[this page is a mirror of this original]

Doing Freedom masthead

Unsubscribe USA.Gov

Part IV: Transportation

Sunni Maravillosa

Being a city mouse makes the transportation challenge easier to resolve in some ways; most likely you'll have at least one public transportation option for getting around. Even if the thought of relying on taxpayer-subsidized vehicular transport is so repugnant to you that you'd never dream of using it, you still have a fairly wide variety of choices. Unless you really need to be virtually invisible, the primary factors in your choice are likely cost and convenience.

Having a car of your own is very convenient, but it's also one of the easiest ways for the thought police to track you, too. When you figure in maintenance costs, including insurance, the cost of this convenience can be quite high. (And in the really big cities, the monthly cost of parking can be ghastly.) Best to avoid it. If you think you absolutely can't get along without your own wheels, consider options to avoid linking them to you. Can you get ze papers taken care of by a trusted friend? (There'd need to be a good deal of trust on both sides for this to work well.) Or perhaps you can make arrangements to borrow--or rent--someone's car on a regular basis. If that wouldn't work, asking for rides is another possibility, but at that point you begin losing the convenience a car offers, and constantly sponging rides from others--even if you do pay for your gas and chip in on maintenance costs--could strain some friendships. If you do opt for your own wheels, they need to fit your story/lifestyle, too. Someone living in the low-rent district and driving a nice vehicle could attract attention, or arouse suspicion as to how you can afford that kind of car. Think bland and boring for your target situation.

A similar solution is to rely on taxis to get around; they're there to get you from point A to point B when you need to, without you having the hassles of parking, traffic, maintenance, and all the downsides of car ownership. In cities where there are several taxi companies, it's possible to use that to your advantage, to retain privacy. The primary disadvantage of taxi service is the cost; they aren't cheap. But if you use them judiciously, they can supply a lot of your travel needs almost as conveniently as owning a car yourself.

Much less expensive, much less convenient, but still a very solid option, is the city's bus system. Almost every decent-sized city has some kind of bus system, and it generally does a fairly good job of covering the major roads and attractions in the city. For some inexplicable reason, though, in each city I've been in the buses don't run on Sunday. Just another example of good gummint planning, I guess.

With the bus system, you may need to do some walking to get to the closest bus stop to your living space, and also to reach your final destination. Your course may involve some transfers and waiting for buses, so having some reading material or other diversion is a good idea. (Such diversions will generally keep the busybody types at bay as well.) That leads to one of the greatest hurdles of using the bus system: it can take hours to make a fairly simple crosstown trip. If you rely on bus service as work transportation, you'll likely become recognized as a regular, and folks--bus drivers and other regulars--will probably want to get friendly with you. Some of these people can be downright insistent about this, too. In some cities, monthly passes that offer a significant price break over the pay-as-you-ride fares also require showing some ID or putting some personal info on their ID (so it isn't transferable), creating a conundrum--give up some privacy to save bucks, or give up some bucks to keep that extra privacy?

Some large cities also offer subway and/or rail service, which is usually faster than bus travel, and often extends farther than bus service does. It's been my experience in several American cities that subways tend to be more impersonal than buses; even if one follows a fairly routine schedule, people tend to leave each other alone on subways. An aspect of either bus or subway travel that may be potentially unpleasant for some individuals is the possibility of meeting some, er, interesting individuals along the way. It's also possible to witness some raw ugliness between people, or human misery at its worst.

If the thought of supporting gummint-supported mass transit gives you the shivers, biking around town may be a viable, low-cost alternative. Depending upon your level of fitness and the awareness of drivers in your city to bike traffic, biking could be a strong alternative to cars and mass transit. This solution offers different kinds of challenges than the other options already discussed, and some of these may not be easily solved. For example, you may want to shower after biking in to your job--is there a convenient place where you can do so, or at least wash off a bit and change into work clothes? Transporting a lot of things between home and work can get tricky, too. Finding safe storage for your bike may also be something of a challenge, and unless you can stow it where you can keep an eye on it, theft is always a possibility. Some cities license and regulate bikes, too, making this option just about as privacy-invading as automobile ownership.

The best bet for getting around and being low-profile is on foot, of course, if you're in a city where that's typical. Don't laugh--there are places in Kalifornia where walking is so "not done" that there aren't sidewalks. In other places, they exist, but appear to be decorative only--a person actually using one would attract a good deal of attention. It isn't many people's first choice, but walking offers unique advantages, including maximizing your privacy--not many people try to engage walkers in conversation, and unless you jaywalk in front of a cop a few tickets short of her quota, the thought police are likely to leave you alone. For many trips, however, walking isn't practical--most likely you can't carry everything back from the grocery store, or it would take far too long to get to your destination. On the other hand, if you can change your buying habits--getting fewer items and making more frequent trips--and live within walking distance of a good grocery store and other necessities, walking will benefit your budget and your health. It's also the best way of maintaining high privacy.

Americans are known worldwide for their "love affair with the car". Compared to other countries I've visited, this stereotype is accurate overall--we love the convenience and privacy our cars give us, and often assume we can't function well without them. But if you want to be private and still get around town, many other options are available, if you're willing to be flexible and creative. Chances are you'll need to select different options to cover all your transportation needs--think ahead, plan for your trips as well as your privacy preferences, and you'll be cruising along as a contented city mouse.

(c) 2001


Please rate this article! Knowing what you like will help us provide the content you want.

bad poor average good excellent

If there's anything specific you'd like to say about this article, please do so here. Comments may be used in an upcoming Letters to the Editor.


Table of Contents

Comment on this article
View all comments on this article