “bikeability.”  He had never heard the word before.  You can walk and bike to shopping centers, park & rides, some schools and occasional parks in the burbs. You just have to know where the route.

  • Mark

    Not saying there aren’t quality suburbs, but in the U.S., they’re the exception to the rule.   New Urbanism and traditional neighborhood designs have helped, but people like yourself who actually consider transportation modes/costs when buying a home are rare. Over a 10 year period, a family could spend almost as much as they paid for their house just on cars and auto expenses. For some people, that’s OK. For a lot of families, that’s the difference between being comfortable and struggling. These less obvious but pernicious auto costs factor into quality of life, too.

  • Dave

    A sense of personal safety and education expenses can far outweigh annual transportation costs for families.  What’s the point of living in a walkable neighborhood if you don’t feel safe.  City taxes are DOUBLE those of adjacent jurisdictions and water & sewer fees are QUADRUPLE.  These expenses add up to make quality of life more difficult in some urban settings.

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