Drawbacks of Living in an Automobile Dependent Community

Judith Willson's image for:
"Drawbacks of Living in an Automobile Dependent Community"
Image by: 

Some of the drawbacks of living in an automobile dependent community are startlingly obvious, others less so, but all should be carefully considered before deciding to move to such a place.  If you already live in one then there are a few things that can be done to mitigate the problems. 

An automobile dependent community is one in which you have virtually no choice as to whether to drive or not.  You have to.  Workplaces, schools, and colleges are nowhere near.  Chances are there isn’t even a small convenience store within walking distance and there certainly won’t be a supermarket.  Public transport will be either extremely limited or non-existent.  Living in one of these places without a car is almost impossible.

The first main drawback is the cost of fuel.  Simply getting to work or back will likely require a round trip of at least 10 miles, and probably more.  The same goes for taking the kids to school, buying groceries, going out for a meal, sight-seeing, and in fact doing practically anything.   This will lead to a substantial fuel bill every single week.

This is only the first cost.  Maintaining a car involves many other expenses.  You have to buy the car in the first place, then replace it when it wears out.  Insurance, road tax, and general repairs cost a small fortune.  Chances are you’ll need at least two vehicles, one for you and one for your partner.  When the children hit their late teens they will need cars to in order to have any independence.  

One of your major expenses will be transport and you’ll probably look enviously at friends whose transport bills are next to zero.  You don’t have much of a choice though, you have to drive to get anywhere.

Then there are unexpected circumstances.  What happens should one of you become unable to drive?  This happens frequently with illness, accidents, failing eyesight, or even a suspension from driving because of breaking a traffic law.  Simply breaking a leg or twisting your ankle is going to render the afflicted housebound unless another member of the household can give them lifts.

Taking a wider view, the environmental costs can be considerable.  The emissions associated with so much driving are considerable.  You may or may not be deeply concerned about global warming but chances are you don’t want to increase the air pollution in your area, given how dangerous it is to health.  The acidification of the oceans too becomes less of an abstract issue if you eat shellfish or like dolphins.  Helping them go extinct was probably not your intention when you moved to this community.

Moving back to the personal, living in an automobile dependent community increases stress and wastes time.  If you add up the hours you spent behind your wheel everyday you might be shocked.  Years of your life will be spent driving and most of us can probably think of better things to do with the time.  It is also pretty stressful and this can lead to a range of health problems, physical and emotional.

There are a few advantages to living in automobile dependent communities, although they are certainly not related to transport.  If you already live in one, or have decided to move anyway despite the drawbacks, there are a few things you can do to make things a bit better. 

Pressurising local government to provide a public transport option is one.  Even just buses to take children to and from school could make a big difference.  You can also investigate how feasible it is to cycle.  If you want buses, cycles lanes, or anything else in your neighbourhood the best thing to do is get together with others.  One person asking for something can be ignored, a community asking has sway.

More about this author: Judith Willson

From Around the Web