From the Motor City to Car Free

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation. - Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota. 

My family's history in the car industry reads like some biblical genealogy. On my mom's side, my great uncle and great grandfather worked for Pontiac Motors, my grandfather for Fisher Body, countless other aunts and cousins at plants my mom can't remember. 


My paternal great grandfather Floyd worked for decades at the very first Ford assembly plant in Highland Park, MI. My grandfather helped build engines at Detroit Diesel. Although my dad doesn't work for the industry, his trucking company gets much of its business shipping parts for various automakers. You get the idea...
My great grandfather Floyd's Ford employee pass
Such sprawling, multi-generational involvement in the car industry is typical of most families that live in southeast Michigan and the highways filled with Chevys, Chryslers, Fords and Buicks are one very visible reminder. I get a twinge of reverse culture-shock every time I pass the "Pure Michigan" welcome sign on my way home as I'm steadily flanked by products of the Big 3 on all sides.

Love and Cars: My Paternal Grandparents
I got my driver's license at 17 and have owned a car -- mostly hand-me-downs -- ever since. But I've never enjoyed the need to depend on it. When I moved to DC earlier this year, I found I could bike or even walk to work, take the bus to meet colleagues for lunch, take the Metro to see friends. The ability to choose from multiple forms of transportation is a luxury nearly unimaginable in my home state (unless you hop in a time machine). 

(There's certainly room for improvement in DC, especially when it comes to inter-city travel. One dreams of high-speed rail lines connecting major cities, a Metro system without terminal escalator outages, extensive separated bike paths, etc...)
The Old Me
The New Me, With Stronger Legs
So after my car started collecting cobwebs behind the house, I realized going car-free was possible. Don't get me wrong. I like my car. I like blasting music with the windows down driving the GW Parkway at night with the lights of the city sparking in the distance. I like that its namesake, Pontiac, hearkens back to my family's involvement in the car industry. And who knows, I might need one in the future. But now I'm using some lo-fi ways of getting around town that are better for my wallet, for my city, and for the environment.