My Dance Labs partner, Ted Ko, wrote a blog entry on Reducing Gas Demand - carrot or stick? He makes a really great point in regards to what "carrots" would significantly change my use of gasoline and the short answer is I use gasoline quite indirectly while in Thailand now!
So I thought I'd share about my adventures through greenery and my relationship to transportation over the past 20 years (2 decades!)...
I've never owned a car while in high school and admittedly, did borrow my parent's car quite often. in college, Pittsburgh really wasn't that interesting to me so I seldom really had the need to go off campus. So when I landed my first job at Intel and moved to the bay area, it was obvious I needed a car right? wrong. I just didn't see life the way I do now.
What happened is my dad was nice to help me buy a car and we bought a SUV so it would have "utility" - I wasn't into trucks and admittedly, wanted something I considered to be sexier. I asked to trade my car with my dad's Accord V6 and sure wish I had a picture to post here! Some of my friends thought I was crazy - SUVs were so in style at the time.
So my love for SF put this car to the test. Being my energetic self, I found myself driving on many wkds fri, sat, and sun roundtrip from the south bay - that is a total of 300 miles a wkd! I don't feel so guilty cuz I invited just about anyone who wanted to come with me to check something out in the city - it really wasn't hard to fill the call given how cool SF is - eventually, people like Suzanne started to fill my car for me and I quickly became a designated driver happy to have people "along for the ride" :)
My job moved to SF and that's when my car started getting dusty - being in the garage sometimes 2 or 3 weeks at a time. MUNI was s much fun and with the advent of NextBus, I'd pull out my laptop in the morning and it would report precisely how many minutes it would take for my train to arrive at the stop 2 blocks away. It was the kind of thing where 6-7 minutes was a leisurely walk, 4-5 a brisk walk, 3 it was time to run, 2 it's the olympics and you'll probably find yourself chasing that train! long live GPS - this is one of the best applications of technology I'd ever seen.
Eventually, I packed up to live in LA and found the public transport in the Santa Monica area surprisingly usable in a city that is infested with cars. The biggest experiment I ran was how easy it would be to get to my brother's house on the *way* other side of town near Cal Poly Pomona - I think bout 50 miles away! Well - it wasn't too bad! It was time to give up the car.
So here I am in Thailand. I don't own a car and have explored public transit quite a bit outside of the basic train system. It's interesting to find locals that don't even know what bus routes to get on and others who have lived and breathed the system (ahem - the air quality downtown sucks) all their life. It's novelty has worn off and now it's a bit of a chore to get downtown. I do everything I can to telecommute, to coordinate work online, to stay in my office most days. Yesterday, I never even left the house. My desk is one of the most ergonomic desks in Bangkok and I'm proud of it. It supports the way I work.
I dream about the SkyTrain or subway coming out to this area (Thonburi) - it's supposed to happen but another 5 years? What am I to do in the meantime?
I'm still an advocate of public transit and finding myself using taxis to get myself to a trains more and more these days. Being in a back of taxi has a flavor of peace to it - a chance to be with myself, away from the computer, really be with nothing - I don't have to pay attention the road and can just watch life going by. I get to the train station and can be with the predictability of my arrival - it's a completely different state of mind.
So the reality is it comes at a price. It costs at max US$5 to get downtown which is not a lot for people from the states. It is quite a bit for locals who take a bus for less than 10% of this (20 baht for an air-conditioned express bus, 6 baht for a street bus).
I've grown up in the states, earned a salary to support myself as an engineer and find myself wanting to learn the way of your average everyday citizen in Bangkok. I've become a relentlessly cost-cutting entrepreneur supporting myself in Thailand using my savings and happy project opportunties for the things I love in life (ie. dance!) are now showing up.
I suppose it's time to rework the grassroots budget for dancelabs!
Say no to cars until after Feb 2007!
I have no idea what happens then - it's just a silly promise I made to myself and committed to keep despite temptation.
On that note, time to be with my choice ;-)