I imagine there are two possible reactions to Danny Westneat’s brief experiment ($) living without a car.
If you like the term “war on cars” – that is, you think every building and every inch of road space should be always available to single-occupancy vehicles – then your conclusion is that given the means to do otherwise, only fools would choose to rely solely on the bus. Redesigning our cities to encourage it is pointless.
Part of that sentiment is absolutely correct: given the current state of our transit system, few people with alternatives rely solely on transit. The system is far from comprehensive and almost never has a time incentive over driving. Moreover, government constantly intervenes to make parking and driving cheaper, reducing transit’s cost advantage. As a result, able and reasonably prosperous car-free people often use carshare services and bikes where convenient. If one can’t afford car2go and can’t bike, our political system doesn’t really care if it takes them an hour plus to go anywhere.
The alternative reaction to the piece, which requires either a little imagination or some experience of other cities, is that we’ve done a really poor job of providing people with good alternatives to owning a car. Reasonably direct walking paths, bike routes that won’t kill you, an easy-to-understand transit system with high frequency and adequate capacity to absorb demand*, and enough priority to often give transit a time advantage would create those alternatives.
Although such a world is beyond living memory for most people, people trying to get around will respond to incentives. Unless we’re pleased with huge amounts of space dedicated to storing cars, fouled air and water, dollars shipped out of Washington to oil producers, obesity, asthma, and the steady carnage of our roads, it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. A nice start would be not making things any worse, by maintaining Metro service levels, and revolutionizing transit mobility by preparing for Sound Transit 3.
* which would address Mr. Westneat’s specific problem.