The Culture of Cars

The vehicle occupies a special place in America’s past, present, and future. In the last century, the automobile has radically changed the ways we live and work. Only now are some cities feeling the negative effects of all that urban sprawl, namely in the way it pretty much requires citizens to have a car to function properly. More cars also means more pollution, which has led to car companies and regular people alike trying to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with driving an automobile. Like a lot of American institutions, the car will have to change in the future to survive, even if the extent of those changes remains unclear.

Cars vs. public transit

There’s a lot to like about cars. People like to drive them, and others like to look at them or even collect them. Cities have even built successful tourism campaigns around the automobile. But they’re not always the most efficient transportation option. That means there’s been a push in some cities to improve and expand public transit options. That has worked better in some locales than others, but the fact remains that you have to live in at least a mid-sized city to have any sort of halfway decent public transit options. It doesn’t help public transit’s case that expanding routes often requires a small tax hike for residents, and there are plenty of drivers who think “If I don’t need a bus or train, why should anyone else?”

A lot of motorists also really like to drive by themselves. It’s a way to collect their thoughts on the way to or from another busy day at work. To combat that, most large cities have Heavily Occupied Vehicle lanes that are only usable if your car has at least two people inside it. You can drive alone, but if you do, you’ll have to deal with more traffic and a slower commute. In the future, the way we tax gasoline could also change, as some states have considered taxing drivers for use rather than imposing a flat fee at the pump.

Gas prices

Gas is pretty darn cheap right now. It’s definitely cheaper than it was just five years ago, and while that’s good for Americans’ bank accounts, it may not be so great for the environment. There’s more desire to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels when the average gas price is over $3 and approaching $4. People will buy cars with bad gas mileage now because they think gas prices are going to be low for the immediate future. However, that ignores the fact that the amount we pay for gas is expected to rise in 2018. It’s better to prepare for higher fuel prices now rather than be caught flat-footed when you pull into the gas station one day and see the price has topped $3 again.

To that end, there’s a small but growing amount of people who have converted their diesel-powered cars to run on biodiesel made by using cooking grease collected from restaurants and other places. Biodiesel is easier to get in some parts of the country than others, but if you can make the switch, you’ll be able to stop worrying about the inevitable price increase at the pump.

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