Just as I did on the  second day of driving, I drove my girlfriend to campus and again, I did it more quickly that she seems able. My thought is that if she usually leaves just five minutes later, those five minutes can add enough traffic to the roads that an additional five minutes are added to the trip. I think about it in terms of a parking lot. If there are a lot of people trying to get someplace by 9:00, the parking lot won’t fill up steadily from during the thirty minutes leading up to that time. It will come in an increasing wave so that around 8:55 it will be really busy. There must be studies on this sort of thing somewhere. Traffic engineering blows my mind. 

I left campus in the early afternoon and headed to Barnes and Noble to find a magazine. Traffic was light on Hwy. 101 and it was sprinkling. I was looking for a car magazine. I had been looking for Automobile Magazine half-heartedly for a while, but now I realized that maybe it might offer some insights into the current state of the industry and the habit. Their feature article for May is about great used car bargains for auto enthusiasts. People still want interesting cars even if they can’t afford something new… I ended up not buying the magazine for fear of my own finances. 

I drove home in a light rain. Later in the afternoon I drove through downtown and up to the Westside to go to Grocery Outlet where I met my girlfriend coming from campus. A halfway meeting place between home and campus. She doesn’t like riding the bus in America. Riding public transit is fine, even a valuable experience for her in foreign lands, but in America, she has her car and that’s the way she prefers to get around for trips outside of downtown. She’s definitely aware of her options and aware of the troubles caused by cars and yet… she hasn’t found a reason to change the most regular trips to campus. 

Despite our having picked up some food at Grocery Outlet when suppertime rolls around we can’t figure out what to eat. We decide to hop in the car and go “hunting and gathering” for a place to eat. Seven point two miles and twenty-five minutes later my girlfriend gets a hamburger from the fast food place three blocks from our apartment. I decide to wait to eat pasta at home. Something of a failed expedition. For whatever it’s worth, I do get cabin fever sometimes. It hasn’t happened lately because I was down in California during Spring Break and I seem to find myself in Seattle visiting my mom most weekends. But there have been times when I haven’t left Olympia for several weeks and I feel the need to hop in a car and get out of town. I suppose I could do that by bus, too, but I haven’t yet. 

Oh, by the way, the gas light went on on April 8th when we drove downtown to have dinner with our friend. I suppose eventually we’ll have to do something about that. The Jetta is a four cylinder so it gets decent mileage, but we still need to feed it from time to time.  

I want to mention something I found fascinating while researching electric cars online. Th!nk is an electric car from Norway. “TH!NK city is a modern urban car. With zero local emissions and an energy efficiency three times that of a traditional combustion engine car, it is a car for the environment.” And Mitsubishi says their up-coming i-MiEV has “zero on-road CO2 emissions.” I am amazed that car companies are starting to be open about the fact that electric cars are capable of polluting based on their source of electricity. Am I cynical to be surprised that car companies aren’t hiding pollution? What’s going on here?

A few years back I saw a rating of the life-cycle emissions of various vehicles. You could call this a measure of vehicular footprints. Now I don’t remember what all the emissions were that were being measured but I do remember the shocking claim that the vehicle with the fewest lifetime emissions was the Land Rover Discovery. I guess the claim was that the manufacture of the vehicle was so controlled that the pollution caused by exhaust wasn’t so bad. That would really shake up people’s perceptions of efficiency. I really wish I could find that study again.

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