Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why Bother Driving when you could "take the bus or train and be Online"?

 Everything covered in this NYT article I have covered before, except this incredible nugget that most of us have over looked:

A study last year found that driving by young people decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009. The millennials don’t value cars and car ownership, they value technology — they care about what kinds of devices you own, Ms. Sheller said. The percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the availability of the Internet, Mr. Sivak’s research has found. Why spend an hour driving to work when you could take the bus or train and be online?
The new material competition for sexual selection for young adults is now devices and not cars?

If so, I think that that is a wonderful development. It seems the over-40 crowd takes exception to the following generations tendency to see only the screen in front of them (and certainly we have a point, but just hold on for a second while I get to the "benefit" associated with this "cost"). Fair enough. But if those devices ease the transition away from cars and the concomitant pollution, deaths,  and catastrophic injuries associated with automobile use that input really must be factored into the equation. (Of course, this is on my mind as today would have been the 53rd birthday of one my closest childhood friends lost in a car crash 28 years ago. His was the first of many funerals I have been to as a result of car crashes.)

If given the option wouldn't any rational parent prefer their teen and young adult offspring to take a train to a rock concert and stare at their smart phone rather than drive? 4 college students in a car on their way to a rock concert is a disaster waiting to happen. 4 students on public transportation texting like mad just does not concern me very much.

In the final analysis, the next generation of young Americans do not have a choice. If these device makes the transition seem like their idea? Mazel Tov!


Like most professional New Yorkers, I used to ski in New England every winter. I always loved the idyllic quaint charm of the place, particularly the home architecture. Clearly, at one time the people living there had a sense of the human need for grace and beauty. (If you have only lived in the Northeast you might not appreciate how interesting and appealing that is, but having spent some time in the Southeast - and its never ending style of what I call "Early American Air-Conditioned Brick Bunkers" - I can tell you first hand that, for the most part, Dixie just does not get the grace and beauty thing. Restaurants here are often lit with florescent lighting; Someone smart once said the experience is like eating in a used car show room. I wish I knew who to credit. SPOT ON.)

Yet it seems that the demoralization and dispiritedness which I thought was limited to the fly-over-land middle of the country (It occurs to me that many people might not have heard the term "fly-over-land": Coined by the coastal elites, fly-over-land is the territory between JFK and LAX that the elites fly over to get to the other coast. A land and culture not worthy of touching down in... for the most part, unfortunately, the elites are right. There is good reason that the Louvre is in Paris and the Country Music Hall of Fame is in Nashville and Hooters is considered "fun family dining") of the South and Midwest has taken firm hold of New England. That's disconcerting to me... kinda bummed to hear about this.


The obesity topic is everywhere in American Media; and well it should be.

Want to read an article governed by the very definition of "specious"? The writer raises enough reasonable questions to make the average American feel better about the state of their self-inflicted poor health. (Although the issue of industrial chemical exposure certainly is deserving of significant funding and research.) The fact is that obesity does not exist, for the most part, among the coastal elites and it is rampant in fly-over-land. This does not jive well with the argument that it is something in the environment that is doing this to us (but of course does not preclude that, either). My experience, for the most part, was the professional women of Wall Street and the trophy wives in Boca Raton. They all seemed to be 36-24-34 marathon runners, and not a single tattoo or odd body piercing to be found... In Nashville its more like 58-74-83 (hike! Sounds more like a football audible than a human measurement) with enough ink and perforations thrown in with their ponderous heft to cement the image of human defeat and arrant loss of dignity. So what gives?

Poor, uneducated, white American women have lost 5 years of life span expectancy. From my perspective, and keen observer of the human condition that I strive to be, their health span (the span of life where people live free of chronic disease) has lost 20 years or more. The social isolation that accompanies obesity disability should not be overlooked, either. These people are functionally disabled and incapacitated in their 20's and 30's. While they may possess existence I cannot conceive of that existence as a "life", so the loss of 5 years in life expectancy is small potatoes compared to the loss of the ability to live.

I would bet dollars to donuts (boy, that's an old one... from a time when a donut was 5 cents. Memes are hard to kill) that obesity in America is much more a function of cars, media, and government social programs than industrial chemicals or any of the other assertions contained in the AEON article, or at least I hope so... because that would be much easier to address.


U.S. Natural Gas storage could actually approach ZERO next month. Nah, its not the end of the world... but it does seem to indicate that the idea of bigger homes, industries, agriculture, etc... might not jive well in a different world. Change winter average temps by an average 2 or 3 degrees, which is not out of line with natural oscillations of weather patterns, and POW!

The Nat Gas thing is small potatoes. A change in the weather (extreme drought) for a couple of growing seasons in the world's grain producing regions will put that in perspective. Of course, our policy makers are always fighting the last crisis/war, i.e. there will be PLENTY of propane next winter. Using grain for fuel while having a Strategic Petroleum Reserve and not a Strategic Grain Reserve is exactly the kind of policy we can expect from lawyers, which is the profession dominating elected office. 

Better days ahead.


Anonymous said...

Several things....

First, I noticed some time ago that my Internet usage was enticing a drop in my own automobile travel. Not only do shop online (my Maine house was first spotted online, I buy home repair parts online, clothes sometimes too), the Internet has drastically cut down my need to travel to the brick and mortar library for researching home improvement projects too. All that and I simply desire to travel less because I can share and participate in so much just from my home and/or my phone.

Regarding drug use in VT....What has happened to the US heartland, what with the decline in manufacturing and farming employment has struck most of rural New England as well. The spillover of wealth from vacationing and recreating New Yorkers and Bostonians only travels so far. All kinds of mills and farms in New England have dismissed their workers and I am not the least bit surprised that places like Rutland are feeling the hit. As the Internet curtails travel even more (recall your previous point), rural New England will suffer even more.

On the other hand, the possible rebound of small farms and the possible decline of California and other Western farms dependent on large-scale irrigation and jet transport of things like strawberries might lend a boost to rural New England, I suppose.

On the other hand, Vermont itself has had a opiate problem going back to the early 1800s, fueled by the cravings of lonely, isolated Vermont farm, housewives, at least according to one book I have on a shelf here.

Stephen B.

tweell said...

My youngest daughter has not even bothered to get a drivers license at age 24, and my son finally managed to become a driver at age 22. We have both noted that his car video games made learning to drive harder, and my lack of ability to beat him at said games is because of the same issue - physics differences between those games and real life. He still has trouble with turning and braking.

We don't go to malls any more. My son went to get a new lunch box, and checked online, then went... to Home Depot, picked up a small cooler there and was done. Before we'd have gone to various places and seen what they have, now we scan the various offerings and either go to that store or get it delivered.

Anonymous said...

Tweel's second paragraph sums up nicely even more reasons I don't drive as much.

Honestly, I have no idea what is driving (no pun intended) the building of 3 more major malls around the Boston beltway (Rt 128.) (Lynnfield, Waltham, and Westwood for locals, although the Westwood Station development is, at least, as its name implies, near a major Amtrak and commuter rail station.) I suppose the developers would say that they are also offering some condos and apartments at those sites, but I still, cannot fathom where the growth in brick and mortar retail is coming from. The Boston area economy remains an animal of a different stripe I guess.

I will add, however, that several years ago, a developer tried building high-end condos on the top of the Natick (MA) Mall, calling it "The Collection." He lost his shirt and most of the units, after sitting vacant for over a year, auctioned off for about 25 to 33 cents on the dollar. In any case, I highly doubt a major mall can be sustained in and of itself by several dozen nearby condos or even a hundred or so. Luckily, for now, the Natick Mall is located by two major highways.

One last thing on rural areas, New England or otherwise... Young people in Aroostook County, Maine leave the area in droves once they graduate high school. The only people moving into rural America these days are those that are able to bring their wealth with them such as you and I Greg. While there are niche occupations, such as the growth of small farms, especially in Maine, medical care, and whatnot, the main driver of rural economies now is entitlement and retirement payments. Automation has slaughtered rural economies and ways of life.

Stephen B.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

The best thing that can happen here is that the decline in per capita driving happens at the margins - young adults and teens entering the work force and older folks no longer working.

Especially for young people. If this is not their formative experience than it won't be missed.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


The rural/urban divide was created by the construction of the mega city.

Me thinks this era is the rebirth of the small city/big town - with employment close to, or in, living quarters.

My sense is that this will be a more pleasant arrangement than suburbia and mega cities and I hope I live to see how it all works out.

Regarding bringing wealth to a rural area... today's idea of wealth represents IOU's from governments and corporations as well as equity positions in cash flowing businesses...

Tomorrow's wealth might not look like today's wealth.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow's wealth might not look like today's wealth.


Stephen B.

PioneerPreppy said...

The driving thing is a very natural side effect of the population shift into the cities/urban centers. Rural v. urban populations have never been as one sided as they are today. There is also the fact that not one State I am aware of makes getting your license as easy at it used to be and several have made it almost mandatory to wait until you are 18.

The kids around here still get them as soon as possible although they don't drive all over the place like we (I) used to of course.

I think it's just more a matter of cost/need and geography than any lack of desire.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I think so, too. But I don't think the young people know that or think that... if they think its their idea, so much the better!