377 comments

Understand the Drive-Thru and We Can Solve All Problems

cloudforest

Morning sunrise from the front door of my hut.

I’ve been out traveling in Ecuador for the past two weeks, living in the jungle, climbing waterfalls and noting the cultural differences of a country set about 3000 miles South and 30 years back in time from my own. Every time I settle into life in a new place, I’m always amazed at how many objects and luxuries I have left behind, and yet how little I miss them.

Eventually the adventure came to an end, and with my eyes and ears still attuned to the quiet of the rainforest, I marveled at the enormous highways and parking lots and suburbs of Atlanta as I flew in for a layover on the way home. Awakening my legs from almost five hours of painful inactivity, I emerged into the world’s busiest airport and started following the signs to concourse B so I could catch the final flight home.

The signs direct you to an underground train, which circulates between all six concourses. But I noticed in smaller letters that there was also an option to walk the same route. So I followed the arrows:

atlanta_walkway

Atlanta Airport’s secret walking route

I was amazed to find a beautiful carpeted walkway, lined with a museum of Atlanta history. Then another train station with an escalator up to the next concourse, then another walkway, another concourse, and so on. In total, I walked almost a mile underground like this, and encountered exactly one other person walking as I was instead of taking the train.

In the world’s busiest airport, with thousands of people trundling by on the trains every few minutes, we were the only two people with the motivation to spend a few minutes using our own legs to get around.

With all this fresh in my mind, I returned at last to Longmont and reconnected with my 10-year-old boy after an unprecedented amount of time apart.

We spent the first morning going for a walk and having adventures along the way. We walked to a bank machine to deposit some checks and he asked me about the odd facility that had been built up to facilitate banking:

machino_del_bankex

Actual thing somebody thought was a good idea to build, and actual people using it (!?)

Together we figured out the system: there was a little building to house three employees. But there was no walk-up access to these people; you could only communicate to them through microphones and speakers, and send them packages through a system of subterranean vacuum tubes. The tubes terminated in three lanes into which you could drive a car. Then there was a fourth lane equipped with the slightly newer invention of a computerized bank machine, and the fifth option of a walk-up bank machine right in the building itself.

It was almost as if we were looking at a banking setup on Mars, where everything had been designed so that humans could get their business done without ever coming in contact with the planet’s hazardously thin sub-zero atmosphere.

All of this was placed in the center of a considerable sea of asphalt: roughly half an acre of it, enough to fit four spacious detached houses with alley-loaded garages or even an apartment building that could house hundreds of people.

I imagined the construction of this facility: decades ago, a tractor trailer probably showed up towing an 80,000 pound CAT excavator. This thing would have smashed down a few houses or trees or whatever was there in the past, 10-wheeler dump trucks would have taken 100 loads of debris and soil away, and returned with another 100 loads of gravel, asphalt and building materials. Steamrollers and bulldozers and laborers would have toiled for a few months, and at the end of it all this gleaming marvel of modern convenience would have been completed.

A million dollar parking lot, thousands of gallons of Diesel, and a million pounds of trucked in materials, consuming a prime piece of downtown real estate big enough to house a huge number of people. All so a few dozen people a day can spend an extra minute burning gas and sitting on their asses instead of using their legs for those 60 seconds.

Just think for a minute of the enormity of this expenditure for such a tiny marginal benefit, and compare it to one example of a slightly more efficient option:

The bank pays the city a small annual lease fee to keep a tiny bank machine booth in the 21-acre public park just across the street. Bank saves money, city makes money, and people benefit for many decades from less traffic and wasted space.

If we can truly appreciate this contrast, scaled up across billions of people in millions of towns and cities, I think we can sum up concisely the underlying reason for most of our problems these days.

At both the individual and the societal level, we just don’t give even the slightest shit about efficiency. If the market is there, goods get produced. If we vote for something, our representative governments will try to make it happen. If a marketer or a lobbyist can shift the markets or the votes to create demand for their product, you bet that sumbitch’ll do it. And if a 64-ounce cup of cola or a zero-interest loan on a luxury truck is dangled in front of a hungry consumer, you bet he’ll reach out and grab it.

Later that day, we went for another walk to a park near our house, and saw this:

pilot_idiot

Area man demonstrates the level of thought that goes into SUV ownership.

A brand-new Honda Pilot SUV, all $37,000 and 280 horsepower of it, was sitting there idling quietly on a little ridge overlooking the golf course. A single person was sitting inside, swiping at his phone and fiddling with the radio. We walked past in the bright sunshine, enjoying the spectacular fall air and looking at the crisp snowcap that had begun to form on the high mountains to the West.

25 minutes later, after a session on the slides and swings of the park, we walked back on the way home and found the same Honda there, still idling. Lightly poisoning the owner and every other resident of the planet, burning fuel at roughly the rate of 75 living human bodies. All because the owner hadn’t thought of pressing the soft-touch “engine off” button and lowering a few of the power windows to let in the quiet, clean 72-degree air. Or hell, opening the airbag-equipped, side-impact-protected door and stepping out of his Crushing Debt Tank into Nature’s splendor for a moment or two.

Like the Drive-Thru, this is a perfect encapsulation of the amount of thought we currently give to efficiency – both in our personal lives and as a society. Exactly none at all.

If the average Joe Taxpayer or Josephine Consumer were able to prop open one eye even just a tiny bit for just a brief period of time, in order to give the slightest shit about efficiency – meeting goals with minimal waste instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool, the change we would experience would be absolutely spectacular.

Let’s take the three-headed demon of energy consumption, oil supply and climate change for example. Geologists grimly adjust reserve estimates and scientists chart the retreat of glaciers. Countries fight to add renewable energy sources but all predictions point to insurmountable obstacles. So much science and so many calculations, and yet nobody bothers to state the obvious: We could instantly cut our consumption of everything by at least 75%, just by starting to give only the slightest shit about how much we consumed.

So the succesful oil services businessman who likes 16MPG pick-em-up trucks might still decide to buy one, but maybe he’d also throw down 3 grand for a used Honda Insight so he could enjoy 75MPG travel whenever he’s not hauling something. He’d make roughly a 100% annual return on investment and cut his fuel consumption by more than 75%.

People would just make slight adjustments in how far out in the suburbs they would be willing to live, how big to build their houses and what to do on the weekends. Tiny tweaks to vacation and family planning, brief considerations between steak and chicken.

City planners would just briefly entertain the possibility that at least a tiny percentage of its population will have working legs and thus not use a car for 100% of trips, allowing us to replace 60-foot-wide roadways everywhere and an acre of parking for each building, with 30-footers and a few shared parking spaces and some bike racks.

City footprints would shrink by 75% along with infrastructure spending, commutes would shrink, the 75% of healthcare spending that we currently dump into self-inflicted lifestyle diseases would almost disappear. We would be faced with an enormous surplus of energy, time, money, and awesomeness at the individual, city, and national level. Given a few years of such surpluses, the bounty would spill over into the international and then Earth-wide level.

We would all be ten times richer and with enough spare time and money to help those few who have a bit more trouble getting with the program. We’d live 20 years longer and the cost of medical and education and social security and unemployment insurance and every other band-aid for our current woes would drop to a negligible fraction of our national wealth.

All by just giving the tiniest shit for just a few seconds a day.

Are we willing to at least consider this idea briefly, or should we just keep arguing about how to keep the old system going, because it does not dare to suggest that giving a shit is necessary?

Afterword:

Sure, it’s easy for me to joke about giving a shit, but how would we really implement this in real life? I think we should start by:

  • Recruiting engineer/economist/philosophers rather than salesperson/preacher/tycoons to become our political leaders.
  • Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.
  • Studying personal happiness rather than retail catalogs and car brochures when trying to improve your lot in life.
  • Immediately giving up all forms of TV and spend that time walking and doing other things outside. How would your life and your health change, if you spent at least 4 hours out of every 24 in the great outdoors?
  • When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values to everyone around you. Whether you notice or not, people are watching you and they will follow.

 

  • drea November 2, 2015, 10:27 am

    ‘In the world’s busiest airport, with thousands of people trundling by on the trains every few minutes, we were the only two people with the motivation to spend a few minutes using our own legs to get around.’

    And, I would add, the time.

    Many people flying through Atlanta have tight connections.

    Reply
    • Skeptic November 3, 2015, 4:35 pm

      I’m a big fan of Mr. Money Mustache, have been reading his blog almost since he started writing it, and anticipated him by thirty years or so (I’m 71) in living frugally and simply. But I can’t buy the idea that we need a government of engineers. There are exceptions, of course, but in general engineers are not good candidates for running things. There’s a reason why engineers don’t make it into the top management levels of most companies. They lack wisdom. Consider our least successful President, Herbert Hoover. He was an engineer and a very good engineer at that. He had a pretty sound analysis of what was wrong with the economy during the Great Depression. But he couldn’t communicate it or rally people to his ideas. In a democracy, we need leaders who can communicate to the people and receive communication from them. Communication is not the forte of most engineers. There was a movement for a government of engineers during the early 20th century by a loopy group called the Technocrats. Only problem was that Technocrats had proto-fascist tendencies. The problem with engineers is not so much lack of empathy as their positive contempt for those who think differently from them. Contempt is the seedbed of hatred. Mr. Money Mustache and many of those who write comments here would do well to lower the contempt level in this blog. We need patience and people skills, not contempt, to bring along seemingly irrational people. And we need humility to see that once in a while we can learn from the seeming foolishness of others. Contempt is the engineer’s vice and the enemy of all the good things summed up in the word wisdom.

      Reply
      • nic November 4, 2015, 7:42 am

        Yes, Skeptic!! I do find that contempt from the engineering mindset is prevalent. On balance, this blog is definitely a force for good, but there is a distinct sneering if people make other choices than MMM amkes. There is a whole raft of concerns about buying “carbon offset credits” so to “greenwash” the environmental cost of this trip while castigating those who drive their cars more, but may not particicpate in intrnational travel, is not entirely balanced or fair.

        Reply
        • Tony Rome November 4, 2015, 10:10 am

          I felt that the thrust of MMM’s argument was that the decision making process should not be delegated to career politicians (no matter how empathetic they may appear) but rather those who would use logic, wisdom and experience to the arena, such as ‘philosophers’, ‘economists’, and no doubt teachers, physicians, chemists, biologists &etc.

          Reply
  • Russell H-F November 2, 2015, 10:29 am

    Amen, brother! Same page, on EVERY count! Really, the lacking state of giving-a-shit makes me embarrassed to be an American. Here’s to changing it one person and mind at a time.

    Reply
  • Tawcan November 2, 2015, 10:48 am

    Wow this post really hit home, love it!

    I never understood the idea of drive-thru. I guess it’s a lot more common in the US than Canada. Most of the drive-thru I see here in Vancouver are for fast food places but recently saw a Starbucks drive-thru. Isn’t it easier to park and walk into the store to get the coffee?

    Reply
    • Lynne November 2, 2015, 6:54 pm

      There are plenty of bank drive-thrus in Canada too. And sooo many Tim Hortons ones; we have no shortage of drive-thru coffee. I have never seen a pharmacy one here though. Do they, like…fill prescriptions? Do you drop a prescription off at the window and then drive back through later?

      I read somewhere that in some places in the U.S., there are drive-thru LIQUOR STORES. They call them brew-thrus. The idea just blows my mind. Not in disapproval so much as sheer, awed wonder. It’s like…WTF. :)

      Reply
      • casserole55 November 11, 2015, 4:34 pm

        The pharmacy drive thrus are usually for picking up prescriptions that have been called in ahead of time. I have used them once or twice when picking up medicine on the way home from a doctor’s appointment for a sick infant when he was sleeping in his car seat. But he’s in college now, so that was a while back!

        Reply
    • Justin November 2, 2015, 8:12 pm

      Probably. The Starbucks a block down the street from my house has 10+ cars wrapped around it waiting in the drive thru for hours each morning. I can’t imagine it’s faster to wait in that long line than it is to walk in and place your order, as there’s rarely a long line inside from what I’ve seen (the few times I’ve been inside that starbucks).

      Reply
    • Doug November 2, 2015, 9:39 pm

      We have plenty of drive-thrus in Canada, I’ve seen long lines of cars at many of these drive-thrus at Tim Horton’s restaurants. If you think that’s wasteful, it’s nothing compared to what I’ve seen on cold winter days in Timmins, Ontario where cars were left outside idling for long periods at a Tim Horton’s restaurant there. Wow, I wish I had that kind of money to throw away!

      Reply
    • Freeat57 November 9, 2015, 5:07 pm

      Let me blow you mind further. Here in Texas, we have drive through convenience stores. I do not mean that the store has a window on the side. You drive THROUGH the store. There is a tunnel through the building. You drive in and it is lined on both sides with glass door chillers filled with beer and other drinks, snack foods, etc. I nominate Texas as the worst vehicle addicts in the US. They are hostile to walkers and bike riders. My town does not even have sidewalks in the majority of residential areas, much less bike lanes.

      Reply
  • Ashley Sollenberger November 2, 2015, 11:22 am

    Two weeks ago, my Ford Ranger pickup, a relic of my wasteful youth was totaled. I will be purchasing a used fuel efficient hatchback, which will sit in my driveway as much as possible, since I will be biking to work. Everyone I talk to thinks I should buy a large truck or SUV, but I’d rather they think I’m crazy.

    Reply
  • Gerard November 2, 2015, 11:24 am

    Nice to have you back and on your game, MMM.
    Another way of looking at airport inter-terminal trains: that’s the only time many people ever think to use “public” transit!

    Reply
  • Laurel November 2, 2015, 11:35 am

    So scathing! Some of us older folks with arthritis are very glad of drive-thrus. Lots of handicapped people in the world too ya know.

    Reply
  • Dan November 2, 2015, 11:42 am

    As someone that prides themselves in being financially astute, I’m a little taken aback by this post. Yes, in theory, all these things are nice to think about. But consumption is what drives innovation and has given us a standard of living where people can afford to sit around and think about how wasteful we’re all being. Without consumption and the profit motive that is driven by consumption, we’d all still be living in caves. Sure, the earth’s resources would be much better off, but to what end?

    Jobs are tied to the building of that bank. Jobs are tied to the gas industry. Jobs are tied to making cars. Jobs are tied to making roads to get to the suburbs. Jobs are tied to a healthcare industry that takes care the sick. Jobs are tied to the little tubes that suck capsules through the air. Jobs are tied to almost every little evil that you pointed out. That means that people have personally benefited (re: feed their families) because of all that “waste”.

    I believe in logical economy of resources. Things that are common sense. But resource shaming isn’t the answer. At least in a world where we still have individual liberties. I’ll bet we can tie your entire life, that you are famously now financially insulated from, to many useless examples of consumption. But it was perhaps okay for you to make money in that environment, but not the rest of us? Or at least feeling guilty about in the process?

    I truly respect your opinions on managing money. I’ve even shared your blog on my FB page. I love your insights in that area. But, for the most part, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this latest post. No hard feelings.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 7, 2015, 9:13 am

      I do realize this, Dan – almost all economic activity has positive side-effects. My proposal in this article is not throwing out the model that got us here, but tweaking the participants a bit.

      If we got THIS far with no understanding of efficiency, a finite environment, or our personal health, IMAGINE how much faster our progress would be if we weren’t stumbling along so blindly? Spending $4M on a drive-through bank produces far smaller multiplier effects than spending $4M on a public bike path that permanently increases the rate of bike transportation, for example.

      You can find examples in the lives of people who actually apply these principles themselves: Unusually healthy, wealthy, happy. The point is to get more people to do it. Not resource shaming at all – just resource optimizing.

      Reply
    • Greg December 19, 2016, 9:23 pm

      The things you’ve rattled off as “positive” to the economy were disproven to be so more than a century ago… by your way of thinking we’d all be doing the economy a good turn if we started smashing in the windows of every building we walked past. After all, jobs are tied to the fixing of those windows right? The town’s glaziers can now feed their families as a result of all this extra work.

      Using the economy for good instead of evil is what this blog post is all about. The unintended consequences of useless economic activity are holding us all back and this drives a growing number of us bat-shit crazy.

      Reply
  • Scott November 2, 2015, 11:45 am

    MMM,

    I truly enjoy your perspective. Heck, I live in suburban Detroit, the very shrine of how not to develop a region. We have little in the way of public transportation and we, sure as hell, don’t carpool. This is the Motor City, after all!

    And, no, why would we want a modern city where the majority of people could live? We ain’t Europeans. We like commuting 30 – 90 minutes to work!! Our local newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, in fact, thinks so much of McMansions they do a 1,000-word feature story with multiple photos every Sunday.

    Kidding aside, there is one reason why Americans don’t do the right or smart thing(s): GREED. Most business people only care about enriching themselves. Greed is why we spend more on the military than the next dozen countries combined, it’s why tobacco products are still allowed to be sold, why big pharma can get away with selling drugs that do more harm than good, why big oil is allowed to dictate environmental policy, why CEO’s can make hundreds of times more than their average worker, and why the American political process has been completely corrupted. The Almighty Fucking Dollar.

    Reply
  • Edward November 2, 2015, 11:47 am

    Time after time worldwide when a city decides to get really crazy and make an area “pedestrian only” or add more green space, the quality of life for those residents shoots way up. It’s been proven over and over that it brings happiness to the locals. So why do people still begin projects and planning with the premise of roads and parking lots? Sprained ankles and disabilities are a red herring disability argument being used by devil’s advocates here. Ask someone in a wheelchair or who’s blind whether it’s easier to navigate a 4-foot wide nicely paved foot path or whether it’s easier to navigate through crowded parking lots, crosswalks, and up and down curbs. Even for a deaf person–they have much less chance of getting sideswiped walking through a park than an intersection. So, before you say “Yeah, but disabled..,” ask yourself this–have more people *become* disabled due to parking lots of parks? Have more disabled people been hurt/killed in parking lots or parks? It’s a pretty easy equation to figure out.

    Keep up the rants, MMM–I love that aspect of your writing. Feels like you’re venting for me.

    Reply
  • Zac November 2, 2015, 11:49 am

    I’m surprised you went to the bank, MMM! Ever since online banking became available for me when I was with Chase, I only ever use ATM’s (strategically located in my local Meijer, as I am a Michigan native!). I recently switched to Bank of America. This is partly due to the helpful articles on this site which showcased the way to maximize rewards points from credit cards (10% bonus if credit card and checking account are both BOA) and partly due to the $100 bonus-for-setting-up-a-checking-account. Well, right across the street from where I work is a Bank of America branch with one of these ridiculous drive-through terminals. I happily walked into the branch to use the ATM… looked around… asked the teller where the ATM was. She said it’s outside and drive-up only. I shook my head in disbelief before resigning myself to depositing cash with the helpful teller. Thankfully, Bank of America also offers the full suite of online banking. I try to keep cash to a minimum. I have a strange habit of making cash disappear… even when it’s very easy for me to resist flashing the plastic (much the reverse of most people, I hear). Maybe it’s because I know the cash transactions can evade my automatic tracking methods. I digress. TLDR: Banking in the US caters to the lazy masses… but you can beat them at their own game via online banking: the most efficient/low waste method of all.

    Reply
    • Zac November 2, 2015, 11:50 am

      I meant to say “I only ever use ATM’s to deposit and withdrawal cash” in my second sentence. Oops!

      Reply
    • Justin November 2, 2015, 12:04 pm

      I have no shame so I’ll actually walk up to the drive thru only ATMs. So much quicker than writing out a deposit slip and dealing with a human. :)

      Reply
  • Justin November 2, 2015, 12:02 pm

    Your complaints about our land use planning and transportation system are so true (and funny!). I spent my career in transportation engineering designing and building parking lots, traffic signals, freeways, and all sorts of asphalty goodness. I knew I was serving the Dark Side, and I get a little peeved these days.

    Now that I’m early retired and actually have plenty of time (and energy!) to get around my neighborhood on foot to go shopping and conduct business, it’s frustrating as a pedestrian. Shopping centers typically aren’t designed with pedestrians in mind, and it seems like at times the developers intentionally made it hard to access the stores on foot. If you aren’t approaching the store from the parking lot, then you’re screwed and in for a long uncomfortable walk across medians and parking aisles to get to your final objective.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 7, 2015, 8:55 am

      It is nice to hear from someone on the inside, Justin!

      It is funny how much my feelings have changed on the car-based model. I grew up around cities, so I never questioned it. And like everyone else, I was genuinely pissed off by lack of parking, roads with no way of passing cars, traffic jams, etc.

      Then I tried getting around big cities with a bike instead of a car, and I found it was an infinitely better option. Even with our currently sprawled cities, a bike is more fun and usually faster. Then I looked up how much it costs to build this fancy shit that we drive cars on (A SINGLE busy highway cloverleaf with bridges can be $135 million, or enough to build 5-10 enormous high schools with great science labs).

      Now my feelings have flipped: building city infrastructure which makes it convenient for able-bodied people to use cars is about as good a use of money as financing a 300-channel cable-TV package on a 24.99%APR credit card.

      We should IMMEDIATELY flip the switch completely – every new facility should have car spots only for the disabled. For everyone else, we should assume walking and biking only. Buses will spring up to fill the tiny gaps, but we could do it, and become immediately richer for it.

      Yes, I realize this is extreme and crazy but this is how Mr. Money Mustache rolls.

      Reply
      • Justin November 8, 2015, 9:24 pm

        I don’t know if $135 million is accurate for a basic cloverleaf interchange, but the bigger ones can definitely run into the $100+ million range for a complicated interchange with flyovers, ramps, and all that good stuff. The last project I worked on was a 20 mile stretch of toll road that cost about a billion bucks. So $50 million per mile. I can’t recall how many hundreds of acres of real estate it took up, but it was an insanely high number.

        Compare that to a 10′ paved multipurpose path with a much smaller right of way – a tiny fraction of the cost and a much better user experience for those bikers than the freeway is for dudes in cars. And you don’t have hundreds of acres devoted to ramps and interchanges.

        Reply
      • Matt (Semper Fi) December 15, 2016, 4:35 pm

        I am in agreement. We’ve been fat, dumb and complacent for a long time — it’s high time people woke the hell up. I’ve been biking to work for the past four months, and the same people at work are still in awe (and think I’m weird) for doing it. I live only 2 miles from my job, but these astonished yokels only live a few blocks from the same place, some are even closer, and they pull up in anything from a car to a big truck. So lame.

        Reply
    • A mom November 14, 2015, 5:13 am

      You should check out strongtowns.org

      Reply
  • Parker November 2, 2015, 12:32 pm

    A lot of harsh criticism of ‘others.’ Perhaps deserved but still harsh. The irony of the drive-thru banking thing is it is now obsolete as most people do bills/checks/banking online/phone. And you make a good illustration of the waste of parking lots in general as it relates to commercial space. It is interesting you live north of Denver. I tried living in the Denver metro area this year and found it to be one of the most car-centered cultures I had ever lived. Sure there’s tons of bike paths and some more walkable towns/areas. But in general, the spread out nature of the front range and all the outdoor entertainment are conducive to perhaps one of the most car-crazy places I can imagine living. I would often ride my bike to work as the bus/rail combo took 3 times as long as riding 9.5 miles by bike. Almost everyone I worked with commuted at least 20 miles one way to work. It was one of the main reasons I retreated back to where I came from.

    Reply
  • HenryDavid November 2, 2015, 12:37 pm

    Coming back from Ecuador or any other place less swamped by consumerist monoculture is like cleaning your glasses. The awesome pervasiveness of consumerism becomes visible. It truly is a religion: it binds people together, structures every part of life, funnels benefit to a priesthood, and falls apart if you question it much.
    Unlike some religions it doesn’t offer any help at all with the important stuff in life–birth, death, suffering. It leaves people even more alone with these things than ever. Therefore . . .. must buy more, better stuff! Fill that hole.
    Giving the slightest shit about waste, the environment, the human future, just completely exposes consumerism as self-destructive. And then there’s no going back. But it it’s a tenacious syndrome!

    Reply
  • Redsky November 2, 2015, 12:39 pm

    novel idea about getting scientists and engineers to be political leaders, however, unrealistic in actual practice. One… sales people are just better at getting attention and two… scientists and engineers are too busy doing their thing, why would they want to hold public office?
    We live in a great country where spending is like breathing. This country needs consumers (unfortunately). What would we do with a bunch of environmentally and financially conscience people? Certainly it would curb a lot of the insane money making and spending. Current uncle Sam would not like that.

    however… if everyone did start walking and not spending, i’m sure our genius country would figure out how to make money off that as well. How’s cost of $10/mile for walking sound? How about a NO-car tax??

    I love walking and breathing nice fresh air…. also love the convenience of driving to the supermarket and having enough cargo space to take a trip up to nature with the family and friends. PS: i miss my SUV

    Reply
    • Joe Average November 3, 2015, 3:52 pm

      I dislike walking through suburban commercial sprawl i.e. along busy, noisy feeder roads leading to strip malls and traditional malls, past the typical suburban restaurant row. Always worry about a car jumping a curb (driver texting) and wiping me and mine out. The volume of pollution and grime places like that are awash in is not appealing. Thanks but I’ll drive in and out of that area.

      I MUCH prefer living in the country (edge of a small town) and limiting the miles we drive b/c our distances are shorter (ten minute commute) b/c the town is smaller and we are carpooling.

      Walking/biking is great but I have no desire to compete with high volume motorized traffic in a city or suburb. Better to drive to those places until they get wiser and start cultivating a walkable city center where there is some shopping/eating/cultural events. Of course then a person might endure the higher prices of the gentrification process.

      Reply
  • Emily November 2, 2015, 12:49 pm

    Great article. Even from forward thinking leaders, the focus to fight climate change seems to be to generate new sources of energy. While clean energy technology is wonderful and needed, the conversation never seems to get around to ” how about everybody use a little bit less”.

    I’d like to add animal product consumption to the list of things that people can at least reduce with little discomfort ( and maybe none! :) ) According to a 2006 UN report, animal agriculture contributes more to climate change than all transportation COMBINED! And, according to the film “Cowspiracy”, animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change and environmental degradation. I believe that being vegetarian or vegan is easy, awesome, delicious and has many benefits; mind, body and spirit. But if everyone incorporated a few meatless meals every week, the strain on the planet could be greatly reduced.

    Reply
    • Tanner Jacobi November 2, 2015, 3:56 pm

      Vegetarianism does interest me for those reasons, so I plan to try it once I get a job and become independent. But even if we assume that most people aren’t going to give up meat, things would be a lot more efficient with imitation meats being promoted. Heck, if the government threw like $20 million of research grants at imitation meat projects one year, I’m sure it would quickly become difficult to tell the difference between real and imitation meats. It takes something like 1000 pounds of edible plant matter to make 1 pound of meat, IIRC, and even a very wasteful method of making imitation meat could beat that easily.

      And then there’s the “in vitro meat” project.

      And entomophagy (insect-eating), which is a lot more controversial for obvious reasons, but I lost my hesitation at once I saw what insects look like when properly prepared. Entomophagy is much more efficient, despite the fact that we haven’t been selectively breeding insects for consumption for thousands of years.

      Arguably, it’s not even about doing with less–it’s about using what we have in ways that aren’t dumb.

      Reply
  • CL November 2, 2015, 12:52 pm

    I’ve never noticed that Atlanta had a secret walkway. I’ve walked between concourses, but it’s been up top, not wherever the secret passageway is. You say that it’s clearly marked, but I’ve never seen it. And I’ve been in Atlanta a fair amount, especially since I live in a fairly small city in that region.

    I think that there might be a point where we hit a critical mass of Mustachians in Longmont, and the city council will be able to listen to Mustachian improvements. MMM doesn’t have to be personally involved, but some small measures to promote bike usage in downtown Longmont, for example, wouldn’t be amiss. My sister and her husband just moved to Boulder so that her husband could bike to work instead of driving 90 minutes each way in horrible traffic. I think that with enough Mustachian involvement in a small area, there could be some good changes for the better.

    Reply
    • Jenny November 8, 2015, 5:41 am

      I think you must’ve already discovered the secret walkways — all of the walking and riding between concourses at Atlanta is underground. If you were walking up top between concourses (rather than inside of a single concourse), you were walking on runways in the great outdoors, and probably being chased by security. ;-)

      Reply
  • Kim November 2, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I almost drove to the bank drive-thru today (batching errands with our flu shots) to deposit checks for amounts higher than allowed by our mobile banking app ($1k limit – seriously?!?)… then I read this. Now I’m going to ride my bike the 1.6 miles to the bank, and swing by the pharmacy for flu shots on the way back. It’s a beautiful 87 degrees outside today – thanks for the reminder to enjoy it!

    Reply
  • WageSlave November 2, 2015, 1:13 pm

    In slight defense of the Honda Pilot guy: at least he wasn’t messing with his cellphone while driving. Yes, a smaller car is better, and biking/walking is better still, but if you’re going to drive, at least focus on driving, rather than the phone. It’s conceivable that the guy was trying to do the right thing: pull over to respond to a text or whatever, so he didn’t put others at risk doing that while operating his multi-ton vehicle. And then perhaps he intended it to be a quick 1-minute stop, but got caught up in the conversation or whatever, not even realizing how much time had passed. Who here hasn’t got wrapped up in something and unknowingly lost track of time? From the MMM enviro-perspective, it doesn’t make it right, but it could still be a matter of well-intentioned behavior turned into something like this through human nature.

    “Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.” I’m all for that. But let me know when the Creationists come around to Evolution, and then I’ll relax the cynicism a bit. :)

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  • Mrs. WW November 2, 2015, 1:15 pm

    I’ve done the Atlanta walk! It’s lovely and is great to pair with a several hour stint of sitting in a cramped seat in the air.

    I think the drive thus and excessive vehicle usage point to another problem than just laziness. When we walk down the street or into a building we have to face reality. It’s so much easier to block out the world when there’s a nice barrier of metal and glass between you and it.

    I didn’t realize it until I started biking the kids to school a few years ago. I now see the people behind the wheels, at the bus stops and walking down the street. They are no longer just obstacles in the glorified game of Frogger anymore. I make eye contact with so many people nowadays. We share the neighborhood.

    When you go into a bank you see what is happening. You can make small talk with the clerk or the man behind you. You see the atmosphere instead of being insulated in your vehicle just waiting for your transaction to be complete.

    We’ve just got such a disconnected society. We need to connect more (and in the process we will be less lazy. Win-win.)

    Reply
  • Pamela November 2, 2015, 1:17 pm

    Thanks MMM for writing this article!
    Lazy, self absorbed people who only think of themselves and not giving a crap about anyone else or the planet they live on deserve to be called to task and held responsible for their actions.
    Stupidity has become the acceptable norm and it’s great that you are calling for a reversal of this trend.
    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Gio November 2, 2015, 1:35 pm

    I agree with this on so many levels. Most people are so wasteful, and don’t even consider any other way of doing things. I live on my own in a city where I can bike everywhere almost 8 months of the year, and I take public transit during the snowiest months. When I visit my parents I see how much lazier you can be with a car. I hate drive thrus and seeing a line of cars out into the road when the place is empty inside. I’m also an engineer, and I’m always trying to think of solutions to problems and have considered running for office to fix some major problems in society, but I don’t really have faith in the system. I also think that people just don’t want to hear it – they don’t want to make changes that are better for their planet and their health and their well being, because it’s just easier to keep being lazy. All I can do is live my own life, but I hate seeing the state our planet is in because of greed and apathy.

    Reply
    • A mom November 14, 2015, 5:21 am

      Well things are much less likely to change if you DON’T run for office. At least lobby your city council. Don’t wait for someone else to do it!

      Reply
  • Lady Fordragon November 2, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Great read, MMM! I had a connection in Atlanta not too long ago and I, too, walked along that underground corridor that you mentioned. It was quite a nice set-up, especially with it being museum-like. I also noticed very few people joining me in the walk. I understand that there are a number of people that have tight connections to make, but for those that don’t I find the added walking in the airports to be great since over the course of a day of travel so much of that time is spent sitting.

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  • Jeff November 2, 2015, 2:30 pm

    To be fair, bank branches were built before the advent of ATMs and smartphone apps, and if it wasn’t busy, it was definitely faster to go through the drive-thru. Time is one measure of efficiency, and it’s more coveted by those who work 40 hours per week. The good news is that the number of bank branches in the US peaked in 2009 and has been shrinking ever since. My guess is it’s only older people that actually go to a branch now.

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/11/22/where-have-all-the-bank-branches-gone.aspx?source=iaasitlnk0000003

    Reply
    • Laura November 9, 2015, 9:19 am

      I don’t know where you live, but here in a medium-sized mid-south town they can’t stop building bank branches… I don’t know why we need so many bank buildings, and new ones are going up all the time.

      Reply
  • Ulf November 2, 2015, 2:54 pm

    100% efficiency in car usage would be a fully loaded car going at optimum cruissespeed 24h a day all year round. This has yet to happen. Most cars sit idly 22-23 houers a day. Then they transport a few people a short distance. Most would be better off using an MC or a bike.
    One problem with not having a car is that … Well sometimes a car IS the best mode of transportation and renting one at those times is expensive, you see all the costs and pay them up front. Cold hard cash have an huge effect on ones actions. But to the best of my calculus, the cost is not extreme if you plan ahead.

    Reply
  • Done by Forty November 2, 2015, 3:05 pm

    The rub, at least in a democracy, is figuring out a way to get people to choose this stuff for themselves. With a little more draconian approach, you could just make a lot of these changes happen. In a society where consumer choice is king, we need to market smart choices as good choices, cool choices. Your blog does a much better job of this than just about any other personal finance blog, in that frugality isn’t just good sense, it isn’t about pinching pennies, it’s about being badass.

    We need more of that kind of marketing: it’s the language we speak as consumers.

    Reply
  • Brian November 2, 2015, 3:18 pm

    Great post. There’s an engineer-led organization that’s right up your alley – Strong Towns – http://www.strongtowns.org/mission. Its sole purpose is to help spread the word about the long-term financial idiocy of auto-oriented development.

    Reply
  • JimG November 2, 2015, 3:26 pm

    As an accountant, I say we should run the world, not the engineers :-) I can do most of my banking via my smartphone and on the rare occasions that I do have to go to the bank to deposit large checks that aren’t allowed via the smartphone app, I always notice that the majority of people standing in line are those that don’t have their shit together. They are trying to cash a check without sufficient identification or they are trying to cash a check drawn on the particular bank because they don’t have a bank account themselves. It’s all such a big waste of time, resources and energy. With a smartphone app, I can deposit a check in less time than it takes me to walk out of my office to my car.

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  • Tanner Jacobi November 2, 2015, 3:41 pm

    Even setting aside the Mustachian approach to life, this lack of efficiency is a big part of how I’ve formed my opinions on the world. So many problems we have today don’t have anything to do with the level of technology that has produced such prosperity in the world.

    One socialist writer that I can’t find again has calculated that, if all resources were distributed equally, the American standard of living (which means “wealth” everywhere but here) would drop to about 22% of its current state, assuming none of the inefficiencies of the world were fixed, which he presented as a grave problem that proponents of socialism need to address. And yet, that wouldn’t be terrible for a Mustachian, even before the sillier things capitalism does with its resources are dispensed with.

    Non-politically speaking, how about emerging technologies? Self-driving cars are all the rage among futurists right now. But the obstacles that autocars need to overcome before they’re road-ready sound silly when you realize that they only exist because our infrastructure doesn’t give a shit about doing things efficiently. Snow, traffic, glare, blah blah blah, none of that applies to the German Straßenbahn system. In a nutshell, they’re electric tram-buses that run on dedicated mini-rails that often share space with sidewalks. They’re awesome. There’s no reason we can’t do that within American cities. America is big, yes, but for the long distances that truckers have to cross, what about trains? Trains are pretty good at getting a lot of stuff from one place to another. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but this eliminates a ton of car-related inefficiencies and makes autocars a novelty instead of a revolution.

    I really dislike cars in general. They’re a macrocosm of wastefulness. The internal combustion engine is a joke. They’re so high-maintenance that there’s an enormous culture and industry based around just that, maintaining them. And all that for 20% efficiency? Are you fucking kidding me? An electric motor gets 85%+ for negligible maintenance. Everyone complains about small battery life keeping them from being viable…so you just buy a bigger battery; lots of people clamor for thicker phones so that the larger batteries will make them last longer. And anyway, having a range of “only” 200 miles or whatever is only a problem in the huge place that is America. Even then, if you need to go for 200 or more miles, you should be using a train or something. 200 miles will get you halfway across Germany.

    But that’s ignoring the issue of why we’re using cars in the first place. If you must use something that doesn’t require physical exertion to get from point A to point B in-city, how about a motorized scooter? If it’s closeby and you’re up to it, maybe a bicycle? A skateboard, even? And yet we’ve built a road system and road culture that HATES anyone using something smaller than a car; even “smart cars” get laughed at.

    Then there’s the concept of a using a car to “commute” longer than a few miles, which serves no purpose. Thank goodness the excitement over telecommuting in the early 00’s has finally blossomed to the point where most office drones get to do that now…what’s that? They don’t? Seriously?

    Okay, so we’re stuck with this massive waste of energy at the hands of cars. We could at least get it from good sources! There’s enough energy locked up in available uranium and thorium resources to just synthesize gasoline from atmospheric CO2 + H2O outright, and we’ll never run out. But for some reason, America went with uranium over thorium so they they could build better bombs, which leads to reactors that are way more catastrophe-prone, using a 10x scarcer resource that we have to go out of our way to mine. Thorium just shows up as a byproduct of other sorts of mining without us even trying. Sigh. Alright, so let’s do what we can with this uranium…aaaaand instead of using breeder reactors to take advantage of that U-238, we’re separating a lot of it out to just use the U-235, which is less than 1% of it. Oh. Well, let’s at least use all the U-235…nope, we’ve had to wait until Generation III reactors to get to the point where we’re using most of our uranium. The rest of it is horrible nuclear waste, which there’s far far less of with Gen III, or even NONE with some designs. Damn. Okay, let’s at least build the Generation III reactors now; they’ve been designed so that another catastrophe is something that basically cannot ever happen due to the nuclear mechanics. It’s pleasurable overkill, considering that nuclear energy has the lowest deaths-per-gigawatt ratio anyway, and the only reason the Fukushima tragedy happened was because the Gen II reactor got hit with an earthquake and then a tsunami. And that coal mines actually release more radiation than nuclear plants. So we should be good now. …except that nuclear projects are basically NIMBY’d to death, so the nuclear industry is barely even allowed to test out its incredibly-safe Gen III designs, and then keeps getting hammered to be safer BASED ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE OLD AND SHITTY MODELS.

    Yes, I mad.

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    • Krishanu April 22, 2016, 10:12 am

      That’s one of the best comments I’ve read. Detailed and factual. Opened my eyes to Thorium as a viable source of power.

      Reply
  • Victoria Batik November 2, 2015, 3:49 pm

    We walked to the bank for our latest transaction – which was to transfer my extremely stagnant Roth IRA over to a much more vibrant Vanguard account. (Thank you for the life changing advice!) The teller was so impressed with our unique mode of transportation she waived the $5 ” printing fee” for a copy of my account statement. How freaking awesome is that??!!

    Reply
  • Muppet November 2, 2015, 4:11 pm

    I think the fact that an engineer thought electing “engineers” would be a good idea shows that engineers should not necessarily be political leaders.

    Last I checked, engineers are human beings. Human beings all share human failings. Political leaders drive change. There is nothing inherent in an engineer that indicates he or she will drive change for the better. Hell, maybe engineers in a political leadership role decide to expand the transportation system to accommodate self-driving cars and even more convenience because, hey this is cool technology and it get me re-elected!

    My point is that there should not be a focus on occupation for political leadership (people thought that women would be better in political office as there would surely be fewer wars – look at Margaret Thatcher in that regard!). You can not ascribe attributes of a group onto the individual – that’s a major cognitive bias.

    If you want a certain political leader to make certain changes, you vote for someone who reflects those values. Ask him or her: do you read MMM and what do you think of it? Does your political candidate ride a bike to work? Ever? Are they financially independent? Or they need this political gig to pay the bills? Ask those questions of political candidates (whatever occupation they happen to have) and you’ll get a much better idea of what they will do as a political leader.

    Gregor Robinson in Vancouver BC pisses off a lot of people because he takes premium downtown road and bridge space and turns them into separated bike lanes. Introduced coach houses to increase density (thus efficiency). Myriad of other policies that MMM would approve of. Guess what? He’s a fit, active, bike riding individual who cares about the environment. Oh, his occupation is also a lawyer. He simply ordered his engineers to figure out how take car lanes and transform into safe bike lanes.

    Saying one particular group or another would be better for the world is a time-honored dumb-ass approach that never works out the way you thought…

    Reply
    • Greg November 2, 2015, 5:57 pm

      I’m thinking that MMM means the “engineer mind-set” and not necessarily the actual group of people who have studied that discipline. Then again, he doesn’t need me to defend him.
      :-)
      Good on Gregor Robinson – more lawyers, mayors, engineers, and just plain people, like him, please!

      Reply
  • DocMcStuffins November 2, 2015, 4:28 pm

    I would argue more diseases are preventable that we realize (more than MM’s quote). Genetics aren’t changed but epigenetics (how the body reads the genes) can be changed dramatically by lifestyle. A lot of autoimmune diseases (RA) and cancers (colon) aren’t active or progress in rat models until you feed them a Standard American Diet.

    Reply
  • Dave November 2, 2015, 5:05 pm

    Great article except for your recommendations at the end. First of all, there are very few independent scientific studies done these days and most of “science” is a hoax paid for by our friends at Monsanto, etc. It would be hard to reverse this trend, even if the right people get voted in, the businesses with the money will continue to spin the science. This has been shown already with flu shots. Often, the wrong strain of flu is targeted, the vaccine is therefore ineffective and unnecessary, but the science has been bought and paid for – all vaccines are awesome.

    Speaking of science, your comment about climate change also isn’t factually based. There is little evidence showing humans have contributed to climate change, and the latest NASA data shows that Antarctic ice sheet mass is increasing.

    Regardless, conservation of resources should be a higher priority for people, just for the fact that all resources are limited. I don’t know too many people who would be okay with their consumption if they saw the vast amount of resources they were actually using. I agree with your premise, just not your examples.

    Reply
    • Greg November 2, 2015, 5:54 pm

      Dave, please – climate change denier? “Most of science is a hoax paid for…”?
      BS
      Some science – perhaps. Mainstream, not a chance.
      “NASA Data”? Prove it. Links from the NASA study are the only thing that counts, no blogs, no commentaries. Peer reviewed science.
      Androgenic Climate Change is incontestable with facts, almost complete consensus. Climate science is also extremely complex and a developing discipline with new understanding coming all the time. People who listen to sound bite, headline media reports don’t get this.
      Don’t let that be you.

      Reply
  • Frugal Paragon November 2, 2015, 5:26 pm

    I never understood drive-throughs, either–until I had two children under the age of two. Then I loved them. I wished there were drive-in toilets so I could pee on road trips without unbuckling two car seats and loading a double stroller–not to mention, waking two peacefully sleeping toddlers.

    Reply
  • Brian November 2, 2015, 5:47 pm

    MMM – Grrr! The things you discuss in this post are my biggest pet peeves. Seeing this kind of stuff happen every day drives me insane! I think that there should be some sort of school requirement in our school system to see how the rest of the world lives – by way of 1 year of living in a country that doesn’t have it as good as we do here. Then, there should be some sort of way to reinforce the fact that a billion (1/6th or so) of the worlds citizens live on less than $1 per day. If we could just drive that point home to people here so they realized how many orders of magnitude more wasteful we are here than the rest of our planetary housemates… maybe that driver could take the extra second to push the on/off button. It is almost incomprehensible how divergent these lives are. The guy idling his car probably burned enough energy… (maybe 2 cups of gasoline – which contains over 3,000 calories of energy)… to feed a kid in Malawi for a day. That average person in Malawi, by contrast, lives on $0.75 per day…

    This weekend, I went on a mountain bike trip with friends, and they all took the enormous shuttle van and trailer to the top of the mountain so they could ride down the trail. They said, “Look, we know you don’t have a job; that’s why you’re riding up.” I was tormented inside, trying to think: How do I start to explain – the using your body instead of machinery… the waste of fuel energy…? All I could come up with was, “…It’s the principle…” …Which was refuted with “Look, we will just PAY for you to ride the shuttle.” How does one tactfully elucidate the unfair disparity in global wealth and waste to others?

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  • Wild Bill November 2, 2015, 6:15 pm

    Data? Logic? Rational Analysis? Next you’ll be trying to convince us that all of those gun deaths are cause for gun control..

    Reply
  • Dave Gladson November 2, 2015, 6:30 pm

    This reminds me of the old joke about people circling the parking lot at the gym looking for a spot near the door.

    It is amazing how little choices can multiply into huge impacts. Our penchant for oversized cars leads to bigger parking lots, leading to billions of tons of asphalt dumped on the ground to make bigger parking spots for our oversized cars.

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    • Edward November 9, 2015, 1:58 pm

      That isn’t a joke! I live across the street from a gym and I see this happen every single week. People get in huge arguments over the sport closest to the door. Once I got tired of it and yelled down from my wondow, “You idiots! Don’t you see the irony of your fight?” One woman looked at me blankly and asked, “What do you mean? Mind your own damn business.”

      Reply
  • DM November 2, 2015, 6:59 pm

    Today I biked past the CVS drugstore. The parking lot has five rows. The two closest to the store were full, but the back row was virtually empty. Two cars entered the empty row but instead of parking they circled to the front, where they waited, blinkers flashing, for shoppers to put their bags in the trunk and leave. I timed them. 2:27 for the first car, 3:42 for the second. That’s how long the drivers waited for their front row spaces to avoid the walk from the fifth row. Mind you, this fifth row, it wasn’t a trek through the Arctic wilderness. It was less than 20 yards from the store. Conclusion: no way in hell is this country addressing climate change.

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  • Kris November 2, 2015, 7:19 pm

    MMM.

    Long time reader, first time caller – er, commenter.

    Great post. As a transportation engineer, I applaud your advocacy. Cities need to be designed around the person. Since the 1950s, they have been designed around the automobile. This is starting to change with folks getting fed up and actually getting involved with their local planning (think bike lanes, bus-rapid transit, etc.). It really won’t change without pressure from citizens like yourself and your readers, as a lot of folks in my industry are content with the status quo.

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  • Mountains_O_Mustaches November 2, 2015, 8:45 pm

    Just noticing a lot of black-and-white thinking in these responses – people either being 100% for or against things like drive-thru ATMs. I don’t think MMM (or anyone else on here) is a heartless maniac who wants to take away all convenience, especially those that allow individuals with disabilities to engage in our communities. The problem is when people who don’t NEED these conveniences rely on and regularly use them. I am glad these things exist for those who truly need them AND I believe most people shouldn’t use them.

    I think a conversation about what is truly a limitation or a need is warranted. I work with individuals with spinal cord injuries. What I have learned from them is that most (not all) limitations are mental. I have seen these men and women adapt to a serious injury and find new ways to achieve the same things. Many of them hand-cycle, manually wheel their chairs, use crutches, etc. to get around. They could just think – well I can’t walk anymore. Now I can’t do anything. Instead they have fought to make things work for them given their circumstances. I think we can all learn a lot from this mentality – rather than giving up when faced with an obstacle or challenge, trying to take a principle like being active and fitting it to your life. My clients don’t make that principle work in the same way the MMM does or that I do. That’s not the point. Instead of complaining on here about how the way MMM does something won’t work for you, take that energy and put it toward thinking about how you can adapt it to fit your specific circumstances.

    Reply
    • Jenny November 8, 2015, 6:24 am

      I’m glad to read your comment. I think some of the outcries by other commenters about people with disabilities demonstrate a lack of imagination.

      In the scenario Mr. Money Mustache imagines, the ATM in the park would be surrounded by safe, wide, accessible pathways for people arriving by bike, foot *and* wheelchair. Public recreational paths in Atlanta where I live ban all motor vehicles, with the explicit exception of motorized wheelchairs (the wheelchair exception is posted on all the signs). Presumably this is the case in other areas, too. Perhaps getting in and out of a van/car for people with disabilities is onerous, but MMM is suggesting that we dispense with the car altogether for transactions like this. Walk, bike, or use a wheelchair all the way from home/work to the ATM. It doesn’t have to be a 10-mile trek, either: I can think of 4 full-service banks/ATMs within one mile of my home, and there are over a dozen full-service banks or walk-up ATMs within half a mile of my job. Not everyone will have this level of density where they live, but MMM also argues for being intentional about where you choose to live … and in this case, someone could also switch banks to one that’s closer to their home.

      I agree that there are people who truly need some of these services and conveniences, but I think that a little creative thinking would greatly reduce the number of people who believe they fall into that category.

      Reply
    • Edward November 9, 2015, 2:01 pm

      Parking lots and drive-thrus have caused more spinal injuries than they’ve solved. Extremes make poor examples.

      Reply
  • Sipscoffee November 2, 2015, 9:04 pm

    On behalf of the history majors pursuing early retirement, too, I submit the following lessons from Chile, when President Salvador Allende’s idealistic government embraced engineers to plan things. Spoiler alert: The optimized economy tanked, Allende was shot, and Chile ended up with President Pinochet. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Cybersyn

    Reply
    • Leslie November 6, 2015, 9:41 am

      The reason the Chilean economy tanked was also because the price of copper was depressed. Copper is their largest export. During Allende’s first year in office unemployment actually decreased and the economy was strong. His critics could argue that he did make mistakes such as quickly nationalizing private property of industry which resulted in the United States CIA overthrowing him with the help of the Chilean military. His defenders believe that because he was elected by the majority of people his actions were part of a popular uprising against the 1% who had used their economic power to keep wages depressed.

      Reply
  • Fleurdelis November 2, 2015, 9:24 pm

    I do not believe that replacing politicians with engineers or scientists would be a good idea. Science and engineering are “tools”, and they can be used for the good or for the bad. Technique it’s neutral. They cannot replace political ideas ( but how we want to overcome challenges as community).
    But I do believe that scientific and technical knowledge should be more spread to citizens… most of us know so little about important things… the amount of CO2 produced by planes it’s a good example.

    Reply
  • Doug November 2, 2015, 10:19 pm

    Should we have engineers rather than sales persons as our political leaders? To answer that question I’ll use an example. I live in the province of Ontario, where most of our power grid is public owned. It started with formation of the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario in 1906, the name shortened to Ontario Hydro in about 1970. During most of the twentieth century it was run by engineering people and at arms length from the government. What did we get? A well built, reliable power system which delivered power at a competitive cost. That helped lure industries and made Ontario a prosperous province. The system was somewhat overbuilt, taking into account future load growth and having redundancies built in to improve reliability. Stations built in the 1950s are still running. Oh sure, some of this equipment is nearing the end of its useful life, but with the reliable service it’s delivered over the years it doesn’t owe anyone anything. The best thing to happen to Ontario was Confederation (joining Canada) in 1867. The second best thing to happen to Ontario was formation of the Hydro Electric Power Commission in 1906.

    That all changed in the 1970s when the politicians started getting involved. Construction of the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant (east of Toronto) was halted and restarted twice, which led to horrendous cost overruns. Then in 1999 Ontario hydro was split up into Hydro One (the grid company), Ontario Power Generation (OPG), and the Electrical Safety Authority. It cost a lot of money to split Hydro up, but none of this cost built any useful tangible assets like lines or stations. Then the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant was leased to a British company, but OPG is still stuck with dealing with nuclear waste. Not only that, but to sweeten the deal they get paid more per megawatt-hour generated than the 2 plants owned by OPG. While the Liberal government did the right thing mandating shutting down the coal fueled plants, they also made many blunders. We have a lot of renewable wind and solar power generation, not a bad thing in itself, but the way they went about it leaves much to be desired. The feed in tariff program means Hydro One is obligated to buy power at premium price at times of low demand, which is then sold dirt cheap to neighbouring utilities because there’s an oversupply of generation. To help with peak power consumption periods, gas fueled plants have been built, a sensible idea, except that the present Liberal government decided to cancel the building of 2 such plants already under construction (in Oakville and Mississauga) and that ended costing about $1.1 Billion CDN. As of November 1 electricity rates went up, and they are going up again in January. The world class fiasco I described above is what you get when you put sales people rather than engineers in charge of anything important. Besides engineers, I would add scientists and a few economists to the list of who should be our political leaders.

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  • Jan November 2, 2015, 11:20 pm

    The last engineer we had in the White House was Jimmy Carter. While I thought he was a good in many was, he was too nice and transparent for foreign affairs.

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  • Rory Finneren November 3, 2015, 12:07 am

    Regarding walkable urban communities and what we can do to encourage them, I definitely recommend MMM readers walk to their local library and check out the book Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Also, I have done that same walk at ATL and had the same thought you did, “Where is everybody?”

    Reply
    • A mom November 14, 2015, 5:30 am

      +1

      Reply
  • Mike Drak November 3, 2015, 6:32 am

    Articles like this get me to thinking about how I need to get back to a simpler life. Whenever I go up north to the cottage I get more in tune with nature, up at first light, coffee on the dock maybe a little fishing and a little ping pong in the afternoon plus of course the required chores. I’ve started to notice how small the rooms are but yet they always seem to work out just fine. When I get back to the city I look at our house and wonder do we really need all this space? Why did we need a living room that is rarely used? Same for the dinning room. if I could do it all over again the main floor would be kitchen, big family room, washroom period. Would be great if I could transfer my up north lifestyle, way of thinking back to the city. It’s all about slowing things down and increased awareness. I can see i have a lot of work to do!

    Reply
  • Dan November 3, 2015, 6:43 am

    To lead by example is to put into action grass roots change. I will commit to be more thoughtful of our planet by completing 100 acts of planet kindness . #1. I have used my bike today instead of my car.
    What can you do?

    Reply
  • TB November 3, 2015, 7:00 am

    MMM, you make it sound like airbag equipped, side impact protected doors are a joke. Would you rather be in the Pilot or your Scion in the event a a bad crash? What about if your son was in the car?

    Reply
    • Chris I November 4, 2015, 9:24 am

      You are advocating for a vehicular arms race. If you follow this line of thought to its logical conclusion, everyone will be driving around armored personnel carriers. After all, that is the absolute safest vehicle for your family, right?

      Reply
      • TB November 4, 2015, 12:28 pm

        Call it what you wish, but airbags and side impact protected doors are hardly rare, even in the cheapest newer cars.

        Since MMM didn’t answer, Chris, where would you want your kids in the event of a crash? The Pilot or a Scion?

        FYI, I drive a small car, and put my kids in it. I’m ok with that but some people are not. I never ridicule people who choose to have the safest vehicle that they can reasonably obtain.

        Reply
        • Chris I November 5, 2015, 10:30 pm

          Depends on the crash. The Pilot is more likely to lose control and roll.

          Bigger doesn’t always mean safer. We have a Subaru Outback, with all the latest safety technologies, but I don’t think my kid would be more safe in a Suburban, and I get a little peeved that others seem to think they need them to be safe, because it makes it more dangerous for the rest of us.

          Reply
          • Matt (Semper Fi) December 16, 2016, 12:02 am

            This, + 10.

            Reply
    • Edward November 9, 2015, 2:04 pm

      My children need to be in a Panzer tank in order to be 100% safe?

      Reply
  • NinaH November 3, 2015, 10:54 am

    Well, MMM’s second recommendation – Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things – is currently being acted on by the folks who bring you Science Magazine. For over 30 years, they’ve been bringing people with advanced degrees in science and engineering to Washington DC to do fellowships with the Federal Government. Some of us even stay ;-)
    http://www.aaas.org/program/science-technology-policy-fellowships

    Reply
  • Justin November 3, 2015, 12:05 pm

    MMM, you’ve got to check out Davis, CA, next time you’re out in NorCal. Sounds a little like Longmont, actually. CNN called it one of the top 15 best cities for bicycles in the WORLD: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/05/06/bike.friendly.cities.matador/
    Anyhow, check it out, and let me know when you do.

    Reply
  • FrugalTravelGal November 3, 2015, 12:45 pm

    What a timely article, as my husband and I have a 90-minute layover at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport right now! Because of this article- I walked from Concourse A to D, whereas my husband took the train. I enjoy walking, so it took me just under 10 minutes – using the moving sidewalks. When I met my husband at our Gate in D, he was surprised I got there so quickly, as he arrived by train only a couple of minutes ahead of me!

    Whether one walks or takes the train depends on more than one’s physical condition. The length of the layover, the distance from one concourse to another, and the amount of luggage being rolled/carried are considerations when choosing whether to take the train vs. walking. Those who take the train aren’t necessarily lazy.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 24, 2015, 3:47 pm

      I dunno – I’d wager that at least 90% of the people on that train could successfully make the walk and it would do them some good.

      To me, that is the textbook definition of “lazy”: skipping a beneficial activity because you’d just rather not do it. You might want to counsel your husband on his condition ;-)

      Reply

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