Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Europe is edging towards making post-car cities a reality (economist.com)
684 points by tosh 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 605 comments



Spent the last 6 months in Seoul and the surrounding cities in Korea. Never needed a car. You can literally do everything without a car, everything is a short walk. I truly believe it makes a huge positive impact on happiness when you can just walk anywhere instead of having to drive. Also you'll notice that in Korea/Japan there are way more small businesses and things to do (eg. karaoke, cafes, etc) because people of this. In America there's relatively less to do because leaving the home is more of a hassle and less interesting, so people just stay in more.

My least favorite thing about living in America is the dependence on cars (outside of a select few cities like NYC). Now that my parents in the suburbs sold their spare car, whenever I go back to visit, I'm stranded there during the weekdays because the nearest bus stop is like a 40 minute walk, and the nearest subway would be maybe a 90 minute walk. If I need to go anywhere, I'm dependent on Uber/Lyft. Even if I get access to a car, there's relatively much less to do as I mentioned above.


It's the case not just in Korea and Japan but in most cities outside of America. It's one of American peculiarities, like checks or no public health care.

China has a fantastic subway system in most big cities, for example. I once took a subway ride from the Shenzhen airport to the Hong Kong border, crossed the border, switched to another subway and arrived in downtown Hong Kong. That's around 65km (40 miles) by public subway!


I wouldn't say most cities unfortunately. European cities are quite walkable and not as sprawling as American ones. But it is still pretty easy to end up were only cars can go not that far from the city center, or where there is only the occasional bus. Asia is really the leader in public transport now. I think the article is slightly misleading. Currently in Europe things like bike infrastructure and public transport is sort of like the development of drones. Everyone is saying they are doing it to claim they are keeping up, but not a lot is happening. It isn't like Shenzhen were every year there is a new pedestrian street, bikes, subway line, train line or something became electrified.


I live in Europe (in Prague right now) and I never needed to own a car here. I would say it depends on the city in Europe. However, if you occasionally happen to be outside of the city center where only cars go you would call Uber. I am fine with that when 90% of my daily transport is covered by public transport.


I live in Germany, and use the bike, e-scooter/bikes/... and public transport for everything.

I have owned a car before, and I did not use those other transportation methods any less. We don't own a car anymore because it does not make economic sense for us.

When we need to travel by car inside the city, we just use Uber (~30 EUR/month is what we currently pay). When we need a car for a couple of hours to pick up stuff, we use one of the car sharing vendors. We can get "the right car" for whatever we need for ~4 hours with gas for less than ~20 EUR (~once every two months). When we want to travel around with a car, we just rent a high end one for the weekend for ~300 EUR. We do that once every two months, although in the summer a bit more often. This means we end up paying ~3000-3500 EUR/year in rentals/uber.

If we were to own a high end car, we would at least have to pay 30.000 EUR/year for a used one with 100k kms. On top, we need to pay insurance (~500-600EUR/year), parking (~150EUR/month where we live), maintenance (~200/year), handle some other burdens (wheel changes, etc.), and if for whatever reason we need a different car (to pick up something big), we still need to rent that. That puts the costs of owning a car at 2300-2400EUR/year + unforeseen maintenance + gas + rentals + (30.000 EUR - reselling value) / (years until re-selling).

Where we live, unless one uses the car at least every weekend, it makes no sense owning one. At one weekend usage per month, you can just rent, and are more flexible.


Your estimated costs are pretty average, but I found the €30k figure curious. Used cars are dirt cheap in Germany, and they are often in really good shape and well maintained compared to used cars in other countries.

I occasionally drive a 20 year old Opel that was purchased 7 years ago for €2500. It works great. I ride my bike most of the time, but it's really handy to have a car to haul kids or heavy/bulky stuff.


€30k is only a little under the annual salary in Germany, so I'm suspicious that this figure is somewhat overblown as well.

€30k is enough for pretty much any new entry level or basic trim car outside of Audi/BMW/Porsche.


Cars are important status symbols in Germany, and people who can afford it often do exactly as described--buy a new or slightly used Audi/BMW/Mercedes, use it for a while, keep it in absolutely immaculate condition, and sell it on a couple of years later for close to what they paid for it. Those higher end cars often go through many owners until they no longer pass inspection and finally get exported. 'Ordinary' people are more likely to drive lower end cars, which seem to have a different life cycle, ending as student cars and getting crushed instead of exported. That's my impression anyway, could be wrong. My experience (see Opel reference above) is that those lower end cars can be had for pretty cheap and often in great shape. With a little care, you can keep them running for ages on the cheap.


And then those sold cars end up in Poland. Reuse, then recycle. ;)


If you have kids, especially more than one, a no-car city center is a nightmare. Even in Europe.


That very much depends on the city. I had no problem getting around Paris/Amsterdam/London/Rome when I was traveling with my friend's family (3 kids). A car would have been a bigger nightmare with traffic and parking and we weren't even staying in the central areas.

But it also depends on how and where you live and work specifically. If I lived in a many of the areas outside of the Périphérique in Paris, not owning a car would probably impact your overall quality of life, but I'd still not want to take it into the city.


Rome should not be on that list IMO. Its public transport is terrible, at least in the centre. Still preferable to having to drive there though, that's for sure. I'm sure it's not true of every part of the city, but I was unpleasantly surprised by inadequate rush hour bus service. Haven't seen buses that packed since my childhood in 1990s Ukraine.


I have 2 kids and live in Berlin car-less without trouble.

We use public transit and bicycles (lots of parents have cargo bikes for transporting little kids e.g. https://www.babboe.de/lastenraeder/big).


vienna is definitely not a nightmare with kids and no car. even disregarding the subway and public transport, i see plenty of people riding around with bike trailers (fits two) if the weather permits.


How about you raise your kids without the big trust-no-one bubble mover?


I also have a hard time seeing how a "high end car" is a fair comparison to not having a car at all.

Anyway, could you also elaborate on your parking situation? Is this mostly destination parking? I'm just a bit surprised, since a resident parking permit is like €20 for two years here in berlin [0].

[0] https://service.berlin.de/dienstleistung/121721/ (german)


It's the same reason why you can have vending machines everywhere in Japan but not in the US. Uniformly high cultural level (relatively speaking), as well as a high level of trust (justified) probably has a lot to do with it.


I don't see how a lack of uniform culture and trust prevents vending machines elsewhere, or what it has to do with vending machine proliferation?

In japan you even have vending machines to pay for your restaurant food inside the restaurant, where your usually paying upfront. And some parking lots have per stall locks that don't let you drive away until you pay. You could argue that is symbolic of lower "trust".


The "vending machines" inside restaurants are only there to increase efficiency and reduce labor needs, because there's a labor shortage of sorts in Japan.

For stuff outside, they just don't have problems with vandalism and theft the way America does, so it makes it much more feasible to have lots of vending machines outside: no one is going to deface them or break into them.

This is also really useful for bicycling. Bikes in Japan all seem to have little locks on the back which go through the rear wheel's spokes, so someone can't just hop on and pedal away. But there's nothing stopping someone from picking the bike up and carrying it away, putting it on a truck, etc. But theft is almost nonexistent in Japan, so people just leave their bike parked on the sidewalk and don't worry about it, and this makes biking very easy and feasible, whereas in the US you have to worry about someone stealing it if it isn't U-locked to something completely immovable, and even then someone might steal parts off of it.


I don't buy your labor shortage thesis because the vending machines are also commonplace inside restaurants in Korea, and there is certainly no labor shortage here. I think it's more of a cultural thing - Koreans (and Japanese) value efficiency more than Americans when it comes to eating out. Korean dining is the most standardized and efficient I've seen in the world.

How is this about culture and not about economics? People presumably don't steal bikes for fun but to fence them, because that's the best way for them to keep themselves from starving.


Having a country with starving people is absolutely about culture. The culture of that country doesn't allow any social welfare programs, so people become like that.


I think the parent comment is referring to vandalism. See any public machine in any big US cities.


Depends on the city, really. I live in Dublin, which has a not-great public transport system (a couple of train lines, a couple of tram lines, a vast, sprawling, slow bus system). I don't have a use for a car (on the rare occasion I need to go to the suburbs, I can use the bus system), but some people certainly do. When I visit German cities, though, I'm always kind of amazed anyone bothers having a car.


That gap is being bridged by scooters (electric rental ones, but also private ones, non electric ones) and bikes (same here, rental but also private ones)

In general people are less reticent to bring a foldable bike in the subway for instance.


I can't speak for mainland China, but if it's anything like Taiwan, there's probably an illusion of accessibility brought on by the sheer size of the cities/transportation infrastructure that you don't really notice until you've lived there a while.

The subway systems in Taipei and Kaohsiung are great, but it's easy to ignore just how much of each city isn't serviced by underground or above ground rail, and are only accessible via public transportation through spotty bus networks.


> It's the case not just in Korea and Japan but in most cities outside of America. It's one of American peculiarities, like checks or no public health care.

As opposed to the peculiarity of Japan, where cash (often in envelopes) is used for a lot of stuff (instead of cards). :)


In New York you don't need a car either. But this isn't good enough. A Car-free city means no one is allowed to use automobiles for personal transportation. I'm sick of non-necessary car use ruining the quality of life for everyone else.


How long did that take?


Dunno about China, but you can go from one end of the city to the other in Delhi - a distance of nearly 40km by car - in under 1 hour by metro.


There is public health care in US. Medicare for old people, Medicaid for poor people, and anyone without insurance can go to the ER. It may not be great, but it does exist.


> There is public health care in US. Medicare for old people, Medicaid for poor people, and anyone without insurance can go to the ER. It may not be great, but it does exist.

There is some public healthcare but no universal healthcare.

ER is not healthcare. You do not get treatment for chronic diseases, cancer etc. ER only treats you for the life or health threatening consequences of not getting treatment.


For cancer, yes. For chronic diseases that can treated with a pill like heart disease and diabetes, they will prescribe the pills. People should use the word universal if that is what they mean.


Most people outside US when they say public healthcare they mean what's known in US as universal one.


This seems like a pedantic point. The US AFAIK is the only healthcare system that is as dysfunctional as it is in the first world.


While traveling outside the US, I have found many people think Americans are cold and heartless and just let people die. It is an understandable conclusion the way people talk about the US system in the media and internet, but it also isn't true. The US has dysfunctional, public healthcare but it isn't so dysfunctional that you just die if you fall or get an ear infection without insurance. So saying the US has "no public health care" is not only incorrect but it is also overly dramatic.


But you are fucked with a huge bill that would cripple your life in a way that you might as well be dead.


And folks do skip going to the doctor, ration their medicines, and other such things.

Folks suffer until things are an emergency as well and hospitals won't always help if you, say, need surgery for cancer that isn't presently killing you and isn't an emergency.


Yes, it is dysfunctional. No one is arguing otherwise.


The government reimburses hospitals for ER visits if the patient can't pay.


Hospital will gladly send you to collections and fuck your credit, though.


Citation? Genuinely curious.


The source is my wife who is a clinical pharmacist at a large hospital which has a sizable uninsured patient population. Here is the first result on Google which does talk a little about federal funding for "uncompensated care" [1] starting near the halfway point.

My wife's hospital was hit hard by ACA because it reduced federal funding for uncompensated care. The idea was that the funding could be cut because more people overall would be insured. Unfortunately enough of their patients still are without insurance that the funding shortage led to two rounds of layoffs. They seem to have adjusted to the new financial reality now and are hiring again. But the first couple years after ACA passed were tough.

I guess it would be more accurate to say that the federal government funds uninsured ER visits, but the funding falls short of what is necessary especially after ACA.

1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/07/03/who-...


But there are people who choose to die rather than risk bankrupting their family with uncontrollable medical costs.

So there's plenty of drama. Medical bankruptcy in particular is something that I don't think occurs anywhere else.


> So there's plenty of drama. Medical bankruptcy in particular is something that I don't think occurs anywhere else.

I doubt the veracity of this oft-repeated meme, but I'll let Snopes provide the detailed analysis: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/643000-bankruptcies-in-the...

I would appreciate similarly-detailed evidence to the contrary.


The summary of that Snopes article is that while medical bankruptcy in the US is indeed far more common than anywhere else, it's not entirely unheard of outside the US. Not all medical expenses are always covered, and disability can always lead to financial difficulties anywhere. Though medical bankruptcy is still significantly less common; in the US it's the leading cause of personal bankruptcies, in other countries it's a lesser cause.


This paper from the American Journal of Public Health says ~530k/year.

http://sci-hub.tw/https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304901


What's more, Medicaid costs about as much per American citizen as the NHS costs per British citizen. The only difference is that NHS also covers all those British citizens, whereas Medicare only covers a small group.

So Americans are already paying for socialised health care, they're just not receiving it.


Checks? France loves checks and use them more than Americans.

No public health care? That isn’t true either. Medicaid and Medicare are public health care.

Another legitimate peculiarity of Americans is the vastly higher disposable income compared to most other countries. Even with all of the “free” stuff, the French have lower wages and far less disposable income than Americans.


> No public health care? That isn’t true either. Medicaid and Medicare are public health care.

I think you know that "public healthcare" was referring to universal healthcare in this context. US is the only western democracy without universal healthcare.


Switzerland and the Netherlands healthcare is private though people are obligated to get a plan. Works great and cheaper than here in France which is horribly expensive for anyone with a decent wage.


The Dutch and especially Swiss healthcare systems are actually among the most expensive in Europe. France is cheaper per capita.


Yes per capita, that's why I said "for anyone with a decent wage". France has one of the highest unemployment rate in OCDE, so for all these people it is indeed cheap, in fact free. But for those actually making more than the minimum wage (and for anyone making close to a SV salary or the French equivalent), you end up paying way way more than the Dutch and the Swiss.


Yeah that's what I meant. Too late to edit comment!


> Checks? France loves checks and use them more than Americans.

I am afraid your data is outdated: it is now used for less than 15% of payments, mainly by old people or for C2C payments.

I am in my late twenties and have emitted only 3 checks from my account, in my entire life.


15% is still a lot more than in many other countries. Checks are certainly on the way out, but in rural southern France, there are still places where you can pay with check but not with pin card.


I had to use them years ago to pay some club for the kids (UK), and every time I was sweating - where do i write the amount? Where the name? Is it readable? Did I mark the end correctly?... Thank $deity banks phased them out.


The French have the RIB system, wherein you can send a snapshot of what your account details are, and the bills are automatically deducted from there. In practice, that means you need to use cheques MUCH less frequently than in the US. What's worse, the US doesn't have an easy way to transfer money electronically between banks! Thus requiring even more cheques.


> The French have the RIB system

When living in France I never came across the use case you describe, at least not in this form. But I did often come across people wanting money from me sending their RIB as an image attachment to emails rather than copying and pasting their IBAN into the body of the mail like elsewhere in Europe.


That's more or less what I meant, except with utility companies instead of people. Apologies if I made it sound fancier. Having lived in the US and France, I think the places where cheques were used a lot was in bills-type things. That's why I brought this example up.


Why would you need checks at all if you can just pay by card or transfer money using your bank online page?


It's often the other way around. Companies sometimes prefer to pay you, reimburements etc, via a cheque.


It's because the USA decided paypal was the way to do C2C transfers between banks and decided not to develop their own as a result.

You also have venmo, square cash, fb messenger, etc.


Don't forget we also spend less on feeding ourselves than anyone else in the world[0].

[0]https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/this-map-shows-how-mu...


That's partly due to lower food standards, surely? Salmonella causes hundreds of deaths per year in the US but I believe almost zero in the US.


If you are going to make inflammatory statements like that, at least back them up with data. Per Table 3[1], the Americans and Europe have roughly the same death rate from salmonella.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668831/


It was inflammatory and for that I apologise.

Table 6 of p.10 [1] shows zero deaths from salmonella in the UK for the period 2006-2015.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

In the context of public healthcare the OP felt like an unwarranted and overly simplistic diversion, which I think is why I got frustrated.

EDIT: I also realised I typed "US" twice in my original comment; the second should be "UK".


My guess would be agricultural subsidies more than food standards.


Really? The US spends about 1% of its budget on agricultural subsidies compared to the EU's 40%.


The EU's budget is tiny, though. It doesn't maintain armies, police, infrastructure, health care or any sort of social security. Farm subsidies are among the few things the EU spends money on. The rest is paid by member states. So this is not a meaningful comparison.


A meaningful comparison is difficult, granted. If anything, doesn't that make OP's point about food prices being low due to agricultural subsidies less tenable though?


No less tenable than the food standards proposition, unless you have data that shows the difference in industry expenditures on food quality.


I found a USDA publication [1] which is a little dated but raises a large number of factors that affect food household expenditure differences between the US and EU. Broadly speaking these are:

- Food prices inc. agricultural protection & consumption taxation;

- Income;

- Food availability;

- Consumption patterns;

- Preference trends inc. health, food safety, production process & taste;

- Demographic trends;

- Retailing & regulation (e.g. consolidation laws).

Some of the factors it highlights that may cause lower expenditure on food in the US than in the EU are:

- Lower food pricing due to protection & taxation;

- Food safety concerns in the EU since mad cow disease and dioxin in chicken feed (and foot & mouth disease in the UK) leading to lower confidence in food supply regulation;

- Greater willingness in the EU to pay more for higher animal welfare in the food chain;

- Higher proportion of organically grown food across the EU and differing definitions of "organic";

- Longer history of consolidation laws in the US.


Apologies I missed copying the actual reference in my last post: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/40408/30646_wr...

EU budget does subsidize infrastructure and some R&D grants.


Don't let be fooled by the "tourist impression". Staying for some days isn't the same as living in a place, involving commuting to work, bringing children to school, etc

Every city looks nice as a Tourist, but then it's hard if you live there and in the false zone of the city (=farest away)


Spent 6 years in the US as a European. By far the worst part on a daily basis was the missing public transportation due to the enormous focus on cars. Many towns didn't even attempt to be accessible to anyone without a car.

I sometimes waited for hours in NY state blizzards to catch a bus before I was able to afford a car. I walked 2-3 hours to a mall and to Walmart when all other students went home for break. Bus service was irregular and spotty.

We have shittier bus services in small towns and villages as well and people often use cars for convenience. But public transport is still present at a minimum level.

I honestly don't get this dependence and focus on cars in the US. Must be some former Detroit lobbyism that led to this.


The car industry influence played a role but is always overplayed in these kinds of discussions, and ignore equally if not more important factors.

-On macro scale, the US is bigger, more spread out, with tons of land, and there's something in the American psyche that pushes Americans to expand, settle, and use all of it.

-On a micro scale, and as a consequence of the first point, Americans are accustomed to homes that are much bigger, have yards, and are more adverse to sharing a wall with a neighbor. Sure there have been exceptions like tenements in NYC, but even in those cases those residents could wait to get their own Levittown cape cod in a residential subdivision.

-Finally, a ton of this growth happened at right after cars became mainstream and affordable, but before the long terms downsides of car based societies were well understood. Therefore, a huge majority of infrastructure investments were made on what people wanted (cars and space), and not public transit.

-Now, while many of the problems of car based societies are better understood, that doesn't nullify the often ignored benefits of car based societies. Also, for public transit to work at a massive scale, people would have increasingly do two things that Americans intrinsically hate: Move closer together and pay more taxes. There may be a growing population that finds that appealing, but the silent majority in this case is an enormous and entrenched one.


There's an old conspiracy, although its accuracy is debatable, google the "General Motors streetcar conspiracy." Another potential possibility is many cities scrapped their streetcars for spare metal during WWII. Along with that, market forces and lobbying and policy by people like Robert Moses, the current form of America was created.


These things all happened. But a huge part is simply that people live in suburbs built at a time when people could afford cars. So they did. Just as their grandparents moved out to districts served by streetcars as soon as they could, for the same reasons -- affordable floor area, cleaner air, less noise.

The central part of most EU cities is pre-1914, when cars were a curiosity. And for decades after that, cars were nowhere near as affordable to citizens as they were in the US, because the US was just much richer in (say) 1960.


They lost court cases over it, I don't think it is fair to call its accuracy debatable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_consp...


The debatable aspect is how much of an impact it had. Many other cities without a similar conspiracy also got rid of their streetcars.


The veracity of the story notwithstanding, the core of the conspiracy, though, was to push buses over streetcars, not cars.


...Because (per the conspiracy) the manufacturers of cars knew that busses were unpleasant to ride in (compared to trolley cars) and that most people would prefer to own a car over riding in one.


The market forces element is the one that people tend to ignore in these types of conversations. Americans couldn't wait to move out to the suburbs.


Having moved from somewhere with working public transportation to the United States (and having lived here for close to a decade), I can assure you it’s not tourist impression.


Same here. Moved from Europe to SF. I missed taking walks and seeing plenty of things. Things are really quiet here.


Can’t be that bad in SF. I first lived in SV then in Greater NY Area, but not in the cities. In either case there’s like one or two small grocery stores within walking distance, I can’t even do proper shopping without a car, unless I’m willing to bike for forty minutes or more in the two-feet-wide bike lanes (sometimes nonexistent) without any separation from motor traffic. (And in the latter area, should I choose to bike, I would be the only cyclist in miles.)


How many kids do you have? Any more than one and car becomes necessary in my experience.


Imagine a world where instead of having to strap your screaming kids in to a car seat for an hour drive in traffic, you walked along a pedestrian street, your kids kicking a ball around, you visit a couple stores, see your kids off to their school, and then walk a couple more blocks to work.

When school is over your kids walk safely back home by themselves because there aren't cars out there threatening their lives.

This sounds way less stressful than your kids being dependent on you and your car for everything they need.


I don't thing this is what codebolt was talking about.

If you can one kid - there is no problem really. Walk him or her to school in the morning, ask grandmother to bring them back etc.

When you have more than one - it is entrily possible they will end up going to different schools and after the school one of them had to go to the music shool and the other one to his hockey team or something etc etc. You simply can't do this without a car.

I was the only child in the family so we never needed a car for this kind of scenario, plus we were living in a relatevely small city (450k), so public transport was more than enough for me, but this is not always the case.

>and then walk a couple more blocks to work.

yeah, now imaging you have two of them going to two different schools, each 40 minutes walking distance from home, different directions and your office in somewhere else too.


As have been pointed out by multiple people, kids are perfectly capable of taking public transit themselves. Kids under ten might need to be accompanied by a guardian, but there are usually two parents in a household, and some grandparents will help, too. Caretakers can be hired in certain cases. Some family “pool” their kids together too, not unlike in the U.S. where parents would take turns to drive neighbors’ kids.

Also, having cars but no public transit doesn’t change the fundamental equation and doesn’t improve the situation much (especially considering the fact that in many places driving in the morning rush hours might even be slower than taking the subway), in fact quite the opposite, teenagers are wholly dependent on parents when they could have been independent.

> You simply can’t do this without a car.

I grew up like that. People have been doing that for decades.


> As have been pointed out by multiple people, kids are perfectly capable of taking public transit themselves.

This is another difference that intersects with other issues in America. In a car, your child is under your control. Moreover, adding to your following point of a child under ten being unaccompanied in public, no American parent would dream of letting their children go out alone and recently, this includes even children in their early teens. Especially in the previous decades, helicopter parenting has reached a new peak in the US, this seems somewhat coincident with a general infantalization of young adults.


It is incredibly common for kids to be alone in cities in the US. I can look out my window right now and see 2 children playing in a park with no supervision.

On my train commute every morning there were school children who get off at my stop because it’s where their school is. Their rides happen at reduced fares as well.

The trope rings very false to me and seems to be about one particular demographic (white and suburban).

If there is an increase in over watching our children it’s because we’ve over indexed on cars, not the reverse.


There have also been cases where families were threatened with/by CPS for letting their children outside without supervision. It's good to know that attitude is not universal, but it does occur.


Those cases are newsworthy, because they are newsworthy.

As kasey_junk implied, this sort of over-protectiveness is not universal in the USA. For example, NYC provides all students that live further than 1/2 mile from their school with a discounted public transit card (soon to be free). While very young kids are rare, tween and teen students can often be seen unaccompanied on mass transit. And even more often walking alone or in groups without parents. No one bats an eye except possibly to complain a bit about the groups of boisterous kids blocking the sidewalk :-)


> no American parent would dream of letting their children go out alone and recently, this includes even children in their early teens

This is, AFAICT, mostly a white suburban “middle-class” (mid-high income working class, including proletarian intelligentsia, really) attitude, rather than something that applies to all American parents.


Along with the other replies, you're right. I will say though, when we're talking about car culture, white suburban middle class types are ones to mostly support it.


>usually two parents in a household,

That's getting less true as time goes on.

>and some grandparents will help,

If your parents live more then ~45min away (this is probably true for most people) it's probably not realistic to expect them to help out with childcare.

>Caretakers can be hired in certain cases

If you have the $$$ to rationalize it. That said, if you have to choose between a caretaker and a car it's an easy choice for most people.

>I grew up like that. People have been doing that for decades.

People have been enduring hardships for centuries. It's foolish to expect them to voluntarily continue doing so when they have other options. The fact of the matter is that most people who are in a position to own a car find owning a car worth the tradeoffs.


>As have been pointed out by multiple people, kids are perfectly capable of taking public transit themselves.

Sure, after a certain age.

>Kids under ten might need to be accompanied by a guardian, but there are usually two parents in a household, and some grandparents will help, too. Caretakers can be hired in certain cases.

This works out well in a well developed coutry I suppose. In Russia, for example, most people won't have this kind of options. You want your kid safe? You take your kid to the school yourself (before 10).

And again - I've describe certain cases, not just one. We've never had a car too, but for some cases this is a necessity.


So basically we change our quality of life to fit some urban ideal? My kids’ grandparents live in a different state and a different country.

A child on the BART train? You have got to be kidding. With the insane people, mentally ill, the thieves and the homeless, I would’t expose my kids to having to deal with that nonsense. Cars are awesome. Being forced to share public transportation with a bunch of weirdos isn’t progress.

I am riding home right now at 2am from the airport in Hayward to my house in Mountain View. In a car, I’ll be home soon. With public transport, I’m stranded for hours. Public transportation can’t go everywhere.


At least tens of millions of teenage or younger students take public transit to school around the world, somehow few of them seem to fall prey to “the insane people, mentally ill, the thieves and the homeless.”

Last I checked kids don’t tend to wander outside at 2am, and places with public transit tend to have taxis too. (I would add that the last thing I want to do at 2am is to drive myself home; in fact, a couple years back I had an accident due to driving jet-lagged the day following an international flight.)


Your child is probably realistically safer on a train than in your car. Deaths due to traffic accidents per year are much, _much_ greater than deaths on trains through all causes, per passenger km. Of course, people aren't great at assessing risk.


Ah, but so many families have already changed their quality of life to fit the suburban/car-centric ideal.


>A child on the BART train? You have got to be kidding. With the insane people, mentally ill, the thieves and the homeless,

Typical American paranoia.


I’m a huge proponent of the whole “free range kid” thing, and am always looking for ways to encourage my kid’s independence, but there’s no way on earth I’m putting her on BART by herself. This is not a general paranoia about trains or public transportation—it’s a specific observation about BART in particular.

Hell, I won’t take BART through certain stops at certain times of the day and I’m a grown-ass man.


I have a different experience - with 3 kids, in a 2M city does't even have a great transport infrastructure (Bucharest). School/kindergarden is within walking distance. Highschool is farther away, indeed (because that's what the elder kid chose - she wanted a school outside the neighbourhood), but she still goes there by public transit. In fact it's probably faster by subway than by car, in the morning. Kids go to english classes, drawing classes, swimming etc. either by walking or public transit.

Maybe it "helps" that the public roads are congested, and I simply wouldn't have time to take them anywhere by car. It definitely helps that I live in a good/central neighbourhood that is well covered by public transit.


Since the age of 11 I went to school by myself. Sports, dentist appointments and doctors too. It's very common here in Europe and I don't even live in a big city. I see kids on their bikes with a big hockey stick poking out their backpack almost daily.

You mention 40 minute walking distance, that's three kilometres for a child or about 10 minutes by bicycle. Or perhaps five stops on a tram or subway.

It took a lot of stress off my parents that my brother and me were independent from a young age. Living in a society where you don't need cars gives you that flexibility and ease.


Same for me, but I was the only child and as you've said: "Since the age of 11". It is as common here in Russia as it is in Europe.

We were talknig about kids though.


Why would they need to walk 40 minutes? In countries with good public school systems, all of the public schools are equally acceptable so you just send them to the nearest one which is generally less than a mile walk away.


I lived in France in the south in a small town. The school was a 5 mile drive away. The grocery store was 2 miles away. My young kid went to one school, the older one to another and they were in opposite sides of the commune. In the south of France, everyone has a car. I also spent time in a small town near Bremen, Germany.. A bus game every hour. Things were far apart and yes, there, most people have cars. Suggesting “Europe” is just like Amsterdam is stereotyping and doesn’t represent reality for millions of people who don’t live in larger cities.


I live in Russia and we have different school for example. >Common >Lyceum >Gymnasium

Lyceum and Gymnasium will give you better programs, teachers, resources, special subjects etc. They have fewer seats too obviously. And you don't have too many of them.

Common schools why being generally the same - also usually have different education levels. So before sendingg your kid to one of them you do a research - what kind of teachers does the school has, does it have football field or pool, maybe even you'll look into what have become of it's graduates.

When I was in school (1995-2005) The nearest school was... okay. It wasn't bad, but you don't really expect anything of it. Half boys older than 14 were smoking already, girls not giving two shits about studies, teachers who would just to their 9 to 17 routine. So I was attending Gymnasium 20 minutes away if you take a bus.


I think you're living in a make-believe world of homogeneity. There are vast differences between the quality of schooling - both public or private - even within global metropolises like NYC, London, Paris & Tokyo. Its downright laughable to assume otherwise.


Probably depends on the country. Here in the Netherlands the difference of quality is really small between public elementary schools. Private schools are practically non-existent.


Middle and high school do matter, but I don’t think primary/elementary/grade school — whatever you call it — makes much of a difference. I attended the average neighborhood primary school back in my day, and went on to the most competitive middle school, high school, and university.


Are you really implying a school in Croydon, a large town in south London is going to be functionally and qualitatively equivalent to say a school in Golders Green, an area in the London Borough of Barnet? [1][2]

Equivalent in all the areas one might measure the attractiveness and potential of a school?

[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croydon

[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golders_Green

edit:typo


You've linked to the wrong wikipedia article, and used the word "town", which leads me to think you don't understand London much.

Is there any reason you linked to wikipedia articles about a part of London with a large Jewish population vs a part of London with a large ethnic minority population?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Borough_of_Croydon


I just realized that. Yes the one you linked is the one I meant to use in my example.

I meant to pick a town/neighborhood with rich inhabitants (per capita) and a town/neighborhood with not so well off inhabitants.


I know nothing about schooling in England, but I would imagine the parents’ education as well as socioeconomic status plays a much greater role than elementary schooling, as is the case everywhere else.


I live in London, and I don't get your point. There are OFSTED Outstanding-rated schools both in Croydon and Golders Green.


The UK is a pretty poor example since it's a very elitist country.


Outside of primary schools with a very strict religious background they are really all the same. You don't look at those with exit metrics and average scores on national tests the way you do with schooling after it.


> yeah, now imaging you have two of them going to two different schools, each 40 minutes walking distance from home, different directions and your office in somewhere else too.

I grew up in a small village (+-70k) in the Netherlands, we had 4 schools within 15 min walking distance and I think twice as many with 15 min cycling distance (all kids go to school by bike here). Why would you send your kids to schools 40 minutes walking distance from home?

edit: added number of inhabitants of the village


Why would you send your kids to schools 40 minutes walking distance from home?

Some times you don't have a choice. Happened to a friend of mine here in Sweden. Their first kid got into the school closest to home. When it was the second kids turn that school was 'full' and they got sent to a school 10 km in the exact opposite direction.



Even as an elementary school kid I walked to school by myself or with class mates. My older brother, being in middle school by then would walk over to the next train station in the next town and take the train to his school by himself. I would do the same later-on. If your parents brought you to school every day you'd probably have been made fun of by all the other kids.


I think you're struggling to imagine the impact that good public transport has on a cities design. Schools, parks, shops, sporting facilities all start congregating around transport stops/hubs so basically everywhere you need to take kids is within a 5 minute walk of one another.

> yeah, now imaging you have two of them going to two different schools, each 40 minutes walking distance from home, different directions and your office in somewhere else too.

I can't imagine why you would send them to different schools, unless one is a high school in which case they're old enough to get there by themselves. For most people the school they're taking the kids to is right next to the transit stop they'll be taking to work.


I live in Moscow and we arguably have a very good public transpot system. Not the best, but still.

As of the rest of you comment - here is my answer: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20632459


It’s definitely possible without a car — people here in Holland do it all the time. Maybe qualify your answer to “suburban America” and similarly (non)designed places?

Point is, it’s not fundamentally impossible to live with 2+ kids and no car.


I live in Russia though. When I went to school (1995-2005) I lived in a 450k city, now it is Moscow. And Moscow have much better public transport than many other places.

My point was about little kids, you won't send them off to a public transport. We are not talking about teenagers here. Not me at least.


Sounds like a problem of where you live(d) rather than intrinsic to cars or lack thereof.

I have 2 kids and live in Berlin and never had nor needed a car. I previously lived for 8 years in Vienna and the same holds true there.

The same will be true to most or all decently-sized western European cities.


> When you have more than one - it is entrily possible they will end up going to different schools and after the school one of them had to go to the music shool and the other one to his hockey team or something etc etc. You simply can't do this without a car.

In a city designed for walking and bicyling, you can do that by bike. And once they're old enough, they can do it on their own bike.

Of course the city needs to be designed for that. In a city designed only for cars, you're going to need a car for everything. The big issue here is: how do we want to design our cities?

> now imaging you have two of them going to two different schools, each 40 minutes walking distance from home, different directions and your office in somewhere else too.

If they're going to two different schools, most likely one of them is going to secondary school and can ride their own bike, or one of them is going to a special needs school and gets picked up. At least, that's how it works around here.

In any case, I don't consider 40 minutes a suitable distance for walking: take a bike. It's only a few minutes that way.

That said, my wife did insist I get a driver's license when we had kids, and I did. I rarely use it, and certainly for moving kids around the city, a light cargo bike is more practical in Amsterdam.


>If they're going to two different schools, most likely one of them is going to secondary school and can ride their own bike, or one of them is going to a special needs school and gets picked up. At least, that's how it works around here.

My other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20632459

As for the 'secondary' school - I, for example, was attending a Gymnasium as main and a musical Lyceum as a secondary. Both since 6-7 years old. And that's pretty common over here.


A single kid going to two different schools is extremely rare here, but as it happens, that's exactly what my son has doing since he was 8: a regular school just around the corner, and a "day a week" school for gifted children which is a bit further away. I take him there by bike. A car wouldn't add much value for me there.

But Amsterdam is a sizable yet compact city, which makes everything easy to reach. In a differently designed city, or a smaller town where you might have to travel to another town, things can be completely different.


In a lot of European cities kids walk and bike themselves to school.


Even when I lived in the US as a kid me and my friends would bike to elementary school. But this was in the early 90's before everyone went completely neurotic


I hope this works -- street view of in front of a Japanese kindergarten. Electric 2 seater bikes are the name of the game here for 2 child families.

https://www.google.com/maps/@35.675605,139.6796798,3a,75y,22...


Yep, that's what I saw in Japan recently too (both electric and non-electric). Tons of bikes had a child seat, some of them had 2 child seats.

I also loved how (as you can see in this photo), people just park their bike the way you park a car: you just leave it there, without locking it to something. Here in America bikes like that would be stolen left and right. But I guess that's one of the big differences between a highly industrialized and developed nation and a 3rd-world one.


"yeah, now imaging you have two of them going to two different schools, each 40 minutes walking distance from home"

How old are these kids? Can they not walk themselves?


Let's say 8 and 9. They can, but they should not at that age. Not before 11-12.


To the people who say you need a car if you have kids - this is how we do it in Copenhagen:

https://live.staticflickr.com/3662/3465284112_5aab494014_b.j...

A transporter bike can carry 2-3 kids easily. It's the most convenient, cheap and healthy option. As soon as the kids are old enough they get their own bike.

Of course, it's convenient to have access to a car a couple of times a month. But definitely not on a daily basis.


Not sure why people are down voting you, but I think this time it may not be the general HN negativity, but simply because they think you are attempting a bad joke.

This is exactly how many parents in Copenhagen drive their kids around. I would say that around half of all young parents in Copenhagen get a transporter bike like this one.

We were leaving Copenhagen for America shortly after our youngest was born but otherwise we would have biked the kids around as well.


We have transporters in the US, they are called cars. And they have air conditioning. The entire world doesn’t have to be just like the Netherlands. Try riding one of those transporter bikes in the Colorado mountains in winter or in south Florida in the summer.


Sure, this doesn't work everywhere. But think of Los Angeles. Very high population density, apart from a few hills it's mostly flat and the climate is nice. To get to any place 1 mile away I'd have to go by car. Often there is congestion and I have to wait in traffic. Plus, there is no direct route to the place so have to go a huge detour - perhaps even shortly on a highway. This could be so much easier and healthier by bike - if the city was built for this.

Bottom-line: some cities can never be be great for bikes. But most can but just aren't.


That's why they invented e-bikes.


Those cargo bikes, like Nihola aren't that cheap though.


As someone who commutes by bike regularly, transporters are one of the primary reasons for why it is so miserable.

They usually go 15km/h or even slower (presumably due to the extra weight and/or overprotective new parents), and they're so wide that they take up the whole lane, preventing you from overtaking them. And since we usually have grade-separated bike lanes here (supposedly the holy grail, according to HN!) you can't even spill into the car lane temporarily.


> and they're so wide that they take up the whole lane, preventing you from overtaking them.

This is a problem with lanes that are too small. An effect of giving most space to cars and sharing the left-overs between bikes and people walking.


As another commenter said: require city council to build wider bike lanes. Another example from Copenhagen:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/Dronning...

You can easily ride 3 bikes next to each other (and also four if you want). A single slow transporter won't block the traffic on wide lanes like this.


Hi fellow Copenhagener,

There are few things that make Copenhagen attractive to own a Christiania bike:

1- Very flat city and mild climate, although wet sometimes. 2- The city if fairly small geographically. 3- Public transit is a bit slow. 4- Very high taxes on cars. When I compare to Malmö, I have the impression most people there own cars. 5- Vast majority of people I know who live outside Copenhagen main neighborhoods own a car. Bearing in mind that outside Copenhagen isn't that far in distance but enough to degrade commute and life style without a car.


Are you talking about shuttling your kids to school? I know in Japan most kids 6y+ just take themselves on public transport or walking.

How is it done in other countries?


Germany: Most (all?) cities have special tickets for pupils. There are separate bus lines in the morning which pick up the pupils from the bus stops and take them directly to school.

In the afternoon there are some special lines too, otherwise you just take a normal line with your pupil ticket.

That's at least how it worked in my time, like 20+ years ago.


Still does generally. Sometimes city administration is picky in granting these tickets, but my city is a special case when it comes to money anyway. In Munich for example the subway is usually crowded with children around 7:30.


Poland, tickets here are free for kids under 7 and for primary school kids with valid school ID... And 50% discount for higher education. That's in addition to long range school busses.


I just walked to school. I never needed to take a bus or the car except when I lived far in the countryside. I'm talking about Spain.

Anyway schools sometimes have their own bus, parents pay a private company so the bus takes the students either from their home or very close.

In the uni there was special bus lines that went around all the city to the campus.


> In the uni there was special bus lines that went around all the city to the campus.

I know this from my university city, too. It was arranged that way so that students would not overcrowd the normal bus lines.


I walked to school till I could cycle there (~3km). My parents would drive me only if it was pouring or blizzarding.

(Central Alps, Countryside)


Can confirm for Switzerland. Primary school was walking with friends for 2-3km, bikes were also allowed for older kids.

Middle and high schools are usually farther away. So public bus it is. In the morning there are extra buses for students, but they just stop at the normal stops of the line.


India: School buses come and pick them up. Rest 50% parents drop them on 2-wheelers and car. Close by kids walk to the school with friends if older and with parents if younger.


In NL it is mostly bikes. Even for larger distances (10 km and up).


Define “necessary”.

Of course I would agree it’s necessary in the U.S., but that’s saying very little.


I have one, I live in our second largest city (Aarhus). I’ve lived in Aalborg and Odense as well (two other relatively large cities by Danish standards).

I’m 36 and I’ve never taken a drivers license because I’ve never needed it.


I am sorry but I've noticed to be a bit different in Copenhagen. I've been living here for 3 years, and the number of cars have grown quite a lot to my perception, specially between families (maybe just because they are luxury cars and Teslas everywhere).

I am 36 have one little child and feel like I am missing a bit of the country because I don't have a car, even if I have made few trips by train.

Also, a lot of my decisions are now driving by whether it is a short walk distance from home or not. Public transport in Copenhagen is respectful but a bit slow in my opinion (I am from NY), specially if I want to go to the edge of the city or suburbs - which I might want when I decide to settle roots here and buy myself a home (prices in Copenhagen are all time high).


You're hitting on a point that drives a lot of the disconnects in these sorts of discussions.

There are a lot of places where you don't need to own a car or even have a drivers license. And you constrain your activities accordingly. You may rely to some degree on friends with cars (though this tends to become less and less practical as you get older). Or you rent cars as needed if you have a license.

But you probably just tend to forgo activities that involve driving out to the country every other weekend or hauling a lot of gear around or visiting people you can't get to easily with public transit.

As a visitor, I rarely have a rental car in SF (and never if I'm solely going to be in the city) for example. But it means I am going to be pretty much staying in the city rather than taking a hike somewhere for half a day. I do know a couple that live in SF without a car but they do short-term and longer-term rentals all the time.


There’s a world of difference between having a car and using it sparingly (or just renting one sparingly) and having to have a car for every goddamn thing in life. Many friends of mine back in my home country have cars, but they don’t need to drive if they want to say grab a snack at 11pm. For me however, the barrier of stepping out of my home is pretty high, and the decision to anything unplanned and unnecessary is usually why bother. I guess it’s different for people who enjoy driving, but I don’t.


You don't need to own a car to take weekend trips to the country or even a quick trip hauling some gear: just rent one. Here in the US, we have "Zipcar" which lets you rent a car on the spot for a short term; in Europe, I saw "Car2Go" which is probably similar.

>As a visitor, I rarely have a rental car in SF for example. But it means I am going to be pretty much staying in the city rather than taking a hike somewhere for half a day.

I'm in DC, and I've frequently gone on hikes outside the city and seen people drive to the trailhead in a Zipcar.


Only one, but we moved to the city to the country (massively lower CoL) and having to strap the damn kid in to the car every time we go anywhere is pretty annoying. We really miss being able to walk places.


In my experience as a kid in a three-child family without a car, it worked fine. Though agreed that it would've been trickier if any of us had had some gear-intensive hobby like ice hockey.


Often the school is within biking distance of where you live, or they can take the bus - contrary to what many Americans think, even 6 year olds are capable of doing this alone, and they will not be kidnapped.

Commuting to work usually involves getting on the bus/subway only a short walk away. It's more stress free than sitting in traffic.


Public transportation is also full of impolite people, un-assimilated people etc... which makes the commute very unpleasant. Taking the bus/metro everyday at the worse hour, in summer, with rednecks all around you is definitely not the good side of transportation. As soon as i'll get a car, i'll never get back into public transportation


This and a dozen very closely related and tangential things concerning safety, sanitation, hygiene & propriety of people using public transportation is the reason people like me would never opt for it. Unless standards in those aspects of public transit were raised to such a high degree that they were no longer a threat or annoyance, a car would be exponentially more preferable.

I think people on HN seem to underestimate how small of a cross section, the fashionable opinions on HN appeal to and how unrealistic they are, once you bring into full view the jarring realities of modern life and how people cope with them.


As if us public transit users aren't living in reality. Yeah okay bud.

- Public transit is publicly funded. For improvements in safety, cleanliness etc to happen, the systems need (public) money. But you will never pay fares because you're scared to take transit, and you probably would never vote in favor of a ballot measure to allocate more tax money to transit because you happen have a car and don't believe improved transit would benefit you anyway.

- The population using public transit generally reflects the fact that our culture encourages anyone with enough money/resources to purchase and use a car -- leaving behind everyone who can't (e.g. cash poor, disabled). This scares off the more sensitive potential transit users who'd rather pretend these folks don't exist.

The jarring reality is that most Americans (and their political leadership) are classist, sheltered, and have a "fuck you, I got mine" attitude.

Source: US lifelong resident of various large cities, no driver's license at the age of 31.


> Public transit is publicly funded. For improvements in safety, cleanliness etc to happen, the systems need (public) money.

All you are admitting here is that the Government can't provide a compelling alternative to a more expensive form of transport.

> But you will never pay fares because you're scared to take transit, and you probably would never vote in favor of a ballot measure to allocate more tax money to transit because you happen have a car and don't believe improved transit would benefit you anyway.

Why vote to increase spending on something that doesn't benefit you? People won't and you won't convince anyone. This is an unrealistic standard you expect of other people, plus the high and mighty tone you are using won't win people over.

> The population using public transit generally reflects the fact that our culture encourages anyone with enough money/resources to purchase and use a car -- leaving behind everyone who can't (e.g. cash poor, disabled). This scares off the more sensitive potential transit users who'd rather pretend these folks don't exist.

This is such a biased representation of what the real problem is and you conveniently ignore things like violent thugs on public transport (I've experienced this several times in the UK), rowdy teenagers, drunks and the mentally ill.

I used to have a guy who stank and wore a soccer ball on his head catch the same bus, large groups of teenage boys vandalising the train coaches or playing loud music on a quiet carriage and they are far from the worst I've encountered.

No I don't want to have to deal with possibility of violence, nutcases and other general unpleasantness so I won't take the train (I am in the UK).

> The jarring reality is that most Americans (and their political leadership) are classist, sheltered, and have a "fuck you, I got mine" attitude.

I doubt they are. What they want to do is get on with their life with as little hassle as possible, like most people do.

> Source: US lifelong resident of various large cities, no driver's license at the age of 31.

So no real evidence what-so-ever other than your very biased opinion.


Based on your response I'd say my opinion's no more biased than yours!

> All you are admitting here is that the Government can't provide a compelling alternative to a more expensive form of transport. > Why vote to increase spending on something that doesn't benefit you? People won't and you won't convince anyone. This is an unrealistic standard you expect of other people, plus the high and mighty tone you are using won't win people over.

I really don't get why so many folks insist on positioning Government as some sort of "other" entity, as if its functioning isn't directly affected by voters. Anyways, why support transit? Because it _does_ benefit you as a car user but you and your leadership refuses to see it. It's well documented that improving alternate modes of transportation helps alleviate traffic congestion by shifting some drivers to other modes, thus producing less wear and tear on the roads(and your car) and helping drivers get to where they're going faster and safer. Sorry, that's how it works.

> No I don't want to have to deal with possibility of violence, nutcases and other general unpleasantness so I won't take the train

I mean, sure. That's your right. But you _have_ an alternative, whereas many folks have no other choice but to risk the trip, so how exactly is not supporting transit not a "fuck you, I got mine" attitude?


>This is such a biased representation of what the real problem is and you conveniently ignore things like violent thugs on public transport (I've experienced this several times in the UK), rowdy teenagers, drunks and the mentally ill.

Except these problems don't seem to exist at all on Japanese or German trains.

Maybe there's just something seriously wrong with your country.



If you have to quote a three year old article to demonstrate that people do get (occasionally) assaulted on a Japanese train, then yes, it does seem much better to me.


I didn't quote mine. I literally put in "Japanese Train Attack" and pulled some links off the first page to prove that it isn't quite as perfect as it was claimed. I don't like the fact that the UK is demonised constantly because despite a lot of the problems over here we still do a lot of things right.

Also it doesn't address the very valid point I was making is that until public transport is pleasant and reliable (neither is true in the UK, I dunno about anywhere else and don't claim to) people will not use it if they have an alternative.

No amount of guilting such as the comment I was originally replying to will change that.


Obviously you've never been outside your country if you've never seen pleasant and reliable public transit. Even as an American, I've seen plenty of pleasant and reliable public transit, though it's usually outside my country.

Stop claiming that other countries suck when it's only yours that has seems to have a big problem.


So you cherry-pick a few examples (one of which wasn't on public transit at all), and you think that's better than a place where 30,000 people per year are killed in auto crashes? Your likelihood of dying on a train in Japan are almost nil, whereas your likelihood of dying in your car on American roads are actually pretty significant, and it's one of the biggest causes of death of non-elderly people.


I did not cherry-pick, I took some examples off of duck duck go to prove a point that everywhere has their problems and you probably shouldn't be criticising my country (which is quite rude) while completely ignoring the point I was making about public transport being quite unpleasant experience in general and why people quite rightly want to avoid it.

The Government wherever that is will have to sort out those problems rather than just try guilty people into not using their cars.


> you probably shouldn't be criticising my country (which is quite rude)

You're the one criticizing your country, not me. You're the one who said public transit there sucks, not me. I've never been there, so I can't comment on the Underground, but I've been to Germany and Japan and the public transit there is absolutely fantastic. It's not even that bad here in DC, though the reliability isn't that great.

>ignoring the point I was making about public transport being quite unpleasant experience in general and why people quite rightly want to avoid it.

No, I'm not ignoring your point at all, I'm calling it out as ignorant, which it is, because there's plenty of other places in the world with excellent public transit.


Keep in mind this is specific to the US, in Paris you have a lot of suits going to the office using the public transportation (me included), though it depends on the line and the hour of the day.


Is it not more out of necessity though? Would those people not prefer to drive if that was a viable option? In Paris specifically, the public transportation is fairly unpleasant - a lot of homeless people, antisocial behavior, bad odours, etc. Not sure how it is during rush hour, but probably uncomfortably packed too, so the ideal that Americans seem to have of sitting in a pleasant train reading a book or doing some work doesn't quite apply.


It depends but for me definitely not. I have a car and much prefer public transports instead of having to be stuck in traffic then having the hassle of parking the car. I feel way more free in the city without my car, and the journey is faster as well.

You are right that it’s quite packed in the rush hour, but you can still read a book standing.

Regarding the other issues you cite it really depends of the line. The one I take regularly (RER A) is very calm and clean. And keep in mind that there are more than 1 million passengers every day. Touristic areas are certainly problematic but it’s a completely different issue (to put it simply a lot of touristic areas in Paris are dirty and/or in sketchy neighborhoods to start with. Parisians usually don’t go or work there).

Source: taking public transports nearly everyday since more than 15 years in the area. I love my car but for road trips and going to the countryside.


Sure, but assuming there was little traffic and there was plenty of parking available?

My point is that when comparing imperfect reality with perfect "grass on the other side", the "other side" will likely win. For example, given the unaffordability and small size/low quality of dwellings available in London, American perfectly manicured suburbs with plenty of space and big open highways may start to look somewhat appealing.

In the end, it all depends on the actual reality of it - how busy the roads are, how easy it is to find parking, how clean/nice/empty/reliable the public transport is etc. Idealizing one option over the others as can be seen in this thread seems silly. If there is a "silver bullet", it is probably in decentralizing work more such that more people can walk/cycle to work while living in a nice village, while also having clean/fast/efficient public transportation available as well as a great road system to reach the more remote locations / get to places when a car is just more convenient.


Assumption would require razing whole city, with costs to all other users, especially pedestrians. So no, it is not going to happen.

Even with new laws requiring buildings to provide underground parking places, it won't be enough. It's never enough.

The suburbs exist in Greater London area too, just as they do near Warsaw. They have similar style to American ones, but more nearby services and are built in clusters. That makes them much more accessible to foot traffic.


I am living in Prague now and you really don't need a car here. The same applies to Antwerp that I visited this year. I am not sure how well you know Europe, but there are many cities where you don't need a car and public transport is even faster (often it can be harder to find parking lot than just walk from the metro station).


American cities definitely don't look nice as a tourist. SF for example is terrible if you don't Uber everywhere.


Really? SF is one of the best, IMO. You can actually take long walks, it actually has a subway (plus busses, trams), it has sidewalks almost everywhere..... sure, less parks than one would like/ a bit too much concrete, lots of homeless people, etc. but hey, it's a big USA city, what did you expect?

Compare it to e.g. the nearby San Jose - SF is so much better that it's not even funny. What US city would you consider more "walkable"/ tourist friendly? MAYBE NY, if we only include Manhattan and nothing else.


You can walk in SF, I also did it, but the difference is that you don't really see much of the city if you do, compared to Berlin, London, or Tokyo. In those cities you can go from pretty much anywhere in the city to anywhere in less than an hour with public transport and on foot. Less than half an hour if you restrict yourself to the touristy center area. That is just not possible in SF.


>You can walk in SF, I also did it, but the difference is that you don't really see much of the city if you do

What are you talking about? The first time I visited SF I just stumbled upon Haight-Ashbury and Japantown by walking around.


Anecdotal, but as a visitor I found it far harder to get around than, say, London. There's a public transport system, but in terms of frequency and reach it was not what you'd find in a large European city.


>MAYBE NY, if we only include Manhattan and nothing else.

Yep, NYC is not very walkable if you leave Manhattan island. One big difference though with NYC is the naming and the political boundaries. NYC is very unique in America because it's one really big city with different "boroughs", all very different from each other. If it were any city, it wouldn't be like this: all those places would actually be separate cities, all part of the same metro area. (NYC has this too, with Jersey City, Newark, Stamford, etc. all being part of the metro area, but it's remarkable that so much of the metro area is actually one city.) Just look at LA for instance: LA itself is a pretty small part of the metro area, with many other towns and cities comprising it.


Agreed.

For a week or so tourism SF, Manhattan, Seattle downtown, Boston. Cities I can think to not be very walkable are LA and DC perhaps.


I didn’t particularly love SF, but this is a weird view. We spent 5 days there walking most places with the occasional (unimpressive) PT trip. It was fine. The Tenderloin is certainly sketchy, but the city is very walkable and quite nice to walk around due to the hills and they way they reveal views of the bay.


If anything, the pros of walkability and good public transport compounds over time in daily life.


I've been for the last 6 months, spending maybe half that time living with a Korean family. I think I'm past the "tourist" phase.

Also I only mentioned Korea because I happen to be there right now, but functional transportation and not needing a car is also prevalent in Japan and much of Europe. America is pretty unique in its sprawl and car-dependence.


This European spent a couple of carless months in Pittsburgh and found the public transit pretty decent. Only ride-hailed a handful of times. I do realize that Pittsburgh is probably not a median US city, but serves to remind us in the old world that there's a huge variety of different sorts of places in the US.


It isn't. It's also an older city and it depends on where in a city you are. Try living this way in a suburb of LA, your quality of life without a car will be greatly reduced.


When I moved to the USA for a few months from Europe, I was surprised by the fact that you simply can't walk to places. There are so huge spaces between things except for maybe city centers. (I was mostly in CA and FL)


Yes, this is very true. That is how European cities from US cities. In Europe cities are built for pedestrians, in US for cars. All these US suburbs areas with one-store buildings are making transportation ineffective because the US city is often more spread. However, there are some positive things happening, like walkability studies in US cities. Hopefully, that will help in the near future.


I've been in Houston this year and it shocked me how difficult is to move there without a car.

I was saved by Uber and Lyft many times just because both my hotel and the office were really far away from public transport.


I wouldn't be surprised if Houston is the worst city in the nation when it comes to "walkability". It's so spread out.


In the same situation as you. Currently living with parents out in the suburbs. Plan to move later so I don't need or want a car but I'm basically stuck at home when not working. The only thing there is to do here is cycling which is relatively safe but you can't realistically get anywhere so I do it just for sport. The car culture is pretty bad in Australia as well.


As a European living in Australia (Melbourne, specifically), I'm horrified by the cycling infrastructure. It's such an afterthought most places, and you're usually not separated from fast-moving cars. Sometimes the cycle lane literally cuts across a car lane — super dangerous. I don't miss much about the Netherlands, but I definitely miss the cycling amenities. You're a first-class citizen on the road in a way that's hard to describe to cyclists here (especially the fervent ones).


To be fair, good cycling infrastructure is not pervasive in the whole of Europe either. In the Netherlands it is, of course, as in most of northern Europe. But I'm from Spain and in many cities, cycling infrastructure is either almost nonexistent or an afterthough with many insecure spots, just as you describe for Melbourne. And cyclists are definitely second-class citizens. Things have improved a lot in the last ten years (from cycling in cities being almost unthinkable to Melbourne-like) so I hope this comment won't be true in another ten, but we still have a long way to go.

Ability to walk to places and decent public transport is practically universal throughout Europe, though.


There are lots of places in Australia where you can ride to work. I've done it in Melbourne and Canberra. It just depends on how far you are from your job. Lots of people can cycle. Few really do though. Even in Canberra where the cycle paths are great it's ~10% of people who ride, perhaps even lower.


I'm about 20km away from work. I sometimes ride in but the road to the city is super unsafe.


Do you live in Australia? I've lived in Sydney most of my life and I've found it fairly easy to get around with public transport. I'm currently living in Melbourne and it's even better, and has much better support for bikes.


I lived for a couple of years in the Melbourne CBD (off Lt Lonsdale) and never had a need for a car the whole time.

Different story later living in Elwood and working in Port Melbourne, not having a car to commute along the Esplanade would have been a huge time sink.


The Bondi to Coogee beach walk is spectacular. I also like that there’s one street which cuts through the entirety of downtown Sydney (George Street).


The bus comes twice a day to my area and it lines up with school hours.


People stay home in the US because they have a house with plenty of things to do at home. Why go to a karaoke bar when you have a piano in your house? Why go to a cafe when you have a nice kitchen to cook your own meal? Why do A when you have B? The large houses people have in the US enables and enforces a lifestyle very different from what you get in other cities. This is just a fact - you are allowed to hate it or like it.

I don't want to have a karaoke bar nearby - it might be fun (I've never been to one), but at home I have my wood saws, music, computers, food, thread. Those are just the things I've used this week at home (note that it is Tuesday as I write this: the week is only three days old) to entertain myself.


It's not about stuff, it's about having other people. Some ( apparently a whole lot more than I thought) people find the lack of social interaction in American towns and cities depressing and alienating. Moreover you may have a lot things to keep you entertained in your home, but I doubt that yours is reflective of the average American home. Most people (I'm guessing now) probably just watch T.V and argue online...


Probably cultural. I have, as many spaniards, many things to do at home but I prefer public spaces (restaurants, bars, museums, concerts...).

As Mazoni says in one of his songs:

"Quan sortim a la nit no entrem mai en un local amb poca gent i no ho entenc perquè després només parlem entre nosaltres"

What translates to something like:

"When we go out at night we never enter a place with few people And I do not understand it because after all we talk only among us"


For sure it's a tradeoff - more space + privacy/isolation vs. less space + more people and things to do outside your home. Houses in America are way bigger than the rest of the world because everything is so spread out.

I prefer living in an apartment in a nice city vs. living in a big house in the suburbs. But it's totally fine to feel the opposite.

The problem is that in the U.S., the only real city of any scale that's truly carless that I've ever seen is NYC. It's fun for a year or two, but it's too "city" in all the negative ways and very expensive so not a place I'd want to live in long-term (unless I stumbled onto enough millions to buy a brownstown in Brooklyn Heights or something).


Never needed a car in the past four years in Milan and the year before in Bologna, Italy, and when it happened I could rely on car-sharing services or very cheap rentals.

But I'm originally from Rome, where I spent most of my life, and without a car in Rome you're pretty much f*ed.


I live in Beijing and I spend 20 mins riding share bike to work every day. I don't drive because I don't find it useful. I have a driving license but almost never used it, there are many, many people also having a license without driving cars.

Almost colleagues owning cars don't drive on workdays because the metro is good (crowed by less crowded than driving and parking).

It's not just one city like NYC, at least all moderate to major cities in China are friendly if you don't have a car.

I've been to SF and the silicon valley, and I'm pretty annoyed I almost cannot go anywhere without driving.

The difference might be related to how do people build the city, in order to make one way to suck less than another. In Beijing, it seems to be not driving suck less than driving.


You are ignoring the number one problem. Population Density, dense areas need public transport less dense areas require custom transport. You argument here is against small towns and in favour or ultra dense cities. Public transport is just a mean to complain.


I absolutely hate this argument. In Europe, you take the train and there is literal farm land in between stations. While there are lots of small towns and villages close together in a way that you don't necessarily see in North America, the average density is considerably less than Los Angeles, for example. There is no good reason LA couldn't be crisscrossed by trains instead of by freeways.


In similar vein, I've seen a lot of people use the same argument against high speed inter-city rail (ie cities in the US are far apart), yet the low density interior of China is connected by high speed rail all the way to Ürümqi.


Going coast-to-coast in the US on rail would take a long time, even with a bullet train, so it just wouldn't be competitive with airplanes.

However, going up and down the coasts would make perfect sense for HSR. Traveling from LA to SanFran, for instance, would be much better on a bullet train than an airplane, and the travel time would probably be similar (airplanes have lots of wasted overhead time). The northeast corridor would also be a great place for a bullet train (no, the Acela is not a bullet train). NY-Chicago or DC-Chicago would probably be a good route too.

The problem in the US is just a total lack of political will, and an idiotic aversion on the part of the populace to using trains.


This doesn't even seem to follow, in my experience, and their argument definitely makes sense to me as someone that's lived in an urban European city, an urban American city, and some American suburbs and traveled around all of these places extensively.

Why do trains work well in many European countries? When there's farmland between stations (or even between some bus stops in the city where I currently live), it means that because you normally want to go somewhere that's not farmland, you're very likely to want to go somewhere near a station. The density around specific points (train stations, bus/tram plazas, etc.) is particularly high which makes the last-mile or last-kilometer problem largely a non-issue.

If you build this in the LA metro area, it might serve the people who live very close to stations well, but everyone else who lives somewhere in the middle between two stations (which would be a higher percentage than people living in European farmland) would need to find a way to get home from the station.


Density would rapidly increase around stations if planning allowed for it. See all along the Skytrain in the Greater Vancouver area (British Columbia). For people in between or away from stations, you need good integration with the bus network. Anywhere where there is enough traffic to cause congestion has enough traffic to support good public transit which definitely covers most of LA.


I agree with you. In the case of LA metro area, it is just too spread city = badly designed.

If you imagine even fast public transport, to get from one side of LA to the other side, it would still require a lot of stops in the low population density areas. Let's say every stop would cost you 5 minutes which means that even a car could be faster than public transport.


There is no way every stop costs you 5 minutes, more like 1 minute. I am not a fan of buses because they are in the same traffic as cars plus they have to stop as you say. There are some mitigations like dedicated bus lanes that can swing the speed equation back in favour of buses. What you really want, however, is feeder buses taking people to the train, and it is easy to design a rail system that beats cars for speed in a city (basically any urban rail I've ever seen).


1 minute with the vehicle slowing down and speeding up again? If it is bus it goes to the bus stop, other cars have to allow it to go back to the main road.

Edit: 5 minutes would be way too much if I think about it again - you are right.


You don't have to allow cars to go on the same lanes as buses. In Europe it is very common with separate bus lanes.


In practice, this is solved by having two layers of lines on the same tracks - one which stops everywhere and one express line connecting bigger stops.


You can have a distinction between local and express trains, where the express trains skip all the small stops


> In Europe, you take the train and there is literal farm land in between stations.

This is quite literally my commute. On the way home, I depart from a central London station and after about 20 minutes, I'm passing through farms and rolling hills. This isn't even a cherry-picked example with a new high speed line, it is a line that is about 150 years old!


I don't favor "ultra dense cities". I don't like how uncomfortably dense NYC is - overcrowded sidewalks, lackluster amount of green and parks, noise pollution, dirty, garbage smell. But I think Korea and Japan manage to strike comfortable mediums.

But yes, accessible public transportation will generally require increased density. Most people in Korea live in apartments, so it's easier to make accessible public transportation.


I went fishing today and had to drive some very sketchy, not-on-google-maps dirt roads to get to the first spot I tried. What happens to that sort of thing once we're all living in walkable condos and depending on driverless Uber for exceptions?


You rent a car that you can drive yourself to wherever you want. Over the long term in a walkable city, that is definitely cheaper than owning a car.


Or an autonomous vehicle picks you and your friends up and the experience doesn't just start at the time of arrival to the destination.


Assuming it has that skill.


Assuming you have that skill after years of having a computer drive you around.


It's not hard to learn how to drive. Otherwise not ~everybody would be able to do it.

I don't think that self driving cars will replace all cars immediately. That makes little sense from CAPEX perspective, cars are fine for 5, 10, maybe 15 years. You'll not replace an okay car for the latest self driving vehicle, dumping the previous car to the junkyard. Rollout may take decades. And we still don't know when are they coming to the market, that may also take a very long time.


It's not hard to learn how to drive in a society where most people want to learn. A couple of decades after self-driving cars are commonplace there won't be any instructors working in cities, the rules will be very restrictive for what human drivers are allowed to do, and lessons will be astromonically expensive due to the low demand.


I think the world changes enough in a few decades that we can assume it will adjust to the new landscape.


This is a joke. Driving is incredibly easy to self teach with 10 minutes and a parking lot.


I guess this becomes like horse riding. You can still do that and it's not even that expensive.


In Helsinki there are multiple good fishing spots that are accessible with public transport. You can also visit two national parks using regional bus.


Do think of the other perspective though, all those local places for going out are so popular partly because housing is so small and expensive that staying home for the evening just isn't that attractive a proposition


True. But I never really enjoyed staying home for the evening in my big house in the suburbs either.

As much as I agree. It will feel weird to leave (if it happens) the car centric world..

But it's probably an improvement in most dimensions anyways.


> You can literally do everything without a car, everything is a short walk

when you are young and single. By the time you have kids this changes everything.


We live outside of Boston with two kids, now 3y and 5y. We're about 10min from the subway, and we've never had a car. We do a lot of walking with our kids, and when they were younger we used the stroller more. I'm as happy with this as I was before kids.


The difference is that most people can't afford to live just a few minutes away from the subway. City centers are very expensive. You can't expect people to live with the same standards if they have to walk for 1 hour to get to the nearest public transport.

My parent post is saying that even in situations where walking is very practical it stops working after you have kids, and I strongly disagree there.

As for the question of how generalizable this is, the US situation is much worse than other cities around the world. Boston has very good public transit for the US, but it's still pretty minimal globally, and we could build out transit far better. It's also only expensive to live near transit, or generally to live in cities, because we've massively restricted housing construction. Allow people to construct tall dense buildings, use the tax money to build out transit, and for the price of an apartment in the cheapest part of Boston today you can have something better that's a short walk from a transit stop that will get you all over the city faster than the T does today.


That's the thing though - where I'm living right now in Korea you can! I'm not exaggerating when I say that everything is walking distance here - school, hospital, grocery store, kids entertainment places, food, etc. There are multiple playgrounds literally outside my building. And I don't live in some city center, it's a residential area.

I wonder if part of the success of silicon valley can be attributed to this?

In most other places you can spend your time doing interesting things all day long and never get bored. Whereas in SV you just start a business?

How many people would not have began their software ventures if there was enough comedy clubs, pubs, theaters, community centers, beaches etc a short 10mins walk from home?

Actually wondering?


Considering that every other American suburb has these same qualities of being boring, yet did not become Silicon Valley, I'd say this has very little impact on why Silicon Valley is what it is.


That is not my experience with Silicon Valley. My experience is an area of mostly suburbs with small strip malls and 10 block downtowns. Cars are a must and public transit is terrible.


It's a good question, but I think if that were true, we wouldn't see many startups in places like SF and NYC, and quite a lot of them in the middle of nowhere.

For me, interactions with novel people, experiences, and ideas are a big feeder for my own ideas.


Never been to SF (or US for that matter) so genuinely interested if this is a factor - from all the biographies I’ve read and looking from the sidelines it seems to me - novel people + capital + entrepreneurship + technical expertise (post apollo) + boredom are the key sauce for those kinds of things.

And thats not about what SV is today. I was lead to believe the so named HBO show portrays it quite accurately. I was thinking more what it was in the 70s.

Though to be honest living in the mediterranean I vastly prefer the walkable nature oriented laid back kind of places myself. Way more fun (and healthy) to live in. I was just wondering if that boredom thing was a factor


Maybe some people are bored, but definitely not all of them. Stanford is a really exciting, interesting place for people that are intellectually inclined. But Google was born on its campus.

A good comparison is creativity in art. I know people who attend a ton of plays, for example, but that doesn't prevent them from creating new plays. Artists tend to cluster in space and in social networks (that is, schools of art) because they draw inspiration and ambition from other artists and their works.

I think it's not boredom, exactly, but being more interested in creation than consumption. For people inclined to consumption, we now have infinite amounts of entertainment. But plenty of people still like creating things for others, creating things with a real impact on the world. YouTube and GitHub make it clear that there are a lot of those people out there.


Venture Capitalists aren't in the middle of nowhere.


This is an excellent point. People talk about the important network effects of SV, and that was definitely material before the Internet made distance less relevant. But however much information flows through copper wire, investment doesn't, because VCs expect people to come to them.


Something attracted the VCs in the first place though.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: