A Freedom Lost

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    I never understood the kind of person who banged on about how mandatory seatbelt laws were an attack on freedom. Said person said they always wore a seatbelt and insisted others in their car do the same but they hated the principle of the thing.

    This boggles my mindReport

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      I don’t have a problem with seatbelt laws, by and large, provided that we aren’t using EMTALA as a justification for it. The same applies to motorcycle helmet laws. On the other hand, I do understand the arguments that it is an infringement on freedom. To me the only question is whether or not it is a worthwhile one.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
      Ignored
      says:

      I couldn’t see the actual videos, so I can’t comment specifically on the message of the OP. But one way in which mandatory seat belt laws *might* be an infringement on liberty is that they can provide law enforcement with one more excuse to pull over and harrass the “wrong” kind of driver.

      Of course, most of the laws I’m aware of say that officers can only issue tickets for seat belt violations if the person is pulled over for another reason, such as speeding.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      I one of those people ND. It’s about choice. The fact that “others” via “democracy” have decided that I should be required to take an action I may not wish to take, or face fines/imprisonment for an actions that have zero spillover to others in society, offends me. The reason always given is “we all pay for the hospitalization”. No one ever thinks to just not pay for the hospitalization. I’d submit that would actually get more folks in seat belts than tickets.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Damon
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        says:

        And there is all the behaviors/actions we don’t outlaw that often lead to hospitalizations we pay for. Should bungee jumping be illegal?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
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        says:

        Damon, the reason why we can’t just refuse to pay for the hospitilization of people who injure themselve through their own stupidity is that its simply immoral and impractical not to. In many cases, its kind of hard to determine whether or not somebody is injured through their own stupidity, another person’s stupidity, or some combination of the two. The only moral choice is to treat them regardless of whether or not it was their own fault because you can’t really determine whose fault it is.

        The other issue is that the person might have dependents. So even if you can determine that the person is injured through their own fault, you need to treat them so that their dependents don’t suffer consequences and need more help. Say a father injuries himself through some dumb thing he did to look cool. That father has young children that need to be taken care of. If he goes untreated, he won’ be able to work and the kids will need even more assistance. Treating him allows him to work and prevents the kids from requiring more government aid. Therefore, the practical thing is to pay the hospital bill because its the cheapest option for society as a whole.

        A lot of people also would want to pay the hospital bill because they would like to believe that they live in a society that would come to their aid if they need it.

        Letting people do want they want and suffer the consequences of their own actions sounds good in practice but works out horribly in reality. People rarely just bring trouble to themselves, they also bring it to third-parties that did nothing wrong. Nobody is an island. This is why we mandate certain courses of action.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        Lee,

        Doesn’t a big part of the calculus here need to determine how many people would drive without seatbelts if it were legal? The law strikes me as a way for people to act like they’ve really accomplish something when all they’ve really done is require something that most people do anyway.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
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        says:

        Kazzy, no. Before the law required cars to have seat belts and other safety features cars lacked them. The only reason cars have these features is because the government ordered them to have them. Likewise, a lot of people would choose not to wear them for some dumb reason or another if the law did not mandate it. It might seem odd but there is a reason why these types of laws are passed in the first place. A lot of people find taking safety steps as an infringement of their rights and simply won’t do it unless told to even if they happen to be the parents of small children.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq

        Seat Belt mandates have been around much longer than the laws requiring their installation in new cars & their usage by occupants (seat belts were invented in the early 1900’s but were not even required to be installed until the late 60’s/early 70’s).

        Airbags were similar, being an optional safety feature included in higher end cars before laws mandated their installation.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think “zero spillover effect” exists in nearly the quantity people think it does.

        We collectively have an interest in public health, in preventing individuals from harm. Individual contribute to the well being and prosperity of the group, and their loss affects us all. The group aquires a just authority over the behavior of its members, beyond an immediate showing of harm.

        In this argument, the boundaries of the just authority of the individual and the just authority of the collective can be determined by a measurement of the outcomes- is the limitation of individual will wrt seatbelts, more unjust than the loss that society suffers from their non-use?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        MRS, I did not know that thank you. Its kind of silly to mandate seat belts but not require car manufacturers to put them in their cars. A car is a dangerous thing. Requiring that they have some safety features, especially in our very car-focused system, is just common sense.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Damon
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        says:

        No one ever thinks to just not pay for the hospitalization.

        This is going to produce an awful lot of adverse consequences.

        For starters, first responders typically get into the gig because they like to help people. You have to have a particularly egregious inclination to help people to put up with all of the fun stuff that comes with being a first responder, like going home after a shift cleaning body parts up off the sidewalk.

        Now, imagine you tell everyone who works as an ambulance driver that when they arrive at an accident, they have to check fiscal capability before bothering to give somebody CPR.

        Never mind the fact that you’ll have a lot of people dying because they didn’t have their health card on them, or some other exception scenario wherein “somebody who should be taken to the hospital because they can pay” doesn’t go to the hospital because the records are wrong.

        You won’t have any first responders after a while.

        I think this is a sufficiently bad outcome that I’m willing to infringe on small liberties. But hey, that’s me.

        We collectively have an interest in public health, in preventing individuals from harm. Individual contribute to the well being and prosperity of the group, and their loss affects us all. The group aquires a just authority over the behavior of its members, beyond an immediate showing of harm.

        I think this is a much more dangerous argument, generally.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq

        Laws requiring usage didn’t become popular until the late 80’s/early 90’s (I believe, I seem to recall WI had just made it a law to wear the belt a year or two before I got my license at 16).

        Personally I think all cars should be designed so that 5 point harnesses can be easily installed.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to NewDealer
      Ignored
      says:

      If it makes sense for someone who has kids themselves to still be pro-choice, then it makes sense for someone who wears their seatbelt to oppose mandatory seatbelt laws.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to NewDealer
      Ignored
      says:

      “I never understood the kind of person who banged on about how mandatory seatbelt laws were an attack on freedom”

      Because you are, like I am, a white guy who doesn’t use drugs and thus has nothing to worry about with primary enforcement traffic laws.Report

  2. Avatar krogerfoot
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m sure I’m not the only person who will be reminded of this incredible Werner Herzog PSA about texting while driving.Report

  3. Avatar North
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    says:

    I remember when I first saw that second seatbelt add it blew me away. Still does, so epicly well done.Report

  4. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    @ LeeEsq
    “Damon, the reason why we can’t just refuse to pay for the hospitalization of people who injure themselves through their own stupidity is that it’s simply immoral and impractical not to.”
    That’s YOUR value judgment, not mine.

    “In many cases, it’s kind of hard to determine whether or not somebody is injured through their own stupidity, another person’s stupidity, or some combination of the two.”
    I think it’s easier than you think and just because something is “hard” doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do.

    “The other issue is that the person might have dependents. So even if you can determine that the person is injured through their own fault, you need to treat them so that their dependents don’t suffer consequences and need more help. Say a father injuries himself through some dumb thing he did to look cool. That father has young children that need to be taken care of. If he goes untreated, he won’ be able to work and the kids will need even more assistance. Treating him allows him to work and prevents the kids from requiring more government aid. Therefore, the practical thing is to pay the hospital bill because its the cheapest option for society as a whole.”
    Taking care of someone else’s kids is not my problem, not should it be my concern. I didn’t make them. That’s all on him. You make the assumption “society” should provide aide in this case. I don’t.

    “A lot of people also would want to pay the hospital bill because they would like to believe that they live in a society that would come to their aid if they need it.”
    Yes, and I want “society” to pay for my Porsche. That don’t mean either is right. And if some folks want to help out, there is something called “charity” which folks can give to.

    “Letting people do want they want and suffer the consequences of their own actions sounds good in practice but works out horribly in reality. People rarely just bring trouble to themselves, they also bring it to third-parties that did nothing wrong. ”
    That’s what civil suits are for.

    “Nobody is an island. This is why we mandate certain courses of action.”

    There is no “we”. Where did I vote on this “course of action”? Oh, I didn’t.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      Do you have any sense of responsibility towards people who aren’t yourself or people close to you?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        To me, the more pertinent question is the extent to which those moral responsibilities should be held by the force of law.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Oooh! There’s all kinds of fun answers to this one!

        “Yes, and that’s why I support the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein.”
        “Yes, and that’s why I support the War on Drugs.”
        “Yes, and that’s why I support making late-term abortion illegal.”
        “Yes, and that’s why I support No Child Left Behind.”
        “Yes, and that’s why I support limiting immigration.”

        I think you can almost get to “separate water fountains” before you start sounding crazy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Dude, on LGM yesterday I read a speech given at Alabama’s secession convention, in support of secession out of fear for the institution of slavery, that ended with this:

        “For I am not actuated, as I think, from any motive save that of justice and philanthropy!”

        In other words, at some point not all that long ago, it could get you well past separate water fountains.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        Will, Chris,and Jay; I don’t really think that responsibility towards society should really be given the force of law. I’m just really ticked off at Damon’s flippant response to basic and not that onerous safety requirements. I find this sort of rampant individualism just as annoying and dangerous as the rampant communalism of the more totalitarian philosophies. The later wrongly requires people to give up all their own desires and wishes. The former is just everybody for himself and that is poor basis for any functioning society even if you don’t enshrine these things in law.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        In general, no.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Damon
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      says:

      “There is no “we”. ”
      Of course there is. You are of age, and willfully choose to live in our community. There are plenty to choose from, but you chose this one.
      We, the majority, have norms and a consensus of values, which we enact into laws. This is how we have chosen to arrange our affairs.
      I know this grates on libertarian sentiments, but I don’t see it as any different than joining an HOA then griping about the rules.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        As a person who has (& this is not a claim I EVER wanted to be able to make) actually killed 2 people in MVAs, & those two people are dead specifically because they failed to wear proper safety restraints, my libertarianism falters here a bit & I have to disagree with you, Damon.

        Not because you are wrong, per se, on the matter of choice. In a perfect world, a person who refuses to take responsibility for their own safety should suffer the full consequences of being stupid. Evolution in Action & all that. But here is the rub. Not every idiot manages to kill him/herself around a tree, or off a cliff, or in a river. Some of them do it with another driver on the road. And even when that other driver is not even remotely at fault (in neither case was the MVA my fault), the innocent driver still has to live with the fact that they were a party to a violent & needless death. That’s an unfair burden to place upon another individual so you can enjoy a modicum of additional freedom while driving.

        The cost of clean-up, & healthcare, etc is borne by the whole of the community, but the psychological trauma of injuring or killing another is borne by an innocent person. And even if they eventually come to terms with it, it’s not always an easy road to absolve yourself of that guilt.

        When I had my motorcycle wreck, I was wearing full gear, and I lived (spent a while in the hospital & in physical therapy, but I lived). The lady who hit me, and a number of the people who stopped to help, they all sent me thank you cards & gifts, to say thank you for wearing gear, thank you for not having us be a party to your violent & gruesome death.

        This is not to say that we should go to the extreme & bubble-wrap the world so no one has to face the prospect of being part of a messy death, but finding a way to encourage people to take small steps to reduce that possibility is asking a minimum of individuals.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        I had to chuckle.

        I choose this? This is no way the same as buying a house in an HOA. I can avoid that. I can’t avoid being a US citizen. I did not willfully agree to live here, I was born here. One could argue that I could leave my state of residence and more to another state, but of course, the federal gov’t imposes many laws that carry over to other states, like seat belt laws. The states don’t want to give up the federal hwy funds, so they comply. So no, I really can’t “leave” unless I give up my US citizenship.

        Norms and consensus of values? Really? We’ve been arguing about abortion, gay rights, civil rights, drug use, immigration. I’d submit to you that that consensus is a thin veneer at best.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LWA
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        says:

        MRA, first, I’m sorry to hear that. I know that must be difficult.

        Second, I think you’ve hit on something very important. In a sense, there are no strictly individual acts within a society. Everything I do affects others, even if only minutely, and everything I do has the potential to affect others in more profound ways. Part of being a good member of society is being mindful of the interconnectedness of everyone within a society and doing what one can to minimize the potential impact of my actions, even if their consequences for others may not be immediately apparent. The old saying that your right to swing your fist ends at my nose ignores the fact that, as a social being, I am not limited to my body. My social self extends into the world beyond my nose, such that when you swing your fist, you may strike me without ever coming close to my face. Taking this into consideration, it seems that there might be a reasonably good case to make that not wearing a seatbelt and smoking in public (particularly in the work place, even if it’s not a place that you work) are well beyond your fist hitting my nose.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LWA
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        says:

        MRA=MRS, sorry.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LWA
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        says:

        From http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/teen-drivers/pdf/seatbeltuse.pdf? :

        In addition to protecting you
        from injury as a driver, seat belts help you keep control of the vehicle. If you are struck from the side or
        make a quick turn, the force could push you sideways and therefore you cannot steer the vehicle if you
        are not behind the wheel.

        So it’s not just about you; wearing a seatbelt protects other people. Requiring it is like requiring brakes and mirrors.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @chris

        While I agree with you in principle, I am still wary of using the force of law to proscribe behavior. Not that it should never be done, only that, IMHO, we are a bit to eager to do it in the US.

        @mike-schilling
        Mike brings up another good bit, the belt provides support so you have a better chance at keeping control. Something similar can be said for motorcycle gear. In my days I’ve taken rocks to the head & chest at highway speeds, and in both cases, a good full face helmet & a thick coat kept the impact to a minimum (you still feel like you just got hit hard, but you don’t have the wind knocked out of you and you’re not seeing stars). I remember my father coming home once covered in goo after he drive his bike through a small flight of Junebugs (took one right between the eyes hard enough to break his sunglasses & had to pull over to recover).Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LWA
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        says:

        MRS, this is, as they say, a matter of haggling. We have to decide which fists to noses that aren’t literally fists to noses we care about enough to coerce. I’m perfectly fine with seatbelts and smoking being two such things. Same with helmet laws. I’m significantly less fine with banning large cokes (sodas, to you non-southerners).Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA
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        says:

        “I can’t avoid being a US citizen.”
        Sure you can, quite easily. Becoming a tax exile all the rage nowadays.

        What you really mean is, its inconvenient for you to select another venue, so you would rather change this one.

        Which is fine by us. Just be aware that even at this very moment, you are consuming taxpayer funded benefits, and we expect reciprocity.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to LWA
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        says:

        I will keep in mind that “if you don’t like it, move” is a bona fide reasonable retort the next time that federalism comes up.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA
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        says:

        Just be aware that even at this very moment, you are consuming taxpayer funded benefits, and we expect reciprocity.

        There are two payment options:

        A) Cash
        B) Public Displays Of Piety

        The more A you have, the less B you need. If, however, you provide sufficient amounts of B (loosely defined as “inspiring others to do the same”), you can pretty much get away with murder.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      And reading Damon further, I find his version of society to be entirely selfish and based only on the fulfillment of his personal desires. There lots of things I want to, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to say its a good idea to deny people healthcare simply because I couldn’t afford that nice fur-lined parka I saw during the winter. One thing doesn’t have anything to do with another. Its just such a cartoonish libertarianism that it resembles what leftist sights say about libertarianism.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Actually my version of society is one that respects the role of the individual. I make no presumptions that I know best how others should live their life. I desire the same from others. I especially desire that from my employees (gov’t).

        I see no reason why I should be compelled, by force, to help pay for the foolishness of other’s behavior. Now, often I’ve choosen to help people in need, but that’s a voluntarily action.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Actually, Damon’s version of society is one in which the autonomy of the individual is the prime, or maybe the only value. That’s not the world I want to live in, and, I’m pretty sure, not the world the vast majority of us want to live in, which is why there has been no society in the history of mankind in which that was true, and that will continue to be the case barring the evolution and ascension of New Libertarian Man.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Yep Mike, while I wouldn’t say it’s the ONLY value, it is the center point. As western societies continue to encroach on the personal liberties of the populace, I think you’ll find more and more people wanting to move towards my point of view. They may not want to go all the way to my postion, but anymovement along that axis would be a big improvement over the current state of affairs. Best of all, little action is needed to be taken, the gov’t does most of the heavy lifting. Each time a TSA agent fondles a 16 year old girl at the airpot, each time a cop belts a 10 year old kid, each time an FBI agent kills an unarmed person they are questioning, someone wakes up and figures there’s gotta be a better way….Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Damon, if your idea of what the best kind of society looks like is one that most others around you are going to object strenuously to living in, then the rules (or set of rules) you are proposing on that basis are not suited for your place of residence. Go live alone or with others who agree with you.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Murali
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        says:

        Ah, the old “take it or leave it” quasi unamerican shot.

        Maybe I prefer to agitate for making the world over how I desire it by convincing a majority of people that it’s in their interests to do so? Isn’t that what “democracy” is all about?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        No, not take it or leave it. I’m just saying that there are limits. Part what it takes to treat others as free and equal is propose rules that they are willing to accept. You are not.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        Ah, so “Part what it takes to treat others as free and equal is propose rules that they are willing to accept. You are not.” And you are? Your whole point is that if I’m not willing to live by the rules others have “agreed upon” then I should leave.

        Actually, people who are free and equal do not force others to live by their rules. If they did, they wouldn’t be equal then would they?Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    “You can make me wear a seatbelt when you wrap it around my bloody, lifeless torso.”

    Which makes a lot more sense than the gun version does.Report

  6. Avatar DBrown
    Ignored
    says:

    Not one person has stated the obvious – driving any car on public right-of-ways is not a ‘right’ at all – the right to drive a motor on public highways is solely given by the State. As such, there is absolutely no loss of any ‘freedoms’ what-so-ever by the State when requiring the use of seat belts to drive. On private property, that is different. So, this topic is a complete non-issue and none of you have stopped to think this through. Thinking that there exists some basic human ‘right’ not to use a seat belt is just plain silly – I guess the whole argument is presented by people who are fed up with the ‘State’ regulating things they once could do without oversight and are just trying to get at this topic in a manner that common people can get a handle on. In that manner, the argument makes some sense but is it fundamentally wrong.

    (Aside: really like the new layout for the sight.)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DBrown
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      says:

      The scope of rights we sacrifice by virtue of being on public roads is not unlimited. Well, I mean, a Supreme Court could declare it such, but I think they would lack the right to do so.

      The requirement of seat belts falls into a gray area, in my view. Unlike, say, forcing people on public roads to have documentation on their persons to demonstrate that they are here legally, seat belts is at least related to driving and riding on roads. Unlike, say, requiring one to have a license or even insurance, it almost entirely pertains to the safety of the person whom we would ticket. (I could draw a scenario in which somebody is thrown out of their car and hits somebody else, but let’s get real: that’s not why we’re doing this.)

      I still give seatbelt laws a pass because the intrusion is so minimal and the benefits so significant. But I could not justify the intrusion solely on the basis that you’re on public roads.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DBrown
      Ignored
      says:

      I’d actually disagree with this. We made our country so incredibly car-centric that we have basically made driving into a right or at least a privilege that should be enjoyed as broadly as possible. If we had a better public transportation system and more walkable communities than we could be stricter with the requirements for driving because we know that denying people the right or privilege of driving won’t make them a principle in their own home. At this time, at best only NYC has a public transportation system and walkable neighborhoods like this.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Plenty of people get around San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia without a car and do so just fine.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I got rid of my car several years ago, and have absolutely no problem getting around Austin, which definitely ain’t NYC. Hell, we’re getting BRT in a few months!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I don’t own a car. I do just fine for months without one.
        Transit’s getting hurt really bad around here… so it kinda sucks, but still…Report

      • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Chicago is the only city I’ve lived in or near that didn’t require an advanced degree in geography combined with routing theory to get around easily on public transit.

        A huge contributor is that the city and burbs are by-and-large laid out in a huge grid. You’re never more than four blocks (two one direction plus two orthogonal to that) from a bus stop and the bus routes are almost all just up and down and back and forth on a single street. Anywhere to anywhere is a bus token plus a transfer and easy as hell to figure out.

        It may not be unique (after all, I haven’t quite lived everywhere, just a lot of places), but the only places that strike me as geographically similar are Denver and Salt Lake City.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I will admit that it probably took me 2 years until I could ride the Austin bus system anywhere in the city without having to consult a bus map or the website.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Salt Lake City and its environs are laid out exactly like that. The house numbers even tell you where you are on the grid. I don’t know about transit, though, since when I lived there I either drove or walked.Report

  7. Avatar DBrown
    Ignored
    says:

    Oops: In my post, I have “motor”; for some reason my “motor vehicle” was dropped (maybe when I transferred the post. Hope that helps to make the sentence a little more clear.Report

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