Comment of the Day: It's Hard Not to Drive a Lot When America's This Spread Out

In The Morning Shift today, my brilliant coworker Aaron Gordon wrote about a report from the Department of Transportation stating that Americans drove 43 percent more miles in April of 2019 than they did during the same month 25 years prior. Even though vehicles are cleaner now, driving isn’t great from an environmental standpoint. But as one reader points out, sometimes it’s hard to avoid spinning up that odometer.

A key point in Aaron’s story is that, per the DOT, most of the miles traveled happen in urban areas, which he rightly describes as places where driving tends to suck, and where automobile rides can most easily be replaced by alternatives.

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Upon reading the story, reader ShaneMorris wanted to share his experiences about how, outside of these dense cities, driving less is actually quite difficult. And based on the 86 folks who recommended his comment, it’s probably safe to say he’s not the only one who puts some miles on his vehicle just doing errands and other normal everyday activities. Take it away, Shane:


I live in Suburban Detroit, and while I don’t have to drive 16 miles to a gym or 11 miles to a decent grocery store, this place is spread out. I suppose that’s not surprising, since Detroit is the spiritual home of the automobile (which in some ways facilitated the growth of suburbia), but it’s still incredible how many miles need to be traveled just to get some folks to join me for a barbecue in my backyard.

To get to Troy, where I live, some of my friends have to drive 15 miles from Pontiac, some have to travel over 30 miles from Wixom, and others drive eight miles from Royal Oak. If you add all the miles traveled (both ways) for just a standard Saturday barbecue at my place, you’d probably come up with a couple of hundred miles traveled for maybe a half dozen folks. It’s a bit absurd, but hey, I’m not complaining, as all the space lets me store lots and lots of automobiles.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio