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Transportation planning and alternatives to drunk driving
June 4, 2014 2:01 PM   Subscribe


 
It should certainly not be a norm that you drive to a bar.
Bars should not have parking for customers.
They should be reachable by transit.

Anything else guarantees DUIs.
posted by ocschwar at 2:05 PM on June 4 [32 favorites]


Google self-driving car would be handy in a pinch.
posted by Halogenhat at 2:08 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


Oh Google Self-Driving Car, is there anything you can't fix? You know, except wanton use of resources, sprawl, and a toxic car-based culture?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:14 PM on June 4 [28 favorites]


Enable drunks to use underutilized HOV lanes after midnight. Maybe make them attached a lit magnetic martini glass on their roof to signify inebriation. Make it easier for the sobers to avoid them.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:21 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Having lived in Chicago the past few years and covering the bar scene as a writer, I would definitely guess that Uber (and other related companies like Lyft) have made a big difference. Chicago has the issue where there are a couple of bar hotspots that are far from the El and don't have great bus lines either. I personally use Lyft and Uber all the time after drinking.

It's too bad the conflict between regulators and different companies (this is a great article about it by an ex-taxi driver I used to use to get to the airport) is threatening this model.

Of course I'd also like to see better alternative transit in Chicago like truly protected bike lanes, but in the meantime, apps like Uber/Lyft/etc. are a decent solution.
posted by melissam at 2:24 PM on June 4


The Uber mantra is a bit weird in this. Yes, having more transport options helps, but why bang on about Uber so much, given that a) these cities have cabs and b) clearly her stats suggest that public transit is a much bigger factor in dropping rates of DUIs.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:27 PM on June 4 [8 favorites]


I have to say that now that I live in the inner city, I am able to drink more freely knowing that I can either walk or take an Uber home. Back when I lived in the 'burbs I had to either drink at home or drink very little.
posted by octothorpe at 2:27 PM on June 4


I don't know about anyone else but when I talk about using Uber I'm talking about using it to call an actual professional taxi. It's great for when you need a cab and there are none driving down this particular street right now. I don't use the amateur drivers.
posted by bleep at 2:31 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


duh!
posted by b1tr0t at 2:32 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


but why bang on about Uber so much, given that a) these cities have cabs

LA technically has cabs. Good luck getting one to pick you up and take you anywhere. Oh and it'll cost you an arm and a leg. Uber which is cheap, reliable and ubiquitous has completely changed getting around LA late night. I imagine the situation is the same in lots of cities. Especially the sprawly ones.
posted by fshgrl at 2:34 PM on June 4 [13 favorites]


From the article:
Countless DUI PSAs like that one didn't prevent me from ever driving after a couple of drinks, but I suspect they did help shape how seriously I take drinking and driving as a concept.
This juxtaposition is huge, and I think it's key to the issue: people can say "yes, drunk driving is a problem," and then say "but I'm just a bit tipsy."

You are impaired, your reaction times are decreased. But you still opt to drive. So do habitual drunk drivers, who are the predominant reason for drunk-driving deaths. And even worse, some people are clearly alcoholics, as when they are unable to drive, they become another statistic, the (drunk) pedestrian who was struck in a drinking-related crash.

The relationship to drinking in the US (if not elsewhere) is really at the heart of this. There are so many patches (PSAs, laws, devices) that people forget the problem (excessive drinking as a normal activity). But health/mental care isn't discussed, because it's easier to make more ads, pass more laws, and install more devices. Plus you can track those expenditures versus the trends in deaths, whereas education and health-related care are more hazy in their benefits.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:37 PM on June 4 [8 favorites]


fshgrl: Especially the sprawly ones.

With sufficient population. You're still screwed in rural states, be it access to actual taxis or "amateur" services like Uber.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Same deal in Phoenix. It's too big and too spread out for cabs to be practically hailable, and if you call one, it... might show up?

The people I know who regularly use cabs all have off-the-books personal relationships with particular cab drivers. That's the only way to have any assurance that they'll show up when you call them.

Uber is just an order of magnitude easier and more pleasant to use than cabs.
posted by Jick at 2:38 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


It's worked in my personal life!
posted by saul wright at 2:39 PM on June 4


Just out curiosity, do cities with extensive public transit like NYC and Chicago have lower DUI rates than those without like LA?
posted by jonmc at 2:46 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


The difference in cultural attitudes toward drunk driving between areas with good transit and areas with no transit are enormous. While I have never owned a car or been a regular driver, when I lived in a small southern city with a car culture, no transit to speak of (certainly not at the time of night you'd likely be leaving a bar), and no reliable cab service, I knew many people who drove drunk regularly, and even the people who didn't were not particularly inclined to judge those who did. Now that I am in Chicago there is a lot more open disdain for people who drive drunk and the people who do are much less willing to be admit it. (But that's the city proper; head out into the car-centric suburbs and attitudes seem much like they were in the south.) So I'm absolutely willing to believe that funding more and better transit and walkable and bikeable development is is a very effective way to fight drunk driving.
posted by enn at 2:47 PM on June 4 [9 favorites]


I've commented on this before but I really feel like the introduction of Uber and Lyft to my city is really going to cut down on the drunk driving. The existing cab system is so unreliable that no one in their right mind (or even drunk mind) would ever rely on them to get them home from a bar. You'd have as much luck trying to hail a unicorn for a ride home as you'd have trying to get a Yellow Cab on a weekend night.

Oh and public transit shuts down at midnight so that's no help.
posted by octothorpe at 2:51 PM on June 4 [6 favorites]


why bang on about Uber so much, given that a) these cities have cabs

Seattle technically has cabs, too, but who cares? Uber actually shows up, right away, actually takes you where you want to go, without giving you any crap about it, and actually accepts the credit card you put on file with uber.com, and life is simple.

What's more, I know a disturbing number of women who simply won't ride in cabs alone because they or people they know have been sexually assaulted by cab drivers. Uber drivers don't seem to have this reputation, and it's hard to imagine how that could become a systematic problem given the way the service is structured.

I know a guy who used to drive after drinking - I won't say that he was driving drunk, as I have no idea how his BAC compared to the legal limit, but he would drive home from bars, like we all did, and some of us still do. Once he discovered Uber, and Lyft, though, he's now the guy saying "hey, man, fuck driving, let me just call you a car, it'll be right here". Technically I suppose he could have been doing the same thing with cabs, but it took the arrival of Uber and Lyft to hit the threshold where the lifestyle change actually made sense.

Imagine how much better it'd be if we had a citywide train system! Everyone would be taking transit, not just people who can afford smartphones and car services.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:53 PM on June 4 [20 favorites]


There are a lot more problems than just drunk driving that could be solved by more public transportation. Or for that matter, extending public transport in certain places so that you don't have to leave the bar by 10 p.m. to catch it.

"when I lived in a small southern city with a car culture, no transit to speak of (certainly not at the time of night you'd likely be leaving a bar), and no reliable cab service, I knew many people who drove drunk regularly, and even the people who didn't were not particularly inclined to judge those who did."

Hah, I went to Montana and a family friend was driving around and drinking beer while we were in the car. I was freaking OUT. But my parents were all, "it's Montana, there's nobody out here to hit, shut up." And normally they'd be freaking the hell out about drunk drivers. But in situations where it's hard to get home at all....yeah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:56 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


LA technically has cabs. Good luck getting one to pick you up and take you anywhere. Oh and it'll cost you an arm and a leg.

I lived in LA for 7 years and was always impressed by the cabs there (well, apart from the fact that I always seemed to have really depressed ones) and having them show up, but I see I must have been lucky. I've used apps (like Hailo), but never noticed they made a huge choice in my cab decisions, but know that's just my experience. (Doesn't Uber, however, price on demand? That must make taking a cab at closing time in party areas a bit price.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:56 PM on June 4


enn - there's a definite split between Illinois and Wisconsin. My Illinois-raised ex was horrified at the relaxed attitudes towards DUIs in Wisconsin. I grew up thinking it was really not that big of a deal. I know half a dozen people who have DUIs. People regularly appear on news reports as having 7 or 8 DUIs. The penalties aren't as strict and public transit is much worse.
posted by desjardins at 3:01 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


But my parents were all, "it's Montana, there's nobody out here to hit, shut up."

But there are elk and bison and bears!
posted by desjardins at 3:03 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


Oh my!
posted by RobotHero at 3:04 PM on June 4 [6 favorites]


Thank god I previewed.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:05 PM on June 4 [8 favorites]


I wish there were a campaign against bad driving in general. When I listen to some people talk, it's like they think that alcohol is the only cause of car crashes.
posted by thelonius at 3:14 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Regarding drunk pedestrians: "A drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street as a sober one, and much more in need of it." This was written in a court opinion in 1855. Unfortunately, today, we seem to feel that drivers are entitled to a road free of obstacles, while pedestrians (drunk or not) get to fend for themselves.

Regarding transportation planning and drunk driving, the Houston Off-street Parking Ordinance (as an example) requires bars, clubs and lounges (defined as establishments which derive more than 50% of revenue from the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption) to provide 14 parking spaces, or around 4900 square feet of parking, for every 1000 square feet of floor area.

Drunk driving is not just accepted, it's written into the law.
posted by alexei at 3:41 PM on June 4 [10 favorites]


Google Self-Driving Car, is there anything you can't fix?

This is post is about drunk driving, and yes a self-driving car does completely fix that problem.
posted by bhnyc at 3:41 PM on June 4 [7 favorites]


This is the Google Car killer app. If they get legally approved, I'm buying stock in Applebee's.
posted by condour75 at 3:49 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


fshgrl: Especially the sprawly ones.

With sufficient population. You're still screwed in rural states, be it access to actual taxis or "amateur" services like Uber.


That's why you ride your skidoo or your 4wheeler to the bar.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


That's why you ride your skidoo or your 4wheeler to the bar.

There's probably a quarter of the US population that lives in places too low density to have public transit or Uber, but too dense to ride atvs in the street.

I'm conservative about drinking and driving (I walk or take a taxi, or limit myself to one or two beers all evening), but almost no one else is. Drunk diving is both stigmatized and normalized, which isn't a productive combination.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:59 PM on June 4


But my parents were all, "it's Montana, there's nobody out here to hit, shut up."

But there are elk and bison and bears!


I admit I have not been to Montana, but I always imagined they had at least a few trees there.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:17 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Uber and Lyft allow their vehicles-for-hire to deny service to the disabled. In addition, Uber and Lyft provide no training or guidance to the vehicles-for-hire that use their service concerning lawfully meeting the needs of disabled consumers. It's not the only problem with Uber and Lyft, nor the only transit option that’s violating the ADA, but it’s still a significant problem.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:17 PM on June 4 [8 favorites]


This is something I've wondered about periodically, as an urban planner.

Based on data about alcohol-related crashes and fatalities (here) and Census population, people per square mile, and density data (here), it certainly looks like there is something of a correlation between density and alcohol-related fatalities per capita. I did a very rough analysis (just in Excel, see here), and it does look like the lowest-density states are generally also the states with more alcohol-related fatalities by population.

It makes sense to me, and it seems like this might add another convincing public-safety argument to denser urban environments and good public transportation planning. It's interesting that there doesn't seem to be a lot of research directed towards this area... but it's possible that drunk driving is not as prominent a public safety issue as it was in the 90s.
posted by Kpele at 4:40 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


As someone who used to have to take cabs in LA and San Francisco on the regular, I get all FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS about Uber. Or it's just a coincidence that nobody has a working credit card machine on the entire West Coast, I guess.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:47 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


What's more, I know a disturbing number of women who simply won't ride in cabs alone because they or people they know have been sexually assaulted by cab drivers. Uber drivers don't seem to have this reputation, and it's hard to imagine how that could become a systematic problem given the way the service is structured.

I was just harping on this real tough-like over here.

The traditional cab model is broken and leaves way too much opportunity for abuse with way too little accountability(have you ever actually tried to file a complaint, or had to contact the actual cab dispatching agency?). Even the not-traditionally-licensed-cab uberx and lyft are so responsive, and have obvious internal oversight. No one i've ever talked to has had a negative experience with them.

Whereas, as you said here and i said there, i know far too many women who have had terrible experiences with cabs.

There are a lot more problems than just drunk driving that could be solved by more public transportation. Or for that matter, extending public transport in certain places so that you don't have to leave the bar by 10 p.m. to catch it.

It's super extra fucked having this, and then having it snatched away from you just when you were starting to get comfortable with it. Many buses in seattle used to run til 3am, and there used to be "night owl" buses after that which bridged the gap between those and continuation of normal service at 5:30am or so. Then those were cut back to 2-ish. Then 1. And now tons of our buses are being cut entirely and many others will stop running at or around midnight.

Before all this garbage started, the city put up signs that said "Park it>cab it>transit!" on parking meters to encourage people to not drunk drive, adding special prepaid parking passes you could buy that were good until 10am.

Now it's a complete joke, because both the cabs and the transit here suck so hilarious bad everyone has run out of any laughter for them.

As someone who used to have to take cabs in LA and San Francisco on the regular, I get all FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS about Uber. Or it's just a coincidence that nobody has a working credit card machine on the entire West Coast, I guess.

Ever been kicked out of a cab for trying to use a card mid trip? left on the side of the road because the cabbie asked you point blank right as you were getting in?(i've had this happen on cabs i CALLED to a location, not just flagged down)

or told point blank by the cabbie he'd only take cash to the point that after getting to the destination, he turns around drives you to a shady gas station with a brandless ATM(which has like, a $4-5 fee) to try and force you to get cash even though he has a working card machine right there?

yea.



My partner had a recent comment that the entire thing seems like they're intentionally or not, creating an environment where drunk driving is tacitly encouraged simply by the structure of the town, where most people can afford to live vs where the bars are, and the depressing transit and transportation options late at night. The city capped uberx and lyft after fucking up everything else and letting the local taxi system slide into garbage, so they're always running at max capacity the times you'd want to go home and can be quite hard to snag a driver on. Just...ugh. There's no realistic improvement in sight that would kick in until early 2015 either, at the soonest.
posted by emptythought at 4:58 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Silly poors! All you have to do is hire a personal chauffeur like normal people do.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:24 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Silly poors! All you have to do is hire a personal chauffeur like normal people do.

Nonsense, you can just claim Rich Man's Burden and let the justice system give you a pass.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:27 PM on June 4


Mars Saxman: " What's more, I know a disturbing number of women who simply won't ride in cabs alone because they or people they know have been sexually assaulted by cab drivers. Uber drivers don't seem to have this reputation, and it's hard to imagine how that could become a systematic problem given the way the service is structured."

"Uber’s Biggest Problem Isn’t Surge Pricing. What If It’s Sexual Harassment by Drivers?"
"Uber Driver Arrested For Allegedly Kidnapping a Drunk Woman"
"Uber Limo Driver Allegedly Raped a 20-Year-Old Customer In D.C., But Won’t Be Prosecuted"
posted by Lexica at 5:28 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I admit I have not been to Montana, but I always imagined they had at least a few trees there.

Not in the eastern half.

when I drove through eastern Montana, it was in the middle of the day, middle of the week, on the interstate, and I did not see one single car in either direction for an hour.
posted by desjardins at 5:33 PM on June 4


zombieflanders: "Nonsense, you can just claim Rich Man's Burden and let the justice system give you a pass."

Ugh! Yeah, that case was truly appalling. If the torches and pitchforks didn't come out after that one, I doubt they ever will.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:35 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


But my parents were all, "it's Montana, there's nobody out here to hit, shut up."

You were right to worry. Montana had the highest rate of drunk driving fatalities among all states a few years ago. It's usually in the top five each year. Its per capita rate is five times higher than New York state's.

The safest "state"? DC. Its drunk driving fatality rate is like one tenth of Montana's. But DC is a city, so it's usually an outlier in state-level stats.
posted by hyperbolic at 5:37 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain Uber to me? Their site does not answer my question as far as what it actually is; in fact, it says "Uber is not a transportation provider." Well... what the hell?
posted by desjardins at 5:40 PM on June 4


But DC is a city, so it's usually an outlier in state-level stats.

It's also got public transportation, supporting the point in the original post (also cabs).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:42 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Related (via ScienceDaily.com):
"An external laser device can detect the present of alcohol vapors in passing vehicles. The use of the device is simple: The laser system is set up on the side of the road to monitor each car that passes by. If alcohol vapors are detected in the car, a message with a photo of the car including its license plate is sent to a police officer waiting down the road. Then, the police officer stops the car and checks for signs of alcohol using conventional tests."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:45 PM on June 4


"But nowhere in MADD's official agenda is there a prong, or even a small bullet point, about encouraging alternative transportation options like mass transit or ride-hailing apps."


My dad was killed by a drunk driver, so yes I'm sympathetic with their goal, but this is my huge issue with MADD. They seem to feel that the way to stop people drinking and driving is to get people to stop drinking (good luck with that), and there is little to no talk from them about what people should do if they happen to get drunk away from home. "Take a cab" is not something that is going to work for everybody.
posted by queensissy at 5:45 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Can someone explain Uber to me? Their site does not answer my question as far as what it actually is; in fact, it says "Uber is not a transportation provider." Well... what the hell?

Uber does two things:

1) Regular Uber service: the company calls black car services on your behalf. A car service is almost like a taxi, only it isn't quite as heavily regulated (usually not unionized, usually regulated by the state instead of the city). You could do this yourself by making a phone call. It costs about the same as a cab, or even slightly more. This is currently the majority of their business.

2) UberX service: they pay individuals to drive you around in their personal cars, just like Lyft. Potentially this is cheaper than regular Uber service. This part is obviously really controversial and new. if there is any new danger, it is here.

They are officially "not a transportation provider" because they don't own a single vehicle or directly employ anyone who drives you around. That's a fig leaf that might get them out of some kind of liability.

A lot of articles understandably confuse the two kinds of Uber.
posted by miyabo at 5:52 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Deep Ellum in Dallas is where there's lots of clubs and bars (and criminally bad parking), and a while ago, they finally got added to the DART train lines. Awesome! But the bars close at 2 and the last train out from the Deep Ellum station is at...12:15. That's about when headliners get started. Though the first morning train is at 3:55 am for some reason, so I guess you can hang out drunkenly for two hours once the bars close and wait and hope you don't get mugged. Why even bother with a train line to a bar district if not to get the drunks home?

If you live in another part of DFW and came to Deep Ellum, good look getting a taxi to go that far without charging you a shit-ton of money. So most people drive buzzed, or "sober up" by drinking coffee after a show.

Lately we've also had a rash of "wrong-way" drivers getting killed who get on the highway while drunk by turning up the wrong entrance ramp. But nothing changes.
posted by emjaybee at 5:56 PM on June 4


By about 1:30 a.m., drunk people were certainly abundant on Phoenix's light rail.

Having been subjected to drunks on the subway, I can say that I'd be 100% in favor of laws banning the intoxicated from all public transit under penalty of catapult if it weren't for the fact that they'd probably just end up back behind a wheel.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:31 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Thankfully here in North Carolina, we've solved this problem by allowing folks the option of bringing firearms into bars.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:41 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Interesting how none of this posits the idea of America potentially having a drinking problem. Has the rate of alcoholism gone up because now it's easier to drink beyond tipsy? Why are bars still the predominant way to get together or hang out at night?
posted by divabat at 8:54 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I used to go to a Muslim-run coffee bar. It was open 8 pm to 2 am, had big screen TVs showing sports, pool tables, music, salty snacks, and a general bar-like atmosphere. Only they served coffee instead of booze. Sadly I had zero luck getting friends to hang out with me there.
posted by miyabo at 9:34 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


Interesting how none of this posits the idea of America potentially having a drinking problem. Has the rate of alcoholism gone up because now it's easier to drink beyond tipsy? Why are bars still the predominant way to get together or hang out at night?

Because that's not really the problem? America isn't even in the top 10, or the top 20 of countries by alcohol consumption. It only narrowly squeaks into the top 25, even.

This really is a transportation, city planning, and societal norms issue. Other western countries manage to handle that stuff on your list fine because you can actually just bus/subway/walk/etc back to your house that isn't out in the burbs(or, even if it is), or if it's all the way across town it isn't really an issue with the transit infrastructure.

As was said above, i'd really love to see a breakdown of this by city and see how much the problem varies, if it varies, in cities that actually have proper 24 hour public transportation that gets pretty much everywhere like NYC and the boroughs.

I could grumble on about my issues with as you said, bars being "the thing to do", but i don't really think that's the cause of this problem when that isn't having this same result elsewhere. To the point that saying so almost seems like making a bizarre case for american exceptionalism...
posted by emptythought at 10:44 PM on June 4 [9 favorites]


Uber does two things:

it also does a third thing in some cities a la Chicago and SF perhaps elsewhere. It acts as a taxi dispatch and payment processor system too.
posted by Carillon at 10:55 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


It's just really bizarre for me to read the article and have so much of it sound like "we have the right to get really drunk and not worry about consequences!" because it's easier to avoid one sort of drunkeness-related harm (driving) - never mind all the other drunkeness-related harm (committing assault, sexual violence, etc).

Why should responsible drinking be less important just because it's easier to get around by public transport?

I don't know if alcohol consumption by sheer numbers is really the most useful metric. It's how you drink that matters. It was really surprising to me to have moved to the US from Australia and see that none of the drinks had the "standard drinks" labels that tell you how much alcohol there is compared to the average drink. Or how because the drinking age is so high compared to many others you never really get a chance to learn good drinking habits or demystify alcohol.
posted by divabat at 11:06 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Just to show how far the US has progressed, let's look at some Billy Joel lyrics from the early 80s:

And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I'm insane


I'm out of touch with the kids these days, but does anyone in pop music really still talk about driving home despite being advised not to?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:12 PM on June 4


As noted above I suspect that self-driving cars and disruptive taxi services will make a big difference before many cities can really implement something as mundane and expensive as transit (that serves bars during bar hours).

My city is NOT a transit community -- we have buses that end their runs around dusk, and only a handful of o/o taxis. We're in Wisconsin, so there are comparatively weak drunk driving laws (fact, see the Journal-Sentinel Special Report). We also have more liquor licenses per capita than any other state. It's no surprise, then, that we have one of the highest rates (3rd, when measured, I think) of drunk-driving traffic fatalities in the country.

Our newspapers regularly print the reports of 3rd, 6th, or 9th DUI citations. The response of citizens, though, is the most old-fashioned shopworn blue-nose moralism about drinking you can imagine. Blame the DA for not putting people in jail for life for driving drunk. Blame the cops for not doing enough enforcement. Blame the drivers for having the temerity to have massively poor judgement once they are impaired. All anybody can suggest is longer jail terms. (Studies show there's not much that really works, although ignition interlocks help some.) The general public seems to think that people who drink so much they drive drunk need to feel worse about themselves. Yeah, that's the ticket! So that's bad enough and improvement in the near term is unlikely.

Meanwhile, our city fathers are actually considering dropping the cap on liquor licenses because the one they have is a "bar to competition". I am not making this up. (It's currently being adjusted in committee.) I just don't get it.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be easier to just ban bars and public intoxication? In addition to reducing the drunk driving problem, thus would also reduce violence and health problems. If people want to drink, they can learn to be mixologists at home.
posted by happyroach at 11:56 PM on June 4


Meanwhile, our city fathers are actually considering dropping the cap on liquor licenses

Someone drew a comparison between drinking establishments in the US and Britain. The difference was that in Britain, you have "local pubs", all over the place, within walking distance of many people's homes.

In the US, you have people fighting tooth and nail to prevent any drinking establishments from opening in their neighborhoods-- you know, because it would result in drunkards and drunk driving.
posted by alexei at 12:54 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


You know, except wanton use of resources, sprawl, and a toxic car-based culture?

Cars are not going away. People have been given the ability to travel anywhere they want to go in a secure mobile pod that offers a comfortable couch, a stereo, optional smoking, door-to-door service, and no scary intruders in the passenger cabin. There are many people (probably lots of women in particular) who won't be going a lot of places at all if they can't do it in the safety of private cars. You have to settle for making car culture better.

1. Remove the idiot driver. Everyone's a passenger. The system (not just your own car) determines how your car drives.

2. If everyone's a passenger, there's no more drunk driving, no more speeding, no more driving for the thrill of driving. Probably practically no more crashes. Everyone's accelerating, cruising, and decelerating at the environmentally best rates. Every car is warning every other car about everything, so there are no more surprises around the bend.

3. If everyone's driving the same way, there's no more reason to buy an overpowered, overpolluting car. Everyone leaves the traffic light at the same rate (assuming you're not in a large truck).

4. When driving becomes sitting and waiting patiently for a vehicle to get you to your destination at a rate it determines, maybe more people will start taking the bus or train, or maybe riding their bikes to regain some of the thrill of piloting a vehicle. If not, at least they won't be racing gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks down the highway. Maybe they'll call driverless taxis rather than buy their own cars.

And you fix sprawl by fixing the laws that govern housing development, not by managing cars. For example, require every new home to be constructed within X meters (on well-maintained sidewalks and bike paths) of a grocery store, Y meters of a public elementary school, Z meters of a public high school, etc. If you want to start a new housing development, you start with the schools and the stores and the sidewalks. If the supporting stores or schools subsequently close, the developer pays certain fines per affected home per day until they are reopened.
posted by pracowity at 1:09 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


And you fix sprawl by fixing the laws that govern housing development, not by managing cars. For example, require every new home to be constructed within X meters (on well-maintained sidewalks and bike paths) of a grocery store, Y meters of a public elementary school, Z meters of a public high school, etc. If you want to start a new housing development, you start with the schools and the stores and the sidewalks. If the supporting stores or schools subsequently close, the developer pays certain fines per affected home per day until they are reopened.

I'm with you entirely on the self-driving cars -- I deliberately live within walking distance of bars and restaurants, but if I had a self-driving car I'd go out to other parts of the city a lot more often.

For sprawl, however, there are a whole set of basic land use practices that if they became standard would improve things noticeably, without needing to remake US land use from the ground up (which is maybe a good idea for all kinds of reasons, but that's a different post entirely). I only dabble in land use so I'll defer to the specialists, but it's things like making mixed use and dense zoning the norm rather than the exception; ensuring that all streets and intersections are friendly to pedestrian and bicycle traffic; reducing off-street parking requirements; etc. It doesn't matter how close you are in a straight line to a school or shopping center if you can't safely get there other than in a car, for example.

Places that have solved that (either by never having abandoned older land use practices, or by being smart about zoning for a few decades) are exactly the places where you can get home from the bar without driving, which is better for everyone. The lower density, sprawly places (either newer built or just never populated enough to have density be a relevant term) are where you see the normalization of drunk driving.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:12 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


"just drank a fifth of vodka, dare me to drive?" -Eminem

Naw, not much changes.
posted by jonmc at 6:14 AM on June 5


It doesn't matter how close you are in a straight line to a school or shopping center if you can't safely get there other than in a car, for example.

That's why I said "within X meters (on well-maintained sidewalks and bike paths)" and "If you want to start a new housing development, you start with the schools and the stores and the sidewalks." Enforce walkability. Put your houses on a network of sidewalks and bike paths that actually go somewhere.
posted by pracowity at 6:20 AM on June 5


And you fix sprawl by fixing the laws that govern housing development, not by managing cars.

I'm not sure that there's really any way to do that in the US right now. Those zoning laws are all controlled locally and local government tends to be heavily controlled by developers. Also, the people that live in such places don't want supermarkets to be close and they don't want sidewalks. They like driving everywhere. I don't really understand it myself but I've had conversations about where people looked at me sideways when I complained how hard it was to walk around in the 'burb where I used to live.
posted by octothorpe at 6:27 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Why should responsible drinking be less important just because it's easier to get around by public transport?

The amount of alcohol it takes to make you dangerous behind the wheel is much, much, much, much lower than the amount of alcohol it takes to make you dangerous in other circumstances (i.e., violent). You can drink responsibly and still be unfit to drive. Even after a single low-alcohol beer I can feel a deterioration in my reaction time and spatial awareness; it's not subtle, it's very obvious. But so long as I'm not driving, there are no negative outcomes from this low level of intoxication.
posted by enn at 6:57 AM on June 5 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure that there's really any way to do that in the US right now. Those zoning laws are all controlled locally and local government tends to be heavily controlled by developers

Obviously this varies by location, but it may be a lot easier than you think to get involved in that aspect of local government. It's important to have people who care about making sure their communities are walkable and bikeable on local zoning boards, planning commissions, and city councils. Or at least showing up to meetings and commenting when necessary.

No one person is going to be able to "fix the laws that govern housing development," but reminding your local government that "hey, I'm walkin' here!" can often be a one-person job that doesn't require much time.
posted by asperity at 7:56 AM on June 5


Obviously this varies by location, but it may be a lot easier than you think to get involved in that aspect of local government. It's important to have people who care about making sure their communities are walkable and bikeable on local zoning boards, planning commissions, and city councils. Or at least showing up to meetings and commenting when necessary.

Well, there are like 120 separate municipalities in my county each with their own zoning laws. That would be a lot of meetings to atend.
posted by octothorpe at 8:03 AM on June 5 [3 favorites]


I'm not 100% sold on the dataset or the methodology, but Flowing Data has maps created from the Google Places API that shows number of bars vs. number of grocery stores by region. The saturation of bars in Wisconsin is pretty shocking.
posted by desjardins at 8:28 AM on June 5


Well, it's not "shocking," because I live here, but Wisconsin stands out very clearly on the map.
posted by desjardins at 8:29 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Those zoning laws are all controlled locally and local government tends to be heavily controlled by developers

Maybe there's some federal road and school money that could have a string or two attached? Working it from that centralized angle might be a lot easier. "Yes, you can have road and school money, but only if you build and maintain sidewalks and bicycle paths on the roads connecting your schools to the communities they serve. We're looking for at least X percent of your students walking or bicycling to school each day. Otherwise, no deal."
posted by pracowity at 9:44 AM on June 5


Wouldn't it be easier to just ban bars and public intoxication? In addition to reducing the drunk driving problem, thus would also reduce violence and health problems. If people want to drink, they can learn to be mixologists at home.

You know that we already tried that right?
posted by like_a_friend at 10:10 AM on June 5 [5 favorites]


or told point blank by the cabbie he'd only take cash to the point that after getting to the destination, he turns around drives you to a shady gas station with a brandless ATM(which has like, a $4-5 fee) to try and force you to get cash even though he has a working card machine right there?

Please tell me the cabbie turned off the meter before going to the gas station.
posted by GrapeApiary at 10:58 AM on June 5


pracowity - a bill was just introduced in both the senate and the house that addresses your concerns:

Safe Streets Act of 2014 - Requires each state to have in effect within two years a law, or each state department of transportation and metropolitan planning organization (MPO) an explicit policy statement, that requires all federally-funded transportation projects, with certain exceptions, to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users in accordance with certain complete streets principles.

Here's the organization promoting the bill: National Complete Streets Coalition
posted by desjardins at 11:49 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Those zoning laws are all controlled locally and local government tends to be heavily controlled by developers

The problem is mostly that these things are controlled by everyone and nobody.

The developers don't really control the local governments. And they can't really afford to. Lobbying the Federal and State governments is highly efficient, in literal and cynical terms. Every dollar you spend there pays off. But to press your case before municipality after municipality gets expensive very quickly. That's why the modus operandi for developers is "if it's legal and profitable, build it."

If it's legal to build crappy subdivisions and strip malls, they build them.
If it's legal to build something better, they build it.

The problem is that zoning and building codes are also Boooooooring.

They're mostly cribbed from model codes published in the 1950's and still copyrighted. Amending the codes is a tiresome process that replaces one boring body of text with another, after many hours of Rober's Rules of Order making you want to put pencils in your nose and slam your face down onto your desk. And listening to every tiresome old coot in your town who has nothing better to do than demand that nothing ever change.
posted by ocschwar at 12:51 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Please tell me the cabbie turned off the meter before going to the gas station.

He did, but that's another part of the problem. I've experienced this once or twice, but several women i know have had it happen nearly every time they get in a cab: They just never turn the meter on, and then demand an amount of money they decide on. This can get as Jason Statham movie as you can dream up, including the driver hitting the electric locks revealing that child lock is on, etc. Threats to bodily harm, to call the police(Oh, yes please!), etc.

The cabbie shutting the meter off and aggressively driving away from the house i was going to was a moment of fight-or-flight "Should i just rip open the door and tuck and roll? were only going like 22... Should i put the carabiner my keys are on around my knuckles and just mash it into this guys face? Am i gonna end up in a commercial dumpster in the industrial district?"

but it's things like making mixed use and dense zoning the norm rather than the exception; ensuring that all streets and intersections are friendly to pedestrian and bicycle traffic; reducing off-street parking requirements; etc. It doesn't matter how close you are in a straight line to a school or shopping center if you can't safely get there other than in a car, for example.

This is all great stuff, and a lot of progressivey bike riding granola folks in my town talk big like they're for it, but then when it starts happening "You're ruining the neighborhood!". I admit to being one of these people sometimes before i think about it and see the big picture, but yea. Right in one of the most central neighborhoods of town that should be dense, there were tons of 1-2 story buildings with just bars and restaurants in them. They're now knocking these down and building 7 story + below grade parking/etc apartment buildings, or knocking them down and building light rail stations. They also plowed one of the main drags and put in a street car and dedicated, protected bi-directional bike lanes with their own traffic lights at intersections(!)

The problem is that the second order effects from all these changes won't really kick in for a while until everything is totally complete(and it's spread through other parts of town), and everyone has gotten used to it. So... everything sucks now, until 2024 or whenever everything on the table is actually done.

It really sucks that there wasn't really the political capital or will to do this in like, 1995 so it could just be awesome now already.
posted by emptythought at 2:15 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I'm out of touch with the kids these days, but does anyone in pop music really still talk about driving home despite being advised not to?

I haven't noticed it a lot, but smokin' and driving is bragged about here and there in the hippity-hop music.

As far as booze, I consider "Gin and Juice" and "Power" to be pretty popular, for example:

Snoop: rollin' down the street smokin' indo [indoor grown marijuana], sippin' on gin and juice...

Kanye: I was drinking earlier, now I’m driving...
posted by aydeejones at 5:51 PM on June 5


I realize those aren't super-recent references ("Power" at least is from the current decade, right?) but I stumbled upon his old "gem" from Afroman, who was seen in mainstream culture as an ironic role model for his "Because I Got High" song in which he does nothing productive due to his decision to get high. I never followed him much to see how ironic his shtick was supposed to be, but yeahhhh, this is old but,

what

Drive Better Drunk

I drive better drunk than I do sober
Cuz when I'm sober right
I think I can make through the, red light
Go, go, go, I hope I'm not dead right
But when I'm drunk, I know I can't
So I ain't, I drive like a saint
Drinkin is a class I did not flunk
I'm a Colt 45 certified drunk
posted by aydeejones at 5:59 PM on June 5


That's why you ride your skidoo or your 4wheeler to the bar.

Biking under the influence is also illegal.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:13 PM on June 5


Biking under the influence is also illegal.

I had an acquaintance--a law and public policy student at that--once try to explain to me that this isn't true in PA. His argument went something like this:

- PA has a handful of statutes that specifically apply to bikes. Otherwise, the law states something to the effect of "all statutes that apply to cars, apply to bikes, except where by their nature they cannot". (i.e., laws that are obviously meaningless for bikes are, well, meaningless.)

- PA has similar text applying to horses used for transportation, that they follow car laws 'except where by their nature" they don't apply.

- Someone had recently gotten a ticket for drunkenly riding a horse on the public street overturned because the 'except by their nature &c &c' bit is unconstitutionally vague

- Same words, so the bike law must too be unconstitutionally vague. Since PA doesn't have a specific statute about operating a bike under the influence, it must not be against the law.

Needless to say, he was drunk.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:07 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]


I got rid of my car & quit driving when I moved to San Francisco. When I lived in Florida, I rarely went out to drink since I knew I had to drive home. Now I go out to drink a lot more often, since I have several excellent bars like the Alembic in walking distance.
posted by mike3k at 9:55 PM on June 5


Well, there are like 120 separate municipalities in my county each with their own zoning laws.

Ouch. Obviously you (or any other individual) aren't going to be able to hit them all, or even more than just the one you live in, but smaller communities frequently have literally nobody attending any of these meetings but the people who are being paid to attend. Fixing our counties or states might be beyond us, but advocating for complete streets right at home is a good first step.

(I don't mean to call you out specifically on this at all -- just noting that my experience with my own tiny municipal government has been that I'm often the only random community member showing up. Who's gonna keep an eye on things if we don't?)
posted by asperity at 12:16 PM on June 6


Fixing our counties or states might be beyond us, but advocating for complete streets right at home is a good first step.

I go to those sorts of meetings in an official capacity, and I agree that people too often discount the power of even a few people showing up and providing public comments. Unless it's a controversial issue, you get maybe three people showing up and providing comments that mostly support nimby and pro-developer policies (which are surprisingly often the same thing).

But far more powerful is a state or federal rule change that mandates something like "bicycles are legitimate road users" -- that leapfrogs you straight past the same stupid arguments and into the much more interesting and useful implementation discussion.

The tl,dr is that I wish people other than right wing church ladies would show up and support their vision of a good community, but none of that trumps good state and federal laws and court decisions that mandate smart actions.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:25 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


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