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Celebrity Transit Endorsement: Vincent Kartheiser Rides!

October 5, 2010

The New York Times finally put together a good piece on transit outside of their home city. I say “finally” because rarely is transit elsewhere mentioned outside of the “36 Hours” series, and even then, rental cars are recommended.
For example, in the 2007 36 Hours in Atlanta, a rental car was recommended because “public transportation is limited,” though I’m pretty sure that none of the destinations in the article were outside MARTA service areas.
In the 2003 Atlanta article, it was recommended that a rental car be acquired from the airport and used to drive the 10 miles to downtown, even though the train goes from there to there and AirTrain to JFK wasn’t launched until the early 2000’s. (Uhm, booyah.) Then again, in 2003, the writer went outside city limits to Dawsonville, so I guess they can have a pass. Nevermind that an article about Atlanta could actually stay in Atlanta.
In “36 Hours in Chicago” the author really only spoke of the loop, and not the extensive branches of the CTA rail system, not the fact that the buses run on a pretty convenient grid, though they mentioned the Logan Square neighborhood which has a rail station named for it. Except they first misstated that Logan Square was 2 miles from the loop, when it’s actually six. Then, after Bus Nerd wrote to them and explained the difference between “the loop” and “the L,” they made the distance correction, but did not clarify that Logan Square can be gotten to in any way. Actually, in three ways that I recall, more if you’re willing to walk a bit.
Tangential contest: Name the routes or services that give walking-distance access to Logan Square and you win a prize!

Anyway, the reason I began talking about all of this is Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men, who’s car-free in LA, which holy crap! Sounds so fucking impossible, right? Mr. K has been trying to buy a car for three years, but keeps waffling, probably because life just isn’t that hard. Anyway, we get a glimpse at a Star… He’s Just Like Us! better than those provided by People magazine, as the guy goes out for a night on the town and pretty much talks about how great public transit is.

Mr. Kartheiser was unfazed by the bus and rail system. “The buses stay on the streets they are on,” he said. “If you get on the 4, it’s going to stay on Santa Monica until it becomes Sunset. I don’t even know the names of most of the buses. Like the Fairfax bus — it’s just the Fairfax bus.” […] “The hardest part of riding the bus is dating,” he added. “Girls, as much as they are independent, want on a certain level to have certain things.”

Funny story: Before Bus Nerd and I met, I totally wanted someone who had a car because I didn’t. Not because I was sick of MARTA, but because that’s what we’re supposed to want. It’s a lame statement, but it’s true. It’s lame of me to say that I was so lame as to be affected by societal markers of maturity that I myself did not possess. But that’s what I wanted. And Bus Nerd and I totally passed each other over on the first go-round because of it. And he didn’t want to date a smoker. But oops! Here’s the thing, we’re not totally motor free. I have a scooter, and he has a Zipcar membership, which is just about the same as borrowing your parents car, except you get to set the curfew! I’ll admit it, having a personal transportation device makes doing some things, like avoiding walking, easier, but I maintain that car ownership, insurance payments and gridlock aren’t necessary in everyday city life.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic, you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus. Everyone’s got their own deal.” […] “They’ve done a study and they’ve found that people under 30 no longer view cars as status symbols or even positive things,” Mr. Kartheiser said. “They look at them as pollutants.” Earlier in the evening, on the way to the restaurant, Mr. Kartheiser had ruminated about his choice to be carless. “I like that my life slows down when I go places,” he said. “I have all these interactions with the human race and I can watch people living their life and not just in their car.”

All in all, this is a great piece on transit not because of the journalist, but because of the subject, a famous dude who goes without wheels in one of the most car-centric big cities in the country. I think residents of Atlanta, stars and not, could learn a thing or two from Pete Campbell.

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