the view at sunset from my bus stop.
When you're born, raised and educated in Michigan, owning and driving a car isn't just a personal preference, but a rite of passage. A car can represent freedom, status, and personal style. But having spent my post-collegiate years in Chicago, I quickly came to appreciate - and even love - the transit options that made my daily commute into a period of reflection and decompression. I loved kicking back in my cushy Metra seat, offering up my ticket to be punched and settling back to tackle that day's crossword puzzle while frustrated motorists clogged the highways. When I returned to Michigan, nearly five years ago, I didn't bother purchasing a car. I have access to a shared vehicle, but unless I had to be on-site, I can usually be found commuting on the Ann Arbor bus system or carpooling. A number of factors play into my green commute - I have reliable access to my municipal bus system. My home is less than 3 miles from my office. Taking the bus costs me nothing, thanks to the Get Downtown! program. I have the option to bus to work, but I can also walk or bike for when I'm feeling restless after eight hours in an office chair. While a car is sometimes an unavoidable necessity, I've come to appreciate the unexpected benefits of a green commute, and I'm not alone, as this 2013 NY Times article reiterates:
"Millions of Americans ... pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial."
It's certainly food for thought for all of us involved in design, planning, or simply actively engaged in our immediate communities - even when those communities represent the cradle of the auto industry itself.