Several times in the past few years, both online and in person, I've been told by New Yorkers, "I wish I could get rid of my car, but I need it when I go away for the weekend." Now it's possible that that's just a convenient excuse, and that they're really afraid of giving up their middle-class status symbols, but let's assume that there is a significant number of New Yorkers who currently own cars but would give them up if they could get the same quality vacations without the car.
In 2008, the DMV reports that there were 1,751,505 cars registered in New York City, and there are probably a lot more registered in vacation homes and stored here. Imagine if we could get even ten percent of that number off the streets. First of all, taxpayer-funded free parking wasn't set up for the purpose of subsidizing middle-class vacations, and there would be a lot more parking available to people who might use it on a more short-term basis. Second, weekend getaway driving is a significant component of the pollution that New Yorkers emit, and of the petroleum we consume. Third, it contributes to human and animal carnage throughout the region.
Perhaps most importantly, weekend driving perpetuates a driving constituency that would not otherwise be there: a significant number of the voices demanding more roads and more parking - and consequently less space for pedestrians and cyclists, and less money for trains and buses - in the city, in the inner suburbs and in the vacation areas.
In upcoming posts, I'll discuss what can be done to reduce weekend vacation driving in the city.