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Three Grand Junction Residents Go Car-Free — Carectomy - Removing Cars from People

Three Grand Junction Residents Go Car-Free

by Joshua Liberles on October 1, 2007

Commuters_and_Breezer Three Grand Junction Residents Go Car-FreeThree residents of Grand Junction, Colorado, recently committed to a temporary carectomy. Janet Penkaty, Eric Strickholm, and Kelly Zepp have relied on pedal-power for all of their transportation needs for the past 3 weeks.


As winners of a contest promoted by local shop Brown Cycle, the trio was selected to trade in their car keys in exchange for Breezer Citizen three-speed commuter bikes. If the participants avoid automobiles (both as passengers and drivers) then the bikes are theirs to keep

Penkaty’s bike is a yellow tandem with room for his four- and seven-year old sons to climb aboard and help to power the family to school, soccer practices, and around town. Zepp’s and Strickholm’s bikes both feature racks and baskets to help with daily schleps.

Today, Oct. 1, marks the end of the contest.  This carectomy is reversible: Penkaty, Strickholm, and Zepp will reclaim their car keys and discuss their car-free experience at Brown Cycle today. They will also submit their homework assignment, a 400-word essay on “Living Car-Free, How It Changed Me.” Let’s hope it inspired them and other community members to rely less on their cars.

Photos courtesy of Breezer website and richardmasoner (flickr).

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Anon October 16, 2007 at 11:21 am

Building the worlds most expensive mass transit system in a country that hardly uses busses is just stupid.

This is right up there with the road to nowhere. What’s the point?

Most Co2 is produced from power plants, not cars. In most cases mass transit, such as the metro or subway is not cheaper for the individual using it, only for the city as a whole.

In major cities the number one reason to ride mass transit is simply to avoid the insanely high cost of parking. Mass transit is already fairly green already in most cases, this would just be a waste of money. Instead of yet another pork barrel project, how about we just start investing in hybrid and electric busses and cars and tell the city to fix the traffic problems on their own instead of gobbling up tax money to try to curb the urban spraw they failed to prevent with good planning 30 years ago.

Do you really want to trust the same people to build a ‘green’ mass transit system that let your cities become the dirty, crime infested, traffic nightmares they are today? It’s just more endless spending and an expensive game of favoritism as to who gets the contract.

I say we use what’s cheap and proven, save money and avoid trendy and unnecessary projects like this. Don’t push the market to provide you with a cost effective solution, because it won’t, you will have to wait for the market and technology not dictate it with federal and state tax money. You can rarely force innovation like that. Green technologies should be used to power and convert our homes. More efficient appliances and insultion coupled with wind stations is the cheapest practical way to generate and use electricity.

Tax incentives to get wind and solar power in homes makes a HELL of a lot more sense than generating green energy to ride a bunch of people around the overpopulated, polluted city.

If those people really want to do the city a favor, they should move someplace less densely populated, that is by far the cheapest and most efficient solution to urban spraw. The nation has plenty of room left, but expanding cities after the fact is very costly and pays little. In fact most major cities are depreciating at a faster rate than rural areas. So investing mass monies into those cities while people are at the same time moving away is yet another bad plan.

Worst off, is that the taxpayers of the state will wind up paying for a mass transit system that they rarely or never use. This is why home green technology and efficiency makes more sense because it’s fair, it will last longer and it will get MORE people involved than mass transit.

Plus Americans love their cars, high gas prics or not. Electric cars, scooters, bicycle are all far smarter transit devices and reducing traffic can be done with permanent investments such as bridges, overpasses, bypasses, bigger roads, smarter traffic signals, no cars parked on the side of the road and no dumb ass police pulling people over in no shoulder areas during rush hour.

If cities would simply take a real methodical approach to traffic problems ideas like this would seems that much more ridiculous.

If mass transit wasn’t slower and roughly just as or more expensive than driving yourself it might be embraced by more people. Why even use it when I can drive my car for cheaper and.. well not be on the old, dirty, stinking metro with a bunch of weirdos in tiny plastic seats.

The ONLY advantage is you don’t need parking. I’d rather see more parking garages than massive projects to build mass transit. It’s a bad idea, especially right now and with todays not so advanced technology.

In another decade electric/hybrid cars will be everywhere. The problem isn’t pollution, it’s parking.

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2 dan October 16, 2007 at 11:48 am

I bet it will cost 1/10 the price of a new war in iraq!

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3 akatsuki October 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm

It will end up like the Acela, too large, too heavy and burdened with too much regulation to actually be efficient.

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4 russell October 16, 2007 at 12:57 pm

joe anon said:[quote]In most cases mass transit, such as the metro or subway is not cheaper for the individual using it, only for the city as a whole.[/quote]

this is utter BS. i pay $76 per month to go anywhere in new york city for an entire month. its unlimited too, so i can constantly take the train, or the bus anywhere i please.

if i were to buy a car, the price of insurance alone would not be cheaper. add the price of gas, maintenance, and lease, and its downright expensive to use a car.

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5 iliekmudkips October 16, 2007 at 1:57 pm

wow you’re fucking deluded.

i’ll admit this thing will never work on just solar and wind power, but its not a bad idea. we need a high speed rail system in this country. if it got half the federal subsidy that the airline industry got, it would be a hit.

hybrid cars are NOT the answer. they haven’t even surpassed diesels in cost effectiveness. they’re a fad.

the problem is we just have way too many cars and our cities are getting too big. mass transit is the answer. i dont know how you can blame the cities for causing traffic problems….that’s absurd. there are just too many cars. despite what you think, mass transit DOES work well in some cities. with enough public investment it would pay off.

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6 robert October 16, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Mass transit systems like this aren’t uncommon in, oh what’s the name of those places, oh yeah, developed countries (and even in some developing countries). After living abroad and seeing how well mass transit systems in Hong Kong and Japan work (Thailand actually has a system similiar to the mass tram in Bangkok) and then coming back to the states and having to pluck down more then 10,000 per car for me and my wife (Plus gas, insurance, and wasting an hour and half one way for a trip that would take 30-40 with a decent system) and you begin to feel like your not really getting the best deal in the world.

By the way, the americans loving their cars is just hype and PR. Most car enthuastist will tell you, driving moved from a love affair to just a way to get from point A to B when automatics began to outnumber manuals. Most people would actually perfer not to spend several hours a day in traffic if they had a choice. Of course, most people don’t have a choice here.

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7 Rawk October 16, 2007 at 2:42 pm

In response to joeanon

Your logic of decreasing urban sprawl by having people move from urban area’s to less populated areas there by increasing that areas population density is the definition of urban sprawl. If this new area has no form of mass transit built into its infrasturcture it ecourages them to drive putting more cars on the road increasing trafic and slowing their commute and taxing the highway system even more.
Now as far as big cities depeciating faster than sub-urban area’s consider the housing bubble that is now bursting. Cities like Boston, NYC, San Fracisco, Chicago. Are seeing Zero to minimal decrease in property value while Sub-urban area’s around smaller cities are losing real estate value.
Most of the mass transit in this country is based around around the bus system which is the cheapest to impilment but one of the most unattactive and ineffective. It saves the least time due to it being affected by surface traffic, of course your car is preferable.
Now as far as taking your own car as being cheaper than mass transit. I can only speak from personal proseptive. I live in Brooklyn but I work in Manhattan. I own a car mostly to leave the urban area but you must factor in all the cost of car owernship. Not just gas and parking, what about the car itself, insurance and matinance. Living where I do I can take advantage of almost door to door mass transit. But If I lived in a less densely poulated area I would still need a car to reach a train station or a park and ride bus stop to take advantage of mass transit so then yes it make less sense.
Since the forties as a country we have dismantled the light rail system in this country instead of increasing the network, there by making mass transit less attactive. Newark NJ is reinstating its light rail system to link it to the rail system servicing Manhattan increasing the property value and making it more attractive urban professionals who usually have a higher income increasing the tax base.
Also you spoke of investing in infastructure by building more bridges and roads and tunnels but these need to be financed either through tax dollars or bonds. Now that would also increase taxes or you need to toll these bridges and roads to pay off the bonds increasing commuting costs.
Now your other idea of increasing commuter parking causes other problems. More access to free or inexpensive parking encourages driving increasing congestion, not alievating it. The real estate costs of aquiring the land on which to build. Unless you are advocating emminant domain this would require buying out the existing land owner at a market price.
I believe you are right in the fact that the market should drive much of this but much of what you are suggesting would require that the goverment become econimically involved on the other side of the equastion and continue making mass transit less attractive.

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8 Did October 16, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Simpsons did it !

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9 Paul October 16, 2007 at 3:00 pm

This aerodynamic approach offers no solution for urban transportation, since it would have an average speed of around 15-20 MPH with the frequent stops. And, as with all mass-transit solutions, it has a very serious problem for the individual: It can never compete with the convenience of my car in suburbia. That leaves its best use to routes with few stops. It might have a chance there. Still, their talk of green energy is glib. That would need substantial backing up with facts and demonstrations.

There are other approaches that seem to get short shrift in transportation planning sessions: For example, PRT (personal rapid transit) solutions that, in principle, compete with the automobile on its own terms, and have a number of advantages over mass-transit. For example, check http://www.unimodal.com/ or http://www.skytran.net.

I understand that the DOT has given Unimodal a grant(?) to build a demo system, which the company says will be completed by late summer 2008. As an alternate solution, this company presents something that is actually exciting – maybe a real solution for the longer term. I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up next year. This thing could put the fun back into going places.

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10 Jace October 16, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I think we need more than one system in place, and I think this sounds like a good one to take the place of our major highway/freeway routes that run between states and major cities. Put this in place of, for example, highway 80 going West-East, or Highway 5 going North-South (I’m from the west coast and, admittedly, I don’t have a good example for the other side of the country). That would effectively link California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together with a rail system that travels at 200mph. This would be a great alternative for flying. You could bring your cars along to use when you get to your final destination – or even better, have this system integrate with a more personal MT system, like Skytran, when you reach a destination city. Hop the MTA for the long ride from, say, Los Angeles to Seattle, then transfer over to a Skytran to get where you need to go in your destination city.

I see the merits in this system, and the merits in other systems. The answer isn’t to dismiss one and go with the other, it’s to adapt each one to situations where it would excel.

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11 Whoo-Choo October 16, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Great idea! But could it go faster, like French or Japanese high-speed trains, to compete with air travel for long runs? To make it more energy independent (or subsidize its cost with surplus production), how about using reasonably short segments of the ribbon wind generator design that was recently in the news:

http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1052/

along the entire length of the “track”?

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12 bryon October 16, 2007 at 8:34 pm

While this is a whimsical concept for a mass transit system, have a look at Skytran.net for a system that is more than just an idea. The engineering work has been completed and socio-economic studies are done. This is the real deal.

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13 timtimtim October 16, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Come on guys, pay attention! This isn’t about inner-city transit, it’s about in[b]ter[/b]city transit. They’re talking about replacing highways with this, not urban streets. If it’s fast and safe enough, it makes far more sense than air travel, and ought to be miles cheaper to run as well.

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14 Turner October 16, 2007 at 9:32 pm

@ Joe Anon

“Building the worlds most expensive mass transit system in a country that hardly uses busses is just stupid.”
It said plainly in the article, that it’s comprable in cost to other transit systems in the world, your statement is just plain wrong. I don’t know what city you live in, but here in Chicago, public transit is a big deal. It’s currently underfunded due to the state’s mishandling of it’s affairs, but no one ini their right mind is going to claim it’s due to lack of use.

“Most Co2 is produced from power plants, not cars.”
And this helps alleviate both. Why is that a downside?

“In most cases mass transit, such as the metro or subway is not cheaper for the individual using it, only for the city as a whole.”
Utter nonesense. What I pay a month for transit is a fraction of what anyone owning a car pays in gas by itself, insurance by itself, or a car payment by itself.

“In major cities the number one reason to ride mass transit is simply to avoid the insanely high cost of parking.”
So we should ignore public transit and just make bigger parking lots? What are you saying here? People take public transit because it’s much cheaper, no cost out of pocket for maintenance (think 300 dollars for a broken window this week, versus 100 bucks from your taxes over a year for fixing windows on a bus), traffic congestion, even in a modern grid city like Chicago, we still get congestion, it’s not possible using the current paradigm to construct congestion-free roads – it’s just not (one person slowing down because they spilled their coffee can instantly cause a backup which takes hours to recover from, traffic flow is very easily impeded).

“Mass transit is already fairly green already in most cases, this would just be a waste of money.”
Transit systems either use diesel fuel (like other big trucks), or electric, both of which contribute to pollution. They do so less than 300 individual vehicles however, as would this train, and in addition lessen the use of fossil fuels by contributing to the power grid with clean energy.

“Instead of yet another pork barrel project, how about we just start investing in hybrid and electric buses and cars and tell the city to fix the traffic problems on their own instead of gobbling up tax money to try to curb the urban sprawl they failed to prevent with good planning 30 years ago.”
I’m not aware of any 30 year old major cities, most cities are hundreds of years old and were design for horse and buggy, or pedestrian traffic. Replacing all the public vehicles in just one city with new ones would cost far more than to build this proposed transit system. Additionally, this transit system is *intercity* and perhaps eventually cross-country, contributing to the entire country rather than a single city. Your premise for argument is flawed. Replacing all the public transit vehicles in most of the major cities would not connect the individual cities any better, it would just be improving what they already have, not creating something new.

“Do you really want to trust the same people to build a ‘green’ mass transit system that let your cities become the dirty, crime infested, traffic nightmares they are today? It’s just more endless spending and an expensive game of favoritism as to who gets the contract.”
This system is already designed by a company, it’s a private corporation, from the website: “Mass Tram America, Inc. established in 2006, is a privately-held corporation located in Milwaukie, Oregon.” Crime in most major cities has dropped in the past ten years. I’m about as antigovernment as you can get, but I’m not blind to the good things local and federal governments have provided either. Give credit where it’s due, place blame where it’s due.

“I say we use what’s cheap and proven, save money and avoid trendy and unnecessary projects like this. Don’t push the market to provide you with a cost effective solution, because it won’t, you will have to wait for the market and technology not dictate it with federal and state tax money. You can rarely force innovation like that.”
Yes, let this country fall even farther behind the rest of the world’s transit systems. Lets all go buy SUVs instead, they’re proven. You want cheap? Buy something from China. Sorry if I’m becoming cynical here.

I think I’ll stop there, the point it made, and I can’t post a comment that’s any longer.

-Turner

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15 Eli Lilly October 17, 2007 at 5:15 pm

I really doubt a plane’s airframe is designed to accommodate hanging in this manner. And all the wasted cargo area space. This is really one of the poorest mass transit solutions that I have seen.

-E

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16 Roger October 19, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Joe Anon made one very good point (further on), despite the many inaccuracies on cars being cheaper, and the suggestion to move out of the city to less developed areas, the very urban/suburban sprawl that is destroying this country.

Having electric / hybrid cars all over the place may address some of the pollution (CO2 emissions) problems, but does not begin to address land use issues. How much land can we take up just for PARKING?

As low lying coastal areas are gradually (or maybe rapidly) abandoned due to rising seas from global warming, where are all these people going to live? What about agricultural land that will have to be available REGIONALLY for food production …. oh, this has all been paved over for road projects and shopping malls.

The key is to have cities that are more densely populated. It will require “development” WITHIN urban areas. A much greater demarcation between the city and country. In smaller cities (30,000 to say 200,000) you need a population DENSITY to provide adequate mass transit. Even buses (let alone “fixed line” light or heavy rail) are not really efficient with suburban sprawl.

Much of the technology for these other systems already exists (and ironically, we HAD a tremendous mass transit system with trolleys / light rail, until they were torn at the behest of GM, Firestone, Standard Oil of California, etc. in the 1930s and 1940s. Then the buses that came on were basically underfunded and declined as they were ABANDONED by the middle class in favor of the “convenience” of the private car. (See “Internal Combustion” by Edwin Black).

While in the short term (perhaps 1950s-1970s) this was more convenient for those that had cars, it evolved to where the car was seen as a NECESSITY. We have 2-3 generations who have grown up on this auto dependence. In all but the largest and densely populated cities, a car was necessary, as all alternatives disappeared. You had “made it” when you finally had a car.

One point of Joe Anon’s: If mass transit wasn’t slower and roughly just as or more expensive than driving yourself it might be embraced by more people. Why even use it when I can drive my car for cheaper and.. well not be on the old, dirty, stinking metro with a bunch of weirdoes in tiny plastic seats.

Admittedly, in many areas, transit IS slower. However, it is not more expensive. The real kicker, though, where Joe is perhaps right, is people view their car as “private space” and the middle class professional does not want to rub elbows with the poor, minorities, and so on. This “private space” concept, combined with door to door private 24 hour a day service is perhaps our biggest obstacle. What is needed, is perhaps, not a technological breakthrough, but a sociological breakthrough, convincing all of us that there is nothing wrong, and it is very beneficial for society as a whole to have the personal interaction with others that might not share our values (or skin color, or economic status). This, combined with the truth that a short walk (of a few blocks) in the outdoors would be good for exercise, and putting one in touch with the actual weather, be it snow, cold, heat, or rain) is not going to kill you, but put one in touch with the real environment, rather than constantly going from heated (or air conditioned) building, 10 feet to your (heated / air conditioned) car, and back all in the name of CONVENIENCE, a convenience that is killing the planet.

Again, what is needed is a SOCIOLOGICAL revolution for us to get out of our self imposed cubicles of isolation and actually mingle with other people. We are a social creature, after all, and the automobile has done more perhaps to isolate us from other individuals more than any other factor (not to mention the other destructive features of air pollution, pedestrian safety, gridlock, junkyards, destruction of agricultural land, etc. etc.)

I gave up my car in a small city about a year ago. It CAN be done, and by walking, biking, and DEMANDING better transit options (that admittedly are very slow in coming) will lead one to a much “greener” lifestyle and greatly reduce one’s “carbon foot print” and save money to boot.

It took about 2 to 3 generations for us to become auto dependent. Unfortunately, we have a very short time frame of perhaps one generation at most to plan our transition away from the automobile. Unfortunately, many Americans will not make the transition easily without kicking and screaming and demanding their “right” to this most destructive means of transit.

We are in for very disruptive, indeed, catastrophic transition as the whole society infrastructure of the private car collapses, with little or nothing in its place except in a few areas that have the foresight to quickly develop alternatives.

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17 Ben Schiendelman October 24, 2007 at 12:07 am

Why not just build high speed rail exactly the same as the TGV, Shinkansen, and ICE? Yeah, it costs money. This monstrosity won’t be any cheaper or faster.

Oh, that’s right, because it’s enough of a fight in urban areas just to get light rail. We have a long way to go.

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18 Benjamin Cruise December 20, 2007 at 1:22 am

This would be a big alternative for taking flight as a form of transportation. You might bring this cars to use when you put yourself to its final destination no more BMW Fuel Injectors – or even better, if this system integrates with a system more personal, like a Skytran, reaching a city of destination by riding this. The jump that the MTA for the long walk of, we suppose, Los Angeles to Seattle, then they transfer a Skytran to put themselves where you have to enter another city of your destination.

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19 Brad Lehl February 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm

It sounds like all of you are looking for the same solution. Check out, if you please our web site @ http://www.atitransit.com. Would appreciate your input. Regards

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