I did not own a car when I first moved to Boise in 2001. Every aspect of my life was limited by the reality of the automobile landscape. Where I lived, where I shopped, where I worked, and where I played were all necessarily accessible by foot, by bicycle, or by public transportation (unfortunately, the bicycle was for the most part the most efficient means of travel, depending on how far I needed to go, and what I needed to carry with me). These limitations were my immediate motivations for acquiring a vehicle, any vehicle I could get my hands on, in the attempt to broaden my horizons so to speak.
Buying a vehicle did not lessen my concern for the problem of alternative transportation, however. Even now, as party to a two-car household, I lament the poor state of Boise’s public transportation. I live no more than four miles from campus and yet I drive to class, I drive to the library, and sometimes I even pay for parking (ugh!). Why? Because it is far more convenient than leaving twenty minutes earlier, braving the elements, or the bus. But after reading the chapter on “auto-vernacular” I am even more aware of the bigger impact of a “perceived diminished sense of community” that the automobile has almost invisibly set upon us.
Ironically, my community has been limited by my mobility. I can drive all over town, running errands and completing chores. In a sense, my community is piecemeal. I interact and know my immediate neighbors, but not many beyond my property boundaries. I am limited to artificial associations with my bank tellers, grocery checkers, waitresses, and because of my own occupation, my customers. Is the vehicle responsible for the superficiality of my daily interactions? Hardly. But it does contribute, no doubt, to my approach to such daily interactions. Will public transportation fix this superficiality? Doubtful. Maybe we should focus on bringing our community goods and services closer to our actual living spaces? I wonder if that would re-build a community network of shared interests and relationships. It couldn’t hurt.