As a special thank you for reaching our goal, everyone who pledges will receive a Curbing Cars postcard personally autographed by Micheline Maynard
There is a sea change going on in personal transportation. People are driving less. Public transit use is at record levels. Bike sharing programs are popping up everywhere. Dozens of apps can help you find a taxi, or a place where you can rent a car for a few hours. Home buyers want to live in walkable communities, rather than have to drive everywhere. Young people are in no rush to get their driver's licenses, and student debt has put new cars out of many graduates' reach.
In short, we're rethinking how we get around.
Our editor is Micheline Maynard, the Forbes.com contributor and former Detroit bureau chief for the Times. She's written four books, including The End of Detroit: How The Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Industry.
Our research director is Rick Meier, the Toronto-based historian and communications specialist.
Claudia Payne, an editor with 30 years at the Times, and Donica Mensing, a distinguished journalism educator at the University of Nevada, Reno, also are advising the project.
We're starting out with one assumption. the automobile isn't going away. Cars are an essential element of American culture. There will be a global automobile industry for years to come.
But that doesn't mean that everyone sees the need to own a car. It might be that the car of the future will be shared, and it could be that car ownership is peaking. A new term is popping up: "driving light." That means you still own a car, but use it as one of your transportation options.
Curbing Cars wants to be the leading source for information about all these alternatives to automobiles. We also want to look at what the future holds for the auto industry, at a time when attitudes are clearly changing.
What We Want To Do
This Kickstarter will provide funding for the Curbing Cars ebook, which we expect will be published in 2014. (Stay tune for news about our publisher.) The money we raise will pay for travel, research time and writing time, plus marketing expenses.
We think Curbing Cars has the potential to branch out beyond an ebook, but we want to start at a manageable size and grow from here. An ebook is the quickest way to establish Curbing Cars as the authority on rethinking how we get around.
About The Curbing Cars EBook
Here are the four big themes we'll explore in the ebook.
1) The economic reasons behind the shift away from driving, such as rising car prices, and the expense of insurance, maintenance and parking.
2) The social reasons why people aren't as interested in cars as they once were. That includes teenagers. Only 28 percent of today's 16 year olds have a driver's license. Many say they're too busy, and they have someone who can drive them, like Mom or Dad.
3) How environmental concerns come into play. Al Gore's book and film, An Inconvenient Truth, prompted many people to consider what they could do to reduce pollution. Driving is one such way.
4) The role that the automakers will fill in the years to come. Cars will still be sold, but the companies might be tempted to head up market, focusing on luxury models for maximum impact, instead of mass produced automobiles.
Praise For Our Project
Every month, more than 2.7 million people visit Jalopnik for auto industry news, reviews, and to take part in lively car discussions. Here's what Matt Hardigree, the editor of Jalopnik, had to say about Curbing Cars.
"We're at the beginning of a major shift in how the world gets around, yet no one seems to know what's next. It's the question on the mind of every car enthusiast, product planner, and CEO with enormous consequences for the industry and environment," Hardigree said. "Micki is one of the shrewdest analysts and best storytellers in the automotive world. If anyone is going to figure it out, it's going to be her."
"We all have to get places. We have meetings to go to, errands to run, things to do. That's not going to change," Ryssdal says. "What is going to change, and what Micki Maynard and Rick Meier are going to tell and explain and analyze for us in Curbing Cars, is how we're going to get to those places, and what it's going to mean for our society, our economy and our daily lives."
He went on, 'Think for a second how big those changes will be, and it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly, how valuable this project is."
It's Your Project, Too
Curbing Cars wants your stories.
Maybe you're begun riding your bike to work, or taking the bus or subway. Perhaps you've downsized from three cars to two, now that the kids are gone, or you're down to one car because you moved back into the city. It might be that you've gotten rid of your car completely and pick up a ZipCar when you need one. Or, you just decided to walk to the store when you can do so.
We want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll feature the best stories on CurbingCars.com and we may call you to be included in the Ebook. The more ideas and anecdotes we get from you, the better we'll understand how we're rethinking the way we get around.Please follow us @curbingcars on Twitter, "like" our Curbing Cars Facebook page, see our blog page on Jalopnik, and check out our Curbing Cars Tumblr.
Risks and challenges
Curbing Cars is exploring a big topic, and one about which there isn't much research. We may need more time than we think to get our arms around these major economic, social and environmental changes.
Nobody is sure yet whether this is just a fad or a serious social shift. A recent University of Michigan report confirmed that people are driving less, but did not come to any conclusions about why. We think we can, but perhaps we'll end up at the same dead end.
Since Micki is based in Ann Arbor and Rick in Toronto, we have to communicate regularly and clearly. We plan to meet in person and virtually as the project progresses.
We know we're taking on a controversial subject, and there will be plenty of people who disagree with our findings. We need your intellectual and moral support so that we can stay on track.
Curbing Cars can only be successful with as much input as possible from our audience. We want to have a broad variety of voices and experts, so that we tell all sides of this story.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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