Since Humberto started work in downtown on 8th between Virginia and Stewart I have found myself circling the block.

Candys Home Sweet Homes

Circling a city block looking for a parking spot is a frustrating urban ritual, one that the city hopes to reduce with new parking meter technology that could start popping up on Seattle’s streets next year.

Earlier this week, the City Council’s Transportation Committee approved a plan that would involve replacing and retrofitting the city’s 2,200 parking pay stations. One major reason for the project, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation, is simply that many of the existing stations are getting old. But by updating the kiosks with newer “smart” technology, the city will also be able to set higher or lower rates for parking depending on the demand for spaces in different neighborhoods at different times of the day.

“A lot of the pay stations out there right now are like having a 10-year-old cell phone,” said Mike Estey, manager for parking operations and traffic permits for SDOT…

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I made it very clear early on that I was not buying a car for any of our children, nor was I going to let them drive our one and only family car.  (It’s now 2014 and we still have just one car —  The same Volvo we purchased back in 2008.)  End of discussion.  Our oldest who graduated high school just three months ago will soon be off to college in Bellingham at Western Washington University.  One thing he said he did want to do was become a pilot.  For the last fifteen months he has gotten himself to the airport for his lessons, to work as a lifeguard and to school.   For those of you who might be thinking that he is spoilt please understand that we matched his contributions for lessons.  He worked for the remainder all with no prodding what so ever from us.  Over the last few years he gradually became more independent as he should as a teenager.  In fact, half the time he would be out and about just texting me to let me know where he was.  My biggest concern was that he would get in a car with a drunk teenage novice driver.  So a month ago our 18 year old got down to the air field all the way to the tarmac when his instructor asked him for some state issued identification in order to fly the plane with him sitting shot-gun.  Well, he didn’t have one.  Two days later he arrived back at the airfield with his learner’s permit in hand.  So far we’ve only gone out twice to the local parking lot for a driving lesson.  It amazes me to think that my boy can fly an airplane but not know how to drive a car.  Today was a special day.  He got his pilot’s license.  He still is in no hurry to get his driver’s license.  In fact, I’ve asked him a couple of times when he wanted to go out again.  He just replied “Later.  I’m busy”.  So we’ll drop him off at college in four days and he will have a bus pass, which is included with his tuition, and his bike.  To get home for visits he’ll just take the bus or the train.  Needless to say,  I am so very proud of him.  Tomorrow, “if the weather is nice”, he is going to take me up.  I can’t wait.

I was thinking the other day about the difficulty older people face in getting around. Every younger driver at one time or another has been stuck behind an elderly driver. As we age our vision deteriorates as well as our reaction time making it frustrating for not only those who have to share the road, but for the drivers themselves. Imagine, after all, having driven all your life only to reach a point where your driver’s license is revoke become you become a danger to others. It is easy to see how this could lead to feelings of isolation and failure and even depression.

So that leave few options open for the elderly. They can either retire to a community with “in-house” transportation services, rely on family and friends, or else rely on public transportation. However, the last option really isn’t an option given the fact that using public transportation involves a lot of walking out of doors in the elements.

Here is one article I found on the subject if you are interested in reading about this particular facet of going without a car.

Is it just me or are there more car commercials than anything else on television?  I think of them today because as I was walking outside on my way home from the library today there were many people standing around the street, cars were circling.   Police had even cordoned off the street.  Red flashing lights, waving arms, a white motorcycle parked in the middle of the street.  So I stopped to ask what they were doing.  I’m not shy.  One said, “We’re filming a Chevrolet commercial.”  I was impressed.  My next question was whether it was a national commercial.  Yes.  Wow.  Now I was really impressed.

It is super obvious, especially since the “Cash for Clunkers” program, how dependant the USA economy is on the auto industry and every thing connected with it.  I wish the economy could run on a different “gasoline” besides the automobile.

Bellevue, Washington

Originally uploaded by brewbooks

From an airplane one can see the “mega blocks” of Bellevue. A far cry from the very walkable blocks of Portland, Oregon.

The year my first child was an infant we went to the beach in Oaxaca, Mexico close to Puerto Escondido.  My son and I were swinging peacefully in the shade in a hammock in 75 degree weather.  It was sunny and their was a slight breeze coming off of the ocean.  In the background we could hear the lapping of the ocean as the waves broke on the beach.  We were on the verge of sleep.  A few feet away a single local man was quietly digging a shallow trench for something.  I don’t know what.  He was trying to respectfully mind his business when my son smiled at him.  In return we were rewarded with a big, toothless smile.  The mans face was dark and wrinkled from years of working under the sun.  He obviously had very little, if any, European blood in him.  When I started to speak to him in Spanish he asked us where we were from.  Seattle I told him.  I could tell that he considered anything to the north as paved with gold.  He talked of how someday he wanted to go there and work.  Our simple five minute conversation was an epiphany to me.  Here he was digging a ditch.  I bet that he was happier than 90% of most North Americans.  He had his family, his goat, his dirt-floored house, and sufficient tortillas. 

Last year’s carless experiment certainly did feel like a lot of deprivation.  But it would not have been so if we hadn’t felt like such “odd balls.”  If everyone is doing it, then there is momentum and pride.  I think of the fact that each time I go to Mexico, where my husband is from, and see the joy of the people despite the living conditions, we in the USA are constantly unhappy.  Why?  It seems like “getting ahead” is on every ones mind.  The uncomfortable state of not having or doing what the Jones’ have or do messes with our Psyche more then even I like to admit.  Of course the media and advertising are the major players here.   Happiness, it seems, is about perception.

I haven’t been blogging here because, well, we are no longer carless.  Therefore, the tagline “Carless in Bellevue — Is it possible?” doesn’t mean much.

Today I decided to make this space one where I just collect interesting information on the topics concerning sustainability and throw in my thoughts.

FlexCar, which provided the flexibility we needed during our 14 months without owning a car, started getting taxed as a rental car last fall.  This act increased the cost of going car-less, but more importantly it was a big vote of no confidence for those trying to do “something” about the environment.    Wow.  It washard enough, now they want to make it even more difficult/expensive.  What I discovered over the time we went without a car of our own was that it wasn’t necessarily less expensive.  Then Flexcar merged with Zipcar a few months later.  There were several small changes that made it less desirable to renew our membership and join with Zipcar.  Ultimately we decided that it was an up hill battle and got a car (one) for our family of five.  No one I knew of was pleased with the changes made with the merger.

This last week I found myself at home ill along with my entire family.  After five days we were bouncing off the walls and so ready to get out of the house.  In my boredom and sick exhausting I thought, “let’s get in the car and go somewhere.”  I really do enjoy driving so one could say that it is cheap entertainment.  One gets to see things and feel like she is actually going somewhere or doing something in stead of just remaining idle at home in bed.  My next thought was, “Okay, so where should we go?  We still aren’t completely well and it would really be selfish of us to expose others to this nasty bug.” 

It occurred to me for the first time that we probably utilize our cars much more for entertainment than we would like to admit to ourselves.  This is contradictory to my policy to 1) walk when my trip was very close by,  2) still try to take the bus when I am alone and have no reason not to and 3) not drive unless I really have to.  In other words, I don’t look in the fridge, discover that we are almost out of milk and make that my excuse for driving to the grocery store a mile away.

In the end I resisted the temptation.  In stead the children and I put on warm coats (since we were still ill), they got out their bikes and we went to the near-by park.  We got what we needed:  fresh air, a change of scenery and interaction with the outside world without burning a bit of fossil fuel.  I am so glad that I resisted the temptation.

My daughter is not a morning person.  She stays up as late as she possibly can get away with.   That is, until I really loose my patience and start threatening to take away play dates.  This morning was no exception.  I had to prod her out from under the warm covers.  Unfortunately, she immediately started to argue with her brother.  The bickering went on too long and it got later and later.  In an effort to shorten the story she ended up missing the school bus.  This wasn’t a huge problem because I go to her school each week on this day anyway.  Since it is just I, then I make a concerted effort to take the bus.  It is probably about the same price dollar wise if one does not factor in the cost of maintenance of our vehicle.  Finally it was time to go.  As I was heading out the door I told my daughter that we needed to hurry up or she would miss the bus again.  She turned to me in an instant with her face in puzzlement.  Aren’t we taking the car?  Oh child, you have you gotten soft so quickly?