I get my collared shirts laundered. About once a week, I take about five shirts, put them in my car, drive over to the dry-cleaner’s, and drop off those shirts, pick up last week’s, and take them home.
Why do I drive?
The dry cleaner I use is one short block from a BART station. I live 0.4 miles from the neighboring BART station. I take BART to work all the time, and basically like that experience.
- It would take a long time. It’s about five minutes to walk to BART, maybe a touch more. If I’m lucky, let’s say that I only wait two minutes to get a train. Then it’s about two minutes to the next station. Then maybe a minute to walk to the dry cleaner’s. Call it all told 10 minutes. And then the reverse. It could easily be 12 or 15 if I have to wait all of 5 or 7 minutes for the train. In contrast, it takes about 5 minutes to drive there, so I save say 10 to 20 minutes round-trip.
- I don’t mind a 0.4 mile walk to BART unencumbered. It turns out it’s a little inconvenient to do that while holding my shirts. Like, I could do it if I had to. But I won’t just say, “Hey, I think I’ll walk for the enjoyment of walking” the way I sometimes do when unencumbered.
- It’s kind of expensive. BART is very reasonably priced in the city, only $1.85 per trip. So $3.70 both ways. The actual laundering costs like $12. Adding 25-30% to the cost of getting my shirts cleaned seems a little egregious.
So. I’m in a pretty ideal case for short-distance urban transportation. Less than half a mile from the station on one end, and maybe 80 yards on the other. Trains coming frequently and inexpensively. But honestly it’s a no-brainer to use my car (given that I have a car for other reasons).
This is fundamentally why America has remained very, very car-oriented despite the best efforts of a broad coalition of environmentalists, urban planners, advocates for the poor, rail enthusiasts, anti-industrialists, and Europe-enviers trying to get us to go more walking/transit-oriented. It’s extremely tough to get even very good transit infrastructure to compete with the convenience of cars.
If we do have a driverless car future coming, that will be a huge blow to transit infrastructure, as cars acquire many or all of the advantages of transit without giving up any of their present advantages.